Patience is a virtue, and it’s definitely lacking today. We get everything instantly, whenever we want, with no interruptions or delays. Whenever we experience even the slightest inconvenience, we overdramatize just how much it impacts our lives. Slow internet, 3g when we should have 4g, waiting for shipping, all of this is the fuel of many facebook rants. And, of course, this culture has bled over into training, where we observe that most trainees are unable to understand that you simply can’t have it all right now. You can have it all, it’s just not going to happen all at once.
You can try, but it won't end well
What am I getting at? We’ll talk goals first. Tons of trainees, when they first start out, decide they want to accomplish ALL of the goals. They want to get leaner, get bigger, get stronger, get faster, be better at sports, get a new job, regrow lost hair, win the lottery, punch a gorilla, and be the most impressive person at their highschool reunion. Typically, these trainees last about 2 weeks before completely burning out and crashing hard, usually ending up in further below than where they started. They wanted everything, and they wanted it all at once. The notion of picking 1-2 specific goals and hammering them hard is alien to them; why SHOULDN’T they be able to do it all?
Even when someone finally settles down and picks a goal, they can still fall into this trap. We witness it when it comes to movement selection. Let’s say a trainee decides they really want to improve their overhead press. They determine that strict pressing is a great way to build the overhead press, so they decide to do that. But then, they here that dumbbell strict pressing also builds a strong overhead press, so they do that too. Then, someone tells them that dips are a great press builder, so of course they throw that in. And you gotta remember overload, so push press gets added. Don’t forget bench; the originally assistance exercise for pressing, gotta do that too. And soon, the trainee is performing 27 different pressing variations, their rotator cuffs explode, their deltoids turn into a fine red mist, and their hopes and dreams of pressing bodyweight have now been crushed. He flew too close to the sun, and couldn’t have it all.
For my less well read guests, that was a reference to the book that was based on this video game
The thing to keep in mind is this; lifting is a longterm gain. It’s not weeks, it’s not months, its years. This is a blessing, because it means that we can pick and choose what we need to improve on as needed and accumulate the results we want over a long period of time. You don’t need to get stronger, faster, better, and leaner all at once; you can dedicate time to each of those goals as needed and come back to them when you find one to be lagging. Nor do you need to do all of the greatest movements all at once. They ALL work, so use one until you are ready to use another.
This is something that athletes understand but those without the background can’t grasp. As much as we’d love to believe that we’re always going to be our absolute best, the reality is that peak performance can only be maintained for incredibly short durations of time, and after that there tends to be regression before improvement can be accomplished. If you have a competition, you make everything better all at once, hit your goals, and then slide back a little before you decide to start focusing on some weak areas. This is why there is an off season and an in season, and it’s also why something like linear/bloc periodization worked for so long. And it’s not just athletes; bodybuilders have known this as well. The whole “bulk/cut” thing, as stupid as it is right now, originated from the idea that, when you are in competition level leaness, you’re simply not in a good position to gain strength or size. Some fat needs to be accumulated so that one can function. Then, when the time comes to get lean again, strength and size gaining gets put on the backburner so leaness can be focused. The focus is on the end result; not how things look during the process.
Because we don't always look our best during the process
The thing to keep in mind is this; just because you’re focusing on something at present doesn’t mean you will lose all of the hardwork you spent focusing on another goal. Unless you engage in an extremely destructive and intentional training practice, like going from 3% bodyfat to eating cases of Oreos and mainlining eggnog overnight or going from squatting twice a week to training in a wheelchair for 4 years, you will still maintain some of the results of your other periods of work. What we’re doing is building up all of our qualities overtime. Imagine you were taking a bucket of sand and pouring it out on the floor. With every bucketful, the sand will runoff the top a little bit, but overtime, your tower of sand will continue to grow bigger and bigger. Some of the previous work will slide and regress a little while you focus on other areas, but overall, you will still be improving constantly and reaching a greater end state than where you started.
Know that taking time to focus on something else is not detracting from your ability to accomplish other goals. You have a LONG time to train. Some folks train well into their 70s, 80s and 90s. This gives you so much time to pursue different goals, use different movements, and accomplish different things. And while you chase those various goals and commit to them hard, you will be establishing a strong foundation to build upon when you decide to chase other goals, and will ultimately build yourself into a much better human in total.
Maybe "The Terminator" was more close to reality than "Pumping Iron"
You can have it all…eventually.