So you want to get stronger. How strong? Well that usually depends on the athlete or sport in question, but for the most part the typical answer you get back is VERY VERY STRONG.
So once you have cooled down from your Hulk like enthusiasm for power and are ready for the next step let me ask you this; When? When do you want to get that strong? In 10 minutes, in 10 weeks before you head for the beach, in 10 months before your competition or in 10 years? For most of us it usually falls between the middle two answers, we know 1 week wont do much, but we expect big things over 10 weeks or 10 months. We push for a huge number on the bar because we want to be strong and powerful and awesome NOW! Letting that reptilian brain desire for power consume us and demand results today. So what do you do, you load up that barbell with every damn plate in the gym and try to push pull and move that weight until the sun sets and you are sweating and exhausted in the corner.
Looking at that I have to give you credit where credit is due, your effort is plausible, but perhaps not your dedication.
Why not 10 years?
Surely you would be more satisfied at the end of your life to look back and say I hit X number after a long journey that lasted many years and not be forced to recount the day you hit a heavy lift in your twenties before your back blew out, or your hips seized up and you had to back off, and start over only for the same thing to keep happening or even worse it was an injury that ended your days of heavy training completely. I’d rather take it slow and progress, than rush get injured and have to repeatedly try to rebuild from the bottom up, only to get hurt again in the rush back up the mountain.
A really simple tool for all novice strength athletes to begin to consider and think about is the principle of slow progressive over load. In other words slowly and consistently improving. Think about it like this, in 10 years time from today wouldn’t you like to hope you could still be strong, and still be training, still be fit and healthy enough to enjoy and experience all this world has to offer? If your answer is yes then as yourself this question; Why do I have to make all that progress today? When you talk to any experienced coach or veteran athlete they all say the same things, it is the journey that they value more than the end result. It is the experience, the lessons the trials and the failures that they value just as much as the success. So instead of rushing up the number pile for the top think instead about the possibilities that each session will bring and just how far a few small steps made consistently can take you in a year, in 10 years in your career.
Consider this idea, and by the way this next point is the entire basis of this post so brace yourself. Pick any lift you want to make stronger be it the Bench Press, Snatch, Back Squat you name it and think about it like this. What is your number currently, I don’t need to know, but think about it. Now start to visualize your gym, that’s it, its just you in there, no one else around. Pretty awesome huh. You can play your favorite tunes, use all the space you want, no waiting for the squat rack just you and the weights. Now i want you to walk towards the stacks of plates. You see those big 25kg plates yeah, the ones you want to put on the bar because they are huge and awesome and the chicks will all be so impressed by you when you slide them on the bar. Well ignore them for a second. Crouch down, blow away the dust around the floor. Careful, don’t get it all stuck in those lungs now, you need those to fuel your lift. Alright once the dust cloud settles, do you see those tiny, little baby plates on the ground, the itty bitty 1.25kg plates. Grab them. I’s serious man grab ’em. Alright slide them on the bar. Now here’s what I want you to do. Every week for the next year just add those plates to the bar. Think about it, the bar is 20kg, the plates add 2.5kg. Now you add 2.5kg to that 20kg every single week for 52 weeks, what have you got? 150kg.
That’s the bar and more than 2 of those big daddy plates each side. Feeling strong yet? Alright now here’s the best bit, you do that again next year, that’s 280kg. Do it again 410kg. Again 540kg. Get the idea.
Woah, woah, woah! Hold up there pal, don’t start putting on 5kg, or 10kg in a week just because you can. Because more often than not you lose technique, you lose movement, you get into a bad position. Yes I know you want to get there and I know you think you’ve got it, and you will, relax, you don’t have to make the months progress in a week, or a single workout. Strength is not a sprint, it is a daily battle, week by week, workout by workout, year on year. With consistent progress and attention to the fundamentals you can get really freaking strong with minimal injury risk. Yes we all no we wont make consistent improvement EVERY week. But still, you even add those 1.25’s every fortnight and you go from the 20kg bar to 85kg in a year. Do it again and it is 150kg.
What I am trying to stress is that you have your entire lifetime to get stronger, so make the most of it, take 10, 15, 20 years to see just what incredible things you are capable of, surround yourself with good training partners and coaches, other athletes, great motivational and educational tools and see just how strong you can become.
I would like to remind you all of a certain tortoise who took their time, didn’t rush like the show off bunny, with his duracell batteries and his pink fur, and consistently progressed in the race to success. Don’t be the little hyper bunny, let us all embrace the tortoise my friends, for the symbol that they were, and get stronger together, one day at a time.