Ok, so maybe these aren’t so much LIFE LESSONS as they are lifting lessons!

Nevertheless, here are 12 realizations, or “ah-ha” moments of enlightenment that will take your progress to the next level!

  1. For Bigger Arms, train for the pump. The PUMP, forces blood into the muscle, driving in nutrients (assuming you follow proper workout nutrition) and without getting too scientific on ya – stretches the fascia that surrounds the muscles and triggers a bunch of growth factors. Training for the pump also requires slightly less weight and meticulous form, two things that contribute to healthier elbows, wrists, and shoulders – something that every lifter can enjoy. I credit John Meadows for showing me the light on this lesson. Train biceps and triceps together on their own day, do 9-12 sets for each, and get the biggest pump possible. This should utilize short rest periods and be a very quick session – 30-40 minutes tops. 
  2. Mobility is KING. Mobility is different than flexibility. Flexibility refers to the elasticity of a given muscle. Mobility is the ability to go through a range of motion at a given joint. I’m amazed at how we as human lose the ability to move through space. The common sedentary lifestyle and aging process have made humans as rigid as tight as Sci-Fi robots. Watch any 1-year-old move on the ground and you’ll quickly realize how much mobility you’ve lost! Check out Mobile Muscles to improve your mobility in 30 days.
  3. Recovery. You can’t do enough recovery work. Sports, life, and lifting all take a toll on the body. The easiest way to add recovery work? Do your future self a favor and start foam rolling NOW. Spend 5-10 minutes each day using a foam roller or tennis/lacrosse ball removing knots and adhesions. You’ll increase bloodflow, deliver nutrients to the muscles, and improve muscle tissue quality. I could give you a link to some fancy roller online, but the truth is, you can go to any home improvement store and buy a 4″ x 24″ PVC pipe and get the same results (even better) for under $10. 
  4. Workout Nutrition. You should know this by now. But I continue to see amazing results in my own training and that of my athletes and clients when the right nutrients are present at the right time. You can make progress without supplements. In fact, if you struggle to eat the way you should, you need to dial that in before you worry about extras and add-ons. But when everything is dialed in the results of proper workout nutrition will astound you!
  5. Go for broke on Good Days. Those magical days in the gym don’t come around too often. When you have them, take full advantage – set some PR’s. Yes you’ll need extra recovery. Yes you’ll be a little drained. But know this – progress in NEVER LINEAR. You won’t add 5 pounds to your lift every week forever. If that were the case everyone who lifted would gain over 200 pounds on their bench or squat each year. I’d be benching, squatting, and pulling over 1,000 pounds if that were the case. Your body progresses in spurts. It’s up to you to keep grinding and working through the slow times. And when those magical days come, let it rip! Hit those PR’s and enjoy the progress.
  6. Nothing is EVER enough. Don’t let it Define You. You’ll never be big enough, strong enough, or fast enough. You’ll always think you can be leaner or jump higher. Seek to be better than yesterday, focus on progress, but above all, don’t let your life be defined by that struggle. You are more than your vertical, your bodyfat %, or your powerlifting total. 
  7. Competition Accelerates Results. Pretty self-explanatory. People, athletes especially are competitive by nature. Training environments that provide and encourage competition between lifters have ALWAYS produced outstanding results. Get a training partner who will push you, hire a coach to keep you accountable, do something to push yourself outside your comfort zone.
  8. For extra volume or training frequency, dragging sleds rule. Want to bring up a smaller body part? Want to train legs more frequently without sapping recovery? Meet the dragging sled! With a little creativity and some straps, you can target any movement or muscle using the sled. Why does this work? No negatives or eccentric portion of the lift. Lowering the load (the negative or eccentric) is where most muscle damage (aka soreness) come from. The sled eliminates that, allowing you to do more work without requiring too many more resources for recovery.
  9. Sprinting Kicks Ass! As humans, we should never lose our ability to sprint, jump, throw or lift heavy shit! Young athletes need not worry about this, but as we retire from competitive sports (or those who never played) we lose our ability to sprint and jump. Much like mobility, this is a regression we must diligently prevent. Nothing, nothing strips body fat like sprinting. Ever seen an overweight sprinter in the olympics? Didn’t think so! It can be overdone if not programmed correctly, so be careful.
  10. Progress Not Perfection. I’m as guilty as anyone of focusing on perfection. I like to close my emails with “pursue perfection”. When I say that, I realize perfection is impossible, but in striving for perfection, we’ll fall short and still find greatness. It’s the falling short that most people struggle to accept. So rather than pursuing perfection, pursue progress – strive to be better each day than you were on the previous day – in ALL aspects of life.
  11. The Westside Method Is Awesome. Specifically, speed work is awesome for those looking to increase STRENGTH. But if I wrote speed work as the lesson, too many people would do nothing but speed training. It’s the combination of speed work AND heavy strength work that lead to the greatest gains. There’s a reason Louie Simmons is the master and continues to produce some of the world’s strongest lifters. You don’t have to follow the Westside Method to a “T”. If you want more speed or strength, try incorporating both speed and heavy work into your training.
  12. Coaches meet you where YOU are and move you along your path. The word coach has it’s origins in the old Stage Coaches that picked up travelers and transported them to another place. That is exactly what coaches do. BUT, it’s a 2-way street. It’s up to the coach to meet YOU where you are, yes. But it’s also up to YOU to be open to change things, accept new ideas, and put in the work required. [spacer size=”20″]I leave you with perhaps the best advice I got in 2012 – Your life is perfectly designed for the results you’re currently getting…
Feel free to add any lessons that helped you progress in 2012.