Congrats on Being Good! Sorry It Just Got A LOT Harder....
Congratulations! You can clean your bodyweight. You’ve got kipping pullups down and are working on your butterfly pullups. Maybe you’re even thinking about doing some more competitions. That’s all great! But I have some bad news for you: things are about to get a lot harder.
Why is it about to get harder? Well you can pretty much say goodbye to all your newbie gains and newbie mindset.
You know newbie gainz, right? Newbie gainz are the phenomenon that comes with any new thing. Basically you’ve introduced a new stimulus and your body is RAPIDLY trying to adapt. That’s why no matter what you try (Zumba, SoulCycle, Jazzercise) it’s gonna be hard as hell to start. Then over the next 2 or 3 months you’re gonna notice AMAZING transformations. Again, your body is still trying to acclimatize to this brand new stimulus. The problem? It doesn’t last forever. You’ll get used to it. Your body will stop being surprised eventually.
What about the newbie mindset? The newbie mindset is basically when your brain gets tricked by your newbie gainz. You think to yourself, “Wow I’ve only been doing this for 2 months and I’ve already improve by 50lbs!!!” Then you think to yourself, “At this rate… I’LL BE A WORLD CHAMPION BY THE END OF THE YEAR!!!!!!” Well newbie, I’m afraid that’s just simply not going to happen. As your newbie gainz start to slow, your world record pace will slow as well.
But fear not! That doesn’t mean you’re gonna completely stall out. You’ve just reached the stage where you’ll have to change your mindset a little bit. You have to move from newbie to intermediate
Here are 3 things to change (both tactically and mindset-wise) to keep your gainz rolling.
1. Intention over Repetition
In my experience the number one thing that needs to change is how a burgeoning intermediate athlete mentally approaches improvement. This is really hard to change partially because there’s no simple, a-ha! fix. It’s a slow gradual thing that eventually just replaces your previous way of thinking. But it boils down to intention.
If you plan on continuing your gainz you need to be a lot more mindful with what you’re doing and a lot more intentional. Gone are the days when you can just fiddle around with a barbell or jump rope and improve your snatch technique or double under efficiency. You can’t just “go hard” and expect to get better. It starts to come down to what’s going on between the ears more so than in the muscle. Are you actively working on something or are you just going through the motions? Going through the motions is the fastest route to plateau.
You need to really think your way through your training. Zoning out is for amateurs. Focusing in is for pros.
2. An Empty Bar is Worthless
Stop. Training. With. An. Empty. Bar. Once you can lift even moderately heavy a PVC pipe or an empty bar is borderline worthless (outside of a light casual warm up). It’s like training to be a sprinter and relying on walking to get better. I’m not saying you need to sprint 100% all the time but anything under 40% speed isn’t going to make an impact
When you’re a beginner, you’re just trying to get used to the movement. Again, just like those newbie gainz, any repetition will make you better because the stimulus is so novel that anything will result in improvement. But that just doesn’t last forever. You need greater and greater stimulus to effect change.
Let’s say you have a nasty habit of swinging a barbell out in front of you on your snatches. If you’re practicing with a PVC and keeping your elbows high and the bar close that’s gonna work great!....until you actually pick up a barbell or ANYTHING with weight. Then you’ll go right back to sucking. Again, the stimulus of the PVC pipe just wasn’t enough to effect a change in your movement. If you expect to adapt (aka improve) you need to provide a stimulus that your body basically perceives as a threat. And when you get good, a PVC just isn’t threatening anymore.
So if you’re planning on actually impacting your technique you must be training with intention and with something in the neighborhood of 50% of your max lift. Or you’ll be a PVC superstar and a joke with anything else.
3.How it feels is a lie.
I find myself saying this all the time. Both in a “you can do it!” ra-ra kinda way but more often in a “it does not look how you think it looks” kinda way.
I would say on average most athletes think their movements look about 900,000% better than they actually are. I feel like they watch Klokov or Froning move and think, “yeah I mean I pretty much look like that.” That’s why one of my favorite things to do as a coach is to film and show people their lifts. The look when their perception meets reality is priceless. You might think that’s a bad thing, but in reality, it’s awesome! Your lifts still suck and you’re getting better! Imagine all the room for improvement you have to go! Klokov and Froning have to work hours and hours and hours for the most minute of performance gains. You just have to not bend your arms so early. You should be stoked to see how much you suck!
But in all reality if you want to get better and you’re not videoing yourself you’re missing out on some of the easiest gainz in history. I tell people if you had the choice between the best coach in the world and a video camera you should probably take the video camera. Even the most descriptive coaches will fall short compared to actually watching yourself. Now that’s somewhat of a stupid dichotomy because any coach worth their salt will video you and go over it with you but the point remains.
I know what you’re thinking; if only there were some kind of device that was ubiquitous, had a camera and were accessible enough to watch in near real time. Geez what a world if only some kind of device like that existed……………
But in all seriousness just grab your phone and start filming. You’ll probably make greater gainz in next two weeks than your previous 2 months. Even better, grab a coach with a good eye so he can walk you through what he’s seeing and you can add that to your knowledge base.
I hope that kinda helps with some ideas and tactic to keep your progress train rumbling. The simple fact of the matter is this: you have to start enjoying the process. The quick gainz you experienced are pretty much gone. Up until now all you had to do was walk into the gym and you’d get better. To be perfectly honest those gainz are cheap and easy. But from now on you’ll be far more appreciative of the progress you make. From here on out every second shaved, pound added and PR set will be earned, not given. So, yeah, it’s gonna be harder from here on out. But the good news is that you’ll start to have a real appreciation for your work.
Welcome to the intermediate club!