All types of training can lead to injuries, but some are much worse than others. With a few self-myofascial release techniques, you can at least minimize these risks.
With bodybuilders, the common use of active muscle isolation leads to increased rates of muscular adhesion and scar tissue formation.
The bench, squat, and deadlift weren't designed for extreme volumes and frequencies, but that's exactly what powerlifters are doing with them. Luckily, there are three effective self-treatment techniques to keep you moving some serious iron.
This year over 70% of CrossFitters will be sidelined for over a week at a time due to injury. A majority of that 70% can be attributed to shoulder injuries. There are, however, a few techniques to help.
Running is the most popular and most debilitating form of exercise. Up to 80% of runners are in pain on any given run, no matter the distance, intensity, or course.
Which type of training causes the most physical damage? It's one of the most passionately battled debates in sports medicine. With the recent popularization of CrossFit, the fiery debate has been doused with kerosene.
There's no doubt that CrossFit has put its dysfunctional stamp on the fitness industry, but where does it compare to the traditional joint-crushing training methods like powerlifting, bodybuilding, and running in terms of orthopedic health and function?
It's time to pledge your allegiance, pick a side, and get ready to wage war. As a doctor of physical therapy and a soft tissue specialist, here's where I stand on which training methods are helping us achieve a greater overall level of fitness and health, and which methods should be banned in all 50 states.
And if, despite my warnings, you still refuse to face facts and continue to inflict damage to yourself, at least play an active roll in limiting the damage by using the sport-specific self-myofascial release techniques I prescribe at the end of each discussion.
Fourth Most Debilitating: Bodybuilding
Sure, bodybuilding has continued to draw some negative attention due to the blatant and obvious use of performance enhancing drugs, even within the "natural" divisions. For those athletes that compete in the open divisions and embrace the drug culture, I say they're at least being up front and honest in their pursuit of muscle and performance. The same can't be said for any other sport in the world.
Honesty does not exclude bodybuilding from its spot on the list of the most debilitating forms of training in the fitness industry, though. Throwing slabs of muscle onto your less-than-adequate frame for purely aesthetical reasons is bound to cause some dysfunction sooner or later. If you want to continue, you better find a way to preserve the mobility you have left.
Though bodybuilders are some of the most structured and intelligently programmed athletes in the fitness world, they're still prone to some serious forms of overuse injuries. The use of PEDs throws the body into an anabolic shit storm of muscle growth that the non-contractile tissues (tendons, ligaments and fascia) just can't adequately support. Also, the common use of active muscle isolation leads to an increased rate of muscular adhesion, thus causing an increase in intramuscular scar tissue formation.
The presence of scar tissue is a precursor to decreased movement capacity and overall dysfunction. If bodybuilders want to continue to compete on the big stage, it's imperative they get their soft tissues cleaned up. And no, the monthly trip to your Active Release Techniques (A.R.T.) guy isn't good enough. You must take your mobility and soft tissue quality into your own hands, literally.
Here are the top three sites of dysfunction specific to bodybuilders that can be self-treated. Get hands-on with your own tissues. Your body, and your performance, will thank you:
Third Most Debilitating: Powerlifting
With a combination of explosive power and technical ability, powerlifting separates the pretenders from the elite athletes in a quantitative manner.
If you didn't already know it, these are some of the baddest dudes in the business. You don't get that strong by mistake. The body is put under some excruciating muscle tearing, tendon stretching stresses in order to adapt to handling the loads that produce PRs. Even with intelligent training methods and technical proficiency, debilitating injuries are as much a part of the game as the ability to place in your weight class.
Training for the big three puts the body under extremely challenging conditions. There's a fine line between progression and injury, and it's a line that's straddled every day for those who live to not only stay competitive, but also victorious. The bench, squat, and deadlift weren't designed for extreme volumes and frequencies, but that's exactly what powerlifters are doing with them.
The body can only withstand so much torture before it retaliates. Here are the three most effective self-treatment techniques to keep you moving some serious iron off the floor while still maintaining your ability to crawl up to the podium:
Second Most Debilitating: CrossFit
If exercise is your only goal, you're most likely a CrossFitter. Like it or not, unless you're on ESPN crushing Fran with the likes of Rich Froning, you're not considered an athlete of any sort. Just as the average 60-year-old woman likes to get jiggy with Zumba every Saturday morning, you're just another wannabe sweating your way towards traumatic injury and shitty Olympic lifting mechanics.
As a sports performance physical therapist, I first have to thank CrossFit founder Greg Glassman for keeping my schedule full of CrossFit newbie train-wreck cases. Yes, he's achieved his goal of creating a culture where even he's considered in elite shape, but in the process, he and his weekend-certified coaches have put an end to many unpromising careers, largely due to preventable injuries that could be absolutely avoided with just the slightest hint of fundamental programming.
Congratulations, mission accomplished, as GWB once said. And once again, thank you for all the referrals!
Shoulder injuries have never been more prominent in the fitness industry than after the popularization of CrossFit. I'm convinced that the wildfire spread of CrossFit is due to the initial investments of orthopedic surgeons worldwide. What's better than surgically correcting an injury that you had a hand in causing? Charlie Sheen would call that winning and since this is America, you aren't truly winning unless other people are losing. Welcome to our medical system.
This year, over 70% of CrossFitters will be sidelined for over a week at a time due to injury. A majority of that 70% can be attributed to shoulder injuries. The rest of the injuries are split between programmed random acts of stupidity (also known as WODs) and spinal issues.
In my article, Do-It-Yourself Mysofascial Release, I tackled the techniques that could be used to self-treat some of the deeper structures of the shoulder complex. With the waddle rate strikingly high in boxes across the world, the lower back dysfunction created by CrossFit is an entirely different beast in itself.
Here are a few techniques to limit that shitty anteriorly tilted pelvic posture that you've developed through strategically sacrificing looking good naked and being healthy. If you insist on losing your gains through light load, high-rep Olympic lifting, make sure to limit some of the trashing your body is about to endure with self-myofascial release. Save your back and simultaneously save your ass with a just a few moves:
Most Debilitating: Running
Ah running... the most widely practiced physical activity in the world with nearly two billion people jiggling their way to a body only a mother could love. From those staggering numbers it's confirmed that we, as an industry, have failed the general gluten-free cupcake eating public.
Let's be honest, in 2014, it's pretty damn hard to make CrossFit look like the less shitty alternative to an unsafe and ineffective form of training. Though CrossFit is gaining ground, the overall numbers don't lie. For every one bandwagoning CrossFitter flopping around on the pull-up bar, there are 800 people consciously working their way towards metabolic syndrome accompanied by a total knee replacement, one painful step at a time.
I don't know about your country, but the American infrastructure wasn't designed to withstand this kind of punishment. The streets deserve better.
In an attempt to save our roadways and orthopedic health, let's take a deeper look into how running has continued to do absolutely nothing to eradicate the American obesity epidemic while adding to the ever-rising orthopedic dysfunction and injury rates plaguing our questionable medical system.
Running has single-handedly made the presence of pain the norm in an American society that's struggling to be active. Up to 80% of runners are in pain on any given run, no matter the distance, intensity, or course. If you accept this statistic as "part of the game," you're just as much to blame as Phil Knight and the injury rainmakers over at Nike. Time to question your own beliefs and help evolve our poorly educated society, one runner at a time.
An ideal running stride is as rare as the thousand-pound squat. Just because you can run doesn't mean you should. Without the ability to achieve proper biomechanics, your running is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Would you squat if you couldn't keep from drawing attention from you atrocious form? I think not.
With every gait being as uniquely awful as the next, there are some common dysfunctions that show up no matter if you're running the four minute mile or run-walking your way to another oversized T-shirt. If you're truly passionate about running, fine, that's your prerogative; here are some self-myofascial release techniques that will limit your ever-impending doom:
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: CF Injury.
Before you get deep into specifics, run a basic checklist: How's your diet, sleep, and stress levels? Have you clearly defined your goal?
If gains have stopped, check your mobility, stability and symmetry. Then look at your program. Is it fancy yet ignoring the basics, like big lifts where you're trying to add weight regularly?
One of the most effective plateau-busting strategies is to simply do the opposite of what you're currently doing. If you've been doing a split routine, try doing a whole body routine. If you normally do 3 sets of 10, try 10 sets of 3.
Use accessory movements to strengthen the weakest link in your big movements. For instance, use hip thrusts to train the glutes, or use paused front squats to help with weak deadlifts off the floor.
You were doing great for a while, but then you weren't. Your muscles were growing, and then they stopped. If those grim descriptions fit you, then it's time to take a step back, ask yourself a few hard questions, and practice a little physiological detective work. Following are 10 strategies you absolutely have to consider to get yourself back on track.
1. Run the basics checklist
Success in training is about relentless application of the basics. Before you look for a complex solution to your training frustrations, honestly reflect on the following questions:
Do I have a clearly defined goal?
Is my training truly focused on that goal or am I distracting myself with cool but non-essential exercises or techniques?
Do I have unrealistic expectations? (Am I trying to be ripped by Tuesday? Am I expecting to gain 40 pounds of muscle in a month?)
Am I utilizing the big, hard, uncomfortable, result-producing exercises?
Am I keeping a training journal?
Am I getting better at these exercises by regularly adding weight?
Am I training consistently?
Am I following a program for an appropriate amount of time or am I guilty of program-hopping?
Am I consistently monitoring goal-relevant assessments (e.g., girth measurements)?
Also, be sure that your out-of-gym factors are taken care of by reflecting on these questions:
Is my nutrition on track? Am I keeping a food log?
Am I consistently using the right supplements for my goals?
Do I get enough sleep?
Am I getting sufficient rest? (Is that two-hour post-training game of pick-up basketball killing my muscle gains?)
Am I managing my stress effectively and proactively avoiding unnecessary stress?
You've heard this stuff before, but are you consistently doing it? Print off this list and put a check or "X" beside each item that might need some improvement. Then, actively address the X's. Many people mistakenly look for a programming solution when they aren't practicing basic training, nutrition, or lifestyle habits.
2. Check your mobility, stability and symmetry
While this makes more sense if your goal is athletic performance, don't skip by this one even if you just want to look good naked. Sometimes the body stops progressing out of fear of injury. It doesn't want to keep adding more pressing power to an unstable shoulder or squatting power to an unstable hip or low back. Sometimes plateaus are your body's way of telling you to stop and address an issue. Here are few practical things you can do:
Get a functional movement screen or some other type of evaluation from a qualified coach to see if you have issues. The fastest way to find and fix these is with professional help. However, if you're a do-it-yourself guy or gal, the following points will provide practical ways to help with this.
Stand normal and have someone take a picture of you from the front, back, and side. Are you a posture poster boy/girl? Do you have noticeable left-to-right differences in your alignment or muscular development?
Look at your lifts. For example, what weights can you do for a low-incline dumbbell bench press? Can you flip over and do similar weight and reps with a prone dumbbell row? Unless you're specializing in powerlifting, they should be pretty close. Both Ronnie Coleman and Dorian Yates could do bent-over rows with their bench press weight and they owned two of the best backs in bodybuilding history.
Move different joints on your left and right side of your body and note any differences in mobility or ease of movement.
Try out different stretches and see if you feel a certain stretch way more on one side of the body than the other.
Get on a foam roller and lacrosse ball and go over each of the major muscle of your body. Note how painful each area is and prioritize the painful spots. These are the ones you want to be hitting at least once a day.
Test some unilateral lifts such as the single-leg deadlift (dumbbell or kettlebell held in opposite hand), one-arm dumbbell bench press, one-arm half-kneeling shoulder press, single-leg squat, half-kneeling cross-body chop and the Turkish get-up. Note right-to-left differences in mobility, strength, and stability.
Have someone film you doing a bilateral lift such as a squat. Watch the video to see if you notice any shifting or twisting of your hips.
If you identify issues, deal with them, or even better, get assistance from appropriate professionals. Once you give your body symmetrical mobility, stability, and strength, it'll be able to take you to the next level of performance.
The internet provides endless access to exercises and training programs. While it provides a lot of information, it can also cause a lot of confusion and distraction. The two most important things in training are:
Pick awesome exercises (that are appropriate for you and your goals).
Get better at these exercises by progressively adding weight.
The more complex you make training, the more you'll tend to stray from these two vital components. Simplifying your training will help you get better results today, but it also sets you up for better results in the future. Save those specialized training methods for down the road when you're really stuck.
4. Add some strength work
Strength can be a limiting factor in reaching almost any goal. Want to get bigger? Getting stronger allows you to move more weight, even when you're doing the higher-rep sets, because it creates a greater growth stimulus. Want to burn fat? Getting stronger allows you to run faster and lift heavier and thus burn more calories than a weaker person can burn in the same amount of time. Also, unlike endurance training, it teaches you to harness and expend energy rather than conserving it. Want to run faster or jump higher? Power is a combination of strength and speed so getting stronger is critical here as well. Regardless of your goal, be sure that you're devoting some time each week to getting stronger. The cool thing about getting stronger is that it doesn't take a lot of time or complex programming. This can be practiced on a specific day where you take 2-4 big movements and do lower reps for a moderate volume (3-5 sets of 3-5 reps works great here). Or you could do some strength training at the start of your training session with 1-2 heavy, low-rep compound movements and then move onto hypertrophy work, metabolic circuits, or other goal-specific forms of training. Strive to progressively add 2.5 to 5 pounds per session, depending on the lift. Don't get greedy here. Trying to make massive weight jumps on a weekly basis is a sure-fire way to get yourself into a training plateau. Of course you won't be able to add weight indefinitely, but too many people have training program ADD and abandon this simple progression long before it stops working.
5. Cycle back and re-gain momentum
If you hit a roadblock, drop the weight back about 10-20% and build back up from there. The lighter weights will allow you to tighten up your technique and give you momentum that sets you up for a future PR. While the thought of going backwards sounds horrifying, this effective strategy is basically taking one step back to take three steps forward. Simple progressive overload will work for a long time, and when you add some simple cycling into the mix, it'll work even longer. Another great thing about cycling is that you can just use it for the exercises that you need to. If you're making great progress with most of your exercises but have stalled on a few lifts, you can cycle those exercises back while continuing with the others.
6. Do the opposite
From a programming standpoint, one of the most effective plateau-busting strategies is to simply approach your goal differently. In other words, do the opposite of what you're currently doing. Consider the following training variables:
Periodization style (linear, non-linear, vs. conjugate)
Weekly layout (whole body vs. split routines)
Volume (high vs. low)
Loads (high vs. low)
Number or reps (high or medium vs. low reps)
Training method (endless options here)
Frequency per muscle group/movement pattern (high vs. low)
Reflect on your training history and consider trying the opposite for the above training variables. For example, if you normally do linear periodization, try non-linear. If you've been doing a split routine, try doing a whole body routine. If you normally take a low-volume, high-intensity approach, try a higher volume, lower-intensity approach. If you normally do 3 sets of 10, try Chad Waterbury's famous 10 sets of 3. If you normally use a particular training method, try a different training method.
7. Temporarily switch to a complimentary training focus
Sometimes, the best way to reach your goal is to leave it for a while, do something that compliments your goal, and then come back to your original training focus.
For muscle gain plateaus switch to:
Strength training: The stronger you are, the more weight you can lift. Many top bodybuilders had a solid strength background. Fat loss training: Losing fat not only helps you see the muscle you have, but it can also improve insulin sensitivity and make the body more anabolic. Just talk to bodybuilders about how easy it is to gain weight and size after a competition.
For fat loss plateaus switch to:
Strength training: The stronger you are, the faster you can sprint and the more weight you can use when you return to your metabolic training. The stronger you are, the more energy you can expend in training. Hypertrophy training: Gaining lean muscle cranks up your metabolism.
For strength plateaus switch to:
Power training: Learning to express your strength more explosively is a great way to get stronger. Hypertrophy training: A larger cross-section to your muscle fibers means a greater potential for strength gains. This also gives your joints and tendons a nice break from the pounding of heavier training loads.
For athletic performance plateaus switch to:
Strength training: Getting stronger helps improve your overall power and ability to put more force into the ground. This is the game-changer for athletic performance. Then, when you come back to more speed and power training, you'll have more raw strength to convert to power. Fat loss training: When athletes get lean, everything (speed, agility, vertical jump, conditioning, etc.) improves. The trick with this method is to keep regular assessments. While you might lose a little ground in reaching your original goal when you switch focus, it should be minimal, and you can do some maintenance work here to prevent this. However, when you get back to your primary training focus, you'll enjoy some fresh new gains.
8. Use "same but different" exercises
While there are countless exercises, there are a relatively small number of amazing exercises. However, for the handful of great exercises, there are many minor variations you can use. While some people are constantly flipping around to different lifts and never getting good at any of them, others never make any variation. If you find yourself getting stale with a certain lift, switch to a similar variation. For example, with deadlifts you have these same-but-different alternatives:
You can also modify grip width, grip diameter (thick bar), hand and wrist position (pronated, neutral, supinated), or stance. This will not only spark new growth, but give you some psychological freshness and prevent overuse injuries.
9. Strengthen the weak link
This method was popularized by Westside Barbell's Louis Simmons. The idea here is the old clich&eactue;, "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link." With weak link training, you use accessory movements to strengthen the weakest link in your big movements. Here are a few examples:
Use safety squat bar good mornings to train the spinal erectors.
Use ring fallouts or ab wheel rollouts to strengthen the abs.
Use paused front squats to help with weak deadlifts off the floor.
Use board or floor presses to build triceps strength for bigger pressing.
Use farmer's walks to strengthen, well, pretty much everything.
An important point about this method is to only use it when it's appropriate. While this is a great method for more advanced lifters, it's not as helpful or necessary for newbies (though newbies may still benefit from exercises such as hip thrusts and farmer's walks). For example, if I have a male athlete who's new to lifting and I notice his back rounding when he's deadlifting with weights under 315 pounds, I'm not going to accessorize his training with safety-squat bar good-mornings to strengthen his erectors. Instead, I'm going to take some weight off the bar, provide him with extra coaching on how to get tight, and stop his sets at the first sign of technique breakdown. This will not only force him to use and strengthen his erectors, but it'll teach him how to use his whole body together on a big movement. If we find the same problem happening down the road when he's doing over 400 pounds, then I might consider the safety-squat bar good-mornings.
10. Properly-timed deloads or active rest
Take a week off of training? Go to the gym and lift light weights? Are you crazy? For many people, deloads and active rest happen naturally as they inevitably get them with their inconsistent training schedules. However, for many of us T Nation readers, we have the opposite problem. Our passion for training and burning desire to reach our goals leaves us never wanting to take time off. Personally, I hate deloads. There's nothing I would rather not do than take time away from my barbell or go to the gym, lift weenie warm-up weights, and go home. However, there's one good thing about a deload or short rest from the gym – you return to the gym fresh and hungry for hard training! I've taken three different approaches to deloads:
Never do them.
Do them every fourth week, regardless.
Do them as needed.
The first approach can lead to burnout and plateaus. The second approach worked well, but it seemed like I was always stopping just when I had some good training momentum going. Currently, I take deloads or active rest on an as-needed basis. I've found that if I'm careful not to over-do training to the point of always needing a deload, and carefully monitor my performance and how my body is doing, I can go longer without deloads and make more steady gains. Then, when my body tells me it needs a break, I give it a break. If you're in-tune with your body, then this third approach can work. Otherwise, consider a regularly scheduled deload every 4, 6, 8, or 12 weeks (depending on level, type of training and what you need). While they're not fun, properly-timed deloads and the occasional time away from the gym can be just what you need to break through a frustrating training plateau.
Those who are relentless find comfort in discipline. For them, hard work is cleansing, good for body and mind.
The relentless do their research in the weight room and in the kitchen. They test things out for themselves and don't require the opinions of others.
Dogma be damned. The relentless will drop what's not working, while the weak-willed have to fit into cliques, label themselves, and adopt cult-like thinking.
The relentless know that personal responsibility is the foundation of mental strength. They build grit along with muscle.
Everyone is obsessed with something; the relentless athlete has simply chosen that obsession wisely. He or she is productively obsessed.
You Know Who They Are
The relentless. The people who know what they want, make a plan to get it, and always follow through. Those who never seem to lose their passion for training and are always on track. The ones who getresults. If you're wanting to become a little more relentless in your pursuit of muscle, strength, fat loss, and mental fortitude, the unrelenting have secrets to share.
1. The Relentless Find Solace in Discipline
What separates the relentless from the weak is that the relentless welcome discipline. They find comfort in the familiarity of a physical challenge. Going through a hard time? That's exactly when the relentless train. Rather than griping about frustrations or waiting for them to pass, they'll channel their energy into something productive. And by doing so, they reap the rewards: A stronger will, a better body, and a job well done. Stressful careers, social drama, tragic losses, moves, divorces, or just a vague sense of inadequacy – there's not a lot that'll knock a relentless person off his or her game plan. They sweat, they grind, they push themselves, they lose their breath, and they focus. And when it's all over they've cleared away enough mental fog to see the more optimistic side of whatever they're facing. Working hard when life gets hard makes people more resilient. Complaining, wallowing in self-pity, and blaming others in the face of difficulty gets people addicted to victimhood. And that adopted attitude of weakness can spread like a cancer. It causes learned helplessness and habitual pussification. When life gets hard, work hard. Fight back, kick your own ass before anyone else has the chance – you'll steal their power. Can you think of a better remedy when life's circumstances have you feeling powerless? And once the dust settles with tough issues, the relentless find it even easier to double down. Their inner dialogue tells them that if they were able to muster up discipline during the hard times then they sure as hell can't relinquish their power when life gets smoother.
Apply your work ethic to your workout. Don't give anyone the opportunity to think of you as lazy, distracted, inefficient, or weak... and don't give yourself that opportunity either. Embrace the work part of your workout. Get immersed in it.
None of this "make exercise so fun you don't know it's exercise" crap. It's work, dammit. It's hard, and it pays off every time. Don't think workouts need to be hopscotch, hula-hoop, or Zumba in order to be enjoyable. "Fun" workouts can consist of PRs, muscle pumps, brutal time under tension, bloody shins, breathlessness, and torn calluses.
2. They Test Things Out and Commit
There are people who never take action yet seem to always be looking for the best way to accomplish their goal. They want everything to be tested out (by other people) and then they want to compare those results to other results, and then they want an analysis done by a trusted source who has also tried it. They might tell you their inaction is about efficiency and doing things the right way, but really it's about fear. Fear of failing. Fear of being the only beginner in a room full of experienced people. Maybe even a fear of commitment. So they wait for someone else to tell them whether or not it's worth the effort. The real story? People who make excuses are people who are afraid. The relentless want to see for themselves. If something doesn't work, they want to find out firsthand. Why? Because what seems like too much of an effort to one person might actually be worth it to another. The relentless know this, so they won't become naysayers against any one method until they've tried it out for themselves. The relentless get personal satisfaction from the effort. Even if that effort doesn't pan out the way they were hoping. The act of trying stuff reinforces the desire to keep trying stuff until they get the results they want. They don't want secondhand information because they know friends and studies don't tell the whole story. The relentless might follow what they believe instinctively. And if those instincts happen to be wrong then they walk away from the experience with more knowledge. If their instincts happen to be right, they have a whole new tool in their toolbox. Their ability to test things out – from nutrition and training to personal development strategies – keeps them from being held back by fear. Sure, they screw up sometimes, but those experiences make them better and more capable of finding what does work best for them. Experiencing missteps make them less afraid. The relentless are always wondering, "what if..." and then they attempt to find the answers out themselves. From nutrition and eating strategies to body part splits and training techniques, the relentless seek answers, and they wouldn't dare place all of their trust in one diet book or one fitness expert. They're also wary of anyone who pretends to have all the answers. The relentless welcome trainers and their new ideas, but they don't require approval or permission in order to eat right and train hard. The relentless don't need the whip to be cracked. They're driven, and nothing can derail it.
Start somewhere. Try stuff. Read up on it. And don't get hung-up by hearsay because you'll only know how your body responds by trying it out for yourself. Realize that if you've been researching the sumo squat for weeks and haven't sumo squatted yet, you're just flexing your procrastination muscle.
Try stuff you're interested in and commit to it for a fair period of time. Then if what you're doing can be improved, you'll know more about how to improve it. Figuring out what doesn't work for you gets you closer to figuring out what does. But you have to commit to something in order to reap the benefits of experience. Stop trying to gather up tons of secondhand information. Don't make your health someone else's responsibility. Read, research, test, commit, tweak.
3. They Drop What Stops Working
There are people who test things out, experience success at first, and then continue dieting or working out the same exact way even after they've plateaued for years. They either don't realize they can continue improving by changing their approach, or they believe that doing it any other way will cause them to regress right back to the body they started with. Many of these folks will practice extraordinary discipline with a fat loss method that no longer helps them lose fat. Others will become inconsistent and burned out on what they still perceive as a "tried and true" strategy. You can probably name a few staunch low carbers, who lost weight at first then plateaued, and will probably stagnate for the rest of their lives because they're not about to eat a diet that supports hypertrophy or a faster metabolism. You might have of a couple friends who lost weight on their "couch-to-5K" plans, and would rather stick to running even though they've gained back the weight and accumulated a dozen running injuries. And you've probably seen the same women doing the same dancy group fitness classes and never looking any better. And it's not that they aren't disciplined. They're just uncomfortable testing out another approach. They've rejected the possibility that something else might work better. Those who are relentless will figure out a better way when they've gotten all they can out of one approach. Stalled progress is unacceptable. They can accept that the diet they once loved stopped loving them back. And they can become a newbie with different training methods when what they've been doing becomes ineffective. Those who are relentless wouldn't allow themselves to stagnate in order to identify as this type of dieter or that type of workout aficionado. The relentless don't require labels or cliques, just progress. Those who aren't relentless often need the labels, the T-shirts, and the bumper stickers. For them, telling the world they are a vegan or a marathoner is more important than the results they're getting from such lifestyles. This is unfortunate for those who've stopped seeing results yet don't want to stop identifying themselves as part of a tribe.
Starting anything at all is good. But diets and workout programs deliver more benefits when they're used as a stepping stone to continued success.
Maybe a fat loss strategy got you to a certain point and taught you some things about your body. Great! But don't stop there, stagnate, adapt, and slowly regress year after year thinking that what got you started is the only way for you to be leaner or more muscular. Take what you've learned and expand on what your body can do rather than adapting to the same physical challenges or backsliding with a diet that's no longer serving you.
4. The Relentless Build Grit
Physical strength and mental strength go hand in hand. They reinforce one another. And the relentless know that personal responsibility is the foundation of mental strength. It's grit. And it's what gets them through hardships and makes them tougher as a result of those hardships. They know that blaming other people for their problems is an easy way to dodge responsibility, stay weak, and impede their own growth. So when the relentless experience adversity they look for ways to become champions over their circumstances rather than victims. The weak-minded do the opposite. Those who are relentless don't put too much stock in the negative opinions of other people. They're too busy with their own success to give someone else control over their emotions. The relentless don't have time for manipulators. They know that the only way to avoid criticism is to surrender to mediocrity.
Welcome adversity and critics because without them you won't build grit. And that's exactly what you need in order to become successful. It's what gives you persistence to do or become whatever you want, inside or outside of the gym.
5. They Choose Their Idée Fixe
Idée fixe is a French term meaning "a preoccupation of the mind." The dedicated have chosen what to be preoccupied with. This might look like "obsession," which has become a negative thing among those who lack passion or think complacency is acceptable. But those who are relentless don't give a crap if they look obsessed to outsiders. Some people obsess over video games, collecting stamps, hoarding cats, or collecting Star Wars memorabilia. The relentless have chosen to be "obsessed" with building muscle, working hard, and practicing discipline. Call them shallow. Call them weird. Call them selfish. But you also have to call them successful. And what better thing to invest in than your health?
Relentlessness isn't about destructive behavior, being a martyr, a bad father, or a reckless employee in order to become more muscular. It's about taking care of yourself in order to live better and serve others better. It's about becoming more reliable and self-assured. And it's about taking constructive action when times get rough.
Can the relentless pursuit of muscle and health mess people up and make their lives worse? Well, if you go about it like a jackass, anything can make your life worse. You don't have to sacrifice your relationships, sanity, or faith in order to love working out and eating well. You just have to believe in your potential, take the onus to do something about it, and trust that your hard work will pay off. It'll require you to reject the temptation to coddle the discipline out of your life or waste time being offended by critics. But the world will end up with a better version of you, and instead of being subdued by potential failures you'll be emboldened by them. Let's embolden ourselves. Let's be relentless.