By Bryan Smith (@Catalyst_SPT)
There are so many clichés to express the transition of a negative to a positive. “The glass is half full.” “Toma-toe, toma-tow.” And this particularly applies to the weight room, a location in which a grunt to one person may sound like a triumphant cry, while another interprets it as enough evidence to begin dialling 911.
We all get stuck in the doldrums, or find that our workout may not be going exactly as planned. What’s a guy to do? Well, let me tell you.
Bummer #1: Can’t Put On Another Plate
Make today a day where you focus on form instead of the numbers game. Don’t go so heavy, get away from the mirror, close your eyes, and channel your inner Arnold. Feel the increased tension and lift lighter weights as if they are much heavier. Use every movement to contract the deep fibres that you’ve been forgetting. Enlist negative movements, use your full range of motion, and get to the chopper!
Bummer #2: The Mirror
Does it seem as though everyone in the gym is built like an Adonis, while you feel like Christian Bale from The Machinist? No problem. Find the fittest person in the gym who you would die to look like. Wait patiently until they are finished their set, and politely ask them for a bit of advice on form or nutrition for someone like you. They’ve probably been in your shoes before — they know what it’s like. Chances are they will not only gladly answer your question, but will also let you know that it was no easy road, even for them, and that they worked their ass off to get to where they are. You can walk away taking solace in the fact that you just made their day as well as received some solid advice for your own training moving forward. However, if they are a dick and shrug you off, just blame ’roids (whether true or not) and move on.
Bummer #3: Aches, Aches, and More Aches
So when you set up for your first couple of bench press sets on Monday afternoon, that nagging shoulder pain is back, eh? Remember that not every day has to be chest day, brah. No matter how many arm circles you do, that pinching probably isn’t going to go away. Instead, take the opportunity to focus on shoulder health and back strength. Mobilize your upper back and work on strengthening some of the muscles that surround the scapulae with rowing movements and then finish with a few controlled sets of pushups. Head back to your bench press after a half-hour of prep work and re-test. Set your shoulder blades firmly against the bench and think about snapping the bar in half when you press. Feel pretty good? If so, keep going, slowly increasing the weight. If not, move on to more rowing exercises and call for an appointment with that massage therapist who makes you convulse worse than a bobblehead during an earthquake.
Bummer #4: Music Moratorium
Lemme guess: your iPod died during the last verse of “Final Countdown” and you are only halfway through your workout. Dare you take out your headphones and listen to the latest Miley Cyrus hit blaring over the gym speakers or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the low hum of Jack Johnson playing in the background because the receptionist is feeling emotional today? Neither are ideal. Keep the headphones in to help rid yourself of distractions. No smashing of weights, grunting of men curling way too much in the squat rack, and no incessant “It’s all you, bro!” coming from the tank tops in the corner. White noise bliss. Who knows? You may hit some new PRs today with your newfound focus.
Bummer #5: Traffic Jam
It’s a common occurrence on leg day: the racks are all taken by pull-up champions and bent-over rowers. First off, I applaud you for being one of the select few who dedicates an entire day to legs. Hats off to you, my friend. If you are someone who depends on the racks for your quaddominant or hip-dominant motions (squats, deadlifts), maybe it’s time to try something a little different. If today is a quad-dominant day, grab a heavy dumbbell and smash out some deep goblet squats — the anterior load will help you drop a bit deeper and work your anterior core much more than traditional back squats. If today is a hip-dominant day, try out some single-legged patterns with heavy dumbbells instead; loaded anterior reaches on the cable machine or single-legged deadlifts on risers are a few of my favourites. Walking lunges are always a go-to that my clients never appreciate as much as I do. Just make sure you aren’t doing your walking lunges in front of the dumbbells. Nobody likes that guy. Nobody. If you are used to your traditional leg days on the rack or press, just be ready for the guaranteed “freshly birthed fawn” walk you will be doing over the next couple of days.
Bummer #6: Pre-Workout Overload
Not much you can do here, unfortunately. Lay down in the corner. Convulse and think happy thoughts until it’s over. Death is a possibility. Embrace it. (Kidding — but you know the feeling.)