Updated: Aug 1, 2022
Society has in the last decades changed into a direction where the need for instant gratification has become the norm. Results have to happen today, now, or - even better - yesterday.
Some things though will never the escape the need for patience, persistence, and process-orientation. Such are biological laws of nature, of which the adaptation of the human body to stress is one of the major ones. Specifically, STRENGTH is an adaptation that is gradually built over time - albeit faster in the beginning and slower as time goes on.
Too many of us want too much too son when it comes to building our strength and physique. Embarking on four or five HIIT workouts per week, going on an ultra-low calorie diet - thinking that the more radical the approach, the better the results are going to be.
This MAY work for a little while - but no one can sustain such a drastic start of the engine from zero to a hundred. "Soon ripe - soon rotten" does apply to physiological and biological laws that entail the development of our fitness.
Let's take a look at the bigger picture: say you are in your late 30's and want to build up your strength and physique. And let's assume you will be enjoying another 50 years on this planet.
If I told you that it takes 9-12 months out of your remaining 50 years of life to build your foundation that will make everything easier and better after - would you do it?
9-12 months may sound a lot - when in fact it is almost nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Why is it so important to build our strength foundation first before everything else?
1 MASTERING TECHNIQUE
Learning the five major lifts (squat, deadlift, press, bench press, pull) with proficient technique is the cornerstone of any successful strength program. It takes a good amount of repetitions (and thus time) to master these lifts. Giving ourselves time to immerse into and explore this process happens within those first 9-12 months. Faulty movement techniques developed in the beginning are hard to correct later on - time which is better spent on other things instead of having to get un-stuck.
2 YOU'RE A NOVICE ONLY ONCE
In the first 9-12 months of our strength training journey we are able to add small increments of weight to bar from workout to workout (provided we are training several times per week). This process is linear - and simple: turn up to your sessions, add more weight to the bar compared to last timOce, and go lift.
Linear progress allows us to see results fasts and is exclusive to the novice phase.
Once we finish the novice phase, things a little more complex. Breaking through sticking points and taking our strength to the next level THEN requires more variety and changes to our program design.
99% of novices interested in getting stronger hold the belief that variety is the key for their progress. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Indeed, one of the major reasons why people never get strong is that they use too much variety in their exercises, reps, sets, and rest breaks right from the beginning. The result is a grand old mess with some progress, but no substance.
Building our foundation means keeping sets and reps constant (3x5 for most) - while merely changing the weight on the bar over time. This is a clear, logical, and simple structure to give ourselves the best chance to build the strongest foundation possible.
3 BUILDING MUSCLE
The stronger we are, the easier we find the process of building muscle. The greater the amount of weight we can lift, the greater the impact on our body, the more it gets a reason to change. Person A with a 120kg squat has a greater potential to grow his legs and back than person B with an 80kg squat (all things being equal). Our muscles HAVE TO get bigger as we get stronger. It is as simple as that.
4 SETTING OUR SKELETON
Using linear progression to build our foundation allows us to make our bones stronger. Bones are a type of tissue which take longer to adapt to stress then say muscles. 9-12 months are needed to buid our bone architecture to a good solid level in the beginning - provided the increase the weight on the bar over time. Once we have finished this process, any physical activity we perform after (further strength training, playing a sport,...) will be done with greater strength, ease, and less potential for injury as well as overuse of the bone.
5 BUILDING A PSYCHOLOGICAL BASE
One of the most powerful things of being a novice on our strength training journey is seeing the numbers go up on the bar consistently. This has tremendous psychological effects: we celebrate success frequently, we develop a sense of achievement that empowers us, we become aware (and often surprised) of our capabilities as humans, we form a healthy relationship with our body, and as a plus, we form meaningful relationships with other peers along the way. This is especially powerful in those first 9-12 months of building our foundation as during this time we see most rapid and tangible progress. We ought to enjoy it while it lasts.
Concludingly, I would like to ask you a simple question: