Break the Big Rocks First: Getting Stronger
A 3 minute read
This is the second in a series of articles aimed at helping you prioritize your actions toward specific goals. The details will be clean, simple, and to the point, without going too deep into why. Because sometimes we just need to get on with it. The basic premise is this:
You want "x" goal: Here are the areas where you should first and foremost dedicate your time and effort
Today's "x": Getting stronger
Let's not overcomplicate things:
Spend all of your time actively working on taking care of the highest-priority items so you can get the biggest bang for your buck.
Simple. When I fully grasped this concept and started implementing it in all areas of my life, things changed.
What follows is the low-hanging fruit. If you can only do ONE thing, start at the top. Then add each subsequent rock as the next important once you've fully incorporated the first.
Your Goal: Getting Stronger
This can be a tricky hierarchy to stratify. In an ideal world, all four rocks would be taken care of simultaneously. And really, this is not that hard to do. But for our purposes, we'll split hairs and look at them one by one. Lifting heavy weights is the only rock that will actually drive strength from the following list, which is why it is number one (yes, you can substitute certain challenging bodyweight exercises for weight lifting in some cases, it just must be a relatively heavy load). However, all these rocks are essentially interdependent.
Without lifting heavy, you won't get stronger. But without eating and resting properly, your success from heavy lifting will only last so long. It's like a touchdown pass in football. Heavy lifting is your quarterback, without which the ball can't get thrown and thus the touchdown can never occur. But eating and recovery are your wide receiver's hands. Without them, the pass is meaningless and cannot be completed.
Your Big Rocks:
1a) Lift heavy things
1b) Eat enough
1c) Eat well
Without lifting heavy, eating enough becomes eating too much: it will go toward extra "insulation", not dense muscle. Without eating enough, lifting heavy will eventually leave you struggling to recover. Without eating well, eating enough can become reckless. Without enough quality recovery, the successes from the first three rocks cannot be sustained.
Please, do not misunderstand me: For general health and longevity purposes, eating well is always priority number one (see Getting Back in Shape). However, in a vacuum-controlled environment of strength-gain, quantity of food consumed is often a rock with bigger potential impact than quality. Why is enough more important than well?
The weakest link in the diet nearly always comes down to calorie deficiency when we talk about beginner strength or hypertrophy. You simply cannot sustain strength gains without getting enough food. Obviously, though, over time, your nutritional quality- including, but not limited to, protein and macro requirements- plays a big role in determining your continued future success (not to mention general health). Once you lift heavy and eat enough, focus on getting the best quality food to use as fuel and muscle-grower.
Then, a bit further down the road (but not much further, really), lack of proper rest (aka sleep) will render your lifting and eating useless. Sleep well, sleep enough (everyone is different, but you know when you're lying to yourself about your four-hour nights being adequate). You must have all four to get strong... but is it really that much to ask?