I have been inundated with tons of questions regarding progression of strength, mobility and general fitness. Many of these questions are based around strength improvements specifically, typically from the “hard gainer” that claims they are genetically incapable of making gains and they have literally tried everything. After a few emails back and forth, the real issues rise to the top and the fixes are simple, albeit difficult to execute for most people.
1. Lack of goals.
Every individual needs goals for their own training. Even the simplest of goals can be productive. Start with something as easy as “get to the gym five days a week for 6 straight months” can be a very, very productive goal setting target. After the individual has proven they can hold themselves accountable for 6 months, goals can shift toward actual numbers. I.E. Bench press 300lbs, squat 400lbs, etc….In the end, setting goals are an incredible way to hold a semblance of accountability and also reap the reward of hard work and accomplishment!
2. Lack of long term focus and execution.
Similar to lack of goals but not the exact same. Short-term fitness people struggle mightily with long term commitment. They struggle to see what can happen over the course of 6-12 months...the idea of doing work for 3-4 years is entirely foreign!! The biggest lesson I learned from a lifting perspective from the age of 13-17 years of age was that consistent, long term focus leads to incredible gains. I could bench 100lbs more than everyone in my high school because I was training for 3-4 straight years!!
Another fitness example...I have had clients complain to me that they are only losing on average 1lb a week. I laugh when this is a complaint!!! Follow a meal plan for 52 weeks and if you are averaging 1lb/week, what does that become? 52lbs of weight loss!!!! Fitness, health and strength all take time to develop, make sure there is long term focus and consistent execution.
3. Over analyzing, not enough “doing.”
This is consistent amongst the hard gainers. They will spend hours upon hours reading T-Nation articles and Bodybuilding.com articles and yet fail to actually implement a consistent program. Instead of focusing on the little stuff, put together a plan with big movements, simple rep schemes and good old fashioned hard work. After 1-2 years of very intense training, then we can start talking about the little stuff.
4. Poor nutrition and sleep.
“Dane, I don’t get it. I am training hard but my squat isn’t improving and I feel tired all of the time. I think I am overtraining.” This is an all-to familiar line. My first response is always related to their diet and sleep regimen. You can’t get stronger eating 150g of protein a day and sleeping 5 hours a day. If you feel like crap, eat more carbs before training, destroy a gram of protein per lb of bodyweight and get 8-10 hours of sleep a night….then come talk to me!!!
5. Not targeting the problem areas.
This is something that took me a few years to figure out. I always had a terrible front squat, I consistently made excuses for myself. I have longer legs and that puts me in poor position to have a strong front squat. Those were my excuses. Finally, a fellow strength coach called me a few names, called me out and told me to front squat 4-5 days a week for 2 years and then tell him if my front squat still sucks. Well, I started with a max front squat of 335lbs. Pathetic, I know. Two years later, I could front squat 455lbs for a max single. What’s even better is that this front squat strength lead to a MASSIVE gain in my back squat AND deadlift!!! Target the problem areas and the stronger areas will blow up as well!!!