Self-Imposed Bodybuilding Limitations – Bodybuilding Success

The longer I’m around the iron game the more I realize that your attitude, expectations, and thought habits are the most important aspects of bodybuilding success. Everybody seems to have certain mental stumbling blocks.  “I can’t do anymore than 255 on the bench no matter how hard I try!”  Or… “My arms will never grow past 15 inches!”

Many of these things are self-imposed limitations that only exist in your mind. Be honest…how long have you been using the same weights or rep schemes
in your current routine?

Have you really been pushing yourself to improve and use more weight? Even a 5 pound increase per month is a 60 pound increase after a year.  But I can guarantee you this…

If you’ve been using the same weight and reps month in and month out you’re never gonna grow! You know what the definition of insanity is don’t you? Doing the same thing you’ve been doing but expecting different results.


The name of the game to keep you growing is progressive resistance. You gotta use more weight (my preference) or do more reps than you did the last time with the same weight. And if you’re stuck using the same weights all the time because of self-imposed limitations, things are never going to get better. You’re just not gonna grow!

Listen here, small but consistent increases in training weights in the basic exercises equal big muscle increases over time (with the caveat that you’re eating correctly to support muscle mass growth. It is possible to make good strength increases without much muscle mass increases. For maximum muscle mass, diet is the key.)

In fact that last statement is so important, I’m going to repeat it as a formula:

Small, consistent increases in training weights in the basic exercises = Big muscle increases over time!

So what usually stops us from pushing ourselves to consistently increase our training poundages? Usually fear and self imposed limitations. How do you overcome your self-imposed mental limitations? You make a decision to overcome them.


For example, I had been stuck for quite a few months due to some self-imposed mental limitations (and to be quite honest a little laziness, too.) So back in March of this year I decided that heavy iron is what I’m going to strive for and work in the 4 to 6 rep range for a while in the big basic exercises.

I started out doing bent over barbell rows with 135 pounds. After all, that’s about the most I’ve ever done in that exercise. (Self-imposed limitation #1).

And besides I tore a muscle in my lower back 15 years ago, so I need to be careful (Self-imposed mental limitation #2. True to a point…you should ALWAYS be careful and use good form in your exercises. But this was just an excuse not to push myself.)

And I also have scoliosis (curvature) of the mid back so I can’t really use heavy weights in the bent over barbell row. (Self imposed limitation #3. No doctor ever told me this or said I had to restrict weight lifting activities!)

I was fed up with not progressing and decided self-imposed limitations be damned! This was back around the first part of March 2002. The other day (July 5, 2002) when I worked back I did 2 sets of 5 reps with 255 pounds in the bent over row.

And that was after doing 2 sets of chins with an additional 70 pounds hung from a weight belt! Just 4 short months ago I never would have believed I could handle that kind of weight.

So how did I do it?

I threw out my self-imposed mental limitations and worked at consistently adding small increases as often as possible to my training pound ages.


I’ve made almost as equally impressive gains in my other exercises, too. So what effect did this have on my physique? I started out in March at a fat, out of shape body weight of 165 pounds with about 18% body fat. I had been training haphazardly and my diet sucked. I had lost about 10 pounds of muscle mass by being lazy and making excuses.

Now (July 2002) I weigh 185 pounds at approx. 10% body fat. Granted I’m not in contest shape but I’ve added some significant muscle mass and even lowered my body fat %. I actually hit 190 in May but started eating a little cleaner to get my body fat % down.

Now keep in mind, I was eating a diet specifically for adding muscle mass which included a lot of high quality protein foods.

I’m not telling you all this so I can beat my chest and say “Hey look what I did!” I just hope to inspire you and show you what you can accomplish once you get rid of your self-imposed mental limitations.