I have been “teaching” fitness for quite some time now. And I’ll be the first to admit, in the beginning, I fell victim to the mainstream sales tactics that lead me to believe certain things that just weren’t true.
Or maybe they were true, just slightly exaggerated.
If I wasn’t making progress, I always thought there would be one quick fix that would jumpstart the gain train.
If I missed my post workout shake more than once for the week, I would attribute my lack of results to that.
If I had a hard time sleeping 1-2 nights that week, I would say “I need to sleep better, that’s why I am not building muscle”.
Honestly, it was a little obsessive and slightly psychotic.
Truth is, there are only a very small set of principles responsible for whether we grow or not. And trust me, it has nothing to do with whether or not we waited over 3 hours between meals.
The reason I am writing this post is not to tell you how crazy I was. I am writing this post because every single day I get a handful of emails from guys just like you and me who are having these same issues.
Today I want to go over the top 6 things you’re worrying about that have zero effect of your muscle building progress.
Ah the old “I don’t want to overtrain” concern.
Let me explain why this is a bullshit concern and why you’ll probably never have to worry about this.
But first, let me ask you something.
Have you ever seen the way that elite level athletes (MMA fighters, boxers, Olympic lifters, powerlifters, etc.) train?
6-7 days per week of multi-session training at high intensities while pushing very close to their genetic limits for months on end.
If these guys can manage to pull this off, then I think it’s safe to say that 4-6 days of weight training per week with periodized intensities won’t be enough to put you in a state of overtraining anytime soon.
But rather than telling you to stop being a little bitch (joking), let me explain why we can withstand much more training stress than we think.
It’s simple. Our bodies are extremely adaptive and recent research has proven something known as the repeated bout effect. This training effect has shown that higher frequency training (training a muscle group more frequently) will force the body to adapt and recover quicker. This is the exact opposite of what we have been told would happen if we trained too frequently, right?
But let me not bore you with the details. Watch this!
2. Muscle Imbalances
If you know me, you know that I am a nice guy. But sometimes I just have to tell it like it is and some people may not like that.
So here is the deal.
On what seems to be a daily basis I get an email from some young kid who just discovered weights in his dads garage and is complaining that he needs to fix a muscle imbalance.
My question to that person is this. How can you have a muscle imbalance if you don’t have any muscle?
Alright, joking aside.
These emails are usually accompanied by an image and 9 times out of 10 this “imbalance” is psychological.
But let’s take that 1 time out of 10 scenario where maybe there is a noticeable imbalance. As someone who has been training for less than 1 year, consistently, those inequalities will fix themselves as you build your foundation using proper training protocols.
In fact, focusing too much on this “disproportion” and trying to fix it instead of concentrating on the overall foundation can potentially make it worse.
And remember, hardly anyone has perfect symmetry. So if you’re basing your imbalances on measurements, then yes, the numbers may differ from left to right. But that is completely normal. Just because my right arm measures slightly larger than my left does not mean I am a freak or that I am doing something wrong in the gym. It just means that in this aspect I am like 99.9% of the world.
3. The “Best” Protein
Everybody wants to know what the best protein supplement is. I find this quite odd.
You see, protein is simply a macronutrient. A dietary component. And although amino acid content is important, if you’re consuming an adequate amount of protein for the day from a variety of sources, then you have nothing to worry about.
So look at protein for what it is. It’s a macronutrient that you have to consume (in a specific amount) daily.
If your protein goal for the day is 150 grams, then your only concern should be to consume 150 grams of protein. The only thing this protein supplement is meant to do is help you reach that goal, period.
Yes, there are some better tasting brands with better amino acid content. But assuming your protein is coming from sources other than a powder, those things won’t matter in the overall scheme.
Now obviously you should take into consideration food allergies or lactose intolerance when choosing a protein powder, but don’t think that one brand over the other is going to be the answer to your problem.
4. What Time Should I Train?
There have been shown to be certain times of day where on paper it may seem to be most optimal to train.
People read this stuff and assume that because they can’t make it to the gym at certain times that they are unable to build muscle because of this. This is insane!
The time that you train will not, I repeat, will NOT dictate whether or not you make gains. What will determine whether you make gains is your nutrition and what you do in the gym.
With that said, here are a few things to consider when choosing a time to train.
1. Your life schedule: Let’s say theoretically the best time to workout was at 8am in the morning. Now let’s say you have a job that starts at 7am in the morning. Now, you obviously cannot make it to the gym during this “optimal” time. Does this mean that going after work is inferior to not going at all? You have a life and responsibilities. Train when your life allows.
2. Your Prime Time: Everyone has their own specific time of the day where they are most energized. This time of the day makes for the best performance in the gym. For some, it’s first thing in the morning. For others, it’s late at night. But either way, try to train during your prime time.
3. Gym Traffic: We’ve all been to the gym at a certain time where it seems like everyone who attends the gym is in the building at the same time. This is the worst! Especially if you have a set workout plan and the traffic doesn’t allow you to do what you came to do. Having to make last minute changes or speed through your workout can certainly hinder the session so just keep that in mind.
Use these three guidelines to help choose your best training time and regardless of anything, training during the shittiest time still far exceeds not training at all.
If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they would start their training routine once they could afford supplements, I would have at least enough for a bottle of creatine.
To me, this is a cop out. Anytime you can justify not starting, you are creating an excuse.
This is worse than “Im starting on Monday”.
What people have to start realizing is that supplementation is exactly that. A supplement. They are not magic and they certainly are not necessary.
If you think that you are going to add 1 “special” supplement to your stack and it’s going to skyrocket your growth, you have another thing coming. In fact, if you’re not making progress with just training and nutrition, then adding a supplement into the mix is only going to keep you small and broke as opposed to just small.
(Read this: The Only 3 Supplements Worth Your Money)
6. Losing Gains from Off Time
The other day I woke up and felt like a house had fallen on me. On top of that, I had zero appetite, I was nauseous, and couldn’t as much as get out of bed.
Fuck you, Flu. Fuck you!
Obviously I had to take more time off from the gym than I would have liked. And as the days went by I was losing more and more weight.
If you’re a hardgainer, then you know that losing weight feels like the equivalent of getting hit by a semi, head on, doing 100mph…but a little worse.
But I didn’t freak out. I knew that once I got better, I could start eating again, training, and I would be right where I started in a few days.
Why am I telling you this?
Because often times I get emails from guys who are in a similar situation and freak out because they think they’re losing muscle mass when sick. In reality, it just doesn’t work that way. You get dehydrated, you don’t eat, and you lose weight. You feel better, you start hydrating, eating, and you gain the weight.
Don’t be afraid to take some time away from the gym whether it’s due to sickness or vacation. Take care of yourself, enjoy your life, and I can promise you that your gains will be there when you get back.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
When it comes to building muscle, there are a few key principles that will dictate whether or not you grow. One is your nutrition and the other is your training. If you can manage to eat enough of the right foods while continuing to get better in the gym, you’ll grow regardless of any other factors.
The 6 pointless things you’re worrying about too much have zero effect on your ability to make gains. These things can be 100% completely disregarded and you’ll still be in a position to maximize your efforts in the gym.
So next time you skip a meal, run out of protein powder, or get a little more sore than usual, it’s not going to kill your gains and you’re not going to wake up skinny and weak the next day.