“Excuses are just lies we tell ourselves.” –Unknown
The first time I heard that phrase was in 1998, when I attended a weekend seminar with motivational guru Tony Robbins that concluded with walking across hot coals at 2:00 a.m. – really. It’s a powerful statement with more truth behind it than nearly all of us would care to admit. We all have things in our lives we wanted to pursue, whether it was a career, a relationship, a college degree, our own business, and so on. Yet we never did, or we may have started to chase those dreams and goals but gave up along the way. Why? There were always excuses to offer, often a whole litany of them. On the surface, these justifications for not achieving or even pursuing our goals seemed valid. On further inspection, and particularly when we are able to take a step back and view the situation from a more objective point of view, most if not all of our excuses are exposed as pure bullshit. When we give power and validation to our alleged reasons for remaining mediocre and unsatisfied, our goals for improvement crumble like a house of cards.
We fitness-conscious people are no different. We all have a vision in our heads of our own ideal physique. We also have plenty of excuses why we don’t look the way we wish we did. What do you say we run through the top six most common excuses and tear them apart so you can get on track toward making progress?
I have skinny genes.
Before I begin, let me state for the record that genetics are a very real and legitimate factor when it comes to physiques. The champion athletes you see on fitnessrxformen.com are all among the rare, gifted, genetic elite. They have advantages in bone structure, muscle belly length and shape, muscle fiber makeup, metabolism, and even androgen receptors that the rest of us were simply not blessed with. Now let’s put all that aside, because comparing yourself to them is like a guy shooting hoops at his local YMCA comparing himself to the late Kobe Bryant. We all start from somewhere, and we all must do the best with what we were given. Like a lot of you, I was the skinny kid, whom my asshole peers taunted with the nickname “Scrawny,” as it rhymed with Ronnie (so clever!). When I entered ninth grade in September of 1983, just about to turn 14, I was 4-foot-11 and 90 pounds – not even heavy enough to be a 98-pound weakling. Every ounce of muscle I gained was earned the hard way, so I know the struggles those with ectomorphic tendencies deal with.
Your metabolism is like a nuclear reactor, incinerating everything you eat and making any type of weight gain a monumental challenge. You might have lighter bones and narrow hips, which means you’re not built for super strength. All this means is that you will need to work harder and be more diligent about taking in an abundance of quality food on a consistent basis. Crying about it is like a person born into poverty complaining about how much tougher it is for them to eventually become wealthy. But aren’t those the most inspirational stories? And those of us who started off skinny typically have an easier time staying lean than others do. We can often get away with eating things like pizza and fries that would rapidly turn those with a slower metabolism into a fat-ass. Every bit of muscle you gain will be more impressive because it will be lean and defined, not soft and doughy. So maybe you’re what we call a “hardgainer.” Hard is very different from impossible! Train hard and eat right long enough, and I promise you there will come a day when no one will believe you were ever skinny in the first place.
I have fat genes.
And now the flipside – you were meant to be fat! If everyone in your family is obese, it is very likely there is a genetic component involved along with lifestyle and habits. Again, so what? You will have to be a lot more diligent with your nutrition in a different way, avoiding junk food and fast food and taking in cleaner sources of nutrients. You probably have thicker joints, heavier bones, and wider hips, which will serve you well in your war on the weights. When I was young, I was under the mistaken impression that fat people were all blessed with tremendous strength. That wasn’t quite true of course, but it wasn’t completely off-base, either. Those of you who are naturally “husky” do tend to have more natural strength to begin with and tend to gain power in a linear progression. Most of the elite powerlifters and strongman competitors have “fat genes” and could easily become obese if they stopped training and ate mountains of the wrong types of foods.
More relevant to our discussion with regards to developing your physique is that you will never have a problem gaining weight. Granted, great care must be taken so that a disproportionate amount of this weight accumulation isn’t in the form of body fat, but muscle mass will also come to you with relative ease. You’re actually in a much better spot than those with skinny genes, as anyone can lose fat with a strict diet and sufficient cardio. The same can’t be said about putting on muscle. There are some unlucky individuals who will train like madmen and eat enough to feed an army, yet will never have much size to show for their efforts. Body fat is far more cooperative and is guaranteed to come off if you restrict calories and increase your activity level.
I’m not on drugs.
I couldn’t wait to get to this one! First off, I would never insult your intelligence and ignore just how powerful performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) like steroids, human growth hormone, insulin, etc. are when it comes to building extreme amounts of muscle mass. The fact is, anyone would have bigger muscles on drugs than they would if not using drugs, all other factors such as training, nutrition, and rest being equal. It’s also true that some of the larger-than-life physiques you see on the Internet would not be nearly as freaky and cartoonish without chemical enhancement. That does not negate the fact that anyone can also become substantially bigger and stronger from their starting point without the use of PEDs. I genuinely miss the old days, when steroids were a taboo subject, and many were unaware that they even existed and were used. In that more innocent era, plenty of men got very big and very strong naturally, because they didn’t have the limiting belief that such progress was impossible without chemical assistance.
When I tell people that I built most of my size naturally and was using very heavy weights long before my first cycle at age 27, I can tell most think I’m lying through my teeth. But it’s the God’s honest truth. As a natural bodybuilder, I competed in excellent condition at 5-foot-8 and 181 pounds (double the bodyweight I started training at). On gear many years later, my best stage weight was 202-205 pounds. Naturally, I squatted 405-455 for 10-12 deep reps every week, could press 130s overhead for 10, did rack pulls with 725, and so on. Nowadays, I get messages every day from young guys who hardly look like they train at all asking me about how to use gear. They have very little muscle mass, and they are convinced they can’t get any bigger unless they start sticking a needle in their ass. It makes me sad that they have such low expectations for what their body can achieve on its own, because anyone can make great strides naturally before they eventually hit a plateau in which drugs would take them past it. Most people can continue to gain size and strength for a period of five to 10 years before they reach that point.
Will drugs get you faster results? Of course! But to think you must rely on drugs to make any type of gains is ridiculous, especially if you’re in the age range of 16 to 25 and your body’s natural hormone production is in overdrive.
I can’t eat all that food.
This excuse is child’s play to refute. You can eat all that food; you just don’t want to. I say it all the time, but eating is by far the hardest part of building up your physique. We all love to train. It’s a blast! We don’t all love to shop for food, cook a bunch of food, wash dishes, pots and pans, and not everyone is down with eating very specific foods at very specific, frequent intervals, every day. It’s a job! When I’ve had to give “the talk” to thousands of aspiring professional physique athletes including bodybuilders seeking guidance as they were set to embark on their journey, the most common objection was all that eating. “I can’t eat six times a day!” Again, you can. You would just need to figure out how, given your own situation. If medical doctors, ER nurses, and firefighter/paramedics have been able to somehow manage to do it, you can too. You will have to buy food in bulk and prep food in mass quantities, freezing much of it to thaw out and eat days later.
As for graduating from eating the standard three square meals a day to double that amount, you would need to work up to that over a few weeks’ time. Eventually it becomes routine, and you will always have meals cooked to eat at certain times every day and night. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that there are now “meal prep” companies catering to fitness-conscious people including CrossFit athletes that will ship precooked, preportioned, and prepackaged meals frozen to you. It’s a bit pricier than buying and cooking the food yourself, but you’re paying for the tremendous convenience and the fact that you are saving a ton of time cooking and cleaning up. The meals also travel well, which is why so many people bring them to work. So if you don’t know how to cook, don’t have the time, or just can’t be bothered, look into a meal-prep company. Once the nutrition matches your training, meaning you have the right nutritional support in the form of multiple quality meals, your body really starts to change.
I have injuries.
Any time I hear someone tell me they had to stop training because they hurt their back, their shoulder, their knee, or whatever, I want to do a face-palm. The reality is that almost everyone who trains heavy enough to build more muscle mass than the average Joe is eventually going to suffer an injury, if not many injuries. I won’t get into mine, as we could fill an entire article with that conversation. You can be like so many others and let that injury put a stop to your progress and any goals you may have had for your physique, or you can soldier on. I’m not saying to be stupid and hurt yourself even worse. If the injury is severe, seek medical attention for it. Get a referral for an orthopedic specialist, as your general practitioner is not trained to deal with injuries and will usually just advise you to stop lifting weights. Depending on the injury, the solution could be as simple as rest and ice, or in the most serious cases, surgery might be required. You might need to train around it for a while, or there may come a day when certain exercises simply can’t be trained heavy, or even at all anymore. But where there is a will, there is a way. If you are truly determined to keep training and working on your physique, injuries will only slow you down, not stop you.
I have to work/study/take care of kids.
I saved the best for last! There is a myth that’s been circulating for years that it’s impossible to have a killer body or look like a champion physique athlete if you have to do anything other than eat, train, and sleep. I can’t do all that … I have to work! I have kids! I go to school! Well, guess what? Literally millions of men and women have managed to train, eat, and sleep while doing all those other things too. I have known plenty of people who were able to win contests while working full time and taking care of children. It’s all about time management and preparation. You probably won’t have a lot of time left over for leisure, but what were you going to do with that time anyway? Watch TV? Go out to bars and get shit-faced? Scroll through social media for hours, or watch endless videos on YouTube? We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How we use those 24 hours is up to us. If you are serious about getting the body you’ve always wanted, you will find or make the time to train and eat, regardless of how busy you are. It’s like dating. If you meet someone and you’re not that into them, the easiest way to brush them off is to tell them you’re just too busy with work or kids, and you don’t have the time for a relationship. But we both know that if you’re head over heels for someone new, you will find a way to be with them no matter what it takes.
I want to end this with another appropriate quote: “Excuses are like assholes – everyone’s got one.”
You can choose to make excuses and let those excuses stop you from having the physique you want and that deep down, you know you can achieve if you put the time and effort in. Or you can refuse to accept any excuse that stands between you and your goals and dreams. The choice is yours!