Are you growing? When it comes to building the muscularity of your physique, that’s a crucial question—and so is your answer. Look at it this way—if you’re not growing, what are you doing in the gym? Trying to break even? Breaking even is good for the guy who doesn’t want to end up in a nursing home, but for anyone who’s serious about muscle, the bottom line is growth.
The obsession with growth applies to all areas of life. In finance, the ready money goes to companies that are growing, and big companies are always trying to grow their dividends, their income, their assets. Even relationships are discussed in terms of growth.
Growth shows up everywhere because it is vital for life. There are three alternatives here on planet Earth—you’re breaking even, losing ground or growing. That paradigm can be applied to most anything, and especially to building the body.
Complacency is the deadly enemy of growth. Although loss (decrease, shrink, diminish) is the opposite of growth, complacency is the tool that delivers it. It’s insidious, and that’s precisely the reason that complacency is so nasty. Complacency serves up loss in such a subtle manner that many people don’t recognize what’s going on. Facts don’t cease to exist simply because you ignore them, and you incur the loss nonetheless. You can see countless examples in any gym—guys whose arm size never increases, weight loads that remain the same, max-out totals that never increase. Complacency kills progress. Are you complacent?
The opposite of complacency is challenge. To break out of the complacency trap, you must challenge your body—and your mind—at various levels. As five-time world master powerlifting champion Marty Gallagher puts it, “To trigger physical progress, you have to bump up against current boundaries. You have to test the limits and break the barriers. You have to deal with the pain and discomfort a serious exercise induces. You cannot trigger muscle hypertrophy (the core goal of all progressive-resistance training) by training submaximally.”
So, the question becomes, Are you bumping up against current boundaries? And if not, why not?
If you’re not challenging yourself—if you are coasting below your physique’s boundaries—you cannot expect progress. To trigger physical progress in your physique, you must send the body a signal that it needs to step it up—which it will never do unless you step it up in the gym. Gallagher makes a very succinct statement: “The human body does not alter itself in response to sameness.” Doing the same routine or any routine that doesn’t push the envelope for your physique will not bring about change.
Intelligent Barrier Busting
The key to forcing the body to change is to break through barriers. Exactly how do you do that? The Eagles sang, “Take it to the limit one more time,” and that is the perfect answer. It’s essential to take your body beyond where it has been. That said, you need to apply a little intelligence. You don’t want to push yourself to oblivion at every workout. That’s a sure ticket to overtraining, injury and a compromised immune system. Instead, push your body to new limits systematically over a period of time. Your training doesn’t have to produce new achievements at every workout, but it should be producing new achievements over time. You may break through a barrier every other week. Or every month. Or maybe every three months. The goal is the overall trajectory of your training—is it up, flat or down? Gallagher suggests establishing a baseline performance level that you strive to exceed in some manner or fashion; for example, nudging poundage or repetitions upward.
Tracking Training Trajectory
If you want to track your training trajectory accurately, keep a training journal. Without one, everything you do is guesswork. The thinnest line is better than the stoutest memory, it is said, and keeping track by getting your training achievements down on paper is crucial to growth. It will help you set up incremental increases in your work that will get you beyond the previous workout’s numbers. It will show you in black and white if you are really progressing. Keeping a training journal helps remove much of the subjectivity of training and enables you to track even subjective factors. For instance, if you’re feeling under the weather prior to a workout, you can note that for future reference.
The path to growth is no mystery. You must push your body further in a measured pace. Forget all the fancy workouts and supposedly secret tips. The bottom line is that your body won’t grow unless you make it. Yes, that involves a lot of pain, but that’s where the growth lies. If you want to make progress with your physique, you have to push into the growth zone. IM