If you’re serious about achieving your goals, the following strength commandments are worth your time.
1. Thou shalt check thine ego at the door
In a gym setting, remaining humble to yourself means training within your physical limitations, knowing when to add weight, but also when to back off. Simply put, the first rule of building strength is to remain consistent in your training. You can’t remain consistent if you are injured.
Remember this simple fact. The brain may have the will, but your body might not, in order to become truly strong, you must know exactly how much you have to give on any given day. When you arrive to train, mentally take off your ego and hang it at the door, or stuff it in your gym bag. Your body, and your long term results, will thank you.
2. Thou shalt relax, have fun, and trust in the process of building strength
Building strength, muscle, and losing body fat is an art. It also takes time. Make sure you’re expectations are first realistic, and second attainable within the timeframe you’ve given yourself.
An example of a realistic expectation is to lose 10 percent body fat. However, to lose 10 percent body fat over the course of a single month (a year would be more realistic and sustainable) is not only unlikely, but nigh impossible. Once you’ve got your goals dialed in, enjoy the process of working towards them, one training session, one day, one week, and one month at a time.
3. Thou shalt focus only on the behaviors today that will make you stronger tomorrow
There are ultimately two types of people in this world. You have your visionaries (your big picture kind of people), and your over-analyzers (the kind of folks who scrutinize ever minute detail and variable). In order to be successful in achieving long term physical achievement, you need to be a bit of both.
Always keep the big picture in mind, but don’t obsess about it (you can’t achieve anything of true greatness without a down-and-dirty focus on getting the work done). As long as you don’t lose grasp on your long term goal, focus primarily on the present, and the behaviors you ultimately need to have in order to achieve said long term goal, such as training 4-5 days per week.
4. Thou shalt place more value on quality of movement over quantity of movement
If you’re serious about your lifting, you will likely know that your longevity will be in direct proportion to the quality of your movement.
If your technique sucks, and you keep adding weight to the bar, two things might happen: the bar will break, or your body will break. I’m willing to bet the bar will be just fine. The bottom line? Build every movement up from the ground up. Learn how to hinge, squat, press, pull, lunge, and perform movements with a single leg. Include some variation of these movements in most every workout.
If you do this, and still have time to sit on a hamstring curl, leg extension, or (Lord help me), calf raise machine, more power to you! Put your primary efforts in to training the big movements first, not isolating specific muscles.
5. If thou lackest the faith to perform another rep, thou shalt not attempt it
If your goal is to build consistent, sustainable strength, you will NEVER go to muscular failure in a routine workout. For the average person who wants to get strong, feel good, look good, and ultimately just be an active person, there is no point to failure (other than bragging rights—see commandment 1).
This final commandment is really the daddy of them all, because in order to follow it routinely, you need to have checked your ego at the door. It also requires faith that the work you’ve put in is enough to achieve the results you want. By pushing to fatigue every time, you’re also breaking commandment four, which is to focus on quality of movement over quantity.
There you have it—the five commandments of strength. Learn them. Lift by them. And live by them!
Bret has a BA Health and Human Performance, George Fox University, Graduated Magna Cum Laude, 2010, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Functional Movement Screen Level 2, also went to the American College of Sports Medicine, has a Track and Field Technical Certification, DVRT Level 1 Sandbag Certification, 1st degree Black Belt in Chun Kuk Do and a Master’s of Arts in Teaching. His ultimate goal for every client he works with is to help provide them with a foundation of movement quality upon which they can layer stability and strength, so that they too can make Constant Forward Progress.