I started the novice linear progression of Starting Strength barbell training last week. I love learning new skills, especially when it comes to health and fitness. With only one week of Starting Strength under my belt, I have already realized seven critical lessons that can help any beginner progress faster.
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SET YOUR EGO ASIDE
Ugh. I hate the word novice, I’ve been a trainer for five years, and I’ve been working out for over a decade. But, I’m not an expert at barbell training, and that makes me a beginner. Note to self: Set that ego aside and get to work.
If I think I know everything, or can master everything on my own, I am leaving a lot of potential on the table. It’s OK to ask for help. I’ll get better results if I work with a coach. I can write about my experiences as a beginner at barbell training, to help others who may be starting something new too.
To admit you have room to grow allows room for growth. When you think you know everything, you become stagnant.
WHEN GOALS CHANGE TRAINING MUST CHANGE
It all began when I bought the Maps Anabolic weight training program from my favorite podcasters, Mind Pump. I always preach the benefits of strength training for runners, and I have been following a runner-specific strength program for years to help me avoid injuries, run faster and stronger. I am a huge believer that all runners need to strength train.
But goals change, and when goals change, the way you train must change. I stepped on one of those body fat analyzer scales when I was at IDEA World, and while these machines are not the beacon of accuracy, they can provide valuable feedback. My report told me that I didn’t need to lose fat (I’m pretty lean) but to improve my body composition, I could aim to put on five pounds of muscle.
With this new goal in mind, I couldn’t just keep doing what I had been doing and expect to gain five pounds of muscle magically. I couldn’t just eat more or increase the frequency of my workouts; I needed to train differently; lift heavier, eat even more protein, and run less (gasp).
MASTER THE BASICS FIRST
I respect the expertise of the trainers of Mind Pump, and I’d only heard great reviews of their MAPS Anabolic (muscle building) program.
Since it is an online program, they provide the workouts, the exercises, the reps and sets, and short videos with instructions. Since this program incorporated barbells, I dusted off the barbell in the Shred Shed and got to work.
For the first month, I enjoyed following someone else’s program. I found that I was more consistent than with my programming. I felt a responsibility to stick to the schedule as closely as possible to maximize the promised results. A new program was holding me accountable to someone else.
It was going well, until after a month, I started to worry about my barbell movements as the weights got heavier. Sure, I watched the videos, read books, watched YouTube, and listened to podcasts, and while I learned a lot, sometimes it hard to convert general instructions to individual needs.
As a trainer, I have a good understanding of the human body, I felt like I had proper form, but I knew I could benefit from individual instruction; someone that could demonstrate the movements in-person, correct my form, spot my dysfunctions, and help me overcome any bad habits. An outside perspective is golden when learning something new. I hired a Starting Strength barbell coach to help me master the moves.
FOCUS ON ONE GOAL AT A TIME
I initially thought I would work with the barbell strength coach on the movements, then apply what I learned to the Maps Anabolic program since it utilizes the same barbell movements. But after working with the coach, he helped me realize that focusing on the Starting Strength Novice Linear Progression for at least three months would be the best course of action, to get maximally strong in the shortest amount of time. Anything that distracts from that goal could sacrifice my full potential.
LISTEN TO YOUR COACH
Part of my brain started rationalizing ways I could keep up the run streak, or work in the MAPS Anabolic program, but I quickly set it aside. If you hire a coach for help, then you don’t follow the coach’s instructions because you think you know better than the expert, you are potentially wasting your money, or at the least, sacrificing the best results from your hard work.
If I want to work towards my full potential, I have to focus on one goal at a time and trust the process the coach laid out for me. Starting Strength isn’t an off-the-cuff program thrown together; it’s a proven system with thousands of successful trainees.
CONSISTENCY AND REPETITION ARE THE ONLY WAYS TO IMPROVE A SKILL
The first time you try something new, it is likely to feel awkward and uncomfortable. You may want to give up because it feels too hard. Keep going.
The second time it’s still awkward and uncomfortable, but at least you know what to expect. Self-doubt can derail progress. Keep going.
The third time it starts to feel familiar at least, but you still have insecurities. Keep going.
The fourth time you get into a groove. Keep going.
Repetition and consistency are the only ways to improve and get better.
I got a little frustrated on my first couple workouts alone without my coach standing over me shouting cues. Am I doing this correctly? It feels hard. Ugh, Can I do this?
If your mind wanders into the land of “I can’t” or “This is too hard.” or “Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” replace those negative thoughts with positive, growth-mindset statements.
“I don’t have this mastered yet, but I have a lot of room to grow and learn.”
“I’ll keep practicing until I get better and stronger.”
When you feel like giving up, keep going.
When it gets too hard, keep going.
When you doubt your abilities, keep going.
When you’re too tired, keep going.
As you move through something new, it doesn’t necessarily get easier, but with repetition and consistency, you will gain confidence in your ability to do hard work.
I’ll keep chugging along at my new goal, developing skill with consistent action, and lifestyle behaviors that support my goal.
Have you tried anything new lately?
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Questions? I’d love to help.