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The 'X Factor' of Gains

The internet is so awash with different advice on how to get jacked that it's almost counterproductive. There's no harm is applying science and logical frameworks to training, but this stuff will only give you a small percentage of your results.

There's a much more powerful force you require that can skyrocket your gains - an 'X Factor' of sorts. No, I'm not talking about the awful television show or the Iron Maiden album of the same name. I'm talking about the thing that underlies all of your success in the gym: mindset.

You see, an excellent programme done with a weak attitude will always yield worse results than a mediocre programme done with the zeal of a viking thunder god. It's not exactly clear how this works, but the effort that you put into a programme and your belief in the programme is massive.

Previously I had been basing all my training off the most recent research, and meticulously planning every day in advance. However as my Masters studies became more time consuming, I decided to just train by feel for about 3 months while I was completing my thesis.

I still maintained a basic level of logic in my training (stuck to mostly the big lifts, tried to regularly set personal records, backed off on days where I felt crappy, etc.). However outside of the main exercise I was going to do for that day, I went into the gym with almost no plan for what weight, sets, reps, accessory exercises, etc. I experienced this firsthand when I decided in 2017 to abandon my highly cerebral approach to training.

The results? I saw an increase in all of my lifts, and over the following 18 months, I added a total of about 30kg to my squat (160 - 190kg), 10kg to my bench (110 - 120kg), and 27.5kg to my deadlift (190 - 217.5kg), all of which had been stalled for some time.

And the best part? I was enjoying my training more than ever.

Now this does not mean that your training shouldn't be based on science and logic. However, we need to keep things in perspective and remember that many people got massively strong long before terms like 'periodisation' or 'hypertrophy phase' came into the lifting lexicon. This is because a fancy programme can't lift the weights for you.

Getting caught up in the complexities of programming is like an aspiring musician spending too much time on music theory. At some point, you gotta just play. So, if you're not hyped about going into the gym and smashing the weights, then change something! Find a programme that you want to do, or get a friend to come with you so you guys can challenge each other and banter back and forth between sets. Training should be fun. And as long as you're following basic principles like specificity and progressive overload, you'll still make progress.

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