The tao of weight training

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If you take your training seriously then the chances are that you’ve already developed some sort of workout philosophy, a series of rules or ideas that guide you and help push you through the hard times. Without a philosophy it can be easy to let your training slip or to train incorrectly and suddenly find yourself caught on an inescapable plateau.


I trained for a long time with no notion of where I was going or how I was getting there, I had my basic split routine that I followed aimlessly, going through the motions week in and week out. It is only during the last few months that I have come to realize that training is as much mental as it is physical. After all, the brain controls the muscles and the two are completely interdependent. Recently I have began formulating my own philosophy or ‘tao of weight training’, a set of ideas and principles that I try and stick to in order to maximize my training and to help me stay focused and motivated.

The philosophy that I try and follow is nothing particularly “deep” and it doesn’t rely on meditation or chanting. It is basically an eclectic formulation of principles that I have brought together from numerous sources ranging from inspirational biographies (for example those that deal with figures such as Bruce Lee or Ken Shamrock) to popular films. The purpose of this article is to share some aspects of my own philosophy and hopefully give you one or two ideas that could help in your own training.

Monitor your Diet
The first aspect of my philosophy regards diet. Without the correct diet there is not much point in working out. I firmly believe in the old adage, “you are what you eat”. Although I am no nutritional scientist I feel that balance is the key to any good diet. The fact that you’re reading this in the first place shows that you already starting or are taking your diet seriously and so there is no need for me to labour the point. Just remember to meet all your nutritional needs, because if you don’t your training and growth will both stagnate. Believe me I spent a long time training on a diet of toast and microwave meals and wondering why I was a “hard-gainer”.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail…
I know that this is a clich, but it’s a true clich. It is one of the most important principles of my training philosophy. I see too many people turn up at the gym with no idea of what their plan is. They may have some vague notion that today is “arms day” or “legs day” but that is all, thus their workout lacks structure and they have no idea of what their workout targets are. I always find it useful, at the start of each week, to jot down my plans for the coming week of training: What split will I use? What exercises would be best? And what are my goals, in terms of weight and reps? I’m not saying that’s its possible to plan every last detail of a workout, for example the equipment you planned to use could be unavailable, but it is helpful to have a fairly detailed notion of what you should be doing and when.

Remember though that despite the importance of planning always try and remain flexible and open minded towards training and don’t be afraid to change a routine if it isn’t working.

Keep going, you're stronger than you think…
This is probably the central aspect of my philosophy. Any experienced athlete will tell you that there are times when you think you can’t go on, that you can’t finish what you’ve started, but you can. I don’t mean to sound like Yoda but it’s amazing your body is capable of, the only limits on what it can achieve are those set by your own mind and fears. Sometimes when I’m training I’ll set myself a target for the number of reps I hope to achieve in that set. I’ll reach that target without too much trouble and then suddenly find that I can’t do anymore. Its like a switch within my brain saying that I’ve achieved my goal and therefore I can stop now. This is bad, the only way around it is to completely shut off your brain, don’t think, just keep working until the muscle gives up, this way you’ll surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

Never put limits on yourself. Remember that you can achieve only what you think you can achieve. If you find yourself caught in a plateau then don’t worry, with hard work and determination you will go beyond it. Basically the right training philosophy is anything that works for you. To come up with your own philosophy can take time, time in which you need to learn about yourself and discover exactly what will help inspire you to further enhance and improve your training. The principles and ideas that I’ve related in this article represent a small but important section of my own philosophy, I hope they have helped in the search for your own “tao of weight-training.”

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3.26 Copyright (C) 2008 / Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."