Why is strength training so hard? What you may not know
February 5th 2019
Training for over 6 years has been great, but it was not all fun and rainbows. Sometimes, I wondered why strength training is so hard.
It starts with change. Learning a new skill is difficult. Pushing your boundaries, especially with strength training, demands much more dedication and emotion from your body in order to follow through with the plan. It is easy to do activities that do not push you to your limits. However, what is fun and comfortable now may not be rewarding and fulfilling in the future.
Understand that strength training, in theory, should get harder over time. Why? As your body adapts to resistance training, it will take an even greater stimulus to get stronger. To create a greater stimulus, you will need to work harder and this cycle will repeat itself.
However, this is not to say that strength training should be hard in the beginning. In fact, beginners in strength training have one of the best opportunities in order to get stronger. And you know what is the other best opportunity to get stronger? Right now. Find a strength training program you enjoy and follow through with your ambitions. If you need a program recommendation, I have addressed that concern down below, under Strength Training Programs.
Strength Training for Beginners
For beginners, there are usually two schools of thought - on one side, strength training may be easy. On the other side, strength training is difficult and you never want to go back to a gym again. For the freak athletes, training motivation and progression may never be an issue for them. However, they will encounter their own individual circumstances to solve. Everyone is on a different path and will face different challenges in order to become the best and strongest version of themselves.
Let’s focus on the strength training beginners who find strength training difficult. Why is it difficult?
Let’s go over the first point - you have not developed a habit for this new way of life. Do you ever find why you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the same times every day? Do you find yourself checking your cellphone frequently, without thought? These are habits that have been ingrained into us, for good or for bad. Whether it is beneficial for our bodies or a limitation, you will do what you were programmed to accomplish. Society, media, and marketing, whether you are conscious of it, are directly influencing what you enjoy doing.
One reason why strength training may not be cherished in society is the lack of appreciation for it. If strength training sports, like Strongman, Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting, were aired on TV as frequently as American football, there will be a change in viewership and participation.
So, quite frankly, there is not a whole lot of marketing going on to promote strength training. Usually, people who begin to strength train do so as a supplement to their primary sport. Even me. For example, I started to lift weights because I thought it would make me a better athlete to play basketball. As I progressed with strength training, I did find more success in basketball - this was the initial goal. But over time, I enjoyed the progression and constant analysis of lifting weights. It felt natural and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I started to build a habit to strength train. I picked a routine that I could commit to. And the rest of the equation was to execute - go to the gym whether I wanted to or not. A lot of lifters might want to use an excuse in order to take off a couple of days or weeks. I’m here to tell you that if you want to strength train and make gains, you NEED to make it a habit. This is one of the many issues with strength training - people tend to put their health and strength last when it comes to life.
I have spoken to a few strength athletes in the industry. I found that for some people, strength training was not a priority. It was just a hobby or something they wanted to do IF they had free time. The lack of prioritization does not enforce healthy habits to be created. As humans, repetition and constant reminders are highly recommended in order to build a strong habit.
If you need to build a habit to start strength training, you need to start by analyzing your life priorities.
You know strength training is important. Great. You have a plan. Awesome. But you cannot get yourself to the gym.
Aside from a lack of awareness, another issue the general population runs into is laziness; you simply do not want it bad enough. For example, if you suddenly lost your job today, how quickly would it take you to find another job? You would probably immediately drop most of your duties and try to find a new job so that you and your family do not end up on the streets.
Where is the urgency for strength training? Again, many people put their fitness and health below other priorities. If you want to be strong, if you want to develop a great physique, it will take time, energy and effort. Actively engaging in your positive and rewarding behaviors - working out, eating better, sleeping more - is a set in the right direction.
So, how do I stop laziness? This is probably a million dollar question and everyone wished they could have the golden ticket answer.
It all starts with you and holding yourself accountable to your actions. You need to realize that strength training will only get much harder if you do not follow develop a routine. We all acknowledge how difficult it is to get started on a new habit. Some of us even have experience with breaking bad habits.
What are some ways to make strength training easier? There is no right answer that would solve everyone’s burning question and circumstance. However, I do have several suggestions that I invite everyone to try if you are having doubts and issues with getting started to hitting the gym.
One of my first strategies is that you will need to force yourself. This is one of the classic ways to get rid of your bad habits. In order to form good habits, you will need to override your bad habits and what better way to start than to brute force your way into it. It will be uncomfortable. It will be painful. You will feel discouraged. Understand that pain is temporary and that the rewards will come when you least expect them to.
Another strategy you can implement is to train in a group. Develop a community where you feel pressured to perform. One of the greatest motivators is societal pressures - we can use that to our advantage by promoting a healthy habit to strength train. Again, this will be uncomfortable, foreign, painful, discouraging, and depressing. In fact, you may even want to quit. Nothing worthwhile happens overnight and understand that these tiny steps will create the framework to take your life to another level.
Strength Training Programs
As I continued to advance my strength and physique, it did get more convoluted. The programs I used to run initially did not yield the same effects if I were to run them today. The lessons, however, I learned and developed through running different programs will be applied to all my present and future plans of strength training.
Two of the programs I always recommend is Greyskull LP and Starting Strength. If you are looking for a simple program that gets you results most efficiently, check out my reviews and descriptions of these two programs.
Are these the only two programs I ever ran? Of course not. There are thousands of programs in the fitness industry. Your next question should be, do all strength training programs work?
The short answer to that question is yes. All programs will work under this one condition.
All programs will work IF you stay consistent with them for an extended period of time. I would recommend at least one year. Why? Success is determined by your consistency and effort to a worthwhile goal. If you are trying to improve yourself and doing all the right things inside and outside of the gym, you will reap all the benefits of strength training.
While running strength training programs, it is important to understand strength training principles as you continue on your strength training journey. While this does involve more learning, it is imperative that all long term strength training athletes learn that skill in order to successfully continue their progression without major hiccups. Either that or you will need to hire an experienced coach to manage your programming.
Listed below are all the strength training principles that all programs adhere to. As you gain training experience, you will figure out what makes programs work more effectively. I will briefly describe these training principles.
This is where you manage progress by increasing the training stress over time. Your training must become harder over time.
Your body can only recover so much. Deciding on your training frequencies and deloads will impact how well you can manage the fatigue accumulated through training.
Stimulus Recovery Adaptation
Stimulus Recovery Adaptation measures your training progress. For example, how quickly can you do your working set of squats if you train on Monday? Is your body ready the next day? Wednesday?
Knowing when to do different exercises to prevent injury and enable long term progress is key for all strength athletes.
Training experience, gender, age, and many other factors greatly impact your work capacity and training style.
There are different phases lifters go through in order to effectively maximize a personal record (PR) at a meet. Some of these phases include hypertrophy periods, strength periods and peaking periods.
This describes what your goals are. If you want to powerlift, you will need to adjust your program so that you squat, bench press and deadlift more often. If you want to strength train but may think about powerlifting in the future, you may want to do a program that includes squat, bench press and deadlift but also includes other compound movements such as the shoulder press, barbell rows, etc.