I was recently asked what one piece of advice I’d give to someone starting their fitness journey – more so with the goal of changing their body composition. And as my brain hates brevity, I ended up with 15 things.
1. Get on a simple strength training programme
Honestly, man: people will argue for days over the perfect programme and the perfect rep range and DUP, WUP, Linear and non-linear, and all this other shit that doesn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things.
Just make sure you’re focussing on progressive overload over time.
Simply: are you stronger today than you were 6 months ago? Yes, awesome you probably gained muscle. No? Well, you fucked up. Sorry. Go back and start again.
2. The bulk of your programme should have you performing the big, compound lifts, but…
This doesn’t mean you have to squat, bench, and deadlift.
I have clients and friends who find that the flat bench press, for example, hurts their shoulders and they don’t really ‘feel’ the chest working [even with good form]; using myself as another example, the back squat aggravates an old knee injury, the front squat doesn’t so I stick to the front squat.
- Bench Press
*for a lot of people who have aesthetic based goals, the trap-bar deadlift is a much better alternative than the standard deadlift. Reduced risk of injury and it’s easier and faster to pick up and learn [not as technical].
The main thing to remember is that muscle growth is a by-product of progressive stress [resistance] placed on the body forcing it to build new muscle and grow stronger – lifting weights and specific exercises are just the tools you’re using for this purpose.
TL;DR –– Do shit you enjoy, is safe for you and fits with your goals. As long as you’re adding sets and reps, and lifting more weight over time [weeks, months, years] you’ll make gains.
3. Quit the excessive cardio. Seriously.
If you enjoy running or doing cardio – more power to you, but the bulk of your training should be strength training and eating dead animal flesh. Unless you’re a vegetarian: then eat dead plant flesh or something. But lift.
4. Work out your calorie intake and track.
Download a calorie tracker app like MyFitness Pal and start learning what actual food portions look like. If you have time to watch TV, you have time to track your calories – Oh, I’m being a pompous dick? No. I’m being real.
4a. While you’re at it, also read this article I wrote
It’ll save you years of stress and delusion.
Before you start worrying about what supplements you should take, worry about consuming whole, nutrient-rich, foods and getting adequate sleep and recovery. Things that are far more important.
5. Start walking more. Just do it
Pick up a Fitbit and aim for 10k steps a day. Believe me, it’s a lot more than you think.
6. Get realistic with your goals
However long you think you need to get in shape: double it.
7. Your physique is gonna suck for a long time before you get to a point where you’re content.
And because of this, the majority of people quit.
Embrace this period of suck and learn everything you can; both the good (successes) and the bad (failures).
8. Abs are cool, muscle is cool – but neither will make you happy on their own.
Take this from someone who’s been there.
*NB – Abs most definitely contribute to my happiness, and being in good shape and health does make me very happy, but they’re only one part of the bigger picture.
9. You’re going to ignore the previous point because nobody believes this until they experience it for themselves.
10. Every diet works
Trust me. I’ve tried a lot. Just make sure that:
a) you pay attention to calories
b) don’t unnecessarily restrict foods, and
c) find the diet that you can stick to for the long- term.
Oh, and read this because it will help you out.
11. Fasting is to the mind what strength training is to the body
Get comfortable going sometime (16-24 hours) without food. You won’t die, and it’ll teach you to control your impulses.
12. The bad times are going to far outweigh the good times
Contrary to all the motivational inanity you see on social media; the bad times: the frustration and wanting to quit are going to far outweigh the warm fuzzy I’m so happy I could shit rainbows moments. But, this is good. Embrace this.
13. To add to the above
You see that thing that’s causing you immense pain right now – like your crush not paying you any attention because you’re out of shape; or because you’re picked on for being small and weak? Use that pain to motivate you to make a change. Leave all that empty, false engineered happiness stuff to those who are too afraid to face the truth.
14. Hire a coach (if you can afford one)
Guys waste an inordinate amount of time trying to work things out for themselves. Having an experienced coach will fast track your results.
15. No, you can’t have it all
There are things you’re doing right now that are not conducive to your goal. I don’t know what these things are for you, but everyone has them. Just be aware that if you want to change you’re going to have to stop doing things you might currently enjoy doing. (Bad habits).
So contrary to what the majority of the fitness industry tells you — no, you can’t have it all.