How Do I Get Muscles Like That?

One night after playing volleyball, I took off my shirt to change and one of my teammates pointed towards my shoulder and asked, “How do I get muscles like that?”

His question made me think. People will ask about things they want that they see in others, but they have no real desire to take action to get what they want themselves.

Back and shoulder musclesI could’ve answered my teammate in an unforgiving fashion, something like, ‘Do you lift weights? How many days a week do you work out? Do you eat five or more meals per day? Do you know how much protein to eat to build muscle? Do you know how to lift properly? Do you have a long-term strength training program? Do you even know what the muscle is that you’re pointing to is called? Have you ever hired a personal trainer?’ Instead, I answered him in a general way, saying there is no single answer and results comes from many habits practiced over a long period of time.

I get asked questions all the time about health and fitness and how to build a particular muscle group. How often have clients asked me things like, ’I don’t know how to lose weight. How do I eat better?’ Or, like my friend, ‘How do I get muscles like that?’ or, ‘How do I get a six-pack?

Most of the time these questions are asked halfheartedly. It’s easy to ask, ’How do I get ripped abs like yours?’ What’s harder to do is to commit to learning about the steps you’ll have to take and the new habits you’ll need to practice to make your goal reality.

It’s easy to admire someone else’s physique, fortune, big car, or huge house and wishing you could get the same results. However, wishing doesn’t get results. The reason many people won’t try to get what they want is their fear of failure.

We are all afraid of failure. For many, myself included, if we’ve failed often in the past it can be daunting to try something new, or to learn a new strategy we know is going to take great effort. The voices go off inside our head, screaming, ‘Will I succeed?’, ‘How hard will it be?’, ‘If I fail, will my friends laugh at me?’ We don’t actively seek pain. Rather, we want what makes us feel good.

There is no magic solution: You need to get clear on why you want your goal, commit to achieving your goal, and plan a strategy to achieve your desire.

I’m not suggesting one day you decide, ’I’m going to lose 30 pounds’ or ’I’m going to exercise four days a week every morning at 6 AM.’ The first one is an end goal and the second is a habit. Both require an action plan.

Let’s use the above example to create an action plan to lose 30 pounds of body fat. How do you accomplish that goal? Losing weight involves a number of habits, including increasing your physical activity level on a daily basis, eating frequent meals throughout the day, eating nutritious and nutrient-dense foods that are low in starchy carbohydrates, etc.

Without preparedness and an action plan your attempts would be futile. You will need to create many new habits over a period of time so that you don’t become overwhelmed. A great place to start is to write out what you need to learn, the new habits you need to implement, and what actions you need to take to accomplish each habit. Attempt one new habit per week; possibly only one new habit every two weeks if the habit is more challenging.

Keep track of your habits and progress by using project planning software, a journal, a calendar, or a spreadsheet to plot out what you need to do over the coming months.

For example, committing to exercise four times per week every morning at 6 AM requires certain logistics, e.g. Where will you be working out? What type of activity will you be doing? How will you prepare the night before? Will you lie out all of your clothes and pack them in your gym bag and will you have food prepared to eat before and after your workout? Will you have a workout partner or a personal trainer who will help you stick to your plan?

In order to eat better you will also need a plan. To save time you will be best served by buying food once or twice a week and preparing as many bulk meals in advance and packing meals in containers and taking them with you to work or reheat throughout the day as necessary.

If you are committed to your goal then the journey is as much about delayed gratification as the thrill and pleasure of achieving that goal. There will be days or weeks when you feel like nothing is changing and you want to give up. This is when you need to look back at all of the individual improvements and new habits you have acquired. Recognize what you have changed and realize that getting what you want is a process that takes time. If you are off track, try to find out why. This may be the time to ask yourself how much you really want this goal. How will you feel when you reach your goal? Is that feeling worth it?

TSVL goldDevelop a system of rewards along the way to celebrate milestones as you get closer to the end goal. Of course you should celebrate the end goal in style! You should also consider something else to achieve when you’re about 80% of the way there. This is when you would start planning and strategizing for a future goal, but not its implementation. There’s an important reason for doing this. When you achieve your goal you experience a short-term elation. However, when the excitement wears off we are left wondering what to do next. Having a new goal ready to implement keeps you on the path of constant improvement.

Change can be difficult because as human beings we like comfort. Getting what we truly desire takes effort. If your desire – your why – is big enough, get in touch with that feeling, see and feel yourself having achieved your goal and record that in your journal to look at whenever you feel that you’re losing focus. Knowing how much you want your goal is half of the winning process!

Be well.

© 2013 Darren Stehle. All Rights Reserved.