Strength, muscle mass, low-body fat, and a high level of fitness do not happen overnight. They don’t happen in a month.
When you consider impressive feats of strength and body, the timeline they were achieved on is marked in years.
Here the 21st century, instant gratification is becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Any type of dish can be delivered 24/7 at the touch of a button from your phone.
You can trade currency on your phone and make a fortune in a minute. Check out the guy who bought into Ethereum when it flash crashed to $13 before rocketing back up to $340.
You can get girls be sliding into an IG model’s DMs.
You can network without regard to geography and proximity.
But the one thing you cannot instantly build is your body.
This can be disheartening or inspiring. Consider this: the time is going to pass anyway-why not get to building your body now?
In his “Book of Five Rings”, sword master Miyamoto Musashi estimates that his lifelong quest for mastery over martial arts was the only science he needed: the principles he learned on his search were applicable to every other discipline in the world.
This is true in weight training. The advancement of your body is your martial art. It prepares you to be more useful and harder to kill.
As I seek new challenges on the stage and on the page, lessons learned under iron hold true in the practice room and rehearsal hall.
Principle 1: Perfect Form
Perfect form is more important than the weight that you life. A simple thing done with mastery is more beneficial than a difficult thing done sloppily.
Interestingly, with time that difficult thing will become simple. Remember that everything is relative. My excellent 315 lb squat used to make me look like a new-born deer.
I fixed one aspect of the movement after another, and now the movement is not only efficient and beautiful, but the form fix allowed me to break through plateaus and get stronger. Perfect form engages more muscles.
Perfect form on one movement translates to other movements as well.
For example: engaging your rhomboids to pull your scapulae together and bracing your abdominal cavity before taking weight is essential to every single movement.
Principle 2: Broaden Your Timeline
Don’t let the time it takes to build your body keep you from going after it. Broaden your timeline of expectations.
In 2005-6, I dropped 40 lbs and began to build muscle. I went from 5’8, 190 lbs, and probably 30% body-fat (couldn’t bench 155), to 155 lbs.
That summer I worked up to a 205 lb bench. It took me an entire year to reach that. Granted, my knowledge of nutrition was total garbage, but we were on a rigorous lifting program from January to August.
Since then, I have gone through periods of intensity and periods of going through the motions- consistently training with some goal in mind, or getting a pump/hitting some standard numbers and going home.
Even so, it’s taken a decade to build to a respectable natural physique. But what if I hadn’t started?
Training has opened up many doors for me, in addition to the invaluable lessons it has taught me. There a lot of things I wish I had started earlier (piano, investing, blogging), but it’s better to get to work ASAP than to procrastinate until it’s too late.
Principle 3: Experience
There is no substitute for experience. You can read a lot about what training split, what nutrition plan, and what supplements to take, but all of that knowledge is just theoretical until put it into practice.
Even then, the information you’re consuming might not be the information you need. None of the cues that I give myself for the squat were things that I absorbed second hand. I developed them for myself.
Now, I began using cues I had researched, but until you get under the bar and see for yourself, you don’t really know anything.
Before entering graduate school, I had a choice to make. I could take the full-ride offer to my #1 school or go work in a residency program in an opera house.
A friend’s mom, who had a long and successful operatic career, put this in my brain: school can be useful, but there is a big difference between academic singing and professional singing.
The only way to learn how to sing like a pro is to go pro. Surround yourself with other professionals if you want to be one.
Sing over a professional orchestra for a paying audience and sing for a non-amplified space. Nothing else matters if you can’t be heard.
The only way to adapt to this is to put yourself in a situation where you can be tested. As on stage and in the weight-room, the only way to actually make progress is to test things out for yourself.
But if you want a instant benefit of weight-training, you will get a literal representation of transferable lessons.
If you want something, you have to work for it.
If you aren’t seeing results, you’re at fault more likely than not.
Hold yourself accountable for what you are and aren’t-doing.
As Dylan says, “You are your own savior and your own devil”.
Don’t expect anything worthwhile to happen overnight. Learn to love the process!
Seek perfection in small ways such as the grip of the barbell, the efficiency in racking the weight, and the contraction of every muscle. Visualize your muscles growing and don’t chase heavy weight.
Chasing the heavy weight only satisfies your ego temporarily. Poor form can cause lasting injuries.
Stay focused on the big picture: earned incremental growth and consistency will develop an impressive and permanent change in your physique.