Natural Bodybuilding With JC: Just Do It

7FAA050A-4187-48ED-8A68-EB16ED057D5F“If you limit your choice only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.” – Robert Fritz

Think about this for a moment. Do you set limits for yourself based on your own perception of what is possible? Do you take the safe path, opting to do what you know is possible instead of what is probable? Do you stare down the 100 pound dumbbells with a fire in your eye that screams, “one day I will own you”? I see it all the time – untapped potential.

Just the other night, Luke Albin was performing dumbbell incline presses. He texted me during his workout to share that he had just pressed 80 pound dumbbells for 10 reps. I responded that he should go heavier. His next text was that he pressed 90 pound dumbbells for seven reps. Again, I responded to go heavier and suggested he attempt 100 pound dumbbells for four reps. Luke was unable to complete the lift at 100 pounds, but he tried. Luke was satisfied with his 80 pound accomplishment. At 10 reps I saw much more potential. At 90 pounds he was surprised with himself. Even though the 100 pound lift was not successful, he left a proud man, realizing that he was at a level in his journey where he was able to seriously attempt such a heavy lift.Unknown

Had I not jumped in and told Luke to go heavier, how long would he have waited before he attempted the 90 or 100 pound dumbbells? A week? A month? Several months? Luke thanked me for pushing him, and even commented that there was no way he would have even thought about attempting such a lift just a few months ago. I had no idea whether Luke was able to press 100 pound dumbbells, but I wanted him to try. Of course, I did advise Luke to recruit a spotter to ensure a safe lift.

This is not to say that you should run to the gym this second and get underneath a weight that will undoubtedly crush you. It is about reasonably testing your limits without fear of failure. You will never know your true potential if you don’t test your limits. Jason Kaiman once made a comment that he was noticing a lot of people boasting weekly A11C42D8-71B3-4CF5-8F09-1D33084CAE99PRs. Jason’s response to the phenomenon was that the lifters were most likely not pushing themselves hard enough from the beginning. It stands to reason, if you are limiting your potential by remaining in your comfort zone, in the event that you try to move forward you will most likely find you are capable of so much more. The ego boost you receive from the new achievement ends up sparking a desire for more, and what happens is you end up succeeding again.

I am frequently approached at the gym and complimented on the weight I am lifting. Keep in mind, at 5 foot 7 inches and 165 pounds, I don’t exactly appear very large. I lift heavy for me, but the actual weight itself in my opinion is nothing incredibly impressive. Either way, what I am saying is that based on appearance, I don’t look as though I can rep 120 pounds dumbbells, but I can.

My current gym only has dumbbells that go to 100. When I use them on the flat bench, I can easily perform 10 reps for several sets. A previous gym had dumbbells that went to 120, a weight I could usually get for four to six reps! Almost every time I get done with my sets, I am approached and complimented. The compliment is usually followed up with some self-defeating remark like “I would never even try that,” or “I doubt I will ever get to your level.” Garbage, I say! I always ask, have you tried? The answer is always no.

Again, I’m not saying get under a ridiculous weight, but don’t set a limit on something you have never tried. I like to keep my rep ranges at six or seven. Like I tell most people, if you can get at least six, try the next weight – you might be surprised. If you can get at least four on the higher weight, keep it, and keep working at that level until you can do six. If you can do eight, the weight is too light, if you can’t do four, the weight is too heavy.

The purpose of going to the gym is not to impress those around you. If you fail a lift, so be it. I am far more impressed with progress and effort than I am with ability. I failed two consecutive attempts to deadlift 425 pounds. I was approached after my second attempt and was paid a generous compliment along the lines of how my attempts had impressed and inspired my onlooker. Like I always tell Luke, it’s not about the number, it is about the 8F930B81-4393-4397-AB69-DCE29E8E6530effort.

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz, Coach

Happy Lifting!

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9 comments for “Natural Bodybuilding With JC: Just Do It

  1. Trevor Halbrook
    January 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    This post was really inspiring! I read it as soon as I woke up this morning. I was doing a set of bent over dumbbell rows when I realized what I was doing(30lbs). I stopped racked them and picked up the 60’s. rocked out 10 solid reps and couldn’t have been more excited! Thanks!

    • JC
      January 29, 2013 at 8:27 am

      Great work! It is sometimes difficult to see beyond our comfort zone. A lot of people end up becoming so familiar with their workout routine that going to the gym is just another thing on the to-do list. Good for you for taking that step to move up. Keep tracking your work and you will see great results.

  2. January 28, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Great stuff, JC! Even in my 50’s now, I have the opposite problem – I have to hold myself back from going heavier too soon and letting my form slip terribly. So what I do now is, if I finish a bodypart and still feel I’ve got more, I go back to the main composite exercise for that bodypart and do a series of progressively-heavier single lifts til I hit failure. Because we do long workouts that only happens about once a month for any bodypart, but it lets me gauge my strength levels without killing my form or switching to powerlifting workouts.

  3. Chris
    January 28, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Thanks for this. I’m sometimes too careful and use the same weights on the same exercises. I need to push for more. As long as I can get 4 reps you say?

    • JC
      January 28, 2013 at 9:25 am

      My rule of thumb is 4 – something I developed in my earlier years when I was following a Scivation training protocol. I like to do 6 or 7 reps, but will settle for 4. That is how I gauge whether or not I can/should attempt a higher weight. I usually try the heavier weight on my last set. If I can do better than four, the next time I go heavier on the working sets. It is constantly pushing and testing your limits, but it does level out. Realistically you can’t keep adding weekly – it will catch up with you. Once you hit that good point where the lifts are challenging, stay there a few weeks before you try to up it again.

  4. Luke Aubin
    January 28, 2013 at 5:31 am

    Great article, very inspiring!
    Its true you have pushed me to new levels of confidence and performance in the gym I never thought I’d reach!
    You will amaze yourself if you just TRY! Find out what you’re capable of!
    Thanks for the push!

  5. January 28, 2013 at 4:51 am

    You lift some serious poundage JC. Currently I’m at 212 lbs, and you would out lift me in every situation. You are obviously born to bodybuild!

    • JC
      January 28, 2013 at 8:47 am

      Thanks Matt – But it isn’t without consequence. I have pain in the usual spots – shoulder, elbow, and knees – but I also have pain in other not so common spots. My fingers/joints ache as do the tops of my feet. I fear I have developed shin splints in my legs and stress fractures in my arms. I cycle Ibuprofen as part of my stack! At one point I was unable to properly grip a door knob or use a stapler. 🙂

      • February 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm

        Just don’t hurt yourself JC! I think you are way to young and just starting your bodybuilding career to have any serious problems, at least I hope for your sake.

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