I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions.
The turn of the year usually brings with it the most drastic of ambitions, which often lose steam come mid-February, if not sooner. On top of this, resolutions usually do not address the real skeletons in the closet. I find this is amplified when it comes to weight training. Lifters and athletes set goals like adding 20 to 30 pounds of muscle and simultaneously decreasing body fat by 10 percent when they currently struggle even to train three days a week and eat healthy on a consistent basis.
This problem needs to see its end, so allow me to offer help as a fly on the wall. I see issues that demand most athletes’ attention. So here are the goals you probably should set for yourself this year.
Get a Strong Back and Neck
I don’t mean the ability to rip a fairly heavy Deadlift compared to your body weight while using sloppy form. You need to zero in on the weak points that make your pulling strength sub-par. A weak upper portion of the spine is one of the things I most often see among clients and lifters.
Deadlifting for a strong back is only part of the solution. The other key is to learn to perform proper Pull-Ups with good form and incorporate enough volume of horizontal pulling. Deadlift performance is hindered as soon as there’s a break in the “chain” of force you send up your spine. You won’t train it effectively by simply doing more Deadlifts. Instead, focus on rounding things out by adding variety and frequency to your back workouts. For your neck, add Chin Tucks and Neck Bridges to your workouts.
Improve Your Mobility
Depending on your school of thought, there are different ways to increase your mobility. Some people are into self-myofascial release, hitting the foam roller or lacrosse ball to open up immobile joints and relax muscle tissue. Others prefer drills and stretches to achieve the same outcome. A third group is more about muscle activation, meaning firing up weak or dormant links to create the right relative tension in muscle tissue, restore lost ranges of motion and reduce overload to certain areas. This can be done using specific isometrics and holds.
Whatever it takes, it needs to become a regular staple of your routine. The collective approach is a smart way to go, so the workout itself can take first place. The most important thing is to address the issue. Taking 10 minutes per day to improve mobility can yield impressive results by the time 2017 rolls around.
Train Outside Your Comfortable Rep Range
Simply put: If you’re used to training for strength, change things up and train for sets of 8-10, or even 15. The additional muscular endurance work will do wonders for your conditioning and probably kick you through plateaus. Of course, if your sport or pursuit calls for explosive power or max strength, you should stick to your style of training most of the time. But if you’re a recreational lifter who has set goals, changing your rep range is one of the best things you can do. Your nervous system will thank you, and you’ll notice how poorly conditioned you were.
I knew you wouldn’t like this list. The truth is, well, the truth hurts. To address these issues, you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone. Making resolutions may mean differentiating between what you want and what you need to do to see gains. Don’t be the guy at the gym who disregards what’s good for him. Chances are at least one of these three goals applies directly to you.