Guys fall into a few training categories:
- those that train for absolute strength
- those that train for size/aesthetics
- those that train to be better at their sport
- those that train to just move better in general
The question then becomes when we don’t have a goal in training how do we stay motivated in the gym and what can we do to make sure that each phase of training builds into each other? The answer requires analysis of where you are currently at and where you should be.
What muscle groups should I focus on to look bigger?
For those that want the size and aesthetics, there are certain parts of the body that will make you look a lot bigger once they get bigger. Some are mirror muscles and others require a bit more work to build:
- traps/upper back
Why these muscles?
Because they are what you can grow and still maintain the V-taper of the body that is generally more aesthetic. Genetics play a factor but anyone can overload and progress on exercises that build these muscles. Plus these all play a role in athletic activity in some form or fashion, which I’ll expand upon in later articles. You’ll notice that legs aren’t included. This does not mean that you have a free pass for skipping leg day. Leg development is essential for a well rounded physique. Once you’re able to hit a good 3 to 4 plate squat however, there are diminishing returns on leg size and overall aesthetics.
What should we be doing every day to make sure we can move effectively?
I have the benefit of being trained by people that don’t align themselves with one form of thinking. They draw from gymnastics, yoga, powerlifting, bodybuilding, field sports, etc. In this process, I believe that Functional Range Conditioning is one of the best daily exercises you can do to maintain your capacity to move and make things work nice.
What you do is move your joints around, forward and backward (or in circles) every day. That’s the bare minimum. In doing so you allow the joints to move the “gunk” that can lock them up. You’ll feel all the cracks and pops and stretches throughout each joint. That’s normal. In my opinion, we all need some body awareness so we know what exactly is tight or loose or acting weird. Joint circles, or CARs (Controlled Articular Rotations) incorporate yoga (breathing through sticking points and relaxing your body through stress) and help the meatheads like me perform better on the field or in the gym (less gunk = better movement = stronger/bigger muscles).
The Need for Absolute Strength
Every once in a while, we need to train for a maximal effort with a heavy weight. It’s a way of signaling the body that there’s larger stress than it can handle and it needs to adapt to it the next time we attempt to stress it again. It follows that the heavier the weight we can lift once, the heavier we can go on supporting lifts. It becomes a feedback loop that helps with increasing both strength and hypertrophy as we progress through our training. Progressively loading movements allows us to keep on pushing ourselves hard and keep challenging the body to grow.
What are you training for?
Those that have played sports in high school and/or college have a competitive spirit. We need to compete in something in order to give ourselves meaning and identity in life. Without an external opponent it is hard to find the motivation to consistently train and get better. There needs to be a shift from competing against others to competing against your past self. I’m much bigger and stronger than I was a few years ago when I first began training. I have a lot of work to do when it comes to my mobility which I can improve over the next year and look back at how much I’ve improved. Training for life is about enjoying the infinite process of developing and keeping your physical fitness throughout the years.
Training is a marathon and not a sprint. When you first start, the improvements can be near exponential as your body adapts. Great for motivation, but can bite you in the ass once you see less and less improvements doing the same thing. Play the long game when it comes to training. Try a program for a few cycles. See what works and doesn’t work for you. Train movements first and muscles second. Consider yourself not someone that goes to the gym but an athlete who trains to get better at the sport of Life. Train to be better than yesterday’s you. Focus on the month to month and year to year progress. Make it hard, make it fun, and have a few training partners along the way. Enjoy and share the process of training to become better.