People shun hard work. From where I stand, it often looks like people shun effort, especially when demanding physical exertion is involved. You all know what I mean. Ask a person to work overtime and he may just look for an excuse, even though he claims he needs more money. Walk around any gym and see how astonishingly few people take their sets to the very end, despite their stated desire to make progress. What’s going on here?
My guess is that this phenomena is related to self-preservation. Hard work, especially physical work, hurts. And when things start to hurt, people usually say “no” and stop. It’s the same as our tendency to say “yes” to food and rest. Self-preservation means “no” to work, but “yes” to food and rest. What’s the end result? Soft people. You see the same result in bodybuilding too—guys end up training poorly by overeating and over-resting. None of us want to be soft. To avoid that, the key is to just say yes to work more often.
In order for any of us to reach our goals, we need to first make it to the gym. The excuses have to stop. The fact that you’re tired, your gym sucks, you have laundry to do, or it’s your best friend’s birthday does not absolve you from paying your dues in the gym. Let me rephrase that: if you want to be mediocre and go nowhere fast, get to the gym when it’s not terribly inconvenient. If, however, you actually want to make real, measurable progress, get your ass to the gym. Do it like your life depends on it. Yes, you’re going to be tired sometimes. Hell, you’ll be tired more often than not.
is not like a motivational Instagram video where you walk into the gym for each workout ready to smash everything in sight. If that’s you, congratulations on your premature hypertension. Otherwise, you’re in the same boat as the rest of us. This means you’re going to have to nut up, dig deep, and make it happen. There will always be something in the way before your workout. For my friend and fellow Animal, Frank McGrath, it was a couple hours’ worth of vomiting along with various injuries, aches, and pains. For me, it was a nagging rotator cuff. Did we call off the chest workout? Fuck no.
Despite possible reasons for not going, we did. That was the first victory. Next, there was the matter of what we were going to do once we got there. We’d have to consider what chest movements would be both most effective and most appropriate (as with any training session). Flat and incline barbell bench presses, flat and incline dumbbell presses, dips, flyes, and pushups might all be effective movements, but doing them all in one workout might not be appropriate. What do I mean by that?
What is beneficial often collides with what feels good. As a result, we will often avoid movements that might benefit us the most because those movements may not feel good. “Not feeling good” can be due to the nature of the movement. Some movements are just plain uncomfortable—barbell rows, deads, and squats come to mind. But we all know, if we admit it to ourselves, that this kind of discomfort is precisely what makes us bigger and stronger. So, say “yes” to discomfort and these valuable movements.
Now if these movements don’t feel good because they cause unreasonable pain, you should still perform them. You simply need more practice. I don’t want to hear about your bad knees or herniated discs. Whether it’s a matter of technique, mobility, or a weak link somewhere in the chain, all it means is that you need to say “yes” more often. Avoidance is the worst thing you can do. Although you shouldn’t do anything to cause further harm if you have an acute injury, it’s brutally important that you work to get back to your pre-injured capabilities. Don’t think in terms of avoiding the pain. Instead, think of what you can do to bring it. When your training partner asks you to superset deads and barbell rows, just say “yes.”
Not only do you need to practice saying yes to the things that make you uncomfortable in the gym, you need to do the same outside of the gym. For example, food can be a real problem when you’re trying to gain mass or get ripped. For most of us, Frank and myself included, consuming enough food can be extremely daunting. We both know that when the clock strikes certain times, we need to put x amount of food down or we simply won’t have consumed enough by the end of the day.
To the layperson, this might sound like a real treat, but when you’ve been doing this as long as we both have, it’s more nauseating than enjoyable. Seriously, I often want to throw up. What do I do? I suppose I could bellyache about it. But instead, I shut up and shovel down more food. When it’s time to eat, you can choose to eat on time or let 5, 10, 15 minutes slip by. Before you know it, you’ve missed a meal. Don’t be a whiny baby. As soon as that clock strikes meal time, throw it down and keep on moving. Don’t procrastinate, just say “yes.”
Same thing goes for your sleep requirement. It’s too easy to let time slip by when you’re finally done with the day and you sit down to watch TV for a minute. If you know you should be in bed by 10:00 to get enough sleep, then turn that noise off and go to sleep. Simply ask yourself if you should get enough sleep, say “yes,” and automatically turn off the TV. Done.
The bottom line is that there should be no room for fuckery. You already know what you need to do to make progress in the gym. Because of my rotator cuff, was I excited about the prospect of incline barbell presses? No, not really. Was Frank eagerly looking forward to a heavier emphasis on free weights over machines, especially considering his condition? Not exactly.
In the end, we got the job done because we know we needed to. We got in a basic but effective workout with two fly movements and two pressing movements, along with some push-ups. Whether you are training chest or anything else, the key is to say “no” to fewer things, and “yes” to more things each and every day. Yes to consistent training. Yes to productive movements. Yes to training that brings you outside of your comfort zone. To make gains in this sport and grow, just say yes.