Photo credit: Hannah Hayworth, @hannahhayworth
We Want It All
A recent T Nation poll asked how we train. Around 700 of us said we train for PRs, 500 train to look good, and another 500 of us do it for sports performance.
But a whopping 2,000 of us work out in order to achieve all the benefits: getting stronger, performing better, and looking good.
When I posted the poll results on social media, the reaction from a lot of people was the same: "This is the common problem with lifters. They can't pick a goal."
But is it really?
Sure, it's problematic if you go about fitness like a jackass and do things that sabotage all but one aspect of your fitness. But getting stronger, performing better, and looking good aren't mutually exclusive.
Don't we lift to improve ourselves and our lives? There would be no point in getting stronger if it didn't serve us in ways that make us more successful, happier, driven, and accomplished.
Shouldn't we be shocked that 100% of us didn't choose the last option?
Do 700 people really think, "Looking good is for the birds! Who wants that!?" Do 500 other people think, "Dammit, not another PR! I hate getting stronger!"
No, you may not think that aesthetics or PRs are your primary goal when there's a bar on your back, but they're probably things you'd also like to achieve. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Where Many Coaches Stand
They say you have to choose one thing or the other. They say you have to narrow down your goals or else you won't achieve any of them.
And maybe that's what they have to do. Maybe that's all they are capable of.
But when it comes to your capabilities, maybe they are full of crap.
Pretty Muscles & PRs
Some people want to differentiate between training and exercise. It's a way to belittle anyone who isn't trying to reach the same objective.
But I'd rather "exercise" and look good naked than "train" to lift a heavy weight for a single rep — and not even look like I lift.
If that's what training is, it's all yours. You can have it. We exercisers will just fiddle around with what you think of as cute little nonsense housewifey activities.
Just keep this in mind: we're hoisting around respectable weight, for multiple reps, and doing it over and over again; breathless, sweaty, bruised, calloused... and we're kicking ass.
Some of us don't even care how much we're lifting (gasp!), we just like to be challenged.
Not all of us are gunning for the stage. Not all of us have our hearts set on powerlifting glory. But we're pushing our limits, carving out incredible bodies, and getting stronger, regardless.
Oh, did we offend you for not using the proper progression or the correct combination of exercises and rep schemes? So sorry for breaking the rules you decided on after researching other people's extensive research.
Why poop on one goal in favor of another? Why poop on other people's workout preferences when their lives are bettered by it and they're getting all the results they want?
Maybe you'd get better results if you stopped being a hypercritical geek.
Well-Rounded = Winning at Life
Being well-rounded is an underrated goal. You don't have to be fat in order to be strong. You don't have to be malnourished in order to look good. You can be athletic looking, have great muscle size, perform well, and be relatively lean.
Both Franco Columbu and Arnold blurred the lines between powerlifting and bodybuilding, and they probably would've done CrossFit if the Games had been around in the '70s.
Succeeding in different things isn't impossible. If that's what you want and you're willing to work toward those goals then chances are you can get your body trending in the right direction and become a strong, good looking, athletic lifter.
If your goal is to win a trophy for a very specific event for the entirety of your lifting career — regardless of what happens to the rest of your fitness — then have at it. Go find your coach, put your blinders on, and pursue your one thing. Go train.
Just stop being mad at those who want more to do more.
Becoming the best at one thing is admirable, but remember, you'll only be the best until another winner comes along.
And it's completely possible that being so single-minded will leave you not knowing how to be generally fit after you're done winning your medal and being admired.
That's exactly what happened to the former pro athletes and Olympians who ended up on The Biggest Loser.
Will You Set Limits or Push Them?
There are personal trainers and coaches who've made one method of working out their religion. Learn from them. But make their methodology a tool in your toolbox.
To become a well-rounded lifter, expose yourself to different ideas, pick the best tools for your objectives, and steal from a variety of disciplines based on what you need.
You can achieve multiple things, but doing so will require you to fall in love with the work and disregard those who tell you to set limits instead of pushing them.