Imagine 7 years ago…
I was in the gym shoulder pressing 27.5 lb dumbbells. I wasn’t just pressing them, I was struggling. 27.5 lb dumbbells are just about as lightweight as you can get. Girls can do those weights with ease. In fact, the whole time I was pressing those light weights and struggling there was a young lady in the gym staring at me the whole time. This would be embarrassing to most guys, struggling with little bitty weights, and most guys would probably give up after that. Not me. I had a mission, a mission to get past using those 27.5 lb dumbbells and get into the big boy weights, the 30 lb dumbbells. After the 30’s I’ll get the 32.5’s and just keep going. I was going to do it no matter what happened and no matter who was staring at me. It’s all part of the journey. Today, 27.5 lb dumbbells aren’t even a warmup. They’re too light.
A little background
I used to be skinny. Not just skinny, baby, I was skinny as a twig. At nearly 6’2 I weighed a whopping 130 lbs. I took a picture of myself flexing one day and my biceps were the same size as my wrists!
I decided it was time to take control and get into shape. I decided I was going to build my body up from scratch. I was going to get bigger, I was going to gain weight, and I was going to get stronger. To do it all I was going to be in the gym minimum three times per week and I was going to eat 6 meals a per day every single day. No matter what.
Eventually I went from 130 lbs to 190 lbs without getting fat and without touching steroids.
Building a foundation
My first year in the gym I was obsessed. There is no other word to describe it. I didn’t even like going to the gym at first. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience. But I made a pact with myself and there just wasn’t any way I was going to give up and let myself down. So I would drag myself to the gym. Eventually, I just started telling myself “I love to lift weights and work out“. I told that to myself so much that it turned into the truth! I started to love lifting, it became my favorite hobby. It was a great feeling seeing the weights you use go up every workout.
The hardest part about building your body up and gaining muscular weight is the eating. I had to eat 6 meals a day, every day. A meal every three hours. Even if I was full, I would eat. If I was tired and needed sleep but hadn’t had 6 meals I would eat first. When I woke up in the morning I would rush to the kitchen and make my eggs and oatmeal. Absolutely nothing got in the way of the eating. And because of that, each week I was gaining weight and gaining weight. I went from 130 lbs to 140 lbs almost overnight. Then 150 lbs, then 160 lbs, all the way on up to 190 lbs.
All that eating and lifting took extreme focus and energy. Most people when they try and get in shape they go to the gym once or twice, see no results and then give up. But that first year is the all-important year. That first year is going to determine the rest of your lifting career. If you give up in the first year you can usually forget about ever attaining your goal. Without that 100% dedication it’s just never going to happen for you. Remember, that first year is about building your foundation. You’ve got to do the eating and the lifting to build yourself.
Nowadays, since I already built the foundation, I’ve got some good muscle size, I am a nice weight, and I can lift some really heavy weights. If I hadn’t been obsessed with progress in that first year I’d still be a skinny twig. Because I already put in the time and effort, today gaining weight and lifting heavy weights is extremely easy. I already put in the base of the work and now I just collect the rewards.
The first year in the gym is your most important year
When you start bodybuilding you absolutely must focus 100% from the get go. That first year is about building your foundation. If you aren’t focused and dedicated then your physique just isn’t going to be there in the long run. It’s going to be a struggle. It’s going to be like the people who say “I just can’t seem to gain/lose weight!”. They can’t gain or lose weight because they haven’t put in 100% dedication and focus and they haven’t been building a proper foundation.
It’s the same in business. If you “can’t seem to get your business going” it’s because you haven’t put in 100% dedication and focus and you aren’t busy building your foundation.
To reap the rewards in the future the building has to be done now. That time when noticeable gains aren’t so great has got to be spent building your foundation. The foundation has to be there first before you can carve out a masterpiece. Your first year or so in bodybuilding has to be spent building that foundation. When the foundation is there, that’s when those gains will just seem to come in overnight.
Things to remember
Lifting a goal weight is as much of a mental hurdle as it is a physical hurdle. You’ve got to build your body up to handle that weight, but your mind must also be prepared to lift it. After you lift it one single time it becomes easy! You’ve passed the hurdle and you’ll never have to go back. The hard part is maintaining focus and working to get over that hurdle. The first time I deadlifted 315 lbs I was sore for a week, but nowadays deadlifting 315 lbs is barely even a warmup, I’ll even deadlift that amount with one arm.
After you pass that hurdle the first time it becomes super easy to repeat it.
Keep your eye on your big goal but have small, step-by-step goals that get you there. If you want a 315 lb bench press you don’t immediately try and bench 315. At first you start with 225 and you add 5 lbs here, 5 lbs there and keep adding and building on those mini-goals and before you know it you’re at your end destination.
When building muscle and gaining weight you want do to at least one thing more in the gym than you did the workout before. Whether that’s adding a repetition on an exercise or adding 5 lbs to an exercise, the only thing that matters is that you do a little bit more each day to further your goal. Even if it’s a small thing here and a small thing there, all those little things add up.
Remember to build your foundation first. All the extra stuff can come later. Whatever happens in the future, you always have your foundation built and you can add to it an anytime. If you try and take the easy and quick route you will not have a foundation to build on. A house not built on a proper foundation will blow away in the first storm but a house built on a proper foundation will be able to weather the worst of the worst storms and come out on top. When building your muscles you first have to focus on building your foundation. Build your base, build your strength, only after all the heavy lifting is done can you then carve out the masterpiece.
Since my foundation is built, even if I stopped lifting weights and lost my size I could easily get back into the gym and gain it all back in a matter of weeks. That foundation is there, ready to be added on at any time.
To reap the benefits later, build that foundation now.