How To Get Stronger Consistently, Without Injuring YourselfMar 11, 2023
The three most frustrating problems people in the gym encounter are:
- Nagging aches, pain, and injuries that stop you in your track
- Not getting stronger, leaner, or bigger at all, despite working hard
- Plateauing quickly after seeing some initial results
I myself could write a book about it:
Within the 11 years of lifting weights, the first three were frustrating, to say the least.
After seeing some initial results throughout the first four months, I quickly started to plateau.
I barely made any progress in the gym, despite working my ass off 4 times per week and prioritizing strength over everything.
Worse than that, I received the wrong end of “no pain, no gain“:
I was 17 years old, experiencing daily back aches, and permanent neck tension and I strained my shoulder over and over again.
While everyone around me in the gym was able to increase their weight on the bar weekly and see changes in the mirror, I was stuck.
Doctors and physiotherapists told me I had to stop trying to lift heavy.
Determined to finally break out of this plateau, I committed myself to learn anything there is about strength training.
Over the following years, I have…
- Gotten rid of my pain PERMANENTLY
- Completed the best strength-coaching education in Europe
- Qualified for the national powerlifting championships
- Crushed my life goal of lifting triple bodyweight
And, most importantly, I have figured out how to help you reach your goals, without frustrating plateaus or nagging injuries.
Because let’s face it:
Even if you don’t have the ambition to compete, you do want to reap the benefits of committing precious time to the gym.
This newsletter will give you a blueprint on how to do that.
It has the potential to save you from months – or even years – of frustration and pain if you decide to follow it.
Let’s dive in!
In the 6th century BC, there lived a wrestler named Milo of Croton who won six Olympic games in ancient Greece.
The legend tells that he build his immense strength rather unconventionally:
As a boy, he started picking up a newborn calf and carrying it up a hill every day.
He would do this every day for years and as the calf would grow into a bull, Milo got stronger and stronger.
You might be asking…
„What in the world does carrying animals have to do with my goals of getting rid of my belly, improving my posture, and building a healthy level of strength?“
This legend illustrates the core idea behind the most important concept you HAVE to master to see consistent results in the gym:
Why is this important?
Have you ever asked yourself why it’s easy to put on fat, but hard to build muscle?
Getting stronger and building muscle are adaptations that require energy.
Your body is designed to CONSERVE energy.
This made a lot of sense in the early day of humanity when food was rare and energy had to be very well managed.
Even in the middle ages, being overweight was a symbol of wealth and power.
However, this does not serve us well in the modern age, when food is abundant and our lifestyle is sedentary.
To make up for this sedentary lifestyle, we’re required to put on muscle and strength:
Additional muscle does not only look good, but it also burns more energy, which reduces your risk of gaining weight.
This is one reason why some people are able "to eat everything, without gaining weight".
Building strength is vital for anyone who sits 8 or more hours per day (and wants to be powerful beyond their 50s).
Strength training is the best way to protect yourself from falls and osteoporosis.
Muscle strength is even associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer's dementia!
So, no matter if you want to look great at the beach, have a confident posture, OR stay smart, building muscle and strength is a necessity.
The only way to build strength and muscle is to give your body a reason to adapt, through force.
Putting an increasing load on our body – in the right way – will force our body to increase muscle mass and strength.
The important word here is increased load.
As you get stronger, your body starts to tolerate more and more load, which requires you to load further and further.
Milo did this by carrying a calf while it was growing into a bull.
You can do it by lifting weights in the gym.
There are four important principles to make this work – let’s go through them!
1 – Progress is plannable:
The biggest difference between the first 4 months where I saw results and the 2,5 years after where I didn’t was that I trained with a clear plan.
The plan definitely wasn’t the best – which let me take things into my own hands after 6 months (this didn’t work out as I had zero knowledge on creating good training programs) – but it had structure.
The #1 mistake you can make in the gym is not having a clear program.
Even a mediocre training plan will get you better results than doing random workouts and hoping it will be enough.
This is like starting a business without considering what you’re wanting to produce, whom you want to sell it to, and how you will distribute it – it won’t work.
And still, if you haven’t been following a clear plan, it‘s probably not your fault:
- Most gyms don’t provide you with a program when you sign up
- Common personal trainers show you how to do exercises, but rarely plan for you (a big sign that you should change your PT)
- Many popular group classes are designed to make you tired, but not strong
- Trying to figure out which program is a good fit for you in the flood of information online is extremely difficult if you’re a beginner
Not having a clear plan comes with many problems:
- You don’t train toward your goal, you’re just going through random workouts
- You have no way to measure what works and what doesn’t
- You will plateau within 2 months due to the lack of strategic overload
No program, no lasting results.
2 – Effort doesn’t guarantee results
Whenever I write about this, I hear something like:
“So you’re saying I shouldn’t work hard in the gym? All the bodybuilders on Instagram tell me to do that! And they’re big, so it has to be true!“
I get you, but no.
Remember the core idea behind the concept of Progressive Overload:
Aiming to do a bit more every time you go into the gym, on a consistent basis.
This already implies that you have to challenge yourself every time.
Growth does not happen on its own – it requires effort to expand your limits over time.
Effort DOES matter, and you won’t see any results if you give only 50%.
What I’m saying is that exhaustion and pain do not GUARANTEE results.
And this is important:
Just because you feel sore or exhausted after training doesn’t mean that you will grow.
Soreness is NOT a useful marker for an efficient workout.
If you don’t believe me, let me ask you this:
When do you feel sore the most?
You will feel most sore after trying a new exercise or starting a new workout routine because your body isn’t used to it yet.
If soreness was the best indicator, you would reap the best results by trying something new every time you step foot in the gym.
Yet, that’s not how you grow.
Those who reap great results stick with a number of exercises and work their way up.
Some of the real markers for progress are:
- More weight with the same amount of reps
- More reps you can do with a certain weight
- Less effort to move a certain weight for a certain amount of reps
If you see consistent improvement in these variables, you will see improvements in the mirror.
3 – Load management is crucial
As you know by now, growth requires consistent overload.
However, there’s a right and a wrong way to do that.
Remember: Your body needs time to adapt.
You have to walk the edge between not doing enough to force your muscle and strength to grow, and doing too much.
Mismanaging the load you put on your body is the number one cause of injury.
The good news:
While fear of injury (unfortunately) stops many people from lifting heavy, the reality is that strength training is safe.
You’re in control of the movement and have the ability to add weight gradually.
That’s why high-impact sports like football have a higher injury rate than competitive powerlifting:
Being taken down on the field will much more likely overwhelm the threshold of what your muscles, tendons, and ligaments tolerate than adding pound after pound onto a movement you can control.
In fact, there’s no activity with a better risk-benefit ratio than strength training.
Yet, avoid impatience and increasing the load too quickly (I’ll share a framework to do it properly in the last section of this newsletter).
As in any area of your life:
Consistency + long time horizon = success
4 - Quality matters
What’s worse than adding weight too quickly is doing so with poor form.
Lifting with good form is essential.
However, there are a lot of misconceptions about what “good“ form is:
It’s NOT about lifting pretty, it’s about using your body in the way it’s designed to work.
There’s not one ideal way an exercise should look, only principles to adhere to.
Let’s take the deadlift as an example – the principles of a proper deadlift are:
- Lifting with a neutral spine
- Keeping the weight over your midfoot
- Keeping the weight close to your body
Why these principles?
- Your lower back can handle forces best when in a neutral position (excessive rounding of your back while doing heavy deadlifts is not a good idea)
- To stay balanced, you need to keep the weight over midfoot
- Allowing the weight to drift away from your body increases the load on your spine
Still, your ideal deadlift will look different than mine.
Learning to execute lifts with quality form is crucial and will not only reduce risk but also lead to better results.
To sum it up:
Overloading a low-quality movement is a BAD idea.
Doing so was the reason I used to not only stagnate but also injure myself over and over again during the first three years of working out.
The fastest way to learn exercises properly is by hiring a good personal trainer or online coach who gives you regular video feedback.
When I started out, I tried to learn everything from Youtube videos – which didn’t work, because those videos give you information, but no feedback.
And without feedback, you won’t improve.
5 – Have a system to progressively overload within your program
One of the biggest ways to waste your time is obsessing over finding the perfect exercise.
I remember watching hours of Youtube videos trying to find the perfect exercise for my chest and switching it within my program over and over again.
But still, my chest didn’t grow.
What is much more important than finding the perfect exercise is to have a system to progress within your program.
The simplest way to do so is to program rep ranges and increase the weight as soon as you hit the upper range.
Let’s say you do 10-12 reps on the bench press:
- Week 1, you do 80kg for 11 reps
- Week 2, you manage to do 13 reps
- Week 3 you increase to 82,5kg and manage to do 9 reps
- Continue with this weight until you hit more than 12 reps
This is super simple and works perfectly for beginners and intermediates.
1) Having a program is NON NEGOTIABLE
2) Effort is necessary, but being sore does not guarantee results
3) Increase the weight gradually, be patient
4) Learn the exercises properly
5) Have a system to increase the weight within your program
If you incorporate these five principles, you will skyrocket your progress in the gym and bust through plateaus, without having to fear injuries.
If you want to learn how to do so in your individual case, click HERE to jump on a free strategy call with me.
Stay connected with news and updates!
Subscribe to weekly deep dives into health, fitness and performance.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.