I don’t know how many times you have to see it before you believe it, but here it is ladies – you aren’t going to bulk up and become a she-hulk overnight if you start incorporating heavier weight training into your workouts. Sorry, but it just won’t happen. Push yourself in the gym, train hard and don’t be afraid to build some muscle. You’ll look and feel better, not to mention one of the nice benefits of having more muscle is that you’ll burn more calories throughout the day. So put down those silly 5 lb weights and do some serious work!
Good muscle building workouts incorporate a variety of exercises, muscle groups and set variations. We’re only human, and tend to fall into a pattern and stick with what we like/are comfortable doing, but a stagnant workout is not beneficial to anyone. When you reach the point where you’re just going through the motions and not pushing yourself, it’s time to switch things up and try something new to stimulate muscle growth.
Along the lines of switching things up – this girl loves her supersets and dropsets! ☺ try adding some to your workout today. They really get your muscles pumping and you’ll feel the burn in ways you never thought possible…and love every second of it!
News flash, people: when it comes to cardio, walking on the treadmill for an hour is not only extremely boring, but also terribly inefficient. You won’t see any results from doing that day after day, especially if your goal is to lose weight and lean out. Step your game up and start doing high intensity cardio – sprints, plyometrics, etc. Any form of high intensity interval training will push you harder, burn more calories and complete your workout quicker.
Nothing irks me more than when i see men and women lifting improperly. It doesn’t matter how much weight you can throw around; if you’re not using proper form you’re just asking for an injury. Not to mention you look like an idiot. Too many people have no idea what they’re doing yet don’t bother to ensure they’re lifting correctly, then complain when they aren’t reaching their goals or seeing results. Proper form is very important when hitting the weights, or any exercise for that matter.
Stop guessing if what you’re doing is right – ask someone who knows. If you see someone doing an exercise you’d like to try or aren’t sure you’re doing something correctly, ask about it. Approach them when they’re in between sets or exercises and ask what they’re doing or if they can show you how to do it. Chances are they’ll be more than likely to help; just because gym rats look like big, bad meatheads, doesn’t mean we’re scary! ☺
When creating a trim and toned physique your diet is just as important, if not more so, than the physical work you put in at the gym. Don’t forget to eat! Many people believe the common misconception that if they skip a meal or two, it will help them lose weight and get skinnier faster. Wrong! Think of it this way: if you have a shiny new 2012 shelby mustang, are you going to fuel it with regular gas? I don’t think so. So if you’re doing intense workouts, why would you fuel your body with only half the amount it needs to get the job done? Don’t skimp on eating, and make sure you’re consuming the right amount of healthy meals every day. Also, remember to stay hydrated.
You can’t maintain a super strict diet 24/7; your body will eventually adjust to what you’re eating and the results you’re seeing will slow. If you have cravings (and who doesn’t?) Once in awhile it’s okay to give in and enjoy a cheat meal. Trust me, it won’t hurt you. And it’s a great treat.
I’m all for cutting out magazine articles, pictures of your fitness idols, whatever you see that inspires you to work out. However, it’s important to be motivated for the right reasons – because you want to better yourself, not become someone else. I found this quote the other day that I love: today, I compare myself to one other person: me yesterday. Don’t look at images of fitness professionals and become depressed and distraught your body doesn’t look the way theirs do, even if you’ve been training for a long time. Weight training is a marathon, not a sprint. And everyone is built differently. Certain physiques are more easily attainable for some people, while others will never achieve those same results. So don’t freak out if you bust your butt, eat right and still don’t have the same rock hard abs as your favorite fitness model. Focus on your body. The changes you are making, the improvements in your physique. Set smaller goals that are obtainable to keep your motivation level high, and make it happen!
In the end, it comes down to simple common sense - if you aren’t doing something you genuinely enjoy, you most likely won’t stick with it. If you want to get fit but being in the gym every day is not for you, find something that is. Whether it’s kayaking, jogging, hiking, weight training, boxing, swimming or something else, find an activity that you truly enjoy. And have fun with it! Chances are you will do it for longer and be happy to do whatever it is that’s keeping you in shape.
Written By Laura Jeanne
Laura Jeanne on YouYube: youtube.com/ljfit.
Yes they may be covered for the majority of the year, but that doesn't mean that they should be left out of your exercise routine. Squats and deadlifts work the entire body, and research has shown that they can activate the ab muscles far better than many traditional ab exercises, especially overhead squats. As you progressively train your lower body your core will become much stronger. Your core is required to stabilise your body in many other exercises, most sports, and day-to-day life, therefore your improvements in these areas should soar.
Your legs form the largest muscle group in the body and training with resistance weights will aid in the release of growth hormones. The benefit of stimulating a growth hormone response is important to bodybuilders and athletes as it has a positive effect on protein synthesis. It also promotes muscle growth and it affects the metabolic functions of your body in such a way that it can increase your use of stored fat while decreasing your use of carbohydrates for energy. So that's more muscle, less fat (therefore greater visibility of abs), greater strength, improvements in sport, and greater ability to do day to day activities...I still get puzzled when people say they never train legs...
For a bigger chest, train (not exclusively) on a slight incline, this will hit more of the upper part of the pectoral muscles which, when in a t-shirt, will give a much fuller appearance. Keep the incline to 30-45 degrees, as too much of an incline will bring more of the front delts into play, and take some of the strain off the pecs. At the top of the concentric phase of the lift, keep your elbows ever so slightly bent and don't lock out. Doing so also alleviates some of the tension placed on the chest.
Swap the barbell for dumbbells. Although barbells are easier for spotting, and great for negative reps, your hands are kept in a fixed position, which can limit the contraction on your pecs. Dumbbells will allow for a greater (wider) range of movement (ROM), and due to requiring more stabilisation, they can help even out weaknesses you may have between the right and left sides of the body. By increasing the ROM you are increasing the likelihood of more micro-tears in the muscle fibers. These will repair and become stronger. After a couple of weeks of using dumbbells, switch back to the barbell and you should feel a noticeable difference in your strength.
I see people doing 100's of bicep curls day in, day out, with the hope of getting bigger arms. And they get nowhere. Your biceps only fill up 1/3 of your t-shirt sleeve, with the other 2/3 being your triceps. Want big arms? Then you need to train your triceps too!
If you want to increase size, then you need to have the foundations of your program centered around compound movements. For the arms, this means close grip pull-ups, close grip bench press and dips. Reasoning is the same as the above point – when these large muscle groups are activated, a lot of growth hormones will be released. Very simply put, the more of them floating through your body, the greater the potential to grow, (growth is also dictated by a sound nutritional diet, so make sure you are taking in enough calories).
Then, by all means move onto isolation exercises – which should be performed using strict technique, aiming for 6-10 rep range, and don't train them more than twice a week. Also, don't do the same moves week in week out – your body needs to be continually challenged to induce growth, so mix up the exercises.
Personally speaking, late last year I focused loads on weighted pull-ups and dips and I hardly did any isolation movements. The result meant that when I eventually came round to changing my program, I noticed huge gains in strength with bicep and tricep exercises, and a noticeable difference in size.
Whether you've changed your program, introduced new moves, or are concentrating on the eccentric muscle contraction, DOMS are going to happen. That's a given! DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is commonly thought to be caused by microscopic tears in the muscles and the swelling associated with those tears. The pain kicks in 1-2 days following a workout (it can be sooner though), and rarely lasts more than 5 days. If it lasts over 7 days, go and see your GP.
The best methods I’ve found to deal with them are as follows:
Warm up: Make sure you perform a thorough warm up, which will also reduce your chance of injury! Increasing blood flow to muscles makes them more elastic, so they are more resistant to micro-tearing.
Stretching: Although studies show that stretching does not relieve the pain associated with DOMS, stretching the muscles when sore will help to build more elasticity in the new muscle fibers. Thorough yet gentle stretching of the muscle groups you've worked after each session is always a good idea, and make use of foam rollers if you access to them. Stretching will improve circulation to the given area, bringing nutrients to your cells and removing waste byproducts.
Supplementation/nutrition: Vitamin C and E are well known for their anti-oxidant properties and their ability to reduce the proliferation of free radicals. These are thought to be generated during the inflammatory response, which could potentially cause more damage to the affected muscle. Protein, EAA + BCAA and L-Glutamine will get to work repairing damaged muscle tissue – so consume your post workout shake as soon as your workout is over. It will assist the recovery process, but not necessarily reduce the recovery time.
Massages and Ibuprofen: If they are really bad, then a gentle massage and ibuprofen can help relieve the pain, but will not speed up your recovery time.
Yes there are lots of different supplements you can take, but all I'm going to cover here is protein, and the ideal times during the day that you should be consuming it. Whether dieting down or bulking up, protein should be consumed with each meal of the day. It is important to keep a constant supply of amino acids in the blood, so ideally you should be aiming to eat a meal every 2-3 hours. Just make sure your macro nutrient breakdown of each meal is linked into your goal. The result - if you are cutting or aiming to lose weight, this will keep your metabolism high. If you are bulking and looking to put on muscle, you will be providing your body with a constant supply of calories to help you grow.
Outside of those meals is when a protein shake can really be useful. As it is in liquid form it is fairly easy for your body to process quickly. So, if the budget will allow it, when are the most essential times of the day to be having a shake?
First thing in the morning: As you (hopefully) have been sleeping for a good 7-8 hours, and therefore technically fasting, a fast absorbing whey protein drink first thing in the morning will put a halt to your body's catabolic state.
Pre workout: 20g before a workout will ensure that your body is saturated with amino acids ready to start the repair process. Failing that, try to consume 8g of EAA (essential amino acids).
Post workout: 30 - 40g whey (or 50/50 split whey/casein) post workout will enable your muscles to begin repairing.
Before bed: As you will not be eating again for another 7-8 hours, consuming 45g micellar casein right before bed will keep your body drip-fed with amino acids while you sleep. Micellar casein forms a gel in your gut, slowing down the absorption process and keeping your body in an anabolic state for longer.
James On Facebook: facebook.com/James.St.Leger.Fitness
Whether it’s growth, fat loss, a competition or health, define what your goals are. Set dates and backwards plan to that date. Map out your strategy to get there and refer back to it often. Write it down with all of your reasons to achieve your goal so you can remember why it’s important to you. Keep moving towards that goal. We all have roadblocks, set backs and hardships, you can't let those define you. Let what you do to overcome them define you. I have to say, whenever I have something standing in my way, it makes me fight that much harder to beat the odds, even though the easiest thing to do would be to quit.
Log your weight, body fat, your nutrition, calories and macro’s, lifting days, body parts trained and Cardio. This will not only keep you on track, help you stay organized and in control of your goals. This will show you that you are always improving, Always getting stronger, and when you see your self-stalling out, Help you push harder to break those plateaus. It will help you strategize what you should do differently, and what’s working for you.
Every single person I know has the motivation, everyone wants to look like a Greek god or goddess. What's Lacking is discipline. When you don't feel up for lifting, DO IT ANYWAY. Chances are once you’re at the gym you will feel up to it. Never talk yourself out of it. When that little devil sits on your shoulder and tells you your too tired or sore from the day before or lack of sleep... Brush him off and tie up those Nike's. Get your butt in gear and do what needs to be done.
EDUCATE YOURSELF!! I lost 100 lbs on my own; I was in bodybuilding forums, reading books and magazines, following sites like cutandjacked.com. There is a world of information out there, don't hold yourself back by playing dumb. Look to people who have been there. When you find something that will work for you.. Stick to it. Give it time to work before you conclude that it doesn't work.
Hire a trainer, put your money where your mouth is. I am a trainer and I have hired trainers to keep me on track. Weekly pictures, check-in’s and stats are important to keep you on track! Chances are you wont miss your cardio and go grab some Ice cream when you have to send a picture to your Guru in a couple days!
You are the only one who can reach your goals.... sure support is great... But don't rely on it... It may not always be there. Don't rely on a gym partner they might get sick.... Hold yourself accountable to getting it done; you need to be your own support in the gym and at home with your nutrition. This is your responsibility and no one else's, don’t expect others to conform.
Nutrition and Training needs to be planned and prepared. When you walk into the gym KNOW what you are doing and execute the plan. Know what you are doing for the week, How many cardio sessions your doing, body parts trained Etc... Knowing ahead what must be done will eliminate procrastination.
Prepare your meals in advance... I cook in bulk and reheat... I make 10 lbs of chicken and 5 lbs of fish and store those in containers, I make Rice and yams ahead of time... and keep those in separate containers, and the only thing I do not prepare ahead of time is veggies its sooooo simple and keeps me on track!
Envision what you will do when you reach your goals. Fitness is all about the journey. Its so much fun! Enjoy it! Even the worst days are rewarding. Keep yourself motivated with new supplements to try out, New shoes to wear... new lifts to explore, new recipes. Keep it fresh!
This is when your body does magic! Make Sure Your Resting up!!
This is not torture... If you feel like it is.... Find a new hobby!!
Tarna's Fan Page: facebook.com/pages/Tarna-Alderman-NPC-Bodybuilder
Setting small goals and keeping records of my progress also helps me to stay consistent. The act of reaching goals makes me feel awesome! Accomplishing each goal makes me hungry for another goal. Without goals and records, I wouldn’t have any direction and measurement of success.
Keep your training fun and connect with people who inspire and motivate you.
Your hard work WILL pay off. Progress may sometimes seem very slow but
stick with it and you’ll be rewarded.
Focus on one phase at a time: bulking or leaning – For a lot of people, it’s hard to put on muscle and lose fat at the same time, including me. I am able to select a proper diet and training plan by sticking to one phase at a time.
If you are not sure what to do, ask the people who are making improvements to find
out what they are doing right.
Do your research and homework. I get most of my training and nutrition tips by reading Muscle&Fitness Magazine, Bodybuilding.com articles, CutAndJacked.com interviews, etc. There are always new research, techniques, and ideas for all of us to learn. Knowledge is very powerful.
Photo by: Ian L. Sitren, Christian Del Rosario, and Steve Chen.
1. Training to a point of momentary muscle failure, at which completion of another repetition on any given set is impossible despite your greatest effort, is the only way to force the body to resort to it's biochemical resources sufficiently to stimulate real growth! One of the biggest mistakes I see being made in the gym is when certain individuals will end a set of an exercise just because an arbitrary number of repetitions has been completed. This will do very little to stimulate muscle growth. A set should be terminated only when your muscles have been forced to the point of it being inconceivable to produce 1 more repetition within a working set. I use the word forced, because obviously you know muscle growth doesn't come easy, and literally needs to be forced! Any degree of effort in a set that is less than 100% may yield a bodybuilder some results, but never to the same extent that all out maximum effort will.
2. Training intensely is the key to stimulating muscle growth but don't mistake volume for intensity. All too often, people trying to achieve a higher level of intensity in their training make the mistake of assuming that increasing volume and duration are effective methods of boosting training intensity. Let me make this perfectly clear. Volume, and frequency have absolutely nothing to do with intensity! High volume training sessions can actually be counter-productive. So how do you effectively increase intensity? A. By progressively increasing the amount of weight that you use. B. By progressively decreasing the amount of time it takes you to perform a particular amount of work. (For example, I have made some of my best muscle gains from workouts that lasted no longer than 30 minutes.) C. By working your muscles at the capacity of nothing less than 100% on every set.
3. You can train long, or you can train intensely, but you can't do both. For every set completed, more, and more of the body's limited reserve of biochemical resources is used up in an attempt to merely recover from, or compensate for the exhaustive effects of the workout, leaving that much less left over for over-compensation in the form of more muscle mass. Long, drawn out training sessions decrease growth hormone, and testosterone levels, while increasing cortisole levels. This hormonal shift creates a very catabolic environment in the body that will result in muscle loss, and a reduced basal metabolic rate. If it's taking you several hours to get through a workout then you're wasting your time. I suggest never allowing any lifting session to exceed 45 minutes in duration.
4. After a muscle has been stressed sufficiently with high intensity training, you must not train that muscle again too soon so that you allow for the body to respond with a compensatory build up of new muscle tissue. You can measure your progress to determine whether or not you're allowing enough recovery time for growth to take place simply by taking note whether or not you're stronger any time you repeat any given workout. Some people have argued this point with me and have stated that there is no relationship between muscle size, and strength. If this is the case, and you don't need to get stronger in order to get bigger, then how exactly should you go about getting bigger? By getting weaker?
5. Training with submaximal weights and low intensity will be easy and unproductive. Training with maximal weights and high intensity will be difficult but highly productive.
6. A muscle has 3 levels of strength: positive (raising the weight), static (holding the weight), and negative (lowering the weight). All 3 of these aspects of any exercise must be focused on in order to stimulate maximum muscle growth. In other words, don't throw weight through a range of motion just to get the weight from point A to point B. If you throw, you won't grow!
7. Nutrition is important but I find that most people over-obsess about their diets. I hear people fretting over stuff like; Should I eat a chicken breast, or a fillet of salmon? A handful of almonds, or a teaspoon of peanut butter? Broccoli, or spinach? Brown rice, or yams? A half-cup of yogurt, or a half-cup of cottage cheese? High carb, or low carb? As much wide spread confusion that exists regarding diets that should be followed in order to burn fat, the premise of the whole issue is actually very simple. Regardless of what you eat, as long as you take in fewer calories than you need in order to meet metabolic and physical activity energy requirements, you will lose fat. Some people have made great progress in fat loss simply by taking my advice and eating what they normally eat, but just eat 1/3 less of everything with the exception of green vegetables, which are actually negative calorie food items that you can eat as much as you want of. Don't complicate your nutrition and make it more difficult than it needs to be. Fats don't make you fat, and carbohydrates don't make you fat. Calories consumed beyond the body's maintenance and growth needs make you fat.
8. Anaerobic exercise, and aerobic exercise are opposites, so therefore should be treated as opposites. In the world of exercise science the definition of anaerobic refers to exercise that is of high intensity, but short of duration. Opposite to that, the definition of aerobic refers to exercise that is low in intensity, but long in duration. This is why you shouldn't perform your cardio intensely. If you're doing your cardio, and you're gasping for air to the point where you cant carry on a conversation with someone, then that means your body is burning mostly sugar, and not fat because there is not enough oxygen present to burn fat. In other words, by performing cardio intensely, you have actually made the exercise anaerobic, so you will be drawing from into the same recovery sub systems that support your weight training, and consequently will short circuit maximum muscle growth.
9. Be patient! Too many people want it all right now so they become frustrated if they haven't built their dream body within a few months of training. When such a point is reached, many bodybuilders either quit all together, or turn to dangerous drugs such as steroids, or synthetic hormones in order to speed up the process. Steroids are insidious. They may produce rapid gains in the short term, however the compromises are extraordinary and should be very carefully considered. The steroid users that I knew 15 years ago that I wished I could look like are now either dead, or out of shape dealing with severe health problems. If you love bodybuilding like I do, then you will want to be able to do it, and enjoy it from now until well into your golden years of life. Don't get discouraged when progress doesn't seem to be coming quickly enough. I've been there before, so I know how it feels. I can tell you from experience that if you are persistent it will pay off eventually. It took me 26 years to put on 40 lbs of muscle! That averages out to roughly 1.5 pounds of muscle gained each year!
10. Select quality supplements. Too many brands on the market are all show, and no go. Many supplement companies are strictly out to get your money by using flashy, or fraudulent advertising to attract you to buy a cheaply made product that doesn't do a damn thing. I personally trust anything produced by USP Labs. This is a company that has always done things right the first time with each, and every product they put on the market. I have brought my physique to a whole new level in terms of strength, and conditioning since I began using USP Labs products. Lets just say there is a reason why they were voted #1 by customers in every category they entered in the Bodybuilding.com annual supplement awards.
Written by Chad Shaw, BodySpace: TheNaturalOne
1) Get to the gym. Nowadays, many people own exercise equipment at home. I.e. treadmills, Bo-flex etc. But your home is where people like to relax. Going to a gym will put you in the mindset of training. Not only that, seeing others working out will get you motivated.
2) Change up your rep and set schemes. After doing the same routine for an extended period of time, your body tends to get used to it. And learns how to do it more efficiently. Switching up your reps and set scheme will keep your body stimulated and on the continuous path of growth. Not to mention the fact that you won't get bored with your workouts.
3) Take pictures and write logs of your progress. You won’t know where you’re going unless you know where you've been. At times it is very difficult for us to notice our own achievements. By taking pictures of your progress you're able to see how much your body has changed and that will keep you motivated to stick with it.
4) Leave your Ego at the door. If the weight is clearly too heavy for you it is ok to grab one that's lighter. No one is going to think less of you if you do. Trying to lift more than your body can handle, may eventually lead to injuries. Injuries mean you won't be training for some time and that will hinder your progress. Practice safe training.
5) Remind yourself of your goals daily and share them with others. Motivation is like eating and taking a bath. If you don't do them each day, you'll starve to death and smell bad. Post pictures of things that motivated you to get started in the first place everywhere. Seeing them will reignite your passion. Share your goals with friends and family members. They will help keep you accountable.
You can be in the gym 24/7 killing yourself with weight training and cardio but if you’re not eating properly you’re just wasting your time and effort. What you put into your body will determine 75 – 80% of your results. You may see results in the beginning but it will slow down very fast. Proper diet means getting an adequate amount of each macronutrient into your body based on your body and specific goal. Your sources of each macro should come from quality sources.
The way you train is another key factor to the results you will see on your journey to transforming your body. I’ve always believed in quality of quantity. Make every rep count! This means proper form and full range of motion with each rep. Train by feel. If you are doing the movement correctly then you should feel each and every rep you go through which means you will be more likely to stimulate more muscle fibers. Stimulation = growth.
Remember your not growing and progressing in the gym. Growth and progress happens when your body is getting proper rest after training. So don’t over do it in the gym. More isn’t always better in this case. With a good pace you should be able to knockout a quality training session under 90 mins depending how many muscle groups you are incorporating.
There is no magic pill to get you results. Supplements are used to supplement a proper diet and to give you a quantity that your body is demanding from exerting more stress on your body from training. So don’t rely on your supplements. Diet is still #1!
Go into the gym on a mission and a plan. Have in your head what muscle group you’re going to kill and what movements you want to go with. Always train with a variety of movements every session. Changing things up constantly will keep your body in a state of shock and will promote maximum growth.
1. Find your inner drive. External motivators are nice. There are dozens of sites dedicated to famous quotes, inspirational statements, proverbs, and pictures/videos that can keep you driven for a little while; but ultimately, the seed has to be planted deeply within if there's a remote chance for your long-term success on the competition stage or in the fitness industry. This has to be something you want badly! How bad? More today than yesterday; and even more so tomorrow than today. With each passing day your desire has to grow. Everyday you live this lifestyle should be one more day of wanting to squeeze more out of what you are given and what you've earned.
People post encouragements to me all the time on facebook. Truth is, I don't need it. Do I have bad days? Absolutely. I have bad days and worse days. But the desire to succeed is embedded at such a depth it would take a whole lot more than a few bad workouts to unplug me. It's not about how many times you get knocked down. In fact, I probably get knocked down more often because I manage to get back up faster than the next guy. I know what makes me tick and the life I want. It's all internalized. Reading quotes does get me hyped up, no doubt. But more so than anything else, the willpower to thrive under any condition is something I look for inside. Why? Because that's exactly where I found it the first time I needed it.
2. Don't let anger drive you. Put simply: don't live your life trying to prove other people wrong; live life to prove you right. Not saying that proving other people wrong isn't a strong enough force to push you to a win; just stating the opinion that doing so brings too much negative energy to the surface. I have always believed that in time, I would become a winner. I don't remember who said I wouldn't be, there were probably too many to count. I was just deaf to those words because the only voice I needed to hear was/is/will always be the one inside my head. Nothing satisfies me more than the knowledge that I did something I said I would do.
3. Swing for the fences, always. Life has its upswings and down swings. What shouldn't change is your outlook on it. Upswing, downswing, you better believe I'm swinging. Life has a way of delivering curve balls when you are aiming straight, fastballs when you are ready to slow down the pace, and change-ups when you are looking for some consistency. Doesn't matter. The pitches might be different but dammit, I've only got one kind of swing: the big kind. Don't get out of the way. Stand your ground and swing away. Life might not be consistent, but you can be. Do it for long enough and you'll be justly rewarded.
4. Compromises are good, but sacrifices are better. When you compromise, you give up a portion of something important to find a middle ground. Works well for most things in life, but ultimately, when that just won't cut it, it's time to sacrifice. Sacrifice is giving up something important in it's entirety for a CHANCE to achieve something important. As is with all things, nothing is guaranteed. Still, you have to be willing to make that trade at times.
5. Carefully devise a plan-of-attack for every objective, and then....STICK TO IT. Most people have good plans, and most good plans can be used to accomplish great things. The problem is that quite often, people abandon these plans way too early. Consistency over time is what delivers the best results, so it always boggles my mind to see people change course as soon as they perceive difficulty or stagnation. Is change bad? No, fine-tuning is important for any plan-of-attack because you can't possibly foresee all the twists and turns from the get-go. Change isn't bad. Abandonment is. Some people stick to a diet and lose 10lbs but shut down the entire operation when the next 10 don't come fast enough. Some people train for 10 weeks with great progress and then hear a whisper in their ears and inexplicably want to make wholesale changes to their regimen. Will there be times when a call has to be made for a drastic change in direction in your pursuit? Absolutely. And I hope when the time comes, you are strong enough mentally to make that call. I'm simply saying this: give whatever you planned a real shot to succeed before doubt overwhelms all rational thinking. Believe me, if you thought about it long enough beforehand, you probably came up with a pretty damn good blueprint to work with.
Written by John Lee
Athletic Edge Nutrition Sponsored Athlete
Winner of 2011 Europa Supershow in Dallas Men's Physique Tall Class
Next competition: 2011 NPC Nationals on Nov 18th, 2011.
1. (of a condition, quality, feeling, etc.) Existing in a high degree; forceful or extreme: "this job demands intense concentration".
2. (of an action) Highly concentrated: "intense competition".
Everyone in the fitness industry talks about intensity. Supplement companies are developing ways to develop, manufacture, and sell it. Intensity seems to be the holy grail of achievement regardless of your fitness goals. But what is intensity? You can see the Dictionary.com definition above, “existing in a high degree; forceful or extreme.” That sounds good, but what does that mean in terms of reaching our goals? Everyone who has developed their own exercise protocol will try to persuade you into believing that their method is the best. We know that many programs work, but not everyone gets results. Many strength training authors will quantify intensity as a percentage of the trainer’s one-repetition max. Others will say that high intensity training is performing an exercise until muscular failure. Often times we see in magazines photos that try to visually encapsulate the training intensity of a professional bodybuilder or athlete, sometimes to an extent that is impractical to duplicate. Here’s my take on intensity: when you set out to reach your goals you must apply intensity. We can spend all day trying to visualize it, quantify it, and define it; but it will be useless to us we do not apply it! I’m not creating a new exercise program, but I will spur you to question what you are currently doing. Applying intensity to reach your goals revolves around three qualities: hard work, focus, and belief.
Work is the first quality that is needed to apply intensity. I mentioned earlier that many programs work, but not everyone gets results. Most often it is because that trainer is not working hard enough to elicit results. Fitness enthusiasts are often like members of Congress when it comes to the debate regarding High-Intensity Training and High-Volume Training. They compare the results of Mike Mentzer and Arnold Schwarzenegger when it comes to the effectiveness of either program.
Both men possessed phenomenal physiques even by today’s standards but subscribed to vastly different methods of training. While I was not around to study the other elements of their lifestyle, it’s reasonable to say that all other things being equal, the biggest difference between these two was their training. That said, what led to their similar results was the effort with which they executed their plan. They both worked extremely hard. Although Mentzer’s techniques were unique and he pushed all of his sets to failure, you cannot deny that Schwarzenegger was “intense” in his training. What they had in common more than anything else was their work ethic.
Should you train to failure? That topic is another article entirely! If you are to take your working sets to true muscular failure, you will have to significantly reduce your training volume to avoid draining the Central Nervous System (CNS). The muscles may be able to recover, but your CNS will not have the drive to complete successive workouts at the same intensity. My personal preference is to avoid taking compound movements to failure (in favor of periodization) and isolation movements to failure and beyond since those movements will not cause significant drain on the CNS. An example of this would be using a non-linear periodization protocol for your squats and deadlifts and going to all-out failure on your curls and dumbbell side laterals. This approach may be the most effective way to reap the rewards of both worlds.
Focus is inherently tied together with hard work. Without focus, there is no aim to your hard work. Goal-setting defines your focus. If your goal is to be a bodybuilder and increase your muscle mass then you must be focused on using optimal form for each exercise, a full range-of-motion, the feeling in your muscles (the “burn” or “pump”), and setting a goal that is cosmetic in nature. If your goal is to increase your strength then your focus is on increasing the amount of weight lifted over a period of time and setting a goal that is quantifiable. If your goal is to become a better athlete then your focus is on developing functional strength that will carry over to your chosen activity and improving your skills in that activity. While many people that train would like all three of these traits, it’s probably best to focus on one at a time. You must have focus in order to apply the proper level of intensity needed to reach your goals.
Focus is also what makes intensity effective. Often we see a display of what we perceive as intensity when we observe a lifter psyching him or herself up for a big lift. They are wearing headphones, jumping up and down, shouting, smacking themselves (or having someone smack them)! All of this expended energy is done in preparation for that heavy set or lift. While I’m not stating that these techniques are useless (as there are some very big and strong lifters that do this), it is certainly not for everybody. The lifters that are more animated prior to their heavy set or lift are able to channel that focus into their performance rather than allowing it to dissipate. Not everyone is able to do this, and some ought to do it!
Find the best method for channeling your energy into your performance. Once you develop a ritual for channeling your energy, do it consistently and you will get consistent performance! As an example, my current pre-performance ritual consists of this (it’s a bit long-winded): I take my pre-workout supplement 15-20 minutes prior to training (currently I’m using ½ scoop of MusclePharm® Assault), I’ll go into the gym locker room to change, I usually hit a couple of poses while I’m cold, and as of late I’ll take a 5-10 minute walk on the treadmill to “get my blood moving” so to speak and warm-up my entire body. While I’m on the treadmill, I’ll use my smartphone to look up a motivational/inspirational video on YouTube. Usually I do employ the use of headphones when I train alone either using my iPod or stream music from my phone. This is quite a complex ritual, so if I am pressed for time I may not do all these things and do my best not to become dependent on this ritual. Discover what works best for you, but also be flexible!
In order to apply the maximum level of intensity you need to achieve the results you desire you must believe in yourself and believe in the training method you choose to employ. What is the point of focused, hard work if you do not believe in your ability to execute your plan or even the plan itself? Proverbs 23:7 states that, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” While the context of this verse was to beware of those who are overly generous, it led James Allen to write the book “As a Man Thinketh.” In his book, Allen discusses how our thoughts determine the course of our lives. This is my first article that I’m writing and if I did not believe that it would be worth reading, I would not have typed this far! In addition to the workout rituals I mentioned above, I make it a point to not look closely at what anyone else in the gym is doing, as I have a tendency to compare myself with others. I have to focus entirely on myself to get the most from my training. If I spend too much time looking at what someone else is doing and I notice that they are reaping results, then my belief begins to diminish along with my focus. I also have to make it a point to not stress or dwell on things that I cannot control. You must believe in your ability to execute your plan with maximum intensity and that doing so will enable you to achieve your goals.
What about your plan? Is it the right plan? What if my plan doesn’t work? How soon should I switch to a different program? Novice and intermediate trainers often ask themselves these questions when they embark on a new training program. They often do this because they want the greatest results in the shortest amount of time (who doesn’t?); when they really just need a dose of realism. As stated before, many programs work, and I have tried many popular programs, but you must execute the program with the proper intensity, which requires a certain level of belief. Think about it, if you don’t believe that your program is effective are you going to put forth your best efforts? It’s doubtful that you would. Remember that the results you get are intimately connected with the effort you put forth, regardless of the protocol; and that it takes time to see results. Can you lose 100 lbs. in 3 months (aside from being a contestant on the Biggest Loser®)? Can you gain 50 lbs. of muscle this year? While this is not absolutely impossible, it is certainly improbable for most individuals and definitely not realistic. We must set a realistic long-term goal, with short-term goals leading up to the long-term goal. Don’t worry about if you get the number of sets and reps perfect, just get in there and get to work!
There you have it! You can look at applying the proper intensity to your workouts as a three-legged stool. There must be all three present in order for it to be effective. One or two of these elements without the third will result in you banging your head against a wall. Apply these elements to your workout and ignite progress in your training once again!
Written by Jon Habeshy, BS, PTA