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Foundations for successful strength training


Posted by Lee Boyce of Lee Boyce Training on 7 December 2012 at 12:00 AM

 A lot of people are set on building muscle or just plain getting into better shape. The problem is, they’ve got a distorted view on where to start.

We have to remember that fitness and training need to become parts of someone’s life. Someone can resolve to get into better shape, but then only put in effort for the 4 or 5 hours they spend per week inside the gym, and completely neglect the other 163 hours of the week spent outside the gym.

This crucial mistake is what separates people who get great results from people who don’t. That’s what I call “foundation”. Building a “foundation” for results (of any sort) means doing the things in your lifestyle that will facilitate you reaching those results. If you’re looking to get bigger, aside from training for size and eating well, what else are you doing? Do you pay attention to your muscles’ tissue quality on off days? How are your sleep habits? How many weekends out of your month consist of nights of drunken debauchery?

To me, building a “base” or “foundation” doesn’t start from what you do in the gym, it starts from what you do outside the gym. So before people talk about what exercises to focus on for the “best method” of getting stronger, bigger, or more agile, it’s a good idea to take a reality check and see if your life and priorities are really on board with your goals. When you reach an annoying plateau, don’t be too quick to mindlessly blame some problem with your program. A mental shift marks a change in behaviour.

Training to look good is different than looking good because you train.

The former makes training appear to be an alien chore that you otherwise wouldn’t do if not for the specific purpose of getting a better looking midsection. The latter makes it clear that you’ve made a decision to make serious, consistent exercise part of your healthy lifestyle, and as a result have reaped your just desserts physically.

I don’t have the “hidden secrets” to getting yourself on the path to getting results. What I can provide however are some good habits to get into.

1. Get more sleep.

You’ll maximize the amount of essential hormones you release through resting. It doesn’t take much to elicit results if you give yourself the proper amounts of time needed to recover. Get your 7 hours in every night, even if it means forfeiting late nights with the boys.

Water bottles rack2. Drink more water.

Water is something the body always needs; consuming a few litres of water per day will act to help physiological processes in the body and help flush out unwanted toxins.

Examine your pee the next time you use the washroom (gross as it may sound). If it’s a really deep, dull yellow, dark, or rusty in tone, it’s time to get your water intake up.

3. Get good at bodyweight exercises.

And I mean really good. If we want to talk about developing a “foundation”, then being good at the bodyweight staples (push ups, pull ups, inverted rows, squats, hanging leg raises, and the like) are going to be of prime importance. Core strength can be salvaged when doing these exercises properly. Second, having good muscular endurance where these exercises are concerned will translate into a great strength-to-mass ratio, which I personally can’t see ever coming in as a disadvantage. If you doubt me, check out the next gymnastics competition you see on TV.

Iron Cross

4. Focus on barbell training. Squatting, pressing, pulling.

They’re called primal movement patterns for a reason. Not only do large compound barbell movements often simulate common movements in life, but they also tend to recruit a lot of muscle fibers. If there’s a serious weakness present in your body, chances are a primal movement pattern will expose and exploit that weakness. So when it comes to the weight training side of things, don’t settle for the easy stuff - do what’s right for your body and get it out of its comfort zone by doing the movementsyou know will reap the most benefits. Here’s a touch of inspiration:

5. Make your emphasis range of motion (ROM), flexibility, and mobility.

It’s important. Always go for a complete range of motion before adding weight. You’ll get stronger by doing so. It’s also vital to remember that in the gym, we’re constantly shortening our muscles by lifting weights. It sets the stage for even more impairment if we lift for incomplete range. We’re asking for muscle imbalances and unwanted joint stress. Go full ROM or go home!

6. Track your progress.

A lot of novice lifters will follow a program and leave it at that. There’s more. Especially when you’re starting out, physically recording your results serves as a great motivating tool, and also keeps you fully abreast with the progress you’re making. Knowing your strength levels are improving will help you to stay mentally sane, but more importantly it will enable you to add proper increments to the weights you lift, and not lift for arbitrary amounts.

Foundation covers many different topics, and these were just a few. If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be this: if you want to see change, you have to make yourself available to it. What I mean by that is, “fitting” exercise into your schedule will allow a novice lifter to see novice results. Allowing it to become part of your lifestyle, on the other hand, will be a game changer. You’ll soon realize that that hard effort you’re putting in becomes easy and natural.

Lee Boyce

Lee Boyce is one of the bright young talents in the fitness industry. By the age of just 22 he had his first fitness article published by a major company. Since then, he’s become a sought after strength coach based in Toronto, Ontario, and is a TV Fitness expert, Public speaker, and regular contributor to many of the most popular fitness magazines in the world, including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, TNATION, Musclemag, and Muscle&Fitness. You can view his blog, videos and articles at Lee Boyce Training. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @coachleeboyce and on Facebook.

  • Encourage

    encouraged this.



    Very accomplished writer and athlete, well done Lee, thanks for your article :)

    Alina O and Adrian K encouraged this.


    Nice Lee...with my goal of becoming my definition of fit (optimally healthy in mind, body and spirit) - I have focused the first phase on a foundation of staple body weight exercises: pushups, situps, pullups and squats...beginning phase 2 of weight training today. Thanks for the tips and great post.


    Training to look good is different than looking good because you train. so so true

    Alina O encouraged this.


    Thanks for a great article and guides Lee. Very nice back squat numbers too.


    Great advice - especially the tracking your progress, I really need to start doing that!

    Adrian K encouraged this.


    Good article. Really helpful and good advice. Now I need to make it part of my life...

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