Progressive overload is the only way to gain muscle.
There are two ways to achieve progressive overload:
- Lift more weight for the same number of reps
- Lift the same weight for more reps
Let’s say you bench pressed 150 pounds for 6 reps at today’s training.
For progressive overload to happen at your next training, you either have to:
- Bench press more than 150 pounds for 6 reps. E.g. 155×6.
- Bench press more than 6 reps for 150 pounds. E.g. 150×7.
If you want to gain muscle, there’s no point in lifting the same weight over and over for the same rep count.
Always Aim for Lifting More
It’s not always possible to lift heavier weights than your previous workout. But, you should always aim for lifting more.
You have to lift heavy weights, otherwise, you will not build muscle. Period.
Your body is a survival machine. It only cares about surviving. Big muscles are not necessary for survival.
If you want to gain muscle, you have to push your body beyond its limits.
Pushing your body beyond its limits is not comfortable.
Mental Barriers Are Always Higher Than the Physical Barriers
Humans have a tendency to avoid the uncomfortable.
So, your mind has to dial in.
Your body will not want to lift that fucking weight. You have to psyche yourself up to squeeze the most out of your lifts.
Big muscles don’t come from constantly worrying about overtraining.
They don’t come from being terrified of injuries either.
How I Got Stuck At 300-Pound Deadlift
I remember my first 300-pound deadlift.
I knew I could lift 300-pounds at that time but I was intimidated by the number 300. It just appeared too difficult on paper.
When I imagined myself lifting 300 pounds, I could see my spine falling apart.
I had to pass the mental barrier.
I needed to overcome my fear or I would never be able to have the big muscles I so desire.
I put the plates on the barbell. There stood the 300 pounds of iron, waiting to be lifted.
I hovered around the barbell for approximately one hour. I decided to stay in the gym until I found the courage to rip 300 pounds of weight off the ground.
After one hour, I made my attempt to lift it. The barbell didn’t budge. My shirt was soaking in sweat without lifting a single serious weight.
I felt humiliated but I was not ready to give up. I hovered around for 10 more minutes and gave it another shot. This time I could lift it a few inches off the ground but I pussied out of lifting more.
I was furious with myself.
Another 10 minutes later, I was ready to give it another try. This time I would give my all. “Whatever happens, happens” I thought. If I get injured, so be it.
I stood by the barbell and talked to it.
“You son of a bitch. Did you think you can beat me?”
I held the barbell and lifted it up with all the power I’ve got.
This time I had done it.
I managed to stand straight with 300 pounds in my hands.
I felt a sense of pride.
One month after I crossed the 300-pound barrier, I was lifting 400-pounds.
My body was already strong enough to deadlift 300 pounds. My mind was the problem.
Now I deadlift 300 pounds only for a warm-up.
Conquer Your Mind and You Will Conquer the Weights
Lifting weights is more mental than physical.
Here’s what Arnold Schwarzenegger says in his book Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder, about the importance of mind at lifting weights:
I talked to weight-lifting champions and they told me the same thing: it’s in the mind. I knew from my own experience lifting weights that you stand in front of the bar and talk to it; you have to communicate with the bar: “You son-of-a-bitch, I’m going to rip you off my chest, I’m going to throw you over my head, I don’t care how much you weigh. I’m the man who’s going to take you out. I’m going to be the master of you.” You talk yourself into it. You tell yourself you are going to be the hero. And you picture yourself completing the lift before you even touch the weights.
Nutrition and sleep matter too.
But not as much as your mind.
Don’t let that weight stand between you and your dreams.