It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re probably not happy with your general health. Whether you’re obese, or happen to have a body that most other guys would die for – it’s rare to find a man who is completely satisfied. We’re all striving to get that little bit more out of our training – it’s what makes us human.
As your fitness path progresses, you’ll start to learn more and more things about yourself, your way of training and exactly what you should be doing to help you along your way.
Whether or not you have reached this stage is irrelevant for this guide; we’ve collected six issues which can transform your training.
We’re not talking about advice such as “lift 100kg on Tuesday, then add an extra 10kg the following day”. No, instead we’ve cobbled together some actionable advice – that should help anyone whether you are the ultimate beginner, or the budding bodybuilder.
Ready to get started? Here are our six golden rules that can fuel any fitness enthusiast’s goals.
Fail to plan; plan to fail
It’s an old cliché, but we just couldn’t resist.
In most people’s line of work, there is an element of planning. Whether you are an actor learning your lines or a marketing executive detailing your future campaigns – there’s always a plan.
Bearing this in mind, why shouldn’t the same apply to your fitness regime?
The bizarre thing is that most of us hit the gym for an unspecified reason. We may have just had a large caffeine-inundated beverage and feel blitzed with motivation, or it might just be January and we feel as though we need to make a change. Suffice to say, this isn’t a long-term approach – you won’t be able to fuel yourself in this way forever.
The point we’re trying to make is that you need to set out a schedule that is going to work for you eternally. It isn’t just going to work today because you feel the “buzz” – it needs to work for the rest of the week, for the rest of the year.
If you think about life in general, this makes complete sense. The most successful people in business and sport don’t just turn up and expect success, there’s always a degree of planning.
As such, you need to plan the exact times you are going to work out. You need to make your workouts a priority otherwise, for whatever reason, they just won’t happen.
As well as planning, let’s not forget the recording phase. Before each session you need to determine exactly what you are going to get out of it. Most of the time, this is going to revolve around “x” amount of reps and sets, but it could be anything measurable that you find important.
Some guys will do this by session, others may do it by week. The trick is to review it frequently and act on the information.
You’re in it for the long-haul
The previous section leads perfectly onto this part of our advice. As we’ve already said, you’re in it for the long-haul, and your goals have to correlate with this way of thinking.
A lot of advice will tell you to set defined goals and this can work excellently in a lot of cases.
The problem with defined goals is that you don’t necessarily have complete control of them. You may feel as though you have put every ounce of energy into aiming to lose 30 lbs over a two month period, but when it comes to your weigh-in you’ve only lost 20 lbs. It’s at this point that demotivation sets in and for some people, this can be the kick in the teeth that just destroys your training.
Therefore, instead of aiming to lose ‘x’ amount, base your goals on long-term purposes. Aim to regain your fitness for the rest of your life. Aim to make better choices with foods. There’s no room for disappointment then if the unexpected does happen. Instead, you will know in your heart of hearts if you are on the right road – you can’t lie to yourself.
It should all mean that you have a clear picture to the direction you are heading. You can by all means keep some defined goals, but having long-term philosophies can allow you to concentrate on what you are doing, rather than the direct results.
It’s never an easy ride
If it was easy, every man under the sun would have THAT body (we don’t need to describe it).
We’re again going to reiterate that long-term factor here; the advice telling you that you should plan for years rather than those short-term gains that often lead us astray.
At times, you may feel as though your training isn’t yielding any sort of improvement whatsoever. However, as long as you are planning your sessions, exercising correctly and making the correct decisions – you will get to your desired result in the end.
The only thing you can do is at least try and progress for the whole journey. Whether it’s by adding more reps to your exercises, or even more weight, you just need to be making all of the right movements which signal progress.
Like anything in life, setbacks will occur. It might be an injury, or it might be that you just can’t get past ‘x’ number of reps or sets.
It’s worth noting that the only time you will fail is when you decide enough is enough and quit for good. Up until then, failure won’t have occurred. You just need to battle through the sticky periods.
Make sure you nail the absolute basics
We touched upon exercising correctly in the previous section, so let’s highlight the importance of this here.
The problem with what most of us face is that we’ve been hearing the phrase “no pain, no gain” far too much. While it’s true that you will feel the burn (and probably feel pretty good about it after your workout), make sure that you don’t judge your sessions on how much your muscles are aching.
Instead of jumping on the “what is the maximum weight can I lift” journey, look to tone things down a little. If you’re lifting heavy weights, but have the totally wrong posture and form it’s absolutely no use. In fact, you’ll go backwards – you won’t improve and you’ll probably suffer an injury.
If, on the other hand, you are focusing on the basics you will put yourself in a much better position. Get the form right, get your posture right and perfect it and your progress will soar. Over time you can increase the weight and maybe even your reps, but at the start just concentrate on securing the correct form.
You also need to make the right decisions when it comes to exercises
We’ve spoken about keeping good form – but you’ve also got to make the correct decisions when it comes to selecting the right exercises for your body.
For the beginner, the temptation is usually to “try a bit of everything”. Go on one machine, then after a few reps, jump on another. Suffice to say, it just doesn’t work.
Instead, you need to find what works for your body. Attempting too many exercises in one session isn’t going to cut it, while choosing the wrong ones for your circumstances isn’t either.
While there’s no hard and fast rules for finding a workout for you (you, or your personal trainer should find this out for yourself), most experts will point you towards bodyweight training. This involves the likes of gymnastics and weightlifting – both of which can reap terrific rewards for most of us.
Exercises like the bench press, squat, pull-up, push-up, dips, deadlifts and burpees are all “old classics”, but they have all been proven to work. You don’t need to incorporate any advanced, difficult exercises initially – keep things simple and make the right decisions with your exercises.
The next steps
Sure, it’s all very well taking in this advice – but what’s it matter if you don’t act upon it?
In other words, you need to take on board all of the previous five pieces of advice and actually implement them. To break it down, this means the following:
- Making sure you have a definitive plan for ALL of your workouts – not just the one which is happening in the next couple of hours.
- Having an arsenal of non-defined goals that will reward you for how you act, rather than what you achieve.
- Accepting that you will experience setbacks and it’s not all going to be a straight path of progress.
- Learning the correct posture and form for each and every exercise you perform.
- Learning what exercises work for your body and incorporating them into your schedule.
Taking action is one of the toughest parts for most people but if you can break your training down into actionable elements – you can make the long-term progress that we have been trying to reiterate through this guide.