It was not long ago I spent hundreds of hours full of self critiquing. Looking at myself in the mirror searching into the rabbit hole for that ideal physique. Looking through magazines for the relentless pursuit of what my ideal build was. And HOW it was done. Analysis paralysis to a large degree.
- Is one chest day okay or should I do two for optimal growth?
- Do I need to do squats for big legs?
- How much protein should I be getting in a day?
- Will carbs make me fat?
I wanted people to see me and say “Wow, this dude (kid) is how I want to look!”. It was a full-time job to pursue the optimal physique.
- I wanted muscle.
- I did not want body fat
- I also wanted to be strong
- I wanted the best of both worlds.
Me circa 2015 training exclusively for physique. I was at my weakest in years. If only I committed to being strong only at that time!
My Goal Never Matched The Pace Of Muscle Growth
Muscle growth is a tough measurement. How does one stay patient about their arm size increasing at ~1/4 of an inch every one-two months? Not to mention burning fat and building muscle can often times work against each other and slow the other process down! It tests your patience. For myself, it tested me beyond what I could handle!
- You train to get cut in 12-16 weeks.
- You keep your calories pretty low because you want that six pack!
- But you also want to kill it in the gym because you love the empowering feeling of being strong.
- You spend 2 hours training each and everyday.
- Your calories are low so you find yourself in a spot where you cannot recover properly.
- You realize your shredded efforts don’t match your desire to hit the weights hard.
- You decide after 3 weeks to go back to bulking.
- You gain weight 3 weeks later and realize you want to look more cut.
- Repeat step 1
Basically this was me in a nut shell. Everyone’s story is a little unique. But the results are all typically the same. And unfortunately, this will lead to you spinning your wheels. You never build enough muscle for long term progress. And we always cut too aggressively to maintain muscle mass! So your strength suffers because of it! Strength is suffering because muscle is lost during the cut!
Our efforts to be strong out hustle our efforts to look our best. You are hard wired to be strong!
So Basically We’re Doomed To Never Look Our Best?
No, but here’s something to chew on. Back in 2015 I decided to make a change. I got SO SICK of never being able to look and feel my best. I did something highly unusual for a 24 year old kid.
I submitted to the idea that I could not focus on training for my ideal physique!
Wow, I just told you I gave up…and this being a blog I’m informing you (the reader) on that being the solution.
“That’s your advice?!”
Let me explain. And before I go any further let me highlight to you that there are many people out there who LOVE the grind of training exclusively for an optimal physique. But for myself and many others, the competitiveness of wanting to lift heavy weights far outweighs wanting to look our best with our shirt off!
Training For Strength Gave Me My Motivation & My ‘Why’
So in 2014 I did my first powerlifting meet. And in late 2015 I decided to commit to staying exclusively to powerlifting/strength goal oriented training only.
My physique has changed. And 2-3 years has gone by and I can safely say I never stressed how I looked in the mirror. I focused on getting strong. Which takes the attention off the process of building muscle.
The best thing that has come out of it besides being able to push and pull heavy shit multiple times per week? I stopped worrying about the small details and ‘subjective measures’. In fact, if I did worry, my lifting suffered. You cannot cheat strength… unless of course you use improper form, but who are you fooling?
Strength Is King
Have you ever seen someone who’s really strong who doesn’t have a great deal of muscle mass? You cannot optimize your strength without building muscle as well. But being able to shift your mindset from what the mirror is telling you to what the weight lifted is telling you will allow you to change your entire perception of yourself.
This is why power lifting is so enjoyable for me. I can train for something competitive and allow myself to adhere to a more objective measure. A mirror can lie based on your hydration status and lighting of the room. But 200 pounds is 200 pounds regardless of how bloated you are or how terrible the lighting is.
8/2015 focused on physique, feeling hungry and upset that I did took this photo in crappy lighting vs. June 2018, training heavy, eating a lot while being LIGHTER than I was in this photo, life is good.
Objective Goals Rock
The funny part about strength is that it allows you to have a more objective goal. If you chase after that 200lb squat it forces you to be patient. If you can only squat 150lbs you most likely won’t able to squat 200lbs in just 6 weeks! The joy of the process becomes your center focus.
625 Deadlift at my lowest weight in years. 3/2017
- You build muscle to allow a greater chance to lift it in a few weeks.
- You use good form to prevent any injuries that will prevent you from lifting it.
- You feel accomplished and proud once you hit it. And motivated to get to that next goal to keep the train moving.
- If you do anything wrong, you risk poor form and slowed progress.
You get so fixated on strength that you may even forget about how you want to look physique wise.
Lindsey Farrell too got sick of the never ending game of self critique of her physique. In 2017 she quit bikini for good and trains to be strong!
Training for strength will take your mind off of the process of physique. So that time thing that you had difficulty managing? Oh yeah, here it is! Take my photo as proof to the process! And in the mean time you focused on an objective goal of getting stronger, that will improve far more in a shorter period of time. So you stay more invested, because who the hell wants to stagnate?
Training for strength will transcend much further in your fitness career. Training for an optimal physique is admirable but often times incredibly hard to measure.
Scales and physiques can lie.
Iron NEVER lies.