I get hundreds of messages each week via email and Facebook—many of which I’m happy to reply and offer help. However, I see a common occurrence that is robbing many of the amazing results they could have.
It’s the shortcut mentality. We want everything to happen quickly, all the while doing as little work possible. It’s why all the ads and media hype promising abs in 15 minute workouts, or a beach-ready physique with little time investment is a crock of cow feces.
In the wise words of Ronnie Coleman, “everyone wants to be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody wanna lift no heavy ass weight!”
While we all may laugh at his sayings and mannerisms, he’s got a point. Everyone wants the prize, but no one wants to put in the work.
We run around amuck in this ‘must have it now’ society. With our cars, and clothes, and iPads, and sugar-free lattes, everything is at our fingertips. We needn’t really work for anything.
Why would you when it’s so accessible? Many people have no idea what it feels like to really accomplish something.
Below are some screenshots of a conversation I had on Facebook.
I’m posting them in order, with some commentary below each significant idea.
To give this conversation context, this young man—we’ll call him Joe—was asking me about the best programs for hypertrophy. The problem was he had barely trained up until this point.
He’d done some simple strength programs with little success.
His main problem was sticking with anything long enough to see results.
As you might imagine, he’s also reading everything about muscle gain on the internet, which is severely stifling his cause… leaving him more confused than ever before.
Notice the time stamp on this first image… The first conversation was from March 8th. Then over a month later, he goes onto ask the same question again.
I originally recommended him do my beginners muscle gain program and focus solely on training. He was worried about the fat he had to lose, but I wanted him to focus on one thing only — the training.
You see? he admits to having 3 years of training experience, but not getting anywhere — common beginner issues of not being able to stick to anything.
Notice here I asked him if he tried my beginners routine from over a month ago. He says ‘no’ and asks my opinion on yet another routine. So pay attention here: It’s most likely he’s not been doing any real amount of meaningful training within the last month of contact.
He wanted my advice, so I gave it to him: “stop messing around and just do the program.”
I ask him a few questions below:
And here’s his response – notice the highlights.
There’s a lot going on here.
He states his problem: not getting the results he wanted. He doesn’t look much different from the day he began training.
He also believes he may be a special case — searching for the one program that suits his body.
I will be the first to admit we are all special, and are worthy of love, compassion, and attention.
However, we aren’t unique in that we require super specialized programming in the beginning.
A beginner should always start with the basics, and master them. Once they’ve milked the basics for all their worth, then the possibility of specializing comes into play.
Joe’s problem lies within his focus on the future. He’s too worried about what he wants to look like that he can’t even see where he’s failing in the present.
His admittance to slacking off, and questioning his program and training choices are a testament to misunderstanding the power he has right now to make a difference.
I go on below to mention ideas I think are most important for his situation:
I want Joe to realize at this point where he’s screwing up: mainly in his lack of consistency, and intensity.
A program must be intense to spark the physiological changes we want, but no amount of intensity matters without consistency.
These ideas only produce results when married.
And here Joe goes on again with the mental masturbation…
It’s not entirely his fault.
It’s partly my fault (I say that collectively as I’m in and a part of the fitness industry shelling out advice on training).
He’s so focused on what some book, or blog post told him to do: increase weights every week, without much context as to what that means, or how it applies to increasing intensity.
Note: This could be the lack of explanation on the author’s part, or his lack of understanding what increasing the weight each week actually entails.
Intensity is what causes strength, and muscle growth to happen in both beginners and advanced trainees alike.
Intensity can come in the form of more weight on the bar, more reps, slowing rep speed, increasing rep speed, short rest periods, bi- or tri-setting movements, utilizing higher rep ranges, creating oxygen debt, and a multitude of other ideas.
Intensity is not a singular, linear pursuit of simply adding more weight. Anyone who pushes such an agenda severely misunderstands this entire process.
See what he says about the food intake:
You’ll see I’ve determined his main problem is the training, not his diet.
He goes on to ask some more questions:
Then a day later, he proceeds to come up with more questions, and hypotheticals — thinking too much into the future, trying to create the perfect routine:
I explain this is why he’s failing.
He’s searching for the holy grail when he hasn’t done anything.
He hasn’t acted, or given anything a real shot.
Instead of blaming himself for lack of results, he wants to pin it on something else.
Maybe the routine is not right for him, or maybe his diet is messed up, or maybe he’s not doing enough tricep kickbacks, or whatever.
Our brains seek comfort and pleasure at all costs.
It’s painful to sit in silence and accept that maybe, just maybe you’re the one to blame for a lack of results.
To look inwardly is painful, but it gives you the insight for positive, personal change.
It’s like Tyler Durden said…
“Stay with the pain; don’t shut this out.”
We learn best from our experiences.
I can tell someone all day long what they’re doing is not going to yield results, but most aren’t going to listen.
They have to experience the pain and suffering themselves before they’ll wake up and understand their ways.
Joe was wrong in searching for the perfect routine, and constantly jumping back and forth between workout programs.
He goes on again here with more questions about the minutiae:
Notice my comment again: this is why you fail.
And then he admits his folly, and it’s to the detriment of many: “I want quick results.”
I get it. I do too. But here’s the reality.
We all have to pay a price. It may be money, time, effort, hard work, virgins, blood, tears, etc.
Without paying the price, nothing happens
And if it does, karma, or whatever, has some weird way of taking it back from us. There is no free lunch.
Joe fails because he wants his physique to change overnight.
The Shortcut Mentality — Why We All Suffer
It’s normal to want a quick path to success. Just have a look at all the fitness products promising you 6-pack abs in as little as 1 workout per week without ‘dieting.’
They all have you dieting through low-carb tricks, and good/bad food ideals.
Due to the amount of technology in our faces at any given time, we’re all subjected to ads, and other media competing for our attention — they all promise a beautiful physique without a ton of effort on our part.
But if we’re completely honest with ourselves, deep down we all know nothing is easy.
And why should it be? I get offended when someone whines to me about not making the progress they’d hoped for after they’d been training hard for 6 months.
I tell them “try training that hard and consistently for 6 years, and then if you haven’t made serious progress (not likely at all), then you have permission to feel sorry for yourself.”
But this NEVER happens. Those who’ve put in the time understand completely that it’s worth it.
It’s normal to want a shortcut. It’s in our nature.
We are inherently lazy. Why wouldn’t you opt to achieve your dream physique in 12 weeks as opposed to 12 months? I’ve been led astray by the same advice.
But here’s the problem with giving into those ideals.
- The expectations are unrealistic.
- Once you realize how unrealistic it is, you get upset, and slow down (more on this in a second).
I’m all for learning as much as possible in the shortest time period. Believe me.
But some things just can’t be cut down any further. While there’s a big difference in training intelligently, and haphazardly, consistently matters mostly.
The same goes for tracking your diet and fueling yourself properly, or following the latest IIFYM fad and fooling yourself into thinking you’re healthy while creating poor nutritional habits.
The longer it takes you to realize the journey is hard, requires consistency, patience, and hard work, the longer you’ll fall for shortcuts that just don’t work.
The longer you’ll continue changing your programs, doubting your efforts, and feeling more sorry for yourself.
This is when you spiral downward, and some never surface.
The Negative Feedback Loop
To play on the above, let’s consider a typical scenario for someone who doesn’t get the results they want. All this is hypothetical, but is happening right now for many people.
We’ll use ‘he’ in the case of Joe, but it’s happening to women as well.
He started out training with the goal of looking better.
After a few weeks in the gym, he’s not seeing the results he wants. That night he goes on the internet and researches the best workout for ripped abs, and a million search results come up.
4 hours later, and a lot of reading, he decides on a new plan. He’s excited, and ready for results.
The next day he starts the routine, and does it for the next week.
Turns out the program is really challenging. He realizes he can’t dedicate 6 days to training, and he missed his morning workouts over the weekend.
During the following week, he feels bad for missing the workouts, and stares at himself in the mirror. He sees a weak physique and decides the program is not working, and begins his search for a new one.
While he’s searching, he comes across a diet that seems to make losing fat a breeze. Effortless, even.
He begins following that.
The first week is hard, but he is determined.
According to the new diet protocol, carbs make you fat.
So he eliminates all starch, eats nothing but lean meat, leafy greens, and limits carb intake to 25g of dextrose in his post-workout shake.
At the end of the week, he’s asked to attend a birthday party on Saturday night, but refuses so he’s not tempted to eat any ‘bad foods.’
Sunday morning, he wakes up ravenous due to slashing his calorie intake in half the week before, and proceeds to eat everything in the house.
He tries to avoid the temptation, but cravings are out of control.
That night he decided to call this his ‘refeed’ so as to make himself feel a little better.
After some reflection, he learns that choosing to miss out on a social event due to his ‘diet’ restrictions made him a little depressed.
He wakes up 10 pounds heavier from the drastic intake of carbs, glycogen refilling into his muscles, and of course holding tons of water.
He hates the bloat he’s sporting in the mirror and even calls himself a failure under his breath.
In his head, he tells himself he’ll never change. After some more sulking, he heads back to the internet for another magic bullet.
He finds it, and proceeds to repeat the above scenario over and over again the coming months.
Eventually, he’ll look back and say “I’ve been training and dieting for years—nothing works for me!”
For many people who claim that nothing works, a similar pattern is at play.
An inability to practice consistency coupled with unrealistic expectations is a surefire way to feeling bad about yourself.
When you feel bad about yourself, you try to cope.
Why We Fail
When we act on emotions, as opposed to logic and rationality, we often make bad decisions.
Joe, in the example above, always deferred to his emotions and how he felt he was progressing, or how he felt a diet was working, as opposed to what was really going on.
His actions were never grounded in a foundation of hard work, consistency, and effort. He acted on a whim, making changes when he was emotional.
You can only control what you track, and measure, over the weeks, months, and years, not an hourly or daily basis.
We fail when we give into the shortcut mentality. We fail when we think the results are easy to achieve.
We fail when we get into the negative feedback loops full of negative self-talk and sabotage.
Don’t be like Joe. Choose your goal, develop realistic expectations, track your progress, and get the support or accountability when you need it.