Unmotivated? Change Your Focus!
Most of the guys I work with are primarily focused on physique rather than strength goals. So we often end up progressing training volume higher and higher over time. Eventually, training in this manner gets a bit stale.
When a client starts to find their training dull, it's time to switch things up to reignite their passion and progress. There are two main ways I do this:
- Pure strength work
- Modified strongman circuits
The one you choose should depend on your goal and current condition.
1 – Pure Strength Work
If a client has stayed relatively lean throughout a mass gain phase and the medium-term goal is adding more muscle, my preference is strength work.
At the end of their bulk they'll have generally been using higher reps (12-plus) and/or intensifiers like drop sets, super sets, etc. Doing the exact opposite is a nice change of pace and sets them up perfectly for another mass-building block of training.
By training for strength in the 1-5 rep range they get a shift of focus. Many times, change is as good as a rest and this new stimulus reinvigorates them. It also allows them to chase some performance goals. Hitting new 3 or 5-rep maxes for squats, presses, and deadlifts for example.
Having built a lot of muscle during their bulk, this phase now provides them with a capacity to showcase that new horsepower. Hitting a PR is always a boost for confidence and provides added motivation.
The other benefit of this lower-volume strength phase is that they're now "re-sensitized" to the benefits of higher volume training. They have also gained strength so they can handle more weight for more reps. Consequently, when we transition back towards more traditional bodybuilding training they get superior results.
2 – Modified Strongman Circuits
This option is fantastic if you've gained a little bit too much body fat during a bulk. This happens to the best of us from time to time. Generally, it creeps up on you. You feel like you're looking good, full and pumped, then bam, you wake up one day chubby.
Obviously, this didn't happen overnight, but our minds can play tricks on us. If you end up a little fluffy then shifting it rapidly is a good psychological boost. Dropping a few pounds of body fat quickly can get you back to looking like someone who lifts rather than someone who's seen a few too many all-you-can-eat buffets.
In this case, train in a manner which promotes muscle retention and is also energy intensive. A mini-cut in the 2-6 week range is probably all that's required to lose some fat and get you back in a position to build muscle effectively. If getting lean quickly is the goal, then using modified strongman training is my favorite.
Pressing logs, flipping tires, dragging sleds, and carrying heavy weights are all fun and challenging. The training is different enough from standard gym work to create a novelty factor. This novelty brings a burst of motivation. It's also incredibly effective. Not only will you retain muscle, but you'll improve your conditioning and drop fat fast.
Set up a strongman "death circuit" as follows:
- A1. Farmers Walk: 4 x 30 meters
- A2. Log Push Press: 4 x 6-8
- A3. Hand-Over-Hand Sled Pull: 4 x 20 meters
- A4. Backward Sled Drag: 4 x 30 meters