Over three years of training, I’ve made good progress, but I’ve now come to a standstill. It’s very depressing. What’s your advice?


You have to understand that the physical state and the mental state are tied together. Each can have a profound effect on the other. Most of the time, this is good. Mental intensity can fuel a workout and a good workout can motivate you to focus even more on your bodybuilding goals.

However, that cycle can break down. In bodybuilding, as in other sports, we can come to a point where our progress slows or stops completely, due to physical or mental factors or both. This is what we often refer to as a “plateau.”

Sometimes it’s the body that needs a break. If you find that your muscles are constantly sore or that you begin to acquire nagging injuries that won’t seem to go away, there’s a good chance you’re overtraining. If this is the case, take a two-week break. Instead of hitting the gym, go to the beach, take a drive or go jogging in a park — anything to give your body a well-deserved break and time to recuperate. Don’t feel guilty that you’re missing a workout because, in the long run, your body will repay you for taking care of it by growing during this rest period.

Sometimes it’s the mind that needs a change of pace. No matter how focused you are on achieving your goal of bodybuilding success, there will be periods when you can’t psych yourself up enough to generate productive workouts. Typically, when this happens, you’ll find that instead of planning for your next workout, you’ll be thinking about other things you could be doing.

Lee haney rest on bench

Maybe you’ve actually made it to the gym, but can’t concentrate on the workout at hand. Your mind starts to wander and you daydream. This lack of focus is sure to guarantee a halt in progress, and it could easily lead to injury as well. If you’re thinking about the beach instead of that 70-pound dumbbell you’re balancing above your head during a set of pullovers, you could be in for some serious trouble!

Don’t worry. These lapses in motivation are normal and even quite common. Heck, even yours truly has had moments when Icouldn’t get “into” a particular workout.

One thing I would often do at times like that was watch an inspirational movie. Movies are great because they can take you off into another time and place to wrap you up in the situation at hand. One particular film I would enjoy watching before a workout is The Greatest starring Muhammad Ali. That movie would always get me pumped. Of course, there are also the Rocky films, all of which are great motivators. There’s also Excalibur, which I love. In fact, I used the score from that film for four of my Olympia posing routines.

Pick a film that motivates you and pop it into your VCR or DVD player before your next workout. There are also a lot of great bodybuilding videos you can buy of top athletes training and competing. In that same vein, check out Pumping Iron, which combines all of these elements — a motivational story line, great training footage and intense competition. It’s perfect for getting yourself psyched up!

If you think your body may need a rest, then by all means go ahead and take a well-deserved break. But if it feels like you’ve fallen into a rut mentally, why not take a trip to a video store and rent yourself a dose of motivation?