Before I begin, I know for a fact I’ve already talked about this subject before, but it’s a classic and still something that I’m figuring out in my own training, so it’s worth coming back to from time to time. I’ve witnessed a few authors lamenting the negative impact of social media on training these days, and ironically enough I’ve witnessed this lamentation ON social media, but I digress. The primary complaint here is that, with the constant 24 hour surveillance inherent in those individuals who choose to effectively live their lives on social media, there is a constant pressure to perform and, in turn, be at peak performance during all training. What we observe are trainees that are always as lean as possible, always setting PRs in training, moving the heaviest weights, etc etc…in training. Where is this performance on the day of the competition? It’s when the excuses come out, assuming these people ever even compete in the first place. These folks end up peaking in training and have nothing left to give when the time actually comes to perform. They made the mistake of focusing on raising their ceiling so much that their floor has remained the same.
And sometimes, you can get hurt when you keep trying to raise the roof
These days, people greatly misunderstand the purpose of training, but it wasn’t always that way. Prior to the era where you could upload every meal you took, most people trained in solitude, with only their training partners aware of how their training was going, what they were doing, and what it looked like. For everyone else, the only time you observed a trainee was when they showed up at a competition and displayed the benefit of their training. In turn, there was a clear distinction of WHEN performance mattered: at the competition. This meant that training was the place where the ugliness occurred, where “the sausage got made”, to borrow a pretty horrifically imaged metaphor. In training, it was where you had bad days, looked bad, grinded out awful reps, failed to meet some arbitrary internet standard, etc etc. It didn’t matter how you looked THEN, as long as it made you successful in competition.
But now, trainees operate with two different competitions in mind: the looming one at the end of the training cycle, and the daily competition to always look good and strong. Unfortunately, you can’t compete every day. Once again, we knew that BEFORE the internet, but somehow lost that knowledge. With trainees recording every set to upload to the internet, they’re overly concerned with ensuring that they’re always lifting the heaviest weights possible so that they look VERY strong in training, they want to make sure they are always as lean as possible so that they look good in their selfies, they want to ensure they are at peak performance 24 hours a day, every day of their life, hitting perfect depth on squats and not grinding a single deadlift in fear of internet red lights. How ELSE can they hope for the prestigious sponsorship that gives them 10% off the ONLY legal herbal testosterone booster on the market #BREASTMODE?
I suppose there are worse sponsors
The result of this insanity is ineffective training. Training is supposed to increase your FLOOR, not your ceiling. By this, I mean it’s supposed to improve your baseline, bottom of the barrel ability. You train so that your WORST performance continues to improve, because if you improve your worst, your best inevitably gets better too, but that does NOT work in reverse. When you take a handful of semi-legal stimulants and blast death metal until your ears ring and hit up the nose tork and slam your skull against the bar and hit a grindy squat single with the entire gym screaming at you, you’ve absolutely improved your top performance as much as possible…for a training PR. Congrats. No one but the internet cares. But when you add 5lbs to your “still asleep” squat, it’s only going to increase exponentially when you add all that other stuff. When you finally let your abs fade so you can add 20lbs to your frame, you’re only going to look better once you chip away the fat again and let the abs out. When you eat enough food to allow yourself to accumulate more volume in training, it means you’ll have better conditioning available to help you recover once that food goes away.
Your training is where looks don’t matter. This is where you need to do the things that make you better for when it DOES matter. This means some reps can be not clean, some squats can be not to depth, some deadlifts can be soft locked, box jumps can be missed, etc. It means LOWER weights can be used. I’ve honestly taken the approach that I try to train in the least ideal conditions possible, because it means I get to lift less weight in order to achieve a desired training stimulus. This was a boon when I was recovering from knee surgery and didn’t want to put a heavy load on my recovering knee. And, amazingly enough, I ended up setting PRs and winning events in competitions with weights I never even came CLOSE to handling in training, because the training made me STRONGER for when it mattered. Had I been concerned about making sure my weights always looked impressive in training, I’d never actually get to the point of actually getting stronger.
But think about how COOL you can look!
But think about how COOL you can look!
Keep your eyes on the prize and remember WHY you’re training in the first place. Training isn’t the goal; training helps you ACHIEVE the goal. It doesn’t matter how you look on the way there, so long as, once you get there, you are big and strong. Let the Instagram stars have their followers be all agog over their amazing training lifts, and let those some Instagram stars be the master of excuses when the time comes to either explain why they had such an awful competition or why they don’t even compete in the first place. Spend your time being ugly in training so that you can come out the other side something unworldly. Build your cocoon in training, focus on the goal, and transform.