You are a reflection of your habits. I’ll cut to the chase.
If you’ve been training for 6+ months and haven’t hit level 2 on your clean & jerk, pull-up, or 800m run—solid, well-rounded fitness attainable by anyone regardless of genetic potential—, there are two possible explanations. Either you came from “negative fitness” (very overweight and/or poor mobility), or your nutrition/training frequency/mobility/consistency sucks. I won’t pick on you if you’re in the first group since you simply need more time and that’s perfectly fine—just keep at it and you’ll eventually make up the lost ground. Otherwise, you need to make some changes if you want to improve.
On training frequency: To hit level 2, you need 3+ intense training sessions per week, and an additional one or two light exercise days (“active rest”) will help significantly as well. If your goal is level 3 or beyond, this means you want to reach the limits of your potential and you need 5+ hours of intense training per week (this can be over the course of three to six days depending on your schedule).
On nutrition: To get leaner, eat like it. To get stronger, eat like it. One thing I see over and over again, and many of you will recognize this as something I rant about all. the. fucking. time., is people not eating enough protein and wondering why their progress is stalling. I fell into this trap without realizing it not too long ago, and was astonished at the difference it made to go from 160-180g to 230-250g of daily protein. You don’t get stronger by lifting heavy; you get stronger by recovering from it. A key part of that recovery process is ensuring adequate intake of protein (to repair damaged cells and muscle fibers) and calories (to fuel the repairing process). If you have a lot of extra padding then you already have the necessary calories stored, but you still need the protein. Think of it as building a house—protein is the building material, calories are the labor. You gotta have both.
On mobility: To become more mobile, move like it. Go to mobilitywod.com, search for videos on mobilizing movements and positions that you suck at, and fix your shit. Get a lacrosse ball, get a Rumble roller, do pass-thrus with a broomstick or PVC pipe at home, practice your good mornings and air squats, look up the couch stretch, and do this shit every day. Hell, take up yoga if you’re really tight. If your muscles are too busy fighting your crappy biomechanics, they won’t be able to get you into the strong and stable positions necessary to move lots of weight. I’ve seen several people improve their overhead squat by 50 pounds in a single day just by getting more flexible. Thing is, you have to DO it.
On consistency: Training is like pushing a car uphill. If you keep pushing day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, you will constantly see gains and eventually do things you never thought possible—I can do the stuff I do now because I’ve never stopped training since mid-2008, no matter how crappy the situation or equipment was. If you push for a week and then stop for a week, push for a month and stop for three weeks, and so on, you might see progress at first but it will quickly grind to a halt. Eventually you’ll find yourself struggling just to get back to where you were, and I’ve seen this several times as well. Sometimes life gets in the way of training and sometimes there really isn’t a choice—there usually is, but most people don’t seem to have the discipline—, and you need to shake it off and jump back on the horse if you want to see continued progress. Tabata squat is your best friend. Do push-ups, V-ups, handstands, and random-object lifting at home if you have to. I have. It sucked, but I did it.
Anyway. What’s your goal? (Read this page for additional information on how to eat in accordance with your goals)
- If you want to get bigger and stronger, eat like it’s your job, keep it relatively clean, and lift lots of heavy things. This also applies if you’re lean and want to be more toned; this starting point is called “skinny,” and what you actually want to do is something called “get bigger.” It’s okay, I was skinny once too—I was in denial, at 5’10” and 155#—then I got over it, gained 20 pounds of muscle and squatted twice my bodyweight, which is the kind of shit that can happen when you pack on 20 pounds of muscle. If you’re skinny, extra muscle will look good on you, I promise, and it’s also a lot easier to lean out when you’re big and strong.
- If you want to get leaner while toning up (lose a significant amount of body fat and replace it with muscle mass), eat very clean and only enough to satisfy hunger, and also lift heavy things. Focus on lean meats and vegetables, and make sure you get enough protein.
- If you want to be skinny, go live on cigarettes and coffee, only lift dumbbells coated in pink neoprene, and get the hell out of my gym. While you’re at it, become a vegan and be sure to act condescending to all the horrible meat-eating cavepeople that lift heavy things all day, even though they can probably snap you in half like a dry twig. With any luck, one of them will.
If you can’t deadlift double bodyweight, what separates you from our very own reformed vegan T-Meg (who has lifted that much, and was very nice about being a vegan when she was one) can be summarized by a difference in habits. On a given day she eats about 150g of protein, lots of veggies, and avoids STWKY except for the occasional tortilla encasing an all-meat burrito (and Saturdays, because Saturdays). I use her as an example because she kicks my ass at most WODs where I don’t have a decidedly unfair advantage (running, rowing, and/or lifting the heaviest object possible), she’s stronger than any guy who hasn’t worked to be strong, and also because I get sick of talking about myself sometimes…well, at least I imagine y’all get sick of hearing it.
So if you say to me…
“I’m not getting leaner…” How much STWKY are you eating? Fruit? Nuts and seeds? Dairy? Stop it right now.
“I’m not getting stronger…” How much protein are you getting? Calories? Sleep? Get more. Are you doing extra intense cardio on the side, even though it’s a bad idea? Stop it.
“But it’s harrrrd…” Of course it’s fucking hard, if it was easy you’d already be doing it, you’d look the way you want to look, and America wouldn’t be turning into a giant morass of fat lazy slobs. Or, as others before me have sagely put it: “If it was easy, it’d be your mom.” Zing, indeed. Now put down the cheese and whine and get your shit in gear.
Viva la snatch.