In this article we’ll share a few training secrets from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who’s famous for being a top-level professional wrestler with a successful acting career and an indisputable great level of muscularity. Want to hear the truth and learn how to make bigger gains? Read on.
#1. Aim for progress, not maintenance
Never settle for anything less than optimal results. If you think that you’re not moving in that direction, change your routine, pick heavier weight or improve your training frequency (in some cases, that means training less). If you’re not moving forward with noticeable results, that means that you’re standing still and that’s a waste of time, so push yourself to the limits and beyond until you start making the gains you want.
If your workout has become too easy, increase the level of difficulty by introducing more challenging exercises or adding more weight. Don’t forget, progressive overload is the name of this game. Here’s one way to do that: on any given exercise, perform a moderate number of sets and reps (for example, 4 sets of 6-12 reps) with a weight that forces you to fail on rep six. After performing it like that for six weeks, you should become able to squeeze out around ten reps with relative ease. Once that happens, increase the load so that you are forced to fail after 6-7 reps again.
However, if your level of strength isn’t that great, work to improve it before upping the weights, because otherwise you risk injury. There are countless ways to spice things up: adding more reps, changing the rep tempo or increasing the overall training volume. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to perform the exercises with proper form and technique because if you injure yourself due to poor execution your progress will be stalled even further.
#2. Age is just a number
Sure, weightlifting in your 40’s may feel a bit different than it used to in your 20’s, but this shouldn’t worry you at all. And according to Johnson, in your late thirties your muscles are just getting started. They will have more maturity and greater muscle memory, and you’ll be able to make impressive gains without having to invent a time machine. There’s still a great deal of strength and potential for growth inside your body, so get rid of the negative thoughts and keep on pounding that iron.
And it seems that scientific research strongly approves Johnson’s claims. One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which compared people of different ages who followed the same routine for 8 weeks found that guys aged between 35 and 50 were able to build just as much muscle as those decades younger than them.
The one thing to keep in mind is that age, after all, affects the health of your bones and joints, thereby increasing their vulnerability, so you might want to take that into consideration when designing your workout routine. By choosing your exercises wisely and training with good form you can reduce the risk of placing undue stress on your joints. Additionally, make sure to support your recovery after a grueling workout by eating high-carb and protein-rich post-training meals, pausing for one or two days before you train again and taking certain supplements that help maintain bone density.
#3. Listen to your body
Whatever you do, never ignore the warning signs your body is giving you. In other words, don’t ignore the pain. The stereotypical “no pain, no gain” bodybuilding motto might be true in certain cases, but most of the time, it shouldn’t be the idea that guides your workouts. Muscle soreness and burning sensations are pretty normal, but excessive pain should be taken seriously and addressed properly, especially when you’re trying to lift an amount of weight that you know you’re not yet ready for.
If you experience sharp pain in any given body area while weightlifting, that’s a sure sign to take things a bit slower and know when it’s time to up the challenge and when it’s time to work on your form instead. After all, pain is your body’s way of telling you to stop what you are doing. Mindlessly pushing through pain can result in serious injury and a prolonged recovery, and that will definitely set you back even further.
#4. If you’re going to cheat, cheat big
Nobody is perfect all the time and that applies to top-level professionals like Johnson, too. Regardless of what kind of cheating (occasional cheat meals or an entire cheat day once per week) you tend to do, the fact is that it’s necessary and could even be beneficial for your performance and gains. Scheduled cheat meals work great for some people, while others resort to allowing themselves to eating all the junk they crave at least once per month.
But cheat meals can do more for you than helping you relax your willpower for a while. If you incorporate them adequately in your program, they excess of calories (especially carbs) can help you replenish some of the glycogen stores that you’ve depleted by hardcore dieting. This of course, will provide you with more energy and harder workouts. On the other hand, dieting tends to slow down the metabolic rate, thereby forcing the body into a “starvation mode” where it tries to conserve all of its remaining fuel and this leads to burning less calories and an impaired performance in the weight room. But if you give your system a bit of a caloric shock once in a while, you can stimulate your metabolism to work better towards your goals. And finally, certain studies have shown that indulging in the occasional high-calorie meal can boost the production of the hormone leptin, which increases the feeling of satiety, inhibits hunger and also regulates the body’s dopamine system.
According to Johnson, if you have to cheat, cheat big. Eat as much high-caloric foods as you want to eat, then return to your regular diet. According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, giving yourself a reward for a job well done can be a powerful motivation. Just don’t do it too often and you’ll be just fine, if not looking even better.