Muscle growth: your plan for success, Part 2

A. Strategies for the Long-Term . . . continued


Video tape your physique

Having yourself on photographic prints or slides is one thing. To see yourself strutting your stuff on video is another. Once you’ve done a couple or more photographic sessions as in Tactic #2, upgrade the seriousness to video taping (and photos, too, if you want both formats). If you feel embarrassed about the taping, get your spouse or a close friend or relative to do the recording.

Fix the six-month taping sessions so that your training is geared around them, as if they were public competitions you were preparing for.

Video tape your lifting

Rather than a pure-appearance focus, spend a long while focusing purely on getting stronger. Get yourself on video tape while performing your best sets. Then schedule yourself to be recorded performing the same exercises six months later. Gear the next six months of your life to increasing your strength as much as you can.

Assemble a good routine, keep the focus on progressive poundages in correct form, keep remembering the video recording to come, raise the intensity of your work, become possessed in the gym, and get plenty of rest between workouts.

Come deadline time you’ll have a good bit more on the bar for each exercise, for the same reps you used six months earlier. Get a straight comparison on video tape. See the improvement. Then apply yourself to getting stronger still, and come back for another recording session after a further six months.

Landmark years

Once you’re over 30 years old you may come to see certain birthdays as landmark points—35, 40, 45 and 50, for example. Set each of these as video taping days for physique and lifting. And, of course, each one of these landmark recordings should see improvement relative to the previous one. Gear the in-between years for keeping you on track to becoming better as you get older.

Bodybuilding and strength training are wonderful activities for many reasons, one of them being their potential for enabling you to improve with age, even well into your middle years. (The older you are when you start, the older you can be and still make progress in strength and muscle growth.) And when you start to regress due to aging, work hard to hold onto as much strength as possible. Then, because your peers will deteriorate much faster than you will, you’ll continue to get better, relatively speaking, as the years go by. Exercise keeps you young.

Rise to the challenge of proving all this.

Get yourself down on video tape on each of your landmark birthdays. Remind yourself daily of the importance of doing your utmost every day to be better next time around.

Break each five-year period into six-month slots, and make visible and measurable improvement over each of those periods. Add up those six-month stretches of improvement over five years and you’ll produce dramatic change.

Never settle for anything other than your finest effort to be your best on your six-month deadline days. And never settle for doing anything other than your very best each day of the journey. You have to get the individual days in good order if you’re to achieve your long-term goals.

What you focus on for a given landmark year will reflect changing values as you age.

At ages up to 35 or so, your training focus may be solely on size and strength.

As you approach 40 or 45 you may place more emphasis on flexibility and a low percentage of body fat.

Around age 40 you may overhaul the goals to target. Maybe getting to 8% bodyfat will be more important than making a 300-pound bench press. Perhaps having a resting heart rate under 60 will be more important than deadlifting 500 pounds.

Perhaps at 50 you’ll want to hit 250, 350 and 400 in the big three at say 175 pounds bodyweight, but simultaneously have a resting heart rate of 60. At age 35 you may have wanted 350, 450 and 550 at 210 pounds, but paid no attention to your resting pulse. (Although a low resting heart rate is usually an indicator of a healthy, efficient heart, it can be a symptom of some health problems.)

Whatever interests you for the time being, set specific goals for it—say 10% body fat, not just “to get lean”; to have a resting heart rate of 60, not just “to be fit,” etc. Then nail yourself to a specific time deadline—e.g., six months from today, not “soon”—and devise the strategy to reach your target.


While competitive bodybuilding and powerlifting act as terrific deadline creators, don’t enter without expecting competition from drug users. Testing is usually either non-existent or such a joke that some of the most prominent “naturals” are well-juiced.

A much more realistic and fair type of competition is to set up something informal with a training partner, friend or pen pal. Make it bodyweight related for maximum reps for each exercise, e.g., squat 150% bodyweight, bench press bodyweight, and barbell curl 50% bodyweight. Set the date of the competition a few months away, structure a training cycle to peak on the meet day, gear yourself up for it, apply yourself with zeal to the preparatory training, and then give forth of your very best on the big day.

Alternatively, compete with yourself. Add an end-of-cycle test day to each of your programs. On the test day, perform a fixed challenge workout radically different from how you normally train. Each time you do it, give your all to bettering what you did the previous time. Take a few days rest from your previous workout prior to the test session. Here are some suggestions:

Maximum reps in the squat with 100, 135 or 185 pounds.
Maximum reps in the bench press with 135 pounds.
Maximum reps in the deadlift with 150 or 200 pounds.

You could impose a time limit if the reps will be very high, e.g., maximum reps within 15 minutes; and you could use percentages of bodyweight rather than fixed weights. You could even get away from regular weight-training exercises for competition days, or use a mixture. Use your imagination and find some movements you would enjoy performing. For example, you could perform your maximum number of floor push-ups (perhaps put a time limit on it), walk with a given pair of heavy objects for time, hold a two-inch bar loaded to 100 pounds for time, etc.

Don’t choose exercises you have no recent experience of. For example, don’t go for maximum reps in the squat if you’ve not squatted for a few months.

Keep accurate records of your poundages and reps. Keep the exercises and weights or percentages constant from one competition day to another. Be sure to keep all conditions of the competition days constant (including the order of the exercises used, and rest periods), so that you’re comparing yourself under the same conditions.

Weight training can be far more interesting than most people make it. Competition days are just one way to make your training more challenging, productive and enjoyable.


All the determination in the world counts for nothing if you don’t know how to train effectively. But having a high level of determination speeds up the learning process.

Treat each self-imposed deadline as a major part of your life. If you treat the deadlines casually, you may as well not bother going through the process of aiming to be your best by a given date. As with everything in training, you must take what you’re doing very seriously.

Give your 100% best to a good overall plan broken down into daily units, and you’ll amaze yourself with how much you can achieve. Compare the sort of attention you’ve given your training over the last year, with the sort of application I’m recommending here, and you’ll probably find a big difference.

If you want to be successful in achieving your potential, you need to program that success. Stop leaving life to chance. Forget about the indifference and disorderly state of some others, and don’t let any negativity rub onto you.

It doesn’t matter a whit what other people are doing with their training. Your own life is what matters the most to you. Get in charge, and make the most of it.