The 6 Principles of Weight Training Mastery
Mastery is often seen as this mysterious thing that can never really be explained, much less for knowing how to achieve it. It is a complex thing that can only really be witnessed or felt. What is known is that Mastery is the pinnacle of human achievement. If you have ever seen Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime then you understand what weight training mastery looks like, but how do you achieve it?
In Weight Training, Mastery is THE goal for anyone looking to expand their horizons, maximize their mental and physical power. To chase mastery is to become a pioneer on the frontier of what is thought to be possible. Achieving mastery and will unlock your bodies potential, and will put you above 99.99% of lifters as well as putting you up there with the greats of all time. Why should you aim to be second best?
I have been lifting weights since I have been old enough to lift weights, and let’s be clear, I am nowhere near the level of the Master, but I am well on my journey. I have an obsession with learning about success. In this article I have broken down what it means to be a master of weight training, and how to achieve it for yourself. My ultimate aim is for other lifters to aim their sites at mastery, as I believe all serious lifters should.
Without knowing the principles of Mastery most people will lack the follow through and focus to achieve anything meaningful. They will feel lost, drifting through the gym, uncertain of the correct path to take, wondering if their efforts will ever amount to much. This is why studying these principles is necessary. While mastery is achievable without these principles, the deep learning of these principles will create a significant shortcut to success.
Now lets be clear Mastery is no easy goal. If you are not willing to do anything in order to succeed, you might as well turn back now. If you are a serious lifter, journey forth and read this article in which I break down this incredible subject.
10,000 hours myth.
Some say it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in any field. In weight training this number is unrealistic and excessive.
So why is 10,000 hours impossible in weight training?
Well unlike the boffin increasing their cranial capacity, your body needs time to recove
r and rest or else you will start pumping your body with nasty stress hormones. Cortisol (stress hormone) is detrimental to building muscle, as well as causing injuries to yourself, which means even less time in the gym.
“So why does that matter? You could just become an elderly master, reaching his 10,000 hours while pumping iron in his hidden temple at the age of 85.”
Well, unfortunately not. A mans body reaches peak strength between their mid 30’s and early 40’s. Meaning reaching 10,000 hours before this point would mean a lot over training.
“Okay then, how about starting super young?”
However cool seeing a jacked 5 year olds walking about everywhere, I’m afraid not. The reason you cant start making progress in weight training when your young, is that kids just don’t have the hormone levels (specifically, testosterone) to drive progress and recover from session to session.
So what can we learn from the 10,000 hour rule? What we can learn is that we need to maximize time spent in the gym while trying to minimize the time your body takes to recover fully.
Principle #1: Discipline.
Discipline is the key stone in achieving mastery in anything you want to in life. Once you have learned and mastered discipline you will be able to accomplish anything you want to in life.Discipline is glue that holds the principles of weight training mastery together.
Discipline when it comes to weight training is following a set of principles that you have set, and following them no matter what. It is going to the gym when everything in your body is telling you not to go. It is sticking to the diet that you have set yourself. It is getting back on the horse, when you have slipped up. Discipline is putting your goals and what is right over temporary bodily feelings and emotions.
So how do you become disciplined?
Anyone who has ever tried to build discipline can attest It is no easy task. Finding discipline is about discovering what drives you, and what you want in life, and affirming that in your mind, on an hourly basis. Here are 3 practical steps, to be done each day, to build discipline:
- So first of all figure out your goals. Why do you want to become a master of weight training? Is it to be strongest out of everyone you know? To prove someone in your past wrong? Is it a vision of a perfect life? Only you can figure out what drives you. Once you have this, write them down, and feel the excitement and drive that comes with taking the first step on the path to glory. Now use this vision every time you complete a work out. Think about it when you don’t feel like eating right. Let it be a magnet that pulls you.
- Next write down what exact steps are you going to take to get to get to achieve your vision. Which principles will you follow? What work out you will follow? What will you eat? When will you go to sleep? The rest of this article will help you answer these questions. What is important about this step is to be realistic. Know who you are right now. If you binge on pizza and sweets each night for 5 hours, before going to bed, and sleeping for 5 hours, and have never worked out in your life, you will struggle becoming the pinnacle of discipline over night. Take small steps, make changes that you can stick too, and start from there.
- After this think what obstacles are preventing you from goals. Most of these will be hidden at the moment until you actually get stuck in. Here are some examples to get you started: “Don’t feel like going to the gym.” On this case what I would so is: “Think about why I am going, it will be over soon, I will feel amazing once I’m closer to my goal.” Or “The gym is shut.” “ I will do my cardio, I will do body weight exercises, I will pay to go to a different gym for that day.” Everyone will have their own obstacles to overcome and their own personal way of overcoming them. Having an idea of future obstacles is better than being completely surprised by them. Remember, while obstacles can be frustrating, they are what leads to ultimate growth, so be grateful for them.
If you are serious about building discipline, check out my free PDF on building the mindset here.
Priciple #2: Experimentation & Learning.
Having a learners mind set will fast track your progress. Knowing the latest information and finding what works for you will give you that extra edge in becoming bigger, stronger and healthier.
So where should you learn from? The truth is you have got to learn from everywhere, but here are a few examples:
Trainers and Friends. Getting some hands on experience with someone in real life is a essential piece of the weight training mastery puzzle. Having a knowledgeable friend or trainer, especially one who has taken the journey, has put in the hard work and is knowledgeable is an excellent way to learn, can give you a helping hand in the gym. Having an extra pair of eyes is often needed for giving you tips about your own form, and improving it!
Books and Articles. One of the easiest to access sources of information out there. All it takes is to blast something you want to learn about on Google, and there you go infinite information. Same goes for books, anything you want on Amazon, send to a Kindle, then bang! You have the words and thoughts of some of the greatest weight training masters and inspirational people beamed straight to your brain.
Living your life. While books and articles are excellent ways to absorb extra information, I would argue that the real lessons don’t come until you try to apply this advice you have learned in your own life. A lot of advice that works for one person will not work for another. Everyone is different. Knowing what works for you will cut out much frustration and will increase progress. So how do I find what works for me? Easy. You experiment.
First of all find your baseline. Do this by asking questions. What weight are you eating your normal diet? How do you feel after eating your normal food? What do you feel like in the morning? How did that lift feel compared to last week? These are some basic ones but really get creative.
Once you have an idea of where you are at right now. You can ask some more questions. What can I do to make this area of my life better? And this is where the information comes in. Figure out how to add this information into your life and what criteria are you going to base success on.
So the advice may be: Get 8 hours of sleep during the night, so implement this for a month, and then the criteria you might base your success on might be how much energy do I have throughout the day, do my lifts go up? If yes then you are on to a winner. Be warned your energy can be effected by many different things going on but the more you pay attention to how you feel, the easier it will get to see changes in your in your energy levels. A diary is very helpful in noting down changes such as energy levels.
I advise that you try and only implement a few changes a month as you are more likely to succeed and easier to know what is effecting your lifts. Such as say if you changed your diet and have also changed your morning routine, then your lifts go down. Was it the diet or the morning routine that affected your lifts.
Principle #3: Finding a Routine.
The correct routine will vary from person to person. It will depend on what your experience levels are. There are thousands of good routines online to check out so I will give you some guidelines for finding the right routine. Don’t get too caught up on which routine you pick, what matters is sticking to the routine and progressing consistently.
Lift using barbells and dumbbells, not machines. Machines are worse that free weights in most cases as free weights work the small invisible muscles and promote functional strength.
Should consist of mostly compound exercises. Compound exercises exercise more than one muscle and promote over all muscle development.
Work out the entire body over the course of a week. When looking for a program it goes without saying that you don’t want to be leaving muscles out.
Lift Heavy. Any respectable routine will have you lifting heavy. Strength is built by overloading the muscle and then resting for growth. So relatively low reps (between 5 – 12reps) and high weight is what you are looking for.
Allow for progression. No matter which routine you choose it is essential that you are increasing weight as often as possible. Different routines will have different protocols for this. The science also supports this:[ if you are not routinely increasing weight lifted you can actually lose strength.]
Record Progress. This is simple but highly important. I use notes on my phone and log my lifts into excel so I can see those juicy graphs, but there are many apps that can do this too.
So now you know how to look for a routine. Here are some examples of some good routines:
Good beginner routines:
Once you are starting to seriously stagnate in your progress it is time to change up your beginners routine to an intermediate routine.
Good intermediate routines:
- Bill Starr’s Linear 5×5 (This is a very good, basic workout from a renowned strength coach. This is aimed at the intermediate lifter and is great to do once gains have stopped on Starting Strength.)
- Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 (3 or 4 days/week) – this is a typical powerlifting program.
- Joe DeFranco’s Built Like A Badass (3 days/week)
- The Texas Method – excellent transition program for athletes coming from Starting Strength
So now you have your routine down, lets get into the diet.
Principle #4: Diet & Supplementation.
You’ve got to eat right if you want to lift big. Nutrition will decrease your recovery time, allowing you to lift heavier more often.
Dieting can be broken down to understanding how to fuel your body with the proper foods and what the food you’re eating is made off. Start by exploring how much calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and water you need on a daily basis so you can consume these nutrients from the right sources. This will ensure your energy levels are high, your body is strong and your mind is sharp as a pin.
For a more in depth look at weight training dieting, look at my guide, Ultimate Weight Training Diet 101.
Principle #5: Sleep and Rest.
Sleep is when your body gets a chance to rest and recover. It often gets over looked by many lifters but is highly important. A lack of sleep will destroy your gains and will result in many health issues such as depression, heart issues, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving claims more than 1,500 lives and causes at least 100,000 motor vehicle crashes each year. So its safe to say that if you are not getting enough sleep you have no chance in becoming a weight training master. Here are some tips to get an awesome nights rest:
Get the right amount of sleep. Researchers have concluded that most adults need about 8 hours of sleep to be fully rested. Your results may vary.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends.
Get regular exercise. Regular exercise can improve the symptoms of many sleep disorders and problems. Aim for 30 minutes or more of activity on most days—but not too close to bedtime.
Be smart about what you eat and drink. Caffeine, alcohol, and sugary foods can all disrupt your sleep, as can eating heavy meals or drinking lots of fluids too close to bedtime.
Get help with stress management. If the stress of managing work, family, or school is keeping you awake at night, learning how to handle stress in a productive way can help you sleep better at night.
Improve your sleep environment. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool, and reserve your bed for just sleeping and sex.
Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid screens, work, and stressful conversations late at night. Instead, wind down and calm your mind by taking a warm bath, reading by a dim light, or practicing a relaxation technique to prepare for sleep.
Principle # 6: Flexibility.
Building flexibility should be a core part of your routine. It’s important because it keeps your muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. Flexibility is built by stretching regularly. Without sufficient stretching your muscles will grow short and tight, meaning they are unable to extend all the way.
Exercising while your muscles are short and tight will put you at risk of muscular and joint injury. Being limited in your ability to extend your muscles correctly will mean it is highly unlikely that you will achieve correct form while in gym and on the rack, meaning smaller lifts and more injuries.
Stretching should be performed after working out, and when your muscles are warmed up. Stretching with cold muscles could cause your muscles to in fact tighten. Not every muscle has to be stretched. The important muscles to stretch are the calves, the hamstrings, the hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh. It is also important to stretch your shoulders, neck, and lower back. Many different stretches for these muscles can be found online, so I invite you to
discover which stretches work for you. Stretching can be done for any time you like but for maximum effectiveness and while still keeping it brief, holding each stretch for a few minutes, without bouncing. Tight muscles take years to become that way so becoming flexible will not happen over night, so stretch daily is the best practice to adopt.
Now Travel Forth On Your Weight Training Journey…
I have now told you all you need to know to make those important first steps on the road to weight training mastery. I wish you luck and hope that everyone who has read this article is inspired to take action. It will certainly not be easy but with the right tools I believe you can absolutely do it and overcome obstacles that you never thought in a million years that you could overcome. You can find more articles in this site to help you achieve your goals and hope to be adding more and improving them as time goes on and I get better and learn more. Now its on you to take control and kick some ass.