The truth is we’re all seeking Training Progress in some shape or form. Whether it is to add weight to the bar, to be able to do a chin up or run a faster 5K we all want some reward for our Training efforts.
For us to be successful and achieve these goals we must address our Big Rocks because without them achieving long-term progression is less likely and we’ll end up leaving some potential gains on the table or worse still, stop progressing at all.
“So, what are Big Rocks?” I hear you ask.
Simply put, they are our Key Priorities to help us achieve a Goal. If you nail these suckers great things are going to happen.
Here are the 5 Big Rocks to help you achieve your Training Goals.
ROCK 1: Clearly define your Goal(s) & only focus on 1-2 RELATED Goals at a time.
We all dream big and want to be successful. It would be amazing if we could achieve multiple goals at one time, but the truth is we can’t, even for those of you who believe multi-tasking can be achieved.
Here are two truths about people and goal setting – brace yourself, it’s about to get real up in here.
- Statistics show that if you try to pursue more than one goal at a time the likelihood for success decreases significantly. Almost to ZERO!
- Most people won’t give up something to achieve a Goal.
So why point out these two truths?
Too many people try to pursue multiple fitness goals at one time with these goals often being very vague. People then wonder why they’re stuck in this perpetual loop of goal setting and not accomplishing them. You only have so much focus and will power to achieve these things, don’t spread yourself too thin and have a clear vision of where you want to get to, so you ensure you end up at the right destination.
Often pursuit of multiple goals sees people attempting to chase polar opposites as well that actually detract from each other. I wish I could say that you could train to run a sub 4 Hour Marathon and add 30kg to your Deadlift at the same time but unfortunately to achieve these the body has to adapt in very different ways from an energy system, nervous system and musculoskeletal system standpoint so pursuit of both is essentially getting you nowhere as getting better at one hinders the other.
Another reason is if you want to achieve anything you need to apply yourself. You’ve got to put in the work. Success in any given area requires putting in more time than you currently do or redirecting your current Training direction to allow you to focus on the goal and actually improve. This extra focus or new direction will most likely require removing something from your current training because we just can’t add more stuff in and if our efforts are opposing we’re just spinning our wheels.
We need to remove elements that don’t add value to the goal we want to achieve otherwise these elements will hold us back. But the real question is what are you willing to give up? In my experience most people are like Gollum when it comes to their Training – it’s their precious.
Will you give up your precious 5Km Park Run so you can do another lifting session to achieve your Deadlift goal?
Will you drop a precious lifting session or 2 and be ok with losing strength to add in more running to achieve your marathon goal?
Most people will try to convince themselves they can do both believing they’re Wonder Woman or Superman, but the truth is you’re just You – even if you do enjoy wearing your underwear on the outside of your clothes and look great in a cape.
ROCK 2: Follow a progressive & goal focused program.
Your program must reflect your goals – It sounds silly to point this out but it’s often a big reason a person doesn’t progress.
The great Dan John said it best, “The Goal is to keep the Goal the Goal”.
If your goal is to achieve your first chin up the program should address this and ensure your edging closer to that goal every session.
The program must also be progressive otherwise you’ll just stay where you are.
We’ve all heard the phrase “Keep the body guessing”. Most people’s interpretation of this is wrong however. It doesn’t mean you must change everything each session and do random work – that’s the fastest way to go nowhere with your training. A better way to think of it is “Keep the body challenged”. You must progress your training to challenge the body more than it was before to disrupt homeostasis and create a training stress that the body must adapt to. That adaptation is what the kids these days refer to as Gainz.
ROCK 3: Avoid Training to failure & seeking exhaustion.
We’ve all been guilty of this, me included. Taking sets to failure and beating yourself into the ground to feel exhausted and sweaty is a great way to slow your progress, crazy I know. It’s also a pretty good way to increase injury risk as well so avoiding it is sound advice.
To progress long-term, we need to stimulate the body not annihilate it. We need to ask it to be 1% better than it is currently, not 50%. When we’re intelligent with how we stress the body, and we only ask it to be 1% better the body can recover from this and it’s only through recovery that we actually progress and thrive.
Think of it this way. If I increased the amount of emails you had to respond to each day by 1 you’d cope with that easily, that’s a reasonable ask right? What about if I added 50 new emails a day, you would probably do your best at first, maybe even achieve this for a day or 2 but you would likely very quickly crash and burn under the extra stress and work requirement – The body and training is exactly the same.
So how do we ensure we don’t crash and burn with our Training?
- Leave 1-3 reps in the tank each set avoiding going to failure.
- Progress your training logically each week aiming to either add load, a set or a couple of reps – Keep that 1% better analogy in mind.
- Remember that DOMs, “sweatiness”, and exhaustion are the 3 most useless measures of a good workout and have no bearing on progression so seeking them is a futile endeavour.
ROCK 4: Are you training hard enough?
Now I know what you’re thinking, above I’m saying don’t go to failure and now I’m saying work harder but there is a big difference between intelligently working hard and just exhausting yourself.
Why do I consider this as a Big Rock?
Well I see a lot of folks training 5-7 days a week, 60-120 minutes each session and not making progress because their session lacks direction and truly FOCUSED EFFORT where every rep of an exercise is performed with the maximal intent and focus on getting closer to their goal.
So, what do I mean by training hard.
- Are you challenging your body to lift a little bit more weekly/bi-weekly/monthly or do you always reach for the same weights?
- Are you challenging your body to perform an extra rep or 2 at a certain weight over the course of a training phase? How about an extra set or 2 over a training phase as well?
- Are you dialled in when you train and completely present or are you distracted by other people and your phone?
- Do you put every bit of effort and focus you have into every rep of every set ensuring technique is spot on or do you go through the motions with some of your Training?
Addressing these 4 points will ensure you’re training hard enough to progress and not just going through the motions and never making strides forward to achieve your goals.
ROCK 5: Schedule in Rest Days & De-loads.
I think deep down we all know that we must rest more in life as well as Training, but training is addictive, and we’ve got goals to smash so training every day must be the fastest way, right?
Your body needs to rest in order to recover and adapt to all that wonderful training stress you’ve put upon it so that you can achieve your Goal. Without rest your body is just getting more and more stressed without the recovery it needs to adapt the body to actualise your training results.
I’ll give you 10s to read that sentence again as it’s worth repeating. See you back here in 10s – GO.
With recovery being such an important commodity, it must be scheduled into your week. This is why I program for all my clients to have 2-3 rest days a week. You’ll notice I said rest days, not active rest days, not Yoga or Pilates on rest days – actual rest where they enjoy a life outside of training allowing them to recover and get closer to their goals.
So where do De-loads fit into the training mix?
First off de-loads are focused periods of time, usually one week, where training is performed at a lower volume (less sets per exercise) and often a lower intensity as well (less weight than the previous week) to allow for a higher level of recovery to occur and a super-compensation of progression happens.
Let me caveat this by saying you only need to de-load if you’re actually training hard enough – which as you read above, you should be.
The best way I can describe the purpose of a de-load is with a mobile phone battery analogy.
Your body starts at 100% battery after the previous de-load.
Week 1 of your program sees this drop to 95%
Week 2 this drops to 90%
Week 3 this drops to 85%
Week 4 this drops to 80%
Week 5 you de-load returning the body’s battery to 100% and having it ready to perform at its best in the next training phase.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “if I’m resting 2-3 days per week, sleeping 7-9 hours, eating right etc I’m restoring my battery to 100% each day, right?” Wrong.
We want training stress to happen, we want our body’s battery over a training phase to gradually decrease so that the body has to adapt to this stress and improve – this is another reason why a progressive training program is important.
However, if we’re letting this stress build up we must have a release valve to manage it as we can’t just keep draining the battery. This is where the deload comes in.
Yes, it means a week of lighter training and less work per session every 4-6 weeks but for long term goal success it can be the missing link to help your progression level up.
So, now what?
It’s time for you to review your current training goals and programming against the 5 Big Rocks in order.
- Review your Goal(s). Ensure you’re only pursuing 1-2 RELATED goals.
- Review your Training Program. Is it focused on achieving your goals and is there a thoughtful and realistic progression to it?
- If you’re not already, start scheduling in your weekly rest days and your deload week (actually write them into a diary) so that you can refresh your body’s battery every 4-6 weeks.
- Review how you currently approach your Training Sessions: Avoid taking sets to failure and stop seeking DOMs, “sweatiness”, and exhaustion as validation of a good training session or making progress. You want to ensure you’re working hard enough and training with the focus and intent to get better and achieve your goals.
Get your Big Rocks in order and start making significant strides to achieving your goals from this moment forward.