My "Train Like Arnold" challenge is coming to the home stretch. After a workout midway through week four of the Arnold Challenge, I decided to check my progress. I felt I was taking steps in the right direction and I was getting stronger. My stamina also improved. After taking a three-minute break between supersets and tri-sets on this exercise, I had reduced it to about two minutes, which was a good sign. Still, I wondered how I had looked.
When you look at yourself in the mirror every day, you don't notice the changes. At this point I had lost 13 pounds and some of my clothes fit differently - in a good way. But would it still be noticeable? When I first started this journey, I had snapped a picture of myself in a black tank top and considered it my before picture. I didn't want to take an after photo showing me shaved and oiled up with a tanned body because that would obscure the actual results. So I put on the same tank top and stood in the same spot where the first photo was taken. You can see these photos for yourself below.
I've always been my toughest critic, so I immediately wanted to see more improvements, but at least I've taken steps in the right direction. I'm slimmer, my back is wider and I'm stronger. I can attribute this progress, big or small, to a few different factors. Hopefully you can apply these to your own training and life if you aren't already.
step is too small
I have always been an advocate of continuous improvement. , it won't happen all the time or as often as we'd like, but when I train, I want to do something better this time than last time. That was definitely put to the test in this challenge.
When I started this journey, I logged my workouts because I wanted to measure my training and find ways to improve as many exercises as possible. An example of this could be the bent-over barbell row. Standing on a plank, Arnold used a greater range of motion, lowering the weight to the floor -- or even to his feet if he was on a bench. I can't stand on a bench and do that in my barn, but I certainly could stand on a plank.
When it came to rowing, I wasn't very familiar with that method and you could tell by looking at my form. I was weak in this movement. My top set on the first workout was 155 pounds for 12 reps. I decided that when I got to the point where I could do more than 12, I would add 2.5 pound plates on each side. If I did this exercise three times a week for four weeks, I had many chances to improve. By the middle of week 3 I was down 165 pounds and I realized I could be getting heavier. So next time there will be five or maybe ten extra ones on each side and we'll see what happens.
You may be thinking "that's only ten pounds" and you're right. However, chip away at those 10 extra pounds for every rep, set, and workout. My back is definitely getting stronger, thicker and better overall, isn't it?
The composite effect is real
Combine that alongside the bent-over row with every extra rep I get on pull-ups or my deadlift improvement. There are many ways to get better and maximize my results - all by adding one rep or five pounds more to each set. This is for the back only. w add the chest workout that I'm doing alongside the back, the leg workout that I'm doing that evening, and the shoulder and arm workout that follows the next day. I still need to improve everything in a workout every time, but there are small jumps here and there that make a difference.
This is something you can put into practice for your own training as well. Track your workout for a workout. Then the next time you do that workout, set a goal of doing one more rep or shoving another plate up your sleeves, even if it's 2.5 pounds per side. When you get it, you'll feel that little sense of accomplishment that might push you to do even more during the rest of the session. It may start at 2.5 but you can eventually add 25 if you are consistent and committed enough.
Steps beyond the sets
A training program of this magnitude can take a toll on both body and mind. You have read in this series some of the mental challenges I have dealt with along the way. Because of these challenges, I realized that I had to look for all the small successes and build on them.
The little victories I've felt along the way go beyond the weights themselves. Doing my ten minutes of cardio after a meal literally gets me closer to my goals. Eating the right food, even when it's tempting to eat something different, can be a win. Indeed, being close to temptation and walking away without yielding can be a great victory. Prioritizing your goal over the short-term satisfaction that came with what was there in the moment can be game-changing because you show yourself you're willing to do whatever it takes to win.
Find your winnings and keep going
The examples I have shared here are just that - examples from my personal journey so far. These guidelines have helped me from the beginning of the training in 1999 to now in 2023. My victories may differ from yours. This is the time you need to find your winnings and collect them. Yes, there will be a few Ls along the way, but as long as there are more Ws, you're on the right track.
This trip was anything but perfect for me. I was filming squats and realized I wasn't going deep enough. I had a number in my head on a set of Arnold Presses and couldn't get close. If a loss like either of those two was enough to stop me, you wouldn't be reading this now. Finding your successes, acknowledging them, and vowing to do even better tomorrow are simple steps that can take you to your goal.
If you want to check out week four of the Arnold Challenge, follow me on Instagram @rocklockridge.