Why are YOU here? – by Jamie Bolton

Why are you here? Why are you training?

Do you want to even be?
 
These are basic, but serious questions that everyone should ask themselves when training. Basic, but very revealing.

If it’s because you WANT to be better. Because you WANT to progress. Welcome. You realise that you are in this for the long run. You realise that this isn’t some short term thing. This is a lifestyle for you. You’re not just doing this because you feel you ‘have to’. You’re doing this because you want to. When the going gets tough, you’ll still be there. And that’s exactly why this kind of person gets the results that everyone else is envious of.

If its because you feel you ‘ought’ to be here you may want to think again about what you are really achieving. Is this a chore for you? Are you just ‘going through the motions’? Is this just something you begrudgingly force yourself to do? If it is, let me ask you this. When was the last time you saw results? I thought so.

If you are only in this for the short run, don’t be surprised by a lack of progress.
 
Your viewpoint will massively affect your results in this game.

When you see it as a lifestyle, it’s suddenly not hard to find time to train. It’s not hard to make the right food choices. Why? Because it’s who you are. You’re in it for the long haul. Progress occurs as an accumulation of your consistent actions.

If it’s some ‘chore’ that has to be done, then what do you think will happen? Well, eventually it ends up like all chores. Like the dishes. Like the washing. It gets put off with excuses until the point where you realise you haven’t trained this week. Or even this month. You’re no longer progressing. At best you’re fighting to stand still. In reality, you’re regressing. The analogy only runs so far. It’s not like the dishes where you can put it off, then wash and rinse and you’re back on top.  It’s more like building a straw house, then halfway through stopping and letting it blow away. Each time you’re starting from scratch!

Don't take this approach to training, you don't get anywhere fast

What I’m getting at here is that your viewpoint on this is going to affect your end results. If this is some chore for you, then don’t be surprised when you seem to be endlessly spinning your wheels and making limited, if any, progress.

If this is your lifestyle, then welcome. Progress will come to you. At times it may be fast. At times it may be slow. But your on the right track. And you’ll get there in the end. As long as you stick to it.
 
Now, if it is a chore for you, then you really need to look ask why.

Are you going through the motions? Is it just boring? If it is, it may be time to take a long hard look at your program. When was the last time you changed things? Or how about following a pre-designed training program? Or hired someone to write one for you? Following a proper program will not only provide better prospects of results, but likely will result in increased enthusiasm. It also forces you to challenge yourself.

What about your training environment? Does your gym just plain suck? Then switch facilities. Heck, buy yourself a TRX and get outside now and again! Do you do better when training with a partner? Then find one. Or do you need to be shown ‘the ropes’ and guided through the basics in form to really ‘get it’? Then find a generous, experienced lifter and ask for help. You might be surprised at the response. Or, find a reputable trainer and pay him/her for a session or three.

How about the food side of things? Think that ‘healthy’ food is boring? It might be time to crack out a recipe book. You don’t have to just eat plain chicken breasts and broccoli. There are a tonne of different spice options, which are all natural and healthy. And there is more to meat than just plain chicken. Use your imagination. Good food doesn’t have to be unhealthy and ‘boring’.

Good food doesn't need to be boring

So, why are you here? Training doesn’t have to be a chore. Eating ‘right’ doesn’t have to be boring. It’s what you make of it. It’s always what you make of it. Embrace it as a lifestyle and watch the results flow in. Your body wants you to. It’s just the bit in your head you need to deal with.

“The good Lord gave you a body that can stand most anything. It’s your mind you have to convince.” – Vince Lombardi.

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Deloading 101 – by Jamie Bolton

The deload. The lazy-man’s excuse to not work hard. The hard grafters way to grow. It’s a delicate balance, but one too often abused in favour of the first option, if it’s used at all. 

I can imagine some of you sitting there thinking, what the **** is he on about and what the hell is a deload?

A deload or back-off week is a planned reduction in training volume and/or intensity. This can be from a few days up to a full week.

Why? Well, let me ask you how much muscle is built whilst training? None. Muscle is built when you recover from training. The longer and harder you push it in the gym without, the more fatigue, aches and pains you start to accumulate. In other words, you under-recover. A deload allows the body to super-compensate and allow you to hit the gym with renewed vigour and new-found strength.

Now before you all start taking it easy in the gym in the name of deloading, there’s one crucial point to remember here. Only deload when you need to

As a rule of thumb, the need and regularity of deloads will increase with training experience and age. The advanced trainee can’t push as hard for as long as the beginner. Nor can the old timer when compared to a young whipper-snapper. The more developed you are, the heavier you’re training loads are (or should be at least), and the greater the toll your training is taking on the body, so the need for recovery is greater.

At this point some coaches will give out prescriptions for deloads. One week in every four is a very common and popular one. For the developed lifter there is some merit to it for sure. For the beginner, this is far too frequent. My biggest argument with this kind of recommendation is that it’s far too standardised to be optimal for every lifter. My training isn’t your training. I might need a deload every four weeks, but your training might warrant a mini-deload every three weeks, or you might be fine with one in every eight!

You want to push every training cycle for as much as its worth. Deloading for the sake of deloading won’t get you anywhere fast.

So how can we tell when to deload? Well, the human body gives us plenty of simple cues, we just have to be clever enough to listen to them.

Cues for Deloading:
1. You’ve stopped progressing (and calorific intake is high). The point in brackets is crucial, you must be in a calorie surplus for this cue to be true.
2. Weights that you were dominating are starting to feel heavier.
3. Decreased motivation to train. And I’m not talking about the, ‘I went out last night’ type of not wanting to train (but this won’t be helping you anyway), but when you are getting to the point of almost fearing training.
4. Need for sleep increases. For this cue, it must be a given that all else is equal, i.e. you are getting as much sleep as you usually do, other general stresses are the same etc.
5. Explosiveness decreases. For me, in particular on lower body days, I tend to throw in a lot of jumps between main sets. When I start to notice a sustained decrease in vertical height over a few sessions, it’s time to back off.
6. Chronic ‘Achyness’. Not just the regular DOMS, but when you start to really ache, even days after a session and usually you would be recovered.
7. Inability to get ‘in the zone’. You do your regular activation movements, even some extra, but you seem to be struggling to get that fire going at the moment.

There are probably a few more of these the veterans among you have noticed over the years but you get the picture. Listen to those nagging cues, whatever they may be, and thank me later.

If you have to ask yourself if any of the above apply, you don’t need to deload. If you need a deload, you should have been reading the above whilst nodding your head, heck chances are you’ve been noticing these things for a while. Any one of the above may occur from time to time; deloading is only required when a few of the above are persistent cues from the body for a good week or so.

Deloaded Training

Deload training doesn’t really need to be a whole heap different to regular training. The ‘keep it simple’ approach is to just decrease intensity (read: weight lifted) by 40% and follow the program otherwise unchanged. If you’re a beginner, then you can get away with decreasing volume by 40% (read: same weight, less sets and reps).

But we can take a different approach also. I like to sometimes use deload periods to try out new exercises, or plain just ‘wing it’ in the gym. The key is to make sure the training is non-fatiguing and sub-maximal. Heck even consider taking a week out of the gym and hit up the park with just bodyweight movements. I’ll often try to ‘plan’ the need for a deload before a holiday, when I’m not sure what the training facilities will be like so I can do one of the above! The key is to keep it a bit easier and recover, you won’t get weaker by taking a week off when you really need it.

How long to deload? It depends, it might be four or five days, it might be a full week or even slightly more; again, listen to the body. When you’re starting to feel somewhat sadistic and crave a heavy squat session again, you’re ready.

Wrap up

We progress by challenging ourselves in our training, but unfortunately we are only human (well most of us are!). We don’t grow when training, we grow when recovering from training. Over time we accumulate more fatigue than can be recovered from between workouts and gradually the body tells us to back-off, but we must listen to it. After a period of reduced intensity/volume, we come back stronger, bigger and more eager to hammer away at our training again. One small step backwards for a many further steps forward.

And that’s it. Deload to recover and start progressing again. But only if your body needs it.

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