My “Train Like Arnold” Challenge is coming down the home stretch. After a workout in the middle of week four of the Arnold Challenge, I decided to check my progress. In my mind, I had taken steps in the right direction, and I was getting stronger. My endurance was improving as well. After resting for three minutes between supersets and trisets on this routine, I had cut that down to around two minutes, which was a good sign. Still, I wondered how I had looked.
When you see yourself in the mirror every day, you don’t notice the changes. I had lost 13 pounds by this point, and some of my clothes were fitting differently – in a good way. But still, would it be noticeable? When I first started this journey, I had taken a photo of myself in a black tank top and considered that my before picture. I didn’t want to take an after picture that showed me tan with my body shaved and oiled up because that would disguise the actual results. So, I put that same tank top on, and stepped out to the same spot that the first photo was taken. You can see those photos for yourself below.
I’ve always been my hardest critic, so I immediately wanted to see more improvement, but at least I took steps in the right direction. I’m leaner, my back is wider, and I’m stronger. I can credit that progress – as little or big as they may be, to a few different factors. Hopefully, you can apply these to your own training and life if you don’t already.
No Step Is Too Small
I’ve always been an advocate for constant improvement. No, it won’t happen all the time or as much as we would like, but whenever I train, I want to do something better this time than last time. That was definitely put to the test during this challenge.
When I started this journey, I logged my workouts because I wanted to gauge my training and find ways to improve on as many exercises as possible. One example of this could be with the bent-over barbell row. Arnold stood on a board and used a longer range of motion by lowering the weight to the floor – or even to his feet when he stood on a bench. I can’t stand on a bench and do this in my barn, but I could certainly stand on a board.
When it came to rows, I wasn’t very familiar with this method, and you could see it if you were to watch my form. I was weak on this movement. My top set on the first workout was with 155 pounds for 12 reps. I decided that if I got to the point that I could do more than 12, I would add 2.5-pound plates to each side. Doing this exercise three times a week for four weeks meant I would have plenty of chances to improve. By the middle of Week 3, I was using 165 pounds, and I realized I could go heavier. So, next time, an extra five or maybe a ten will go on each side and we’ll see what happens.
You might be thinking “that is only ten pounds,” and you’re correct. However, break down doing that 10 extra pounds for each rep, each set, and each workout. My back is sure to get stronger, thicker, and better overall, would it not?
The Compound Effect is Real
Besides the bent-over row example, combine that with every extra rep I get on pullups or my improvement on the deadlifts. There are lots of opportunities to get better and maximize my results – all by doing one more rep or five more pounds each set. That is only for the back. Now, add in the chest workout I am doing alongside back, the leg workout I’m doing that evening, and the shoulders and arms workouts that follow the next day. I have yet to improve on everything in a workout each time, but there are small jumps here and there that are making a difference.
This is something that you could put into practice for your own workouts as well. Keep track of your training for one workout. Then, the next time you perform that workout, set a goal of doing one more rep or sliding another weight plate on the sleeves, even if it’s 2.5 pounds per side. When you get it, you’ll feel that small sense of accomplishment, which could carry you forward to do even more throughout the rest of the session. It may start with 2.5’s, but you may eventually end up adding 25’s if you’re consistent and dedicated enough.
Steps Beyond the Sets
Taking on a training program of this magnitude can take a great toll on both the body and mind. You’ve read in this series some of the mental challenges I’ve dealt with along the way. It’s because of those challenges that I realized I needed to seek out all the little wins and build on them.
The little victories I have felt along the way go beyond the weights themselves. Doing my ten minutes of cardio after a meal is literally taking steps closer to my goals. Eating the right food, even when it’s tempting to have something else, can be a victory. As a matter of fact, being close to temptation and walking away without giving in can be a big victory. Prioritizing your goal instead of the short-term satisfaction that came with whatever was there in the moment can be a game changer because you will show yourself that you’re willing to do what it takes to win.
Seek Out Your Wins and Keep Going
The examples I shared here are just that – examples on my own personal journey thus far. These guidelines have helped me from the time I started training in 1999 to now in 2023. My victories may be different than yours. This is the time that you need to find your wins and start racking them up. Yes, there will be a few L’s on the way, but as long as there are more W’s, then you’re on the right path.
This journey for me has been far from perfect. I’ve filmed sets of squats and realized I didn’t go deep enough. I’ve had a number in my head on a set of Arnold Presses and didn’t come close. If a loss like either of those would be all it takes to stop me, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Finding your wins, recognizing them, and vowing to get even better tomorrow, are simple steps that can get you to your destination.
If you want to check out week four of the Arnold Challenge, follow me on Instagram @rocklockridge.