I was recently asked what one piece of advice I’d give to someone starting their fitness journey. Well, how about 15 things?
1. Get on a simple strength training programme
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 focusing on progressive overload over time.
Put 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.
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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.
While the ‘Big Three’––squat, bench, and deadlift––are awesome, they’re not equally awesome for everyone; and different people have different body types, anthropometrics, bone structure, and some movements may not be as beneficial to some as they are to others.
While compound movements should be an integral component of everybody’s programme, this isn’t restricted to just squatting, benching, and deadlifting. There are hosts of different exercises you can use instead. Some alternatives.
- DB Press variation (flat, decline, incline)
- Machine-based chest press
- Leg Press
- Bulgarian split squats
- All lunge patterns
- Goblet squats
- Chin up/pull up
- Rack pull
- Trap bar deadlift
- Bent over row (or any row variation)
The main thing to remember is that muscle and strength gain is a by-product of progressive tension placed on the body forcing it to build new muscle and get stronger. Resistance exercises are just a tool to implement this. And when it comes to tools, pick the ones that are going to best suit you, your body, and your goals.
TL;DR –– Do the 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 you’ll make progress.
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.
Also, read this. It’ll save you years of stress and frustration.
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.
6. Get realistic with your goals
However long you think you need to get in shape: double it.
7. Your physique is going to 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. To be clear, being in good shape and health does make me 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 a diet you can stick to for the long- term.
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? 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)
People 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.