The majority of people like to feed their egos. Good lighting, flattering mirrors, “friends” who blow smoke up your ass—it’s all part of a good stroke. I see it in the gym all the time. People don’t do the exercises that will yield the best results, they do the crap that boosts their ego. I’ve seen people try to replicate deadlifts on the smith machine, with cables, with the fucking bent over t-bar row. They do whatever it takes to avoid actually doing the most beneficial thing so long as it will allow them to walk away feeling accomplished. It’s not uncommon for people to leg press 10 plates per side and not be able to properly squat a couple of shitty plates. Why do dumbbell curls when you can do cable concentration curls with double the “weight”? For the people who fail to face their shortcomings head on, reality slips further and further away, and weakness takes its place. Lies, deceit, cheating and the like are the hallmark of inadequate mental fortitude. And, if where the mind goes the body follows, it’s obvious how the story will end.
Dumbell rows at the tail end of Evan's workout.
So what should you do? Expose yourself. Force yourself to stare at your weaknesses. Acknowledge the truth and, if it’s not what you want it to be, get to work. My life post-injury is no different than it is at any other time. I consider what I’m currently unable to do, how I don’t look, and how I don’t feel, then I set out to make positive change. Right now, my squat is shit. At around 12 reps, 185 lb is enough to make me question whether or not I will be able to come back up. To top it off the form is ugly, but I will be damned before I put squats aside. I will constantly remind myself of my shitty, inadequate squat and I will squat every week—twice weekly if necessary—and I will enjoy progress.
My leg is still atrophied: it’s small and ugly, and when I look at it I get pissed. So I look at it more. Now that the weather is warm, I live in shorts so that I’m forced to see it for what it is. That compels me even more to change it. It’s similar to contest prep. Nothing helps push your progress along than getting your fat, out of shape ass into a pair of posing trunks and going through the mandatories several times each week. If you have any pride, you will be so disgusted with what you see in the mirror that you will think of it every time you eat a meal, every time you do cardio, and every time you train. You will develop an irresistible desire for change that invades everything you do.
The pump you get doing cable lateral raises doesn’t matter when you can’t properly barbell press. The leg press can be hauled off to the landfill if you’re not working toward a better squat. Don’t even talk to me about machine rows if you’re not deadlifting. Squats, deads, barbell rows, bench press, and barbell press are the most beneficial movements you can do. Simply put, if you can’t do a movement, if it hurts you, or if you suck at it, I suggest you work at it until this is no longer the case. You cannot be strong until you can do these movements, and you cannot be a great bodybuilder until you are strong.
Although I like to feel good about myself just like everyone else, I do not succumb to a false sense of accomplishment. I know what accomplishment is. Squatting 5 plates for deep reps, deadlifting 6 plates for 8+, barbell rowing 4 plates for 10+ are all examples of what leads me to looking my best. Convincing myself otherwise would be simply lowering the bar. I will constantly remind myself of how and where I fall short and I will do everything I can to change that. Head-on is the only way to attack it. No excuses.