In my last article, I shared a phrase I like to use with all my lifting clients:


“Build a big foundation with your feet and you’ll build a skyscraper of a squat on them.“


Your training is a building, and you want to build a skyscraper, not a bungalow. Don’t worry, I’m not about to talk to you about construction. What I mean is if you don’t have a strong foundation and process in place, then the little finishing touches - the tempos, the wave loading, the drop sets, and supplementation - all become irrelevant. Without the groundwork to support your efforts, you’ll never build a building taller than a couple of storeys.


Lofty goals? You need to start from the ground up.

Lofty goals? You need to start from the ground up.


Building can be a long, arduous process. To build up, we sometimes have to knock walls down. The same is true in training. Progression tends not to be linear, and in relentless pursuit of bigger weight on the bar we tend to forget that sometimes we need to make big adjustments.  We lose sight of our training roots by sweating the small stuff and never give ourselves the opportunity to look at the blueprints as a whole, and build properly and safely.


5 Rules to Build an Indestructible Foundation for Training


At my gym, Fit3Sixty, we have a system to keep our foundations in mind. I've come up with five rules to constantly assess whether we’re getting too absorbed in the minor details and ensure we don't miss the bigger picture in our training. Try them yourself and set the foundation you need to succeed.


1. Don't Get Hurt

You need a sustainable way to train. Consider progress as something you have to earn and not something that magically appears on a good day when the weight fairies somehow conjure you a PB. Chasing weights on a bar or seconds off a workout is a way to get hurt. It’s not worth it for the sake of wanting to see a number increase on a spreadsheet. Earn the right to hit your PBs through progressive and realistic programming. Don’t risk a long term injury just because you want to hit the high numbers.


2. Have a Goal

With PBs no longer the focus, you need to zero in on your overall desired outcome. You need to set a goal. With a goal comes purpose, and with purpose your training will take on new levels of commitment, accountability, and work ethic. If you are truly striving to be the best you can be and aiming for a competition or an event, what do you specifically want the outcome to be?


"If you write down your goals and commit to achieving them, you will be accountable to your programme and the building will have less chance of collapse."

You will work harder and put in the hours needed when your goal becomes an achievable reality, which is far better than idling through training with no real purpose or focus. Don’t end up on a completely different path wondering what went wrong. Write your goal down, work backwards from it, and figure out a plan for how to get from A to B.


3. Be Accountable

The best plan is the one you can stick to. If you can’t stick to your plan, ask yourself why. Is the programme too difficult, is the goal too unrealistic, or are you just not prepared to work as hard as it demands? Many people look for alternative reasons for their stalled progress. But the right brand of creatine, or other such details, aren't your concern. Sticking to your plan, seeing it through, and earning the right to progress is. If you’re not holding yourself accountable, then you’re just worrying about the small walls and ignoring the massive crack in your training foundation.


So be honest. Have you been fully accountable to yourself, your programme and your goal? If not, then review it, edit it and stick to the revised version. Earn the right to progress and you’ll enjoy it far more when it happens.


4. Celebrate Success

This is a simple but often overlooked element of training. A rep PB, a half second off a sprint time, a 2.5kg added to your max - they all count. Enjoy these moments and the progress and success. When times get hard and you see others progressing faster or hitting big new personal bests, your incremental successes will keep you motivated.


Focus on winning the bigger war.

Use the little battles you have won to keep you motivated for the bigger war.


Great overall progress requires small continual progressions, so track these, monitor them, and enjoy them. Using a training diary is a great tool for looking back at what you have achieved. Seeing what you are doing now compared to twelve months ago will empower you as you move forward. On the flipside, never assume by seeing progress you can rest on your laurels. Use the little battles won to help you win the bigger war and as motivation to keep moving forward.


5. Enjoy the Process

Very few of us settle the mortgage through our sport and fitness goals, so the process of training and competing has to be fun. It should complement your life, not define what and who you are. A wise man once told me, “There is no happy arrival from an unhappy journey.” Celebrate your progress, learn from your mistakes and failures and above all else, have fun with it. Enjoy the process and the journey as well as the results.


Your Skyscraper Awaits

If you put these large foundations in place in your training, you can then begin to think about building the storeys. Each of the five rules flows into the next and supports the rules on either side. You’ll find the outcomes will take care of themselves along the way. If you train with a focus on not getting hurt and staying injury free, you will progress far quicker and build higher. If you write down your goals and commit to achieving them, you will be accountable to your programme and the building will have less chance of collapse.


Implement these rules into your training and start building an epic skyscraper of your own today.


This article was originally published on Breaking Muscle UK.


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Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.

Photo 2 courtesy of Jorge Huerta Photography.