It is a bodybuilding myth that only genetically gifted people can developed muscular physiques.
In fact, anecdotal evidence shows that most “average” people who follow the fundamentals of nutrition and training can beat genetic perceptions.
That means that even if you’re no genetically gifted than most people, you still have the potential to develop an amazing muscular physique.
So why are so few people highly successful?
Because they develop bad habits which limit or destroy consistent progress in the gym. If you are willing to work at it, you can identify these bad habits and work on eliminating them. For all you know. Just one of these bad habits could be the single thing holding you back on a decade’s work of progress.
Here are eight of the very worst bad habits that could be holding you back every day in your quest for a better body:
1. Simultaneously Creating and Evaluating
“You can’t drive a car in first gear and reverse at the same time.” Similarly, you shouldn’t try to follow a program and tweak it as you go along. You run the risk of stripping your mental gears and becoming overly frustrated.
How many times have you followed a program then to look at your notes and realized you didn’t really follow it. You used it a guide but you made it up as you went along?
Creating a Program:
- incorporate new ideas
- bring about changes not in the current program
- take fundamental ideas and add to them in unique ways
- Evaluating a Program:
- analyzing and judging
- picking apart ideas and sorting them into piles of good and bad, useful and useless
Almost any program will work for anybody, most of the time. But not all programs will work optimally for a given person in a certain situation. This is where evaluation comes into play.
Most people create too soon and too often, and therefore evaluate less. All too often I catch people telling me some routine did not work for them. When I take a look at the program and ask them if they followed it, often times they will admit to changing it up as they didn’t feel it would work anyway. Maybe the combination of Squats and Deadlifts in the same workout conflicted with what they’ve been told. Or they just dislike doing an exercise and substitute it for one they feel more comfortable. First… follow the program, evaluate it based on your body’s response and then create based on your experiences.
2. The Guru Syndrome
Every fitness expert, including myself, is going to tell you the secret to success. And they’ll tell you everybody else except a few of their “friends” is leading you astray. It’s common in any field full of experts. It’s what we do.
Tip: You should trust but verify.
If you have questions, ask them! If they cannot provide answers, ask them who can or jump on this wonderful Internet and do a little old school, 6th grade homework type research. But rarely should you take somebody’s word for it especially if you aren’t sure.
Did you know that some of the most successful people in bodybuilding did what others told them would never work? I’m sure you’ve heard the name Vince Gironda. If not, the man was ahead of his time and most of the experts told him he was wrong.
He helped several bodybuilders become champions.
Every path to success is based on predictable fundamentals but slightly different.
3. Fear of Failure
“Failure is an event, never a person.” – William D. Brown
Failure is a necessary step to success. The worst part is, if you actively try and avoid any type of failure in your nutrition or training, you’ll also avoid success.
Want to increase your chances of success? Make more mistakes! Forget about how you look at the gym or if you are too skinny to workout. Maybe you aren’t a master of the Squat technique. Your diet isn’t perfect… yet. By making the mistakes, correcting them over time, you will increase your chances of success.
Those few really great workouts you will experience more than compensate for all the dumb mistakes you make to get there.
4. Fear of Uncertainty
Are you somebody who likes things to make sense? If so, join the crowd.
Regrettably, bodybuilding is not cut and dry. It is part science and part individual experimentation. There are some concepts we’ve yet to understand like precisely how muscle is built.
World Bodybuilding Champion, Carlos DeJesus once told me a story about a particular bodybuilder he witnessed. The guy came to the gym and would train his arms with lots of sets and repetitions. He used moderate weight and never went to too heavy or too light. When he would finish his workout he had a serious pump. His arms were very well shaped, developed and cut. According to Carlos, the guy had big arms for his frame. It worked for him.
Why? I don’t know.
What I do know is that great progress emerges from a swirl of disorder. Building muscle is at best, Organized Chaos. You should be comfortable with some mess and confusion but stick to the organized fundamentals. If possible, become comfortable with things that work even when you don’t understand why.
If your method truly works for you based on your experience, you’ve got to be able to ignore the comments about what you are doing, cannot possibly work optimally or at all.
A close friend once told me that “you don’t need to know how electricity works to turn on a light.”
5. Lack of confidence
In my 20 years of bodybuilding, some level of uncertainty complements every workout. Self-doubt in small amounts is healthy.
To truly succeed, you’ve got to have confidence in your abilities to dig deep and give serious effort to your goals. Many times I’ve wondered if I will be able to do the exercise with the weights and repetitions I’ve outlined for the workout.
I won’t lie and say there’s no self-doubt. But I’m confident in my abilities to push myself and I know my body well enough to know when something is just a challenge opposed to just dangerous.
Much of this comes from experience, but confidence also comes from familiarity with the exercise, the setup and how your body works. As a beginner this is a grey area but with a few years of training, you’ll know what you’re capable of and where your limitations lie.
Understand that some concepts seem crazy at first, that you may fail in the attempts the first time out but that failure is just part of learning and ultimately what you thought impossible will be easy. When you grasp those concepts, you are well on your way to becoming more confident and adaptive in your pursuit of your goals.
Instead of dividing the concepts of building muscle (or burning fat) into the possible and impossible, split it into what you’ve tried and what you haven’t tried. There are a million pathways to success.
6. Opposition from Other People
Once you start to learn about fitness in general and your options expand, your ability to see what’s possible will grow. Sadly, most people around you will not. Don’t be surprised when they hint at you in various ways to conform, be happy with who you are and accept your situation.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with close family members who tell me every time they see me…“Why are you still working out like that? You are big enough. Those guys look so silly. You don’t really want to look like them do you?”
Ignore them. The path to every victory is paved with predictions of failure. Once you make significant changes and you will make significant changes, all the naysayers will stop the noise and see you for what you are – a force to be reckoned with.
This is another place in life where you may make new friends and potentially distance yourself from others.
7. Being Overwhelmed by Information
In my younger years, I had a stack of bodybuilding magazines in my room and at least 4 different bodybuilding books. The information was there for sure but I had a condition at the time called “paralysis by analysis.”
This is when you spend so much time thinking about a problem and stuffing your brain with so much information that you lose the ability to act. Think about this…
If information is to the brain what food is to the body, then just as you can overeat, you can overthink.
Every successful person I’ve ever met has the ability to know when to stop collecting information and start taking action. Many subscribe to the “ready – fire – aim” philosophy. Acting on a good plan today is better than waiting for a perfect plan tomorrow.
8. Being Trapped by False Limits
Ask a scientist for a training program and you’ll get a solution based on case studies and the optimal process in response to exercise. Ask a bodybuilder for a training program and you’ll get one that involves personal experience. Ask a world champion natural bodybuilder for a training program and you’ll get one that worked for world class athletes.
Our reality is based on the perceptions of our experience. The limitations we place on ourselves in everyday situations are self-imposed. This is especially true when it comes to making serious progress at the gym. They are false limits. When you force yourself to step outside your comfort zone and look past what you know and feel, that’s when you are open to taking a step past your current abilities.
Be open to anything. Step outside your comfort zone. What seems impossible today may seem surprisingly doable tomorrow. Ever heard that building muscle and burning fat at the same time is impossible?
Did you recognize some of these problems in yourself? No worries. Knowing what’s holding you back is the first step toward breaking through a sticking point.
How about you? What mental, training or nutrition habit has been hardest on your progress?