I’m not dumb.
At least not anymore.
Most would say that I’m a smart lifter. Seriously.
I’m cool with that. Except that sometimes, I miss my ignorant ways.
The first day I walked into a gym I was dumb. Like, really dumb, even by 1980’s standards.
I was 16 years-old. I wore a string tank top that desperately needed filling out, jean shorts, and boat shoes.
In my gym bag were two cans of Coca-Cola, a comb, and a notepad that had my name and phone number written on the cover. The book was important to me. It contained The Workout.
The Workout was just that – one long workout composed of every weight training exercise that I saw Arnold and the guys doing in Pumping Iron.
PBS had played Pumping Iron at midnight a few weeks earlier, and I dutifully stayed up and taped it on our VHS. I even broke the plastic tabs off the side of the cassette so my asshole brother couldn’t tape over it with music videos from whatever hair metal band he happened to be into that week. #QuietRiot
From there I was on that movie like the Warren Commission on the Zapruder film.
Arnold did bench presses? I’d do bench presses. Franco hammered the T-bar row? I’d do T-bar rows. Ditto flyes, cable crossovers, and curls. Lots of curls.
And squats. Although my workout buddy, Dave, refused to train legs, saying that girls couldn’t really see your legs anyway, I made a point of squatting at least once a week. Not well and certainly not deep, but I squatted. Cause Arnold did.
As for programming? Do each exercise til it burned, then do a few more reps.
Peri-workout nutrition? Two or three cans of Coke while lifting.
Post workout nutrition? McDonalds or Subway.
Flexibility training, abs, or cardio? That’s what gym class was for. And I usually skipped gym class anyway, to hit the weight room.
I didn’t know shit beyond working hard and not skipping workouts. I honestly thought that was all there was to it.
Maybe I was right?
Newbies today are way smarter.
They plan shit. Follow complicated splits. They do dynamic warm-ups, periodize, deload, unload, and balance pushing and pulling and internal versus external rotation.
Like I say, they’re smart.
For this you can thank the ultimate Tree of Knowledge, the internet. Thanks to the ‘net, a 14 year-old kid with biceps as big as his wrists can be exposed to high-end exercise programming and soon spout an encyclopedia’s worth of strength training trivia.
Now, more knowledge is never a bad thing.
Well, maybe it is if all that knowledge takes away from the really important things a newbie should be absorbing.
Like busting your ass. Getting stronger in the same exercises. Consistency.
The stuff that matters.
Wait, this isn’t you right? You’re not a beginner. You’ve been lifting for years. You might’ve even competed. You’re like, an industry veteran.
Hate to bust your bubble, but while your training age (the number of years you’ve been lifting) and knowledge might suggest that you’re advanced, your actual development could be more in line with that of a beginner.
Don’t get too chafed, broski — it’s a common phenomenon.
One of the amusing things about this industry today is that everyone seems to think that they’re “advanced.” Even neophytes still working through their first complimentary training package at Globo Gym label themselves as “intermediates.”
Supplement companies wear much of the blame. They know that everyone wants to see themselves as “special,” and as such require programs (and products) straight from the “cutting edge.”
That’s why you never see supplements with tag lines like “for the average Joe just starting out who wants to build some muscle and look better.”
It’s always “new and improved, barely legal, molecularly distilled Bulgarian secret supplement for the super advanced hardcore user.”
The internet is the bigger culprit. It’s the great enabler. After all, you can’t fault a passionate person for wanting to learn all they can about a subject, even if it means their brain is studying black belt material while their body is still a fumbling, awkward white belt.
The internet easily bridges the gap between a burning desire to learn anything and everything … and thousands of articles about autophagy, blood type dieting, peaking strategies, and what type of colour to apply on contest day.
It leads otherwise smart people to concern themselves with completely unnecessary trivia.
I call it Screwed by Minutiae
• An overweight, hyper-stressed dieter who sources organic meats and BPA-free bottled water but eats way too many calories? Screwed by Minutiae.
• A skinny guy who only gets 3 hours of sleep a night because he stays up late reading Russian strength training literature? Screwed by Minutiae.
• A healthy lifter who does 5 different exercises for the rhomboids and scapula retractors and no arm work, and then laments that he has skinny arms? Screwed by Minutiae.
Coaches and experts always promise to help you separate the facts from the “hype” or “the bullshit.”
I’m here to tell you, that skill is overrated. Separating facts from lies is easy.
Separating irrelevant trivia from what’s actually important to you and your goals? That’s hard.
That takes more than knowledge.
It takes wisdom.
Today I’m a smart trainer.
I follow periodized programs. I do a lot of stuff “right” including my share of fancy voodoo. Because I believe it gets me better results and helps me have longevity in a sport I love.
But when things stop working, when the gains stop coming, or I just lose my sense of enjoyment, I no longer seek ways to make what I do more complicated.
Instead, I go the other way. I screw minutiae.
I pretend that I’m a beginner. I go back to what I did when I was 16. Basic, flawed, dumb. But intense and pure.
Maybe not repeating my old Workout, but re-living the beautiful simplicity of it.
Boat shoes and all.