Some guys dread going to the gym and are constantly coming up with excuses as to why they can’t find the time, money or motivation to make it. Other guys go to the gym 8 days a week and there’s nothing you can do to get them out because, well, they’re built like the pentagon and hard to push around.
If you view the gym as a chore you’re going to have one hell of a miserable time putting on muscle, and sadly you’ll likely give up long before you do. But if you think of the gym as a place to let off steam, unleash the beast, haul some heavy weights, and get your masculine hormones firing it can be a pretty fun place. And damn if you train smart, one day soon you’ll be a powerful beast of a man.
Dreams of Muscles, Strength, Babes and Tights
As a music and art loving ectomorph I’m the last person you’d expect to admit it, but there’s just something innately masculine about strength training. When I was a young little dude my dad made me a batman costume and my favourite thing in the world was running around pretending I was a superhero. I would play with my action figures and dream of being able to accomplish feats of raw masculine strength that would make beautiful women everywhere gasp in awe. I wasn’t obsessed with my physique or anything—what kid doesn’t dream of being a superhero?
See even as little kids we have this urge to be strong men right down in our guts. While little ladies are typically drawn to hyper-feminized dolls, us guys are drawn to hyper-masculinized action figures, super heroes and soldiers. We wrestle and fight and take the “rough and tumble” approach to childhood, as psychologists call it. That’s just part of being a young dude. Hell, even the non rough and tumble things we do as kids reflect this. Look at video games—guys play Halo, Call of Duty, Diablo and WoW—all perfect examples of prototypical masculine urges.
Naturally, I assumed that one day my masculine bravado would be the stuff of legends. I mean, you know, the older you get the more of a man you become, muscles and all—right?
… And then puberty hit and I realized ah hell—I’m an ectomorph. My limbs kept growing longer and longer but refused to get any thicker or more muscular. If anything it seemed that they were just being stretched out, getting even smaller as they stretched longer. After a couple years of growth I held steady at 6’2 and 130 pounds.
My dad told me that his mother used to call him a mop because of his long 70’s style hair paired with a body that resembled a broom handle. It looked like this was to be my fate as well …
So, since my genetics had thrown a wrench right into the heart of my plan to become a superhero, I turned my ectomorph attention to video games, and devoted my time to levelling up my avatar’s strength instead of my own. I used this virtual strength to equip myself with heavier weapons and fancier looking armour. It was the best alternative I could come up with, since my sporadic attempts at putting on muscle of my own were getting me absolutely nowhere.
There’s only so long I could kid myself though, and I eventually realized that building up muscle, strength and power wasn’t impossible, even for the skinniest of ectomorphs. And I liked it! Loading up a barbell with weight and using it to turn yourself into a powerful beast of a man is exciting stuff. And I mean, hey, it works. It works really damn well! You can go to the gym and not just come out a little bit stronger—hell with hard work you can double, triple and quadruple your strength over time. You can go from being able to awkwardly pick up your girlfriend and clumsily hold her for a few seconds, to being able to effortlessly lift her up like a feather and carry her for miles. Strength training can work magic. You’ll be jumping higher, running faster, standing taller and bursting with energy.
Eventually I figured that out, and all of a sudden all of those video games seemed silly. Damn, adding a couple 5 pound plates to a lift was way more exciting than levelling up online and getting to increase my strength points, new sword or not. Why would I spend 4 hours every day completing quests and slaying dragons so that I could increase my virtual strength points when I could spend just 3 hours a week in the gym and build up my OWN strength points.
So let’s get strong, beastly boys
The average man can bench around 135 pounds. I started hoisting barbells at 21 as scrawny ectomorph that could barely bench half that—once—with crappy form. Yes, that made me the weakest dude on the block, but that wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. I felt a little out of place in the gym, but see, that was just my starting point.
Now, at 23, I’ve got great form and can bench 235 pounds for 10 reps without breaking a sweat. I’ve already more than quadrupled my strength and I can bench double what an average man can. I’ve tripled and quadrupled my squat, deadlift and chins, too. Badass. Thanks, barbells!
Strength is maleable. Being weak now doesn’t have any relation to our ability to get strong as hell. There’s surprisingly little difference between the natural muscular potential of us ectomorphs and those naturally muscular mesomorphs. Many athletes and even bodybuilders started off with naturally bony ‘bods.
Improve your bench, improve your squat, improve your deadlift and improve your chins and bam—you’re a powerful force to be reckoned with. It really couldn’t matter less if you start off as an ectomorph or not. And these lifts aren’t producing slow lumbering muscles with reduced ranges of motion—you’ll be more flexible than ever and packed full of explosive strength. I mean, you aren’t grinding out a dozen preacher curls here, you’re training like an athlete. You’re going to be built like a bear!
But in order to get the most out of your training you should enjoy it. This is magical stuff—you should be dying to get back to the gym and train.
So here are my three tips for falling head over heels in love with strength training:
1. Get results. Nothing will motivate you to get your scrawny ass to the gym more than having tremendous success unscrawnifying that ass. If you can get great results you’ll start associating the gym with those great results, and that will make you think of the gym as a really positive place, instead of the place you go to feel confused and frustrated.
2. Have a plan, man. Nothing is worse than wandering into a gym, feeling lost, and wandering around doing random exercises until you feel like going home. Have a plan. Crush it. Write down your results. Go home.
And then come back to the gym bigger and stronger next time and crush it even harder. Then write down what you lifted this time, along with a notation that says “+10 lbs on bench?! #%^& yeah baby!”
If you have a purpose and you know exactly what you did last time you can train efficiently and constantly challenge yourself to improve, workout by workout. I don’t mean totally screw up your form in order to haul a too-heavy-weight just so you can mark a bigger number on your sheet, I mean challenge yourself to improve this week. Improving could mean lifting more weight, doing more reps, needing less rest time or even executing the exercise better.
3. Always train a little bit less than you want to. We aren’t gym rats by anyone’s definition, and with only 3 hours of training per week we hardly live in the gym. Still, that’s 3 workouts every week that we could either treat as a chore or a treat. I’ve gone through phases were I’d go out of obligation and really didn’t enjoy it at all, but now man do I ever love it.
One trick to keep yourself motivated week after week is training less than you want to. Don’t go 6 days a week and do 2 hour sessions—you’re going to burn yourself out physically and emotionally. You’re probably going to get sick of the gym, or, at the very least, not be sitting on the edge of your seat dying for Monday to come around so you can train again. Your results won’t be any better for all the extra effort, either. There’s very little reward for the work you do beyond a certain muscle/hormone stimulation threshold.
We didn’t just arbitrarily decide to train just three times per week, there’s a lot of reasoning behind it. Here are four of those reasons:
- You’ll get absolutely incredible results. Three times per week keeps your body in an anabolic muscle-building state with a heightened metabolism all week long. This isn’t just good for building muscle, it’s also incredible for getting shredded. (Strength training for an hour just three times a week is more effective than doing cardio 7 days a week when it comes to fat loss.)
- You won’t overtrain, so you’ll always be ready and willing to hit the gym hard.
- Three times per week is the minimal amount of time it takes for something to become a habit. Training programs with less than 3 training sessions per week often fail to create lasting lifestyle changes in trainees because it never works itself into their lifestyle as a habit. Weight training is something you need to stick with for at least a couple months to see dramatic changes. If it doesn’t quickly become a habit you’ll give up before you see those results.
- It won’t take over your life or get in the way of the other things that you love. We aren’t trying turn you from a cool dude into a fitness nuts—we’re trying to enhance every area of your life by improving your virility, health, strength and looks. You still need time to do all the other rad stuff you do.
And remember—the gym isn’t for socializing,it’s for lifting. Hah!
That sounds like a rule invented by a buff lonely boy who likes to flex his biceps in the mirror between sets with a deadpan dead-serious expression on his face. Sure, that’s pretty cool, but most of the top performance gyms are full of guys who like training together. They have a blast doing it. There’s nothing wrong with having a damn good time at the gym! No, it shouldn’t get in the way of your lifts, disturb your rest times, or bother other gym members—but you aren’t mowing the lawn here, there’s no reason to drudge your way through it.
Haha but be careful that you don’t laugh so hard that you drop 315 pounds on your chest.
That isn’t how you build muscles, Franco—let’s get serious here.