by Cade Thomas
For 99% of the people who are crazy enough to devote themselves to it, bodybuilding is hard. Even if you do everything correctly every day, it can be years before you see the type of improvements that your brain might trick you into believe should come in mere months. While lack of satisfaction might be a very potent tool towards progression, it can also be the largest road block you will encounter when it comes to advancing your physique.
One of the key elements to success in bodybuilding is repetition and doing everything correctly day in and day out. It’s difficult to know if you are on the right path due to the time it takes on one plan of action to illicit a result. Let’s take a look at a few ways to stop adding stress like a psycho and help you get a grasp on the improvements you may or may not be making. These are lessons I have learned through my own mental sabotage and whacky behaviour that I believe most can relate to, to some degree.
1. Make small changes, not huge ones
Have you ever been chipping away at the gym, following a set diet and feeling okay with your progress, and then just randomly decided to change everything? I know I have, and at the time it usually seems like a good idea. Carrying a few extra lbs of body fat? Shit, just ditch all of your carbohydrates altogether and get on the keto diet! While you’re at it, may as well increase your cardio from 15 minutes every two days to double split 40 minute sessions! Why go from A to B to C when you can ride a jet engine straight to Z?
Drastic changes almost never end well. Sometimes a mini blast diet or few weeks of heavy eating can get the desired result when used temporarily before getting back to the original plan, but usually it’s just a step before making another crazy change. The biggest downside to doing this is that you can usually get the effect you want with very small changes and just make very minor tweaks every week or so to nudge yourself towards your goal. Redlining any approach leaves you with limited options when a plateau is hit, whether it be starvation diets and fat burners or “gonna get huge bra” food orgies with 3x a day insulin use. The latter might throw on some lbs pretty quick, but enjoy the desensitization and insulin resistance that will have those calories going to all the wrong places in no time.
2. Take progress pictures
It sucks…it’s a pain in the ass…and you never look like you think you do. Unless you are one of those blessed folks with photogenic muscles that make you look 30lbs bigger than you do in person, pictures are usually the quickest way to kill any sense of pride you have in your body. While it can be depressing at first to get hit in the face with the giant wet fish of unflattering photography, it is truly the only way to have a consistent gauge of progress. No, gym mirror selfies do not count. Find a spot in your house with decent lighting that doesn’t hide anything or completely wash you out (that means no dramatic lighting that makes you look shredded either), strip to your undies and snap a couple pictures every week or two on the same day to make it simple. Use the same place and lighting every time.
Personally I feel that the front and rear double biceps poses are a great way to see what’s going on with the total physique and they always are relatively easy to hit within a few tries if you have to use a timer on your camera. If you really want to focus on specific muscle groups and shots, obviously you will want to take pictures of them as well…for instance if you have a weak side chest shot and want to make sure chest thickness and hamstring drop are improving, use that pose in your photos as well.
The true power of having documentation of your journey can be seen on days when you start to feel down about your progress. When you start second guessing yourself, bring up a picture from 4 months prior and put it side by side to your most current one. Once you see how much ground you have covered you are likely to laugh it off and feel better about yourself. This is the best way to avoid losing it and doing what we discussed in number 1.
3. Hire a (good) coach
Not everyone will agree with this, and hell there’s lots of times where I don’t agree with it either. But if you happen to be a crazy person who is terrible at making rational decisions and taking progress pics isn’t enough to stop you from waking up feeling skinny and adding a gallon of whole milk per day, then a coach might save you many years of wasted effort. Possibly the greatest value a coach brings to the table isn’t the changes the make, but the changes they DON’T make. Sometimes it takes a second pair of eyes and someone removed from the situation to know that a phase of dieting can be rode out for several more weeks before any changes would be beneficial. Of course this isn’t financially feasible for every recreational lifter, but if you are a serious competitor who wants to remove that endless cycle of self doubt, the relief of having it all taken care of by someone you trust can be priceless.
It cannot be overstated how important it is to find a good coach, however. Considering many of the best in the game are in the same general price range as shitty instagram coaches or local hacks, there’s no excuse to cut corners here. Do your research!