There are none.
(Shit, this is a long one).
If you’re spending time in the gym, hoping to see a vein in your biceps or some semblance of your abs, you need to pay close attention to a bunch of stuff:
- Your nutrition
- Your goals/desired outcome(s)
- Your focus and commitment
- Your workout program
- Your rest periods
- Your lifting tempo
- Your breathing
- Your form
- Your recovery
NUTRITION: What are you eating, and is it sustainable? Fad diets don’t last, which means your progress won’t last. Carbs are necessary for proper brain function, and building muscle so don’t assume that by going all Atkins batshit that you’re going to get the results you want.
Temporarily limiting some types of carbs has its place, BUT you have to learn all the rules before breaking them. And you’re never eating sugar again, huh? Let me know how that goes.
GOALS: Do you know what they are and have you written them down with a WHY and a HOW for each one? This is a crucial component, don’t think you can get anywhere without first knowing where you’re going and WHY. Have a plan before starting and then reconnect to your goals daily. Put them up somewhere you can read them daily; your refrigerator, or the bathroom mirror are good places.
I HAVE LEARNED: The quickest way to shut someone up is to ask them about their goals. Less than 3% of Americans have written goals. Less than 1% read and reflect on their goals daily. While I’ve always been thrilled to help anyone who needs fitness advice, please don’t ask me questions if you haven’t first taken the time to establish what you want, why you want it, and tentatively how you’re going to get it.
Otherwise we’ll just confused each other. No plan in the world will help you if you don’t know your ultimate outcome.
FOCUS & COMMITMENT: Allowing yourself to get distracted is a form of resistance and self-sabotage. It will compromise results and limit your potential. Unfortunately since most people are constantly glued to their phones, getting their social media dopamine fix, and numbing themselves with hours of TV, distraction is all too common.
Chasing the next shiny object, whether it be a gimmick, quick fix cleanse, fad diet or jumping from one program to another as frequently as you change your underwear will get you nowhere fast.
YOUR WORKOUT PROGRAM: What are you doing in the gym and why? Does your plan have a purpose? Do you wander around aimlessly with no direction, taking 10 minute rest periods between sets?
Your program should be built to support your specific goals. You CAN build a shit routine without intention, but again, you’ll spin your wheels and end up frustrated and confused. Research, and have a plan. Don’t do random things in the gym.
REST PERIODS: They matter. Too short and you limit your potential to build strength. Too long and you’re not going to make much progress.
Find a balance and keep rest periods between 45-120 seconds between sets. Rest periods will depend on your program, which will depend on your goals.
LIFTING TEMPO: Every human being should lift weights. There, I said it. I’ve witnessed the incredible changes in my clients over the last 16 years that I’ve been a coach, and I’ve experienced them myself.
There is arguably NO better feeling than having physical strength and capability. Not to mention having control over sculpting the body of your dreams and feeling really good in your own skin.
Anyone can do this. It’s never too late to start lifting weights.
All that being said, your lifting tempo matters. ‘Time under tension’ (TUT) refers to the total time a muscle resists weight during each set.
Move too fast with scary form and you either: a) Get injured or b) Don’t get anything out of the time you just wasted haphazardly slinging around those dumbbells.
Plus, you just look like an asshole when you move with poor form.
You also don’t have to go into a catatonic stupor. Experiment with different tempos but pay attention to what you’re doing.
Try this tempo the next time you’re in the gym: 2-1-1-1
* The first number (2) is the eccentric, or lowering, component of the lift.
* The second number (1) denotes any pause at the midpoint.
* The third number (1) is the concentric, or lifting, component.
* The fourth number (1) denotes any pause at the top.
BREATHING: This one is tricky because holding your breath AKA, the ‘Valsalva maneuver’ (it’s what we do when we squat heavy and go poop- hopefully not at the same time) can *sometimes* be super helpful. It can also be overused. If you never learn how to breathe properly while lifting weights, you risk throwing off your tempo, getting dizzy, blacking out and dying. Just kidding. But not really.
Try this: Inhale through your nose on the eccentric portion of the movement (going down) and exhale through your mouth in the concentric part of the movement (going up).
FORM: In order to develop flawless form in any movement you have to care enough about what you’re doing. If you care, you’ll pay attention to tempo, monitor rest periods, you’ll constantly strive to improve something during every workout, and you’ll stay focused, ultimately making your time in the gym count.
It’s totally fine if you DON’T care, just don’t be a poser and try to convince everyone that you do. Your progress speaks louder than your words.
RECOVERY: I saved the most overlooked for last. You have to match your recovery with the frequency, duration and intensity of your training. Ramp up your training, ramp up your recovery. Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night, do some self-care stuff; massage, meditation, reading, take a vacation, YOU time, sexy time, and take a walk in nature.
Pound yourself into the ground and you will never get to reap the benefits of living a healthy, fit life. Riddled with pain and injuries due to neglect, you’ll be sitting on the sidelines more than you’ll be in the game. What’s the point of that?
Well meaning people are baffled as fuck, and the more garbage information that’s pumped out into the world, the more ill-informed the masses will get.
It makes me sad to see so many people desperate, broken, lost and confused while our country gets lazier, weaker, and sicker by the day.
If you made it this far, you’re obviously awesome OR you just don’t have anything better to do. *Virtual high five*
Make today count. Move yourself 2mm closer to something you want. Then do it again tomorrow. Then the next day.