Jeromy Bryk – @Bryk_Squuaadd
The unpopular truth about achieving success in life is that it takes time. There are no such thing as overnight success stories, as almost all truly successful people have oftentimes been working on their craft in the dark for many years before sustainable success is found. The same goes for having success in the gym. Whether its building up a stage worthy physique or building strength, its all about the long game.
Although I am not as experienced as some, I have managed to train over the past decade very consistently and have seen my fair share of results simply due to my ability to stay in the gym year after year. Here are some tips that will help you stay in the gym for the long term!
#1. Planned Decreases in Training Load
Recovery is the name of the game when looking to keep yourself healthy and in the gym. Planned decreases in training load are a great way to accomplish this. Decreases in volume and intensity allow muscle fatigue to dissipate, and give the central nervous system a break from heavy weights. While it seems counterintuitive to have days in the gym where you take it easy, believe me when I say you will come back feeling refreshed, healthy and ready to attack the weights with a full head of steam again.
I personally decrease training volume or intensity every 3 or 4 weeks in my training to allow my body to recover without a full deload, before ramping it back up again for the next 3-4 weeks. However, either before or after a competition, or after an 8-12 week stretch of intense training, a full deload is recommended. This is accomplished by cutting volume and intensity in the workouts by 50-60% and doing minimal straining. Its important to remember that during a deload this does not mean to sit around and do nothing. Still go to the gym or do some stretching and light body weight exercises to keep your blood flowing! I have found this helps a ton in keeping the extreme soreness that comes along with getting back to heavy soreness at bay when I get back to normal training conditions.
#2 Leave Reps in the Tank
Stopping a rep or two shy of failure during training is a good insurance policy for our bodies especially on main movements. First off, because you can’t truly get stronger through missed reps, and second because its most often those reps that are pure grinders where form breaks and injuries occur, and if were hurt and cant be in the gym were no good anyways. Unless I am in a meet or planning to test out my lifts I usually try to leave 1-2 reps in the tank on my working sets during my compound movements. It’s always better to know you had more left in the gym and live to fight another day, rather than push to failure on a random Wednesday morning and get hurt.
No injuries =More Progress. Train smart.
#3 Eat Well and Stay Hydrated
We need food and water to recover. That seems obvious, but it’s where a lot of lifters really mess it up. If we want our bodies to perform like high performance machines, we can’t slack on putting the proper amount of quality fuel in it. Dehydration and poor nutrition are known to increase our risk for injury in they gym, but luckily it is easily avoidable with some discipline. There are a few things I like to do to ensure I am fueled up before I hit the gym.
First, I make sure I have at least one meal in me that consists of an ample amount of protein (20-40g) and about 50 grams of carbohydrates about an hour before I train. Right before I workout I take a carb supplement (Karbolyn) and eat a banana. I also make sure I have at least a half a gallon of water in me before I workout and aim to drink another half during the workout. This way, my body not only has enough water and nutrients to sustain me during my workout, but also aids directly into the post workout recovery process.
#4 Don’t Slack On Mobility
I know for a fact I am just as guilty of this one as anyone, but slacking on mobility is a way to cause major setbacks in the gym. Being immobile will make having an injury more likely for sure, but also holds strength back too. Without proper mobility we cannot get into the most optimal positions to lift the weights which results in less weight on the bar. It’s simple as that, and if that’s not enough of a reason to take mobility seriously I don’t know what is honestly.
I can tell when I have been slacking on my mobility when I cannot get into positions that I normally can get into (i.e, hitting depth on squat, finding my upper back arch on bench and sitting back on deadlifts). For this reason, I like to take at minimum 5-10 minutes a day to do a full body stretch, focusing heavily on the areas where I need to be the most mobile including my hips, glutes, hamstrings and shoulders. I’ll take even more time on mobility leading up to a meet or an especially heavy training session to make sure I am in the best position to lift the most weight as I can and go home healthy that day.
#5 Know When to Shut It Down
There are going to be days where aches and pains happen, that’s a given. Knowing the difference between these aches and pains and a potential severe injury is the key to knowing when to push through and when to shut it down. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important skills a lifter can have, and one that I have had to learn the hard way!
It may take years of experience and a few injuries to understand your body well enough to make these decisions but I want to offer you some advice on how to make this decision so that you don’t learn the hard way like I did.
If you go into a training session one day and have an unusual ache or pain that is not your usual soreness (sharp Pain in the lower back area is the perfect example), go through an extensive warmup to see if you can remedy the pain that way first and if that doesn’t work it is best to shut it down or, at the very least, change the gameplan for that day. This decision becomes increasingly hard leading into a competition when heavy training is most critical, but if I am feeling pain enough that I feel there is a potential concern for injury, I will still back it down and take my chances knowing that I’ll still have a chance to compete on meet day if I listen to my body. It’s much better to change the training plan for the day than to not be able to compete at all.
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