In a rush to stay the same! A case study.

The regular followers will know that I am a big believer in making regular and consistent progress. If you are not making progress then you need to change something. This is a pretty simple concept in my world. Despite this, I see guys and girls all of the time that are stuck in a “no progress rut”. And they often just accept this. And often they accept this for years. I don’t understand this. These people are often pretty smart outside of the gym but inside the gym they are gym dumb. The point of this post is not to get inside the heads of these individuals. But I will add that many of them continue to pay big money to trusted PTs to help them stay in this no progress rut.

I have said it before- I am a pretty simple person. I can’t cope with complex training movements or programmes. If someone starts talking about hypertrophy then I will glaze over. If they start talking about their DOMs then I am off. But I do believe in a structured approach to getting stronger. Something really simple which ensures that improvements are measurable each week.

The problem with most people who want to get strong is that they lack patience. Rather than embarking on a programme with a view to progressively getting stronger over a period of time, they want to get their immediately. They load up the bar and go heavy. The result is usually that they stall in their progress pretty quickly. Their technique doesn’t have a chance to develop and they lose confidence quickly. The result is that they stay the same. They make no significant gains and their progress stalls. At best they will carry on and stay the same. At worst they will go backwards or even stop training altogether.

To illustrate my point I am going to use a case study. The subjects are real people who I know and who train at Eastside.

Subject A is a young guy in his early twenties who I started helping about 12 weeks ago. Let’s call him Adam. Adam is “non athletic” to be honest. He hasn’t played a lot of sport and lacks co-ordination generally. But he is a top guy who has a big heart and is an excellent listener. Adam had trouble squatting the bar when we first began. However he spent hours on his own and with me practising and before long he was competent with 40 kg.

Subject B is another young guy in his late teens. He can be Ben. Ben is a bit lighter than Adam but more athletic and muscular. He came to me about 8 weeks ago and we had a chat about his squat. He has been stuck on 120 kg for months. He is not a big guy but should be able to squat 120 kg for 10 reps and therefore 140 kg plus. He is a nice guy and did indicate that he wanted help. I offered to help and left it with him. I see him most days but he has not taken me up on his offer as yet. That doesn’t worry me at all. He enjoys his training which is the main thing. And again he is another top guy. Just not as coachable as Adam.

The point of this study is to talk about actual progress.

Adam has been squatting for 12 weeks. We started using 5X5 as I wanted him to start light and learn to squat. The weight we chose was 40 kg. We have added 5 kg per week and Adam is now squatting 100 kg for 5 sets of 5. They are full squats and powerful with good technique. Not too bad for a guy who had trouble with the bar about 13 weeks ago. Adam is jumping out of his skin. He wants to move to 5/3/1 but I want to keep doing 5×5 until he hits his first plateau. I suspect he will hit 120 for 5X5 in a month.

Contrast this with Ben. Today I spotted him trying to do a triple on 120 kg. He got 2 reps and I assisted with number 3. They were grinding reps and a bit high also. Ben is lacking confidence and the rest of his training is suffering as a result. He continues to struggle with the same weight each week. But rather than taking a step back and looking at the big picture, Ben seems convinced that it is only a matter of time before he achieves super gains using his method.

Adam and Ben have little in common. But Adam is now on course to squat 140 kg this year. This 3 plate milestone has him jumping out of his skin. Ben is not likely to get anywhere near this if he continues along the same path. It’s quite simple really.

The point of this case study is not to spread my virtues as a wonder coach. The fact is I have had little to do with this except provide a very simple recipe. And of course it is not even my own! Besides this and some technical refinement and encouragement, the rest has been up to Adam. He is the one who has been sufficiently motivated to get to the gym each week and to work hard to achieve his weekly goals. It is these small and consistent steps that have kept him physically and mentally moving along. It is very important to remember that the small and consistent increments are the critical factor in this success. The assistance work which Adam works hard on each week is also played a role in addressing his weak points.

In the other corner, Ben continues to be stronger. But this won’t be for long. His “gym dumb” approach means that he hasn’t gone anywhere. Adam will overtake him soon and push on to even greater gains. I should also note that a similar trend is taking place in the other lifts. And Adam is starting to develop his physique which is something others are also beginning to notice.

The real point of this post is to get my point across that you need to be lifting more weight each week. Once this stops happening you need to think about what is going on and change things. I am convinced that the most simple means to achieve an overall goal is to take a step back and then move forward in small increments. Why would you be in rush to stay the same?

bigger stronger smarter


  1. #1 by Ron Prestage on February 5, 2012 - 8:34 pm

    Thank you Craig for taking the time to post your thoughts. It is very generous of you. They always make me reflect on my own gym actions and hopefully keep improving and stalling off ‘old age’. See you at Canterbury bench press competition. Cheers Ron

    • #2 by Craig McGuigan on February 9, 2012 - 10:32 am

      See you in Greymouth Ron. All the best to you and the family. Say hi to Bernard also.

  2. #3 by Simon on February 6, 2012 - 3:07 am

    Awesome article. Really inspiring.

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