Shrugged Collective

Cut the sh*t, this is how you get strong!

One of the most common training questions that we get has to do with programming. The scope and wording always changes, but the core issue doesn’t.

“I’m really struggling to get stronger. No matter what I try, I can’t seem to break through this plateau! What can I do to improve? I want to gain muscle, lose fat, crush workouts, all that, but how? What’s the best program for me?”

The question illuminates the central issue that’s causing the problem – Perspective. Let’s say I could pull a verified, authentic treasure map from my bag right now and hand it over to you. That would be very exciting indeed, but until you go on the quest, take the steps, and persist through the inevitable adversity and strife, you’ll never have your shot at reward. Further still, you still have to dig. Training is not at all different. If you want to find gold, you will find a good map that makes sense to you, then, you’ll start walking. The rest will shake out with effort and time. Don’t worry.

Patience and commitment are one thing, but you also need to think about the company you keep. Imagine that your life is a series of gradients. They either run towards you or away. “Towards you” means that you’re secure, comfortable, and at ease. This is a nice spot, but it almost always guarantees that you’ll never become your best self. How could you? What incentive is there, really?

Comfort all but guarantees that you’ll never become your best self

Instead, you should flip the gradients that matter. They should run away from you. They should make you feel uncomfortable and in need of refinement. That’s a tip I’ve happily stolen from the great Questlove, generous drummer and producer from The Roots. He told an amazing story about work in his excellent memoir, “Mo Meta Blue’s.” It goes like this. One evening he was kicking it after hours in the music studio with (I believe) Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, and others. They were pulling raw material they’d been working on, and playing it for the group, just to get a check on whether it was any good. D’Angelo crushed it, as did Erykah. That put the pressure on. He played something he’d been working hard on, but couldn’t ignore the resulting vibe. The crew bobbed their heads, they gave positive feedback, but ultimately, they were just trying to be polite, and Quest could tell. “I was so humiliated.”

We all can identify with that feeling, but only some will see that this is a great thing. It was already late, but Questlove went right back to work, refusing sleep and rest until he had reworked the material and tightened it up. He didn’t have to do that. No one questioned his immense skill. No one thought differently of him. But still, this is a guy who wants to get great, and this is the kind of attitude that enables that.

Train hard. Be patient. Take the steps, one right after the other. And please, don’t be happy being the center of your own world. Go get better. Be great.

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Chris Moore is a writer, recovering meathead, fledgling raconteur and rabid imbiber. He's also cohost and resident potty mouth on Barbell Shrugged, a weekly podcast devoted to Crossfit, strength, fitness and all things brash. His experience is drawn from over twenty-years spent training for and competing in American Football, Powerlifting, a bit of strongman and a dash of mixed martial arts. Also, it's possible that he's had one too many cups of coffee. A caffeine fever is a hell of a thing, you know?

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