Muscle growth: your plan for success, Part 1

Muscle growth isn’t a hit or miss activity. It’s planned.

If you put together an intelligent program, tailor it according to your own individual recuperative abilities and possible physical limitations, follow it diligently and conscientiously for long enough, and fully satisfy your rest, sleep and nutritional needs, you’ll build much bigger and stronger muscles.

Sensible weight-training programs work. But too few people know what sensible programs are, and too few trainees are targeted at specific goals by a specific time. So most trainees are dissatisfied with their muscle growth.

To realize your potential for muscle growth, you need to become an achievement-orientated, goal-driven and success-attaining individual.

Achievement comes in small steps, but lots of them. Lots of little bits add up to huge achievement. Weight training exemplifies this bit-by-bit process.

Strive to get each rep right, each set right, each workout right, each day’s nutrition right, each night’s sleep right, and then keep doing that, again and again and again and again . . . for as long as you want muscle growth.



A. Muscle growth strategies for the long-term

Focusing on the now—today—is the building block for long-term success. Not living in the past, and not living in the future, but riveting most of your attention on the present is the only way to make sure you get most (if not all) of your “todays” in good order.

If you don’t get the daily units right, you haven’t a hope of long-term success.

There’s a strong connection between the daily units and your long-term goals. Getting the latter in good order provides the overall strategy into which the daily units slot.

Regular reminders of your long-term programming keep you on track for getting your daily units right.

Competitive athletes have a major advantage over non-competitive ones—the motivating, focusing, pressurizing and concrete-goals-creating effect of competition.

The need to be your best at a certain date and place will dramatically focus your attention, and force you to be more efficient with your time.

Without a definite where and when to be at your best, human nature makes most people casual with their time. You may take years to get to where you could have gotten in just six months had you been nailed down to a rigorous schedule to get things done on time.

Deadlines are often imperative for making people take action, in all areas of life. Consider how many things you need to do but have been procrastinating for weeks because you don’t have a fixed deadline to do them by. But give something a deadline and urgency, and it usually gets done.

Nail yourself to long-term deadlines. Make your goals specific by writing down numbers and deadlines, for example. Then nail yourself to the daily must-dos in order to keep on schedule for reaching the long-term goals.

Set the goal(s), make your plans, focus your application, dedicate yourself, and then make month-by-month improvement a reality.

And when you’ve achieved your medium- or long-term goal(s), do it all over again, and again, and again. Then you’ll set yourself up to achieve more over the next twelve months than perhaps you achieved over the previous few years.

Whatever you learn from the value of nailing yourself to targets and deadlines in the physique and strength spheres, apply it to the rest of your life.

There are deadline situations that can rivet attention just as well as formal bodybuilding or lifting competitions. Some of them may seem too simple, or even trite, but they work if you work. Here are the first two:



TACTIC #1: Small, specific targets

Don’t just agree that nailing yourself to specific targets is the way to go, nod your head, and read on. Stop, grab a sheet of paper and a pencil, and write down some specific training-related goals you want to achieve three months from today.

Perhaps you want to drop 10 pounds of body fat; perhaps you want to add 10 pounds to your bench press; perhaps you want to work cardio training into your exercise program; perhaps you’re finally going to apply yourself with a vengeance to a very abbreviated training program.

Really put in some thought here. Finalize some challenging but still realistic goals. Chew them over; and then carefully select the one or two that you’re going to dedicate the next three months of your training life to.

Break the target(s) down into a series of weekly goals, and produce a three-month program. Get down in black and white what you need to do with your training, rest and sleep schedule, and nutrition. Then knock off the weekly installments of success.

Like a competitive athlete closing in on a big meet, deliver the goods every day, every week, every month.



TACTIC #2: Before-and-after photos

Have your photos taken this week, to display your physique in a given number of well-lighted poses. No matter how happy or unhappy you are with how you look, get the job done so that you have a photographic record of your current condition.

If you’re too embarrassed to have a professional photographer do it, get your spouse, or partner, or a sympathetic relative to do it. But have it done as well as possible.

Set a six-month target, and give your all to improving your physique as much as possible, with the litmus test being the next photo session. Then, with proof in photographic print, you can see what you did with the previous six months of your life.

It’s easy in bodybuilding and strength training to mull away time, go through the motions, and lose track of the passage of time. Working in six-month slots gives tremendous focus, and you’ll have a photographic record of what you achieved over each six-month stretch. After each photographic session, set another six-month deadline with an even more determined effort to make the next six months your most productive training period ever.

Be meticulously consistent about the conditions used for each photo session.

Consider, for example, that at one photo session you have poor lighting, a hairy and untanned body, unkempt long hair, long baggy shorts, and poorly focused photos of amateurish and clumsy poses. Then, next time, after a hair cut, you have excellent lighting and sharp photography, and a shaven and tanned physique posed nicely in a well-fitting swim suit. You’ll look dramatically better in the second batch of photos even if your physique is unchanged.

Keep an album of your photographs. Refer to the album regularly. Be dissatisfied with what you see but recognize the visible improvement you’ve made, when you’ve made it. Resolve to do better, to improve the physique that currently isn’t good enough.

Put the resolve into practice. Don’t quit on the final rep of each hard work set. Add an extra bit of iron to the bar when possible. Tighten up on loose form. Resist the bit of food you know is in excess of your daily caloric allocation. Substitute first-class food for second-rate fare. Invest the time to perform cardio work when you know you need it. Be disciplined at all times.

The added spark of getting yourself in print should motivate you to take everything even more seriously than you already are.

When you’re in the gym, at the dining table, or doing anything else connected with your progress, think of the improvement you must make. Then be sure to do whatever you know has to be done, every day.

No loafing, no stalling, no weakening of resolve.

When the deadline arrives, reflect on what you did over the last six months that was good, and resolve to do that again, or better. Then reflect on what you did that was a hindrance over the last six months, and resolve not to do that again.