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Step Up to the Plates

How to Take Your Physique to the Next Level

Are you as confused by the mass of information available on how to build muscle and lose bodyfat as I was when I started training?

The questions I asked myself at that time seemed endless. Should I follow a high-intensity or a high-volume program? What the heck do they even mean by the word intensity? Should I train six times a week or only three? Do I train one bodypart during a workout or two or three? Why do some people say proper form is extremely important, while others don’t think it is?

If you don’t learn how to process all the information, your progress is in danger of stagnating. I was fortunate enough to make it through the confusion. Will you?

Take advantage of what I’ve learned along my extensive bodybuilding journey. After analyzing my own experiences and answering thousands of questions from bodybuilders all over the world for more than a decade, I’ve identified certain steps you need to take your physique to the next level:

1) Gather information.
2) Choose one specific strategy or way of thinking.
3) Implement your strategy. Once you reach a certain level of understanding, you gain confidence.
4) Give the chosen strategy your best effort for a sufficient period.
5) Honestly evaluate your strategy.
6) Decide to try a new strategy or modify your current one.
To continue training successfully, repeat steps 1 through 6.

Step 1: Gather Information

When you first begin training, you go through what I call the information-gathering process. That’s the exciting phase of your training, when you eagerly shuffle through the bodybuilding magazines and Internet sites and absorb as much information as you can.

You optimistically select routines and diets that you want to try. They all look good. You feel certain they’re going to produce measurable results. It’s usually during those early days of training that trainees are the most excited and experience the most substantial mental and physical growth. You experienced it, didn’t you? Could it be that your initial success owes more to your follow-through abilities, optimism and certainty than the strategies you used?

How can you narrow your choices? The information you select depends on your goals. Do you want to add muscle mass? Are you trying to bring up the quality of a particular bodypart? What exactly do you want?

Those are the questions you’ll need to ask yourself during step 1. Look for sources of information and inspiration that you respect. Is there a particular bodybuilding magazine you really enjoy reading? Is there a certain bodybuilder you connect with in a special way? Is there a writer whom you can understand easily?

The fact is, you can assimilate only so much information. If you try to follow too many theories, concepts and strategies too quickly, you’ll be overwhelmed.

Information overload will cause you unnecessary stress and diminish your enjoyment of bodybuilding and training. It can also cause you to lower your standards for what you expect to accomplish with your physique. ‘What’s the use of giving my full mental and physical effort? Does it really even matter?’ Those are disempowering questions you ask yourself when you feel overwhelmed. And if you keep the company of people who are entrenched in that negative way of thinking, you’ll be in even bigger trouble!

Gather as much information as you can without overwhelming yourself. Get excited. Then go on to step 2.

Step 2: Choose One Specific Strategy or Way of Thinking

Whether or not you’re aware of it, you decide on a specific path. You begin to realize that more information will only confuse you. You take a leap of faith and start applying the information you’ve already accumulated.

You can still read or listen to other people’s opinions or theories, but you must try the strategies for yourself if you ever expect to understand them. You need hands-on experience.

How many days are you willing to train? How many well-balanced, protein-packed meals can you fit into your busy day? Just how many fun, fattening and enjoyable family dinners are you willing to sacrifice? Consider those factors when choosing your bodypart-training schedules, muscle-building nutritional plans and/or fat-reduction diets.

Role modeling, or following the detailed plans of people who have already earned what you’re after, is an extremely efficient avenue to success in bodybuilding.

Do you want to pack on some serious muscle mass? Look for and follow the workout routines of a bodybuilder who has unbelievable mass. Do you want a lean, symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing physique? Look for someone with those qualities and find out what he or she did over the years to earn them.

There’s one other point you should consider when choosing a strategy. If you’re a beginner, you don’t necessarily need to start off with what some people might consider a beginner’s routine or diet. Take advantage of your role model’s advanced knowledge and experience and start off at a higher level. Too many bodybuilders who are just starting their journey automatically eliminate the programs of some awesome bodybuilders for that very reason. If you consider yourself an intermediate, don’t limit your choice of role models to intermediates.

Don’t be afraid to make a selection. Remember, you’re in this lifestyle for the long haul, and you’ll have plenty of time to make adjustments along the way. Have faith in the learning process.

Step 3: Implement Your Strategy’Once You Reach a Certain Level of Understanding, You Gain Confidence

If you’ve decided on a particular strategy, chances are you’re pretty much convinced it will work. Once you actually try it, then you’ll have a foundation of knowledge to start on.

Once you’ve formulated some opinions, you’ll begin to develop a level of comfort and confidence. Step 3 is another important part of your physique’s development process. You must feel comfortable and confident if you’re ever to proceed to step 4.

Step 4: Give the Chosen Strategy Your Best Effort for a Sufficient Period

Effort is everything! Anything less than 100 percent will diminish your chances for success. Look for ways to make the strategy you’ve selected work for you. ‘Whatever it takes!’ must be your motto.

There will come a time when you’ll need to make adjustments’but don’t worry about that quite yet. If you concentrate on what’s great about the strategy you’ve chosen, you’ll keep yourself excited. Keeping photos of the bodybuilder whose style you’ve adopted or magazine articles that generated your enthusiasm can be helpful as well.

How long should you give a particular strategy your best effort before moving on to another one? When does persistence become foolish inflexibility? Well, that’s something I really can’t tell you. There are too many factors involved. I do know this, however: You must be patient and persistent. I’ve been competing at the national amateur level for many years, and I’m still figuring out ways to make strategies work.

Give the strategy you’ve chosen three months before considering a new one. The medical community considers three years to be the minimum length of time needed to conduct accurate studies. That requirement is due to the many different control factors that can affect the results. When you compare three months to three years, it’s not an excessive amount of time to commit, is it?

Step 5: Honestly Evaluate Your Strategy

After you’ve put forth your best effort for a long enough period to evaluate its effectiveness, you need to do just that.

‘Begin with the end in mind’ is one of my favorite sayings by best-selling author Stephen Covey. However you define success, honestly evaluate your strategy for achieving it or the way of thinking you’ve adopted.

Honesty is critical in the evaluation process. Thoroughly assess every aspect and every step of the bodybuilding process. As a human being your perception of what is happening in your life will be determined by your emotions. Often your emotions influence the way you evaluate a situation. Emotions are frequently far more powerful than objective, tangible results.

To make an honest evaluation, you must throw your ego out the window. Don’t let frustration discredit the effectiveness of a strategy. Don’t let enthusiasm embellish its effectiveness either.

You don’t have to wait until the end of three months to start evaluating the effectiveness of a philosophy. You should be making notes about your progress. Even so, I encourage you to save your final judgment until the end of your trial period. You may not see results for weeks. Then, to your surprise, awesome results appear!

Your best effort, fortified with strategic goal setting, will give you the perspective you need to progress to step 6.

Step 6: Decide to Try a New Strategy or Modify Your Current One

Decide where you will go from here to take your physique to the next level. Give yourself the credit you deserve. What you’ve done is awesome. Many people don’t make it this far. Congratulations.

But to take yourself to the seemingly always-out-of-reach next level, you must change your approach. That’s not a big deal. We all must make changes if we want to reach our full genetic potential. Changes are part of the learning process.

Some people stagnate after reaching a certain level because they don’t make the adjustments they need to keep progressing. In most cases they fear change. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ is their motto.

That way of thinking is fine if you’re completely satisfied with your level of development. My guess is that, if you’ve taken the time to read this entire article, you may not be.

As long as you’re giving your all, almost any experience can be a positive one. What if you make an adjustment only to discover that it set you back? You simply learn from the experience and move on.

Will you make slight modifications to your plans? Will you make radical ones? Whatever decisions you make, be sure you know why you’re making them.

The Steps to Taking Your Physique to the Next Level’and Beyond

In order to be happy with your bodybuilding efforts, or anything else you choose to do, you have to keep growing. What you consider a good level today more than likely won’t satisfy you in the future.

Your bodybuilding journey will be endless. Your efforts will be full of ups and downs and twists and turns. There’s always a higher level to achieve. There’s always a next level.

Celebrate during the good times and keep plugging away during the challenging times. Enjoy the adventure of taking yourself to the next level. Editor’s note: Visit Skip La Cour’s Web site at You’ll find information on training, nutrition, supplementation and motivation, as well as his personal bodybuilding commentary, and you can purchase his books and videos online. La Cour sends free training advice via e-mail to all who sign up for Skip La Cour’s Mass Machine E-Newsletter. IM

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