My “Train like Arnold” challenge is coming down the stretch. After a practice session in the middle of the fourth week of the Arnold challenge, I decided to check on my progress. In my mind, I had taken steps in the right direction and was getting stronger. My stamina was also improving. After resting for three minutes between supersets and trisets on this routine, I had whittled it down to about two minutes, which was a good sign. Still, I wondered what I had looked like.
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 fit differently – in a good way. But still, would it be noticeable? When I started this journey, I had taken a picture of myself in a black tank top and considered it my before picture. I didn’t want to take an afterthought photo that showed me tanned with my body shaved and oiled up as that would disguise the actual results. So, I put on this same tank top and walked out to the same spot where the first photo was taken. You can see those photos for yourself below.
I’ve always been my toughest critic, so I immediately wanted to see more improvements, but at least I took steps in the right direction. I’m slimmer, my back is wider and I’m stronger. I can attribute this progress, however small or large, to a few different factors. I hope you can apply them to your own training and to your life if you are not already doing so.
No step is too small
I have always been a believer in constant improvement. No, it won’t happen all the time or as much as we would like, but every time I train I want to do something better this time than the last time. That was definitely put to the test during this challenge.
When I started this journey, I recorded my workouts because I wanted to evaluate my training and find ways to improve as many exercises as possible. An example of this might be with the bent over dumbbell row. Arnold stood on a plank and used a greater range of motion by lowering the weight to the floor – or even to his feet when standing on a bench. I can’t stand on a bench and do that in my barn, but I certainly could stand on a board.
As for rows, I wasn’t very familiar with this method, and you could see that if you looked at my form. I was weak on this move. My best set in the first workout was 155 pounds for 12 reps. I decided that if I got to the point where 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 that I would have plenty of chances to improve. By the middle of week 3 I was using 165 lbs and realized I could go heavier. So next time five or maybe ten more will go on each side and we’ll see what happens.
You might be thinking “it’s only ten pounds”, and you’re right. However, break down those extra 10 pounds for every rep, every set, and every workout. My back is sure to get stronger, thicker and better overall, right?
The compound effect is real
Besides the bent row example, combine that with every extra rep I get on the pull-ups or my improvement on the deadlifts. There are plenty of opportunities to improve and maximize my results – all by doing one more rep or five more pounds each set. It’s only for the back. Now add the chest workout I do along the back, the leg workout I do that night, and the shoulder and arm workouts that follow the next day. I haven’t improved everything yet in a workout each time, but there are little jumps here and there that make a difference.
It’s something you can put into practice for your own workouts as well. Keep track of your training for a workout. Then, the next time you do this workout, set a goal to do an extra rep or slide another weight plate over the sleeves, even if it’s 2.5 pounds per side. When you get it, you will feel that little sense of accomplishment, which could lead you to achieve even more throughout the session. It might start with 2.5, but you might end up adding 25 if you’re consistent and dedicated enough.
Steps beyond sets
Undertaking a training program of this magnitude can have a huge impact on the body and mind. You have read in this series about some of the mental challenges I faced along the way. It was because of these challenges that I realized I had to seek out all the small wins and build on them.
The small victories I have felt along the way go beyond the weights themselves. Doing my ten minutes of cardio after a meal literally brings me closer to my goals. Eating the right foods, even when it’s tempting to have something else, can be a win. In fact, being close to temptation and walking away without giving in can be a great victory. Prioritizing your goal over the short-term gratification that comes with whatever was there in the moment can be a game-changer because you’ll show yourself that you’re ready to do whatever it takes to win.
Seek your victories and carry on
The examples I’ve shared here are just that – examples from my own personal journey so far. These guidelines have helped me from when I started training in 1999 until now in 2023. My wins may be different than yours. This is the time you need to find your winnings and start accumulating them. Yes, there will be a few Ls along the way, but as long as there are more Ws, then you’re on the right track.
This trip for me has been far from perfect. I filmed sets of squats and realized I hadn’t gone far enough. I had a number in my head on a set of Arnold Presses and didn’t come close. If a loss like either was enough to stop me, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Finding your victories, acknowledging them, and promising to do even better tomorrow are simple steps that can get you there.
If you want to discover the fourth week of the Arnold challenge, follow me on Instagram @rocklockridge.