The purpose of this article is to be your best and simplest guide to the body and the health of your dreams. Here I will present you with evidence-based instructions, tips and tricks to achieve as fast and smart as I recommend. The article is written mainly for you that want to achieve a body you can maintain all year round.
We will go trough the following topics:
Let’s first take a look at training. If your goal is increasing/decreasing your weight, «tone», tighten up or to get bigger mucles your training program should consist of mainly resistance training. If your goal is to become a better runner, rower, cyclist you should do more condition training. Cardiovascular exercise has a lot of health benefits so you might think about including at least a tiny bit of it. Condition training is however not necessary to burn fat. Whether you lose or gain fat is a matter of a calories. If you eat more calories than you spend you will gain weight. If you eat less calories than you use you will lose weight. It’s this simple and it’s this hard. You can’t escape calories in Vs. calories out no matter how healthy you eat. We’re going to talk more about this when we get to the nutrition-part of this article.
When you have picked the training form you want to do you have to start smart. Don’t overdo it. Most injuries can be evaded by not doing too much, too soon, too fast, too often with too little rest. Gradually increase the weights in resistance training or up your running time a little from workout to workout. This is crucial for long-term success. If you have a lot of motivation to go all-in – Great! But remember that if you’re training 6 times a week you’re eventually going to get bored. To achieve an aesthetic goal or a performance goal you have to be patient. Patience and adherence are the two most important factors to achieve your goals. You need to keep the motivation up for an extended period of time. If you’re a beginner you’re going to see so much gains with just a little bit of training anyways, so you don’t need to overkill.
A lot of people are afraid of resistance training. Especially women are afraid it will turn them into muscle-monsters overnight. Don’t worry. That has never og will ever happen to anyone. Building muscle requires time. A lot of it. With a proper training program, good sleep and a diet based on your goals it’s possible to get amazing results. I recommend hiring a personal trainer if you’re new to training. It might costs you, but how much would you pay to achieve your goals today? It’s worth it long-term. Spend some time finding a personal trainer that specializes on what you want and ask him what he can do for you.
If you choose to create your own training program without help that’s okay. Just because you don’t use a personal trainer doesn’t mean you won’t get results. I recommend reading up the training form you want to do and how to achieve results. This article should be first on that list. Keep on reading and I’ll teach you a few tricks. If you pick strength training you should also watch videos of different exercises on Youtube and try to film yourself doing those lifts for comparison.
Condition: If you like to feel warm before exercise I recommend 5-10 minutes on a conditioning machine. Remember it’s only the warm-up so you don’t have to run a marathon.
Dynamic stretching: This is small exercises that’s specific to your workout for muscles and nervous system. It’s stretching with movement. What you do is basicly telling your nervous system to make you more flexible which gives you a longer range of motion (ROM). A longer ROM is good for muscle growth. During these exercises you might even get warm. I recommend Youtube-ing «Squat-to-stand» and «Worlds Greatest Stretch» to start with.
Warm-up with weights: On smaller exercises that don’t target a lot of muscle groups I recommend one or two sets on 50-70% of what you’re going to train with. On bigger exercises like say the deadlift I recommend at least two sets on 50% and 75% depending on how much you can lift. The best tip here might be to just listen to your body and do as many warm-up-sets as you like. I also recommend using the same amount of repetitions or more on the warm-up-sets.
Which exercises you pick will influence your results. A good rule of thumb is to always use exercises that targets a lot of muscle groups whether you’re aiming for strength or hypertrophy (increases in muscle mass). By training compund exercises you save time by targeting a lot of muscle groups instead of doing every muscle one at a time. There are several big lifts and the variations of those exercises are many. Here are some examples:
– Deadlifts (Conventional, sumo, American and Rumanian)
– Squats (Conventional, front squats, Zercher squats)
– Shoulder press/Military Press
If you include a couple of this you’re all set.
If your main goal is to be strong in «the three big», which is deadlifts, squats and benchpress, you have to train them often and not super-heavy all the time. Use different loads, reps and sets throughout your program. 50%-90% of your 1RM (what weight you can lift only once) is recommended for strength gains. It’s important that the total volume (reps, sets, weight) increases slowly, but steady all the time.
If you add a little weight on the bar as often as you can you’re on your way.
If your goal is increases in muscle mass you should add some isolation-movements. The exercises you pick should meet most of the following criteria:
– Constant tension in your muscle(s)
– Long range of motion
– Constant resistance trough the whole range of motion (as hard in the upper part as in the lower part)
– Repetitions should vary throughout the week/month/training program to include all the different types of muscle fibers.
Use the exercises that you like the most and include most of these criteria to get stronger and more muscular.
Should you stretch. It depends. Stretching can help you achieve more flexibility. Is this something you need? If yes – yes, you should stretch. If not – no. If you have trouble squatting low enough stretching might benefit you. If you have no trouble with any of your exercises you don’t have to stretch – unless you like stretching of course. It’s a myth that you won’t be as sore the next day if you stretch.
A 2-minute break between sets on most exercises is a good rule. On compound lifts you might need a longer break. It’s important to note that just because you’re exhausted or sweaty don’t necessarily mean that your workout was good. Pick the exercises that you like and takes you to your goal. Start your workout with compound lifts. Train when you have the time and don’t set up for training 6 times a week if you only have time for 3. Train all your muscles often. Frequency is good for muscle growth and strength. Train frequently instead of doing 6 different exercises on biceps once a week.
Whether you lose or gain weight is a matter of calories. That’s how easy and that’s how hard it is. To find out how many calories a day you need check out this site:
If you want to lose weight/reduce your fat mass take your BMR and subtract 500 kcals. This is your target calories for weight loss. It’s possible to gain muscle mass at the same time, but it’s not optimal. To gain muscle mass effectively add 500 kcals to your BMR.
What should you eat? Eat the food you love! Eat a lot of vegetables, berries, fruits, poultry, fatty fish, lean meats, beans, lentils, dairy and whole grains. If 80-90 percent of your diet consists of this you’re all good, buddy. The rest can consist of pretty much whatever you want without concern for your health if you’re a healthy and active person. A calorie is a calorie whether it’s from chicken or chocolate. Don’t be afraid of foods or let some foods be no-foods. If you say to yourself that you can’t have something you bet your ass you’re going to crave that food. Eat as many calories as you need to reach your goals.
You don’t have to start with a 180 with your diet. Make slow changes. Start adding some extra vegetables to a meal or two during the first week. Maybe that’s enough to start with? Try adding another healthy habit once you’re cool with the first one.
Be patient! Set yourself small goals along the way and accept that it takes time to change your body. It will take time. If you let this be a lifestyle change and not a temporary thing you can do great things.
Sleep is more important than you think. Try to aim for 8 hours sleep every night. If you’re sleeping only 5 hours a night today try turning the lights off 15 minutes earlier. Add another 15 minutes of darkness every week and you’re there in 12 short weeks. Baby steps. Try avoiding bright light an hour before going to bed. Brush your teeth right away after your last meal so you don’t have to expose yourself to the bathroom light straight before going to bed.
Most of us are stressing a lot. Try to find ways to relax. Be more efficient when you’re working and have certain times a day where you can relax with some good foods or a hobby. Think about stress as something that makes you more efficient and focused, not something bad for your health. A new study suggest YOU can decide if stress is good or bad. Take a look at this video and read the article: http://blog.ted.com/2013/09/04/could-stress-be-good-for-you-recent-research-that-suggests-it-has-benefits/
Injuries and Pain
Avoid exercises that inflicts pain. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with the exercise, but maybe your body doesn’t like it. That doesn’t matter. Pick another one. Be sure that you’re doing it with correct technique. If it still hurts try changing your leg stance or grip. If that doesn’t work pick a similar exercise. If squats cause pain – do front squats. If front squats hurt – try goblet squats. If they hurt as well do a single-leg exercise like split squats. Doing exercises that cause you pain is like banging your head against the wall. No matter how much you do it, it’s not going to feel better.
To avoid injury in the first place: Avoid doing «Too much, Too soon, Too often, Too fast with Too little rest» and you have done what you can. That means you should not go from working out zero times a week to seven times a week. Gradually increase your training.
A short summary
– Train what you like the most and what is needed to reach your goals.
– Eat the food you love and how much is needed to reach your goals
– Sleep more, stress less
– Be patient!
– Try reading as much as you can about your new lifestyle. This article is a good first step. If you don’t have the time or the will to read hours upon hours of articles of conflicting advice; contact a good personal trainer and learn from him/her.
Good luck reaching your goals in the new year!