Having patience and understanding training age. (also, maybe lose the ego)
When you start weight training consistently, your body starts its long journey to becoming more familiar lifting heavier and heavier weights. This is a good thing and fits into most of our goals. We build more muscle, get more flexible, lift heavier weights, and feel more confident. These changes don’t happen over night and depending on how long you have been training you may need to follow different protocols for each.
How long you have been training is referred to as your training age. A beginner has a young training age and a seasoned vet has an old training age. These individuals could be born the same year or not, it all depends on when they started lifting weights. It is important to understand where you are in your journey because it allows us to make the best training decisions for ourselves.
Young training age: This is a fun time to train. We make progress at almost a superhuman pace(we typically don’t realize it at the time though). Our body is adapting to new stimuli, our nervous system is becoming better at firing our muscle tissue, our body is learning to repair that muscle tissue and we are getting stronger and maybe even a bit leaner. We can make many adaptations at once because the minimum required stimulus is not that high; we have not built up a tolerance to training. While this can be a lot of fun, there are some common pitfalls to avoid.
1.) Our nervous system is still adapting to heavier loads and cannot give a truly heavy effort. With this knowledge we know it is better for beginners to stick with heavier sets of 3-5 then singles due to the inability of giving a true heavy effort.
2.) Letting bad days get you down. As mentioned above, we make superhuman progress, so when we don’t it can be frustrating. Just how we adapt and get stronger seemingly daily at a young training age, it also means that a bad day can have the opposite effect. I promise you are still making progress if you don’t lift heavier than last week. (Welcome to having an advanced training age).
3.) Plateau’s will come, do not run from weaknesses. Attack them. This is advice I wish I listened to more. If you continue to make progress in some lifts or areas and not others, there is usually a reason for this. It is better and easier to address this earlier rather than later. I liked that I was the only person I know who could overhead squat more than my front squat. I was avoiding a weakness and it held back my lifts for years. Don’t be me, don’t shy away from lifts that you don’t enjoy or that you aren’t as good at. Train all variations and all stances, lose the ego, and use the appropriate weight for each.
As your training age advances, progress is measured in months not weeks. We make gains 5-20lbs at a time, and we test yearly or bi yearly. It takes enormous effort to create enough of a training stimulus to adapt to, but we also get leeway in our strength and bodies. We will look and perform well even if we take some time off or have a bad training session once we have done it long enough. The same rep schemes and movements that got us here may not get us further. We may need to add new training protocols, focus on accessory, or even change our nutrition. Oh, did I mention that gaining muscle while losing fat becomes an almost impossible contradiction. We relish it though because we earned it. Training is a part of life here, it is the routine and it has taken years.
No matter where you are on your training journey, enjoy it. The hill always goes up even if you are on a plateau or god forbid one of the many small declines. Embrace where you are on your journey, you may never need to or be able to train the way you do now again.