After the article last week on setting goals, I feel it is a good idea to go a little bit deeper into a topic I have been focusing on lately in my fitness routine. Previously, I spoke about getting caught up with numbers in the gym and how this shallow goal can take a person down a path to injury and burnout. There have been too many times in my fitness journey that I let my ego dictate my workouts. Time and time again, I put my health on the back burner in the pursuit of an arbitrary pissing match that I see throughout gym culture. In the bro world, numbers are god, and if you can’t bench as much as another person, then you are inferior to them in life. Unfortunately, the flawed and egotistical notion of numbers being everything led to plenty of injuries over time.
About five years ago, I was on a quest to reach a goal of benching 315 pounds. To me, this goal was going to bring me success with ladies, an advantage as a boxer, and alpha energy that couldn’t be matched by anyone else in the gym. To achieve my misguided objective, I set up an illogical workout routine. Every other day, I would bench heavier than the previous workout. Ignoring a tender shoulder and mounting soreness, I persevered with ignorant focus and way too much pre-workout. I benched, and I benched till I literally couldn’t bench anymore.
The funny thing is that I did reach my goal. I not only benched 315 pounds, but I completed two shaky reps. I did it, and I let everyone know about it. To my surprise, at the time, nothing changed. No one in the gym congratulated me. Zero ladies came out of the woods seeking my ultimate power. My cardio went to hell, and I was getting my ass kicked in the boxing ring. I was confused and discouraged, but I didn’t learn a damn thing from this.
Quite soon, I did learn a valuable lesson. I came to find out that if I let my ego dictate my fitness goals, then it would be a matter of time before my body gave out. Not getting the picture, I continued to bench heavy, with the idea that maybe I just needed to do more to achieve what I was looking for in the gym. About two weeks after hitting my goal, I was adding weight on the bench, and it finally happened. With just 185 on the bar, I felt a sharp pain in my left pectoral muscle. The bar dropped, and someone close by came to my rescue — the ultimate failure in the meathead world.
I severely strained my pectoral muscle, and I am lucky I didn’t tear it completely off with my unstable regime. I couldn’t bench or do anything else in the gym that involved my chest for months. When I was finally able to get under the bar again, I couldn’t even get a clean rep at 225 pounds. My ego was at an all-time low, over a stupid quest to stroke it with an achievement that meant nothing to my physical or mental health.
Since that point, a lot has changed for me in the gym. It wasn’t the last time my ego got me injured, but it was the start of the long term change that has taken effect in my life today. Over the last year, I have not pushed myself to the max on any workout. The focus has been entirely on form, balance, and stability. These three objectives are the winning formula for health and longevity in the gym and really in life overall. That doesn’t mean that I don’t lift heavy, though.
Contrary to popular belief, lifting heavy weights is healthy and necessary to build bone density, joint strength, and long term mobility. This benefit to weight room sessions can go off course very quickly once the ego gets involved. It is important to humble yourself before stepping into the gym. You must rid yourself of the notion to compete with others in the numbers game, and focus on yourself in the pursuit of clean, consistent, and balanced repetitions that leave a little bit left in the gas tank at the end of the set.
An excellent universal rule to use in the weight room is that if you are shaking, holding your breath, or need a spot to complete the rep, then you are lifting too heavy. Every rep execution should feel strenuous but smooth. Especially if you are in the gym for health, then you should never go to failure. I promise you will still get stronger, even if the juice head at LA fitness said you wouldn’t. There is plenty of science to back up the notion that not overexerting yourself is more beneficial to overall strength gains.
Hopefully, you find this article useful and motivating. I feel that a lot of people avoid the weight room for multiple reasons, but a huge one is the idea that it is embarrassing to lift lightweight. Even though it looks like people are always throwing up the massive weight on Instagram, true fitness professionals spend much more time on balance, mobility, and stability exercises that lead to perfect form.
For me, I only go heavy once a week. Maybe twice if the moon cycle lines up, but my gym sessions focus on form over everything. If you have any questions on this topic or need some help getting started in the weight room, please reach out. I am always happy to help through the contact page, or on Instagram @wellnessrob. It is my goal with Wellness Modern to help people avoid the mistakes I have made, navigate the convoluted world of health, and overall find happiness in life through fitness and nutrition.
With big love,