Q: I do the same workouts as my teammate, yet I can't lift as much as he can. What am I doing wrong?
A: You'd think that doing the exact same workout as a teammate would produce the same results, but this is not always the case. Here are three reasons why you might need to drop a plate or two for your set.
Some people are simply genetically endowed for lifting heavy weight—think Arnold Schwarzenegger or Eric Spoto, the guy who just benched 722 pounds. Hormone profiles, limb length, muscle attachment points, muscle fiber types—it may all sound like nerdy science jargon, but each of those factors come into play.
To eliminate the genetic variable, pretend you and your teammate are identical twins. If the two of you perform the exact same workout with the same intensity, you still might not achieve the same results. Why? Because things that happen outside the weight room—like what you eat—also impact your performance. If your teammate eats healthy and you live on junk food, he will outlift you every time.
When you're trying to get stronger, you need to follow a balanced diet that delivers a sufficient amount of calories (see How to Calculate Your Daily Fueling Needs). If you fail to eat enough good food, your body may actually break down muscle to use as a source of energy.
You need to pay special attention to what you eat before and after a training session. Pre-workout nutrition provides the energy for you to give your max effort, and post-workout nutrition helps rebuild your body and solidify strength gains during your recovery period.
Finally, let's pretend you and your teammate are genetic twins who follow the exact same diet. The remaining variable? Sleep. It might be your hidden strength saboteur. Eight hours of sleep causes the body to release human growth hormone (HGH), which in turn stimulates muscle growth and strength development. If you're not getting at least eight hours a night, you're not experiencing this release. So if your teammate is getting proper zzz's while you're staying up late for Jimmy Fallon, you've just discovered the cause of your strength woes.
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