I’ve experienced regular setbacks on my fitness journey.
Strength progress would come to a halt in an almost interval like manner. Muscle gain stalled inexplicably despite maximum effort, a seemingly perfect diet, and boundless enthusiasm.
I’ve learned to deal with these setbacks over the years (somewhat). But at the same time, I wanted to pin down the magic formula, the key to destroying plateaus and achieving my genetic potential. After years of research, experimentation, and analyzing the most successful people in the game, I realize there is no magic formula. I did, however, come across one constant. One thing the best athletes and programs have in common.
Once you’ve reached an intermediate level, you need to introduce a critical component to fitness success: Measurable progress. Start keeping track of as many variables as possible. This is the only way to bust through (inevitable) plateaus and keep moving forward even with the odds stacked against you.
Writing shit down is the most powerful tool in your fitness arsenal
Buy a log/ notebook (nothing fancy) and create your own diet and training manual. Write down your short-term and long-term fitness goals. How do you want to look in 6 months, in 2 years, in 5 years? What are your performance goals? Put some serious thought into it and be precise.
Start tracking your progress meticulously. Take notes on the exercises you’ve done, the weights you used, the number of sets and repetitions. Write down how you performed the movements, how you felt between sets, and after your session. Did you take yourself past your comfort zone? Could you have done better, or more? Did you move one step closer?
Monitor your food intake, eating habits and sleep schedule. The more detail you add, the more variables you have to work with.
Sounds like too much of a hassle?
I have rarely, if ever, seen a guy logging his training efforts who didn’t look like he knew what he was doing. What I constantly see, however, are trainees doing thoughtless, random work every time they hit the gym. While I’m all for keeping your workouts fresh and interesting, you need to have clear goals and a clear strategy to see your potential realized.
It’s the constant jumping from one program to the next that will undermine your results, sap you of all your motivation and have you quitting within the first year of training.
You’d get better results doing nothing but progressive push-ups, tracking your numbers and consistently increasing the challenge, rather than following the latest fitness mag routine, Crossfit WOD or whatever other bullshit you come across. I’m dead serious.
“How will writing stuff down help me break through current plateaus?”
Analyzing your data will bring the true markers of success into focus. You will go into your workouts with a precise plan on how to face the challenges before you. You’ll know exactly what exercises to do, what weights to use and how many reps you need in order to progress. As long as you do your homework, you will never enter a session unprepared.
After a while, you’ll start seeing patterns and trends. Your understanding of the human body will grow exponentially by studying yourself and experimenting with different training, recovery and nutrition strategies.
Don’t be a follower
I enjoy researching the latest exercise science. Every day I come across new ways, techniques and strategies to build muscle, lean down and maximize performance. The amount of research conducted to find the “best”, the “ultimate” fitness solutions is staggering.
There was a time when I let that information get to me. I would constantly adjust my routine to be in line with the latest science. What did I get in return? Lack of progress, frustration and absolute confusion.
I still devour every research paper and published study I can get my hands on (what can I say? I’m a nerd), but in contrast to a few years back, I do nothing with it. I use the information to further educate myself, to deepen my knowledge on certain subjects. I do not, however, try and change my life around these novel findings. I educate myself for the sake of gathering knowledge, not to find a better or “the right” way.
Same with books, journals, magazines or social media content. Use the information for educational or entertainment purposes only. Do not let yourself be distracted! It will cost you months, maybe years of progress (if you haven’t quit already). Precious time you could have spent putting honest work in and moving closer to your goals.
Put your head down and do the work. Trust in your log book. Trust in the process. Trust in yourself and great things will happen.
Thank you for reading