If you've been training for at least three months and now you're ready to kick it into high gear and start learning more about training and nutrition so you can get better and faster results, then this week's article is for you.
If you've been training for years and consider yourself "advanced," then the fifth and sixth installment in this series will be for you, so stay tuned!!!But don't skip this one - even if youre advanced, you might learn something new in this newsletter that you missed along the way.
#1 THE SECRET TO INCREASED FAT LOSS IS...
Ok, so you just got started on a program of walking or light cardio and some basic lifting, maybe some dumbbell work - nothing fancy. You feel better, you've lost a few pounds, you have more energy and you're confident that you're getting healthier.
But you want more.
You want the results to come faster. You want to look in the mirror and really SEE the difference. You want other people to see the difference too.
You want more than "a little tone." Maybe you want a nice hard chiseled six-pack with a small waist, or maybe streamlined, muscular thighs. Arms like Madonna perhaps? A Brad Pitt "Fight Club" body maybe? Nothing too crazy - not a miss fitness Olympia body or the massive bulk of a Mr. Universe - but definitely better than average.
Well, if you're prepared to STEP UP to the next level and pay the price necessary to reach the next rung on the ladder, here's how you do it:
The answer is very, very simple. As you leave the novice stage behind, it's time to start WORKING HARDER.
Were you expecting something more esoteric? Some secret Bulgarian periodization program and thermogenic - anabolic supplement stack? Sorry, but the secret is that there is no secret. A great body all boils down to outright effort and hard work.
Not counting the "genetic freaks" who seem to have been born with muscles and zero fat, there's one thing that all people with great bodies have in common: they all work HARD, HARD, HARD, HARD, HARD!
If you want to ascend beyond the lowly beginner level you simply have to push yourself harder. And that means DIS-COMFORT. When you're pushing yourself out of the comfort zone, it hurts. Frankly, sometimes it sucks! But outside the comfort zone is where you grow. Staying inside the comfort zone will only maintain you at best but usually it sends you plummeting into a downward spiral.
Most people retreat into the confines of their comfort zone the second the effort gets difficult. The comfort zone is a very dangerous place because if you slide back into the comfort zone even once, then it starts becoming a habit.
First, it's stopping just a few minutes short on your cardio or coasting on level 5 when you could be doing level 6. You stop at 8 reps, when you had 11 in you. Then you start blowing off workouts completely. Pretty soon, you're sliding back in other areas of your life; you slide back from making those sales calls; you slide back from spending quality time with your family, you slide back from saving money and watching your finances. You become.... A BACKSLIDER!
You can either be a backslider or you can be an ACHIEVER but you can't be both and you can't "hang out" in between - it's one or the other. Although you might think you're safe just "maintaining" in the comfort zone, unbeknownst to you, you are always in motion in either a forward or a backward direction. There's no such thing as standing still; ask any physicist - everything in the universe is always in motion...vibrating... growing or dying.
The ACHIEVER is the person who is aware that to "stand still inside the comfort zone" is akin to dying, so he or she is ALWAYS MOVING FORWARD. The only way to move forward is with hard work and effort in the direction of a specific goal.
#2 AVOID THE TEMPTATION TO SPEND (WASTE) YOUR MONEY ON GIMMICKS... AND LEARN TO RECOGNIZE A GIMMICK WHEN YOU SEE ONE
Once you begin getting a taste of what real hard training is like, it often becomes tempting to succumb to the error of looking for the "easy way." An electrode on your abs, a "fat-melting" cream, a pill, a drink mix, a drug - anything and everything except sweat and hard work. But shortcuts will always fail you in the long run.
You are setting yourself up for so much trouble if you give in to the lure of the quick fix. You see, it's all about the Law of Sowing and Reaping. This great law of life states that your rewards will come back to you in direct proportion to what you put in. Everything has its price and that price must be paid in advance.
If you were a farmer, how ridiculous would it be for you to skip the planting of the seeds in the spring and then go out in the fields looking for a harvest in the fall? How ridiculous would it be to stand in front of a wood burning stove and say, Ok stove, give me some heat and then I'll put in some wood?
But isn't it the same thing when you take a pill or attach some electrodes to your stomach, or smear some cream on your thighs and expect to lose the flab without exercise or eating right?
Even if you've made the decision to avoid gimmicks, in today's marketplace, how do you know what's a gimmick and what's legit? After all, these marketing people are smart - they know how to play on your emotions and make gimmicks sound scientific. Don't feel bad; judging by the e-mails I get every day, most other people don't know the difference either. Nearly all of these e-mails include this sentence:
Does "IT" work?
Here's how to tell if "IT" is a gimmick or not: If it makes getting in phenomenal shape sound easy and effortless, then it's a gimmick.
If it addresses the symptom but not the cause - it's a gimmick.
If your gut feeling says it sounds too good to be true - it's a gimmick.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck... it's a duck!
Do yourself a favor and stop looking for a quick ride to the top. The elevator to success is out of order - you're going to have to take the stairs.
#3 HOW TO DOUBLE YOUR RATE OF FAT LOSS IN THE NEXT 7 DAYS
How would you like to learn a way to DOUBLE YOUR FAT LOSS in the next seven days? I know, I know - sounds like a gimmick, right? Well, it's not! It's really quite simple.
To burn more fat you have to burn more calories. Most beginners start off with three days a week of cardio training. This amount of cardio is enough to get health benefits and it's enough for many people, especially beginners, to lose body fat. That's because when your body isnít accustomed to exercise, then any increase in activity above no activity will always produce results.
However, more often than not, the results begin to slow down a bit within a few months of training (commonly known as "hitting the plateau"). Then they scratch their heads and wonder why it's not working anymore.
This is why: Because three days a week is a great starting point for beginners, but itís often insufficient for intermediates to keep the ball rolling, or for those seeking maximum fat loss in the least amount of time (such as bodybuilders in the pre-contest period or people preparing for fitness contests and "12 week transformation challenges").
If you want a little more fat loss, increase your cardio a little.
If you want twice as much fat loss and you want it twice as fast, double your cardio - if only for a very short period of time to reach a peak condition.
Suppose you burn 400 calories per workout for three workouts per week. That's a total of 1200 calories per week burned. If you increased that to six days per week at 400 calories per workout, you would burn 2400 calories per week. YOU JUST DOUBLED YOUR FAT LOSS! That was a real no-brainer, wasn't it?
#4 HOW TO TRIPLE YOUR RATE OF FAT LOSS IN THE NEXT 7 DAYS
While we're on the subject of burning more calories, what would happen if, in addition to increasing your cardio frequency from three to six days per week, you increased the intensity so youíre burning 600 calories per workout? With six workouts at 600 calories per workout you're up to 3600 calories per week.
Holy abdominals Batman - You just tripled your fat loss!
Yes it's that simple and the solution was right there in front of you all along.
If youíre a proponent of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and you're thinking that I forgot to factor in the post exercise calorie burn that comes from brief, intense cardio workouts, then consider this:
Studies on Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), also known as the post-workout elevation in metabolism, or "afterburn effect," have shown that EPOC INCREASES with both the intensity and duration of the exercise session. Not only that, but if you do cardio daily, youíre getting this post- exercise metabolic boost every day of the week, not just every other day. Why wouldnít you want your metabolism revved up to the max every day?
By the way, this kind of frequent, intense cardio is how I reach 3 - 4% body fat for competitions: Six days per week of moderately intense (not low intensity) cardio, 30-45 minutes per session. For maintenance, I pull back to 3 days per week for only 20 minutes.
Naturally, of course this advice is for people who have at least reached the intermediate phase and have already built an aerobic conditioning base... and who have no health problems the preclude high intensity exercise.
#5 ALWAYS BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR SOMETHING TO MOTIVATE AND INSPIRE YOU
After the initial novelty of starting a workout program wears off, one problem nearly everyone runs into is lack of motivation. I can personally confirm this just by the membership attrition (drop out) statistics in my health club. Fifty percent of all people who join a health club quit in the first three months. Here's how you can prevent becoming a part of that statistic:
Always be on the lookout for something to motivate and inspire you - anything! Go see a movie, watch a video, read a book or article. Hire a coach or personal trainer. Get a training partner. Think about your goals and write them out repeatedly. Pick a role model of someone you want to look like. Attend a competition. Enter a competition. Hang out with people who motivate you. Ditch the people who don't support you (I'm not kidding - get out of unsupportive relationships like youíd get out of a burning house!) The list of motivational methods is endless.
Some people insist that "motivation" doesnít last. I always tell them theyíre right! Motivation doesnít last - but neither does bathing and you do that every day anyway, donít you?
Every day you must ask yourself, "What can I listen to, do, find, or watch to get inspired today." Then follow through.
I recently watched a movie called Without Limits, which is the story of Steven Prefontaine, the runner. Even though I'm a bodybuilder and not a runner, that movie got me so motivated I ran to the gym a blasted through a killer leg workout, smashing through several PR's (personal records).
I also have the videos of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics narrated by Bud Greenspan. If watching Michael Johnson wi.n his races and accept his gold medals doesn't motivate you, see if you still have a pulse.
For the bodybuilders, here's an old motivational stand-by. Watch (or re-watch) the movie Pumping Iron.
One of the absolute best ways to get motivated is to spend time in serious thought about what you want to accomplish and then write it down, which leads us to the next "next level tip"...
#6 SET NEW (AND BIGGER) GOALS
If you ever feel unmotivated and you want to get over it, just take a look at your goal list. What? You don't carry a goal card or a frequently updated, written goal list with you? Well, I guess we know why you're not motivated don't we?
Goal setting is not an event - it is a process. When you move up the ladder to intermediate status, the modest goals of a beginner are a thing of the past. "I am walking for 20 minutes three days every week" is a great beginning, but eventually, you have to move out of the minor leagues.
Goals are the fuel in the fire of motivation. Goals get you out of bed early and into the gym in the morning. Goals keep you on the treadmill for forty-five minutes when you feel like stopping at thirty. In a set of ten reps, goals are what make you push for that eleventh and twelfth rep.
Goals are so much more powerful than you can imagine. Read any book on the subconscious mind, such as "Psycho Cybernetics" by Maxwell Maltz or "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind" by Dr. Joseph Murphy and you'll begin to understand why goals are so important.
If you don't have goals...and if you don't have a new set of them every few months, then you're not deserving to move up to the next level. Remember, you don't get what you want in life, you get what you *deserve*
And one last thing - a goal is not a goal if it's not in writing - its only a wish (as in wishy-washy)
#7 MOVE UP TO A SPLIT ROUTINE
A full body routine performed three days per week is probably the best way for a beginner to start strength training. However, this routine gets old fast. Within months or even weeks, you will outgrow it and you'll need to add exercises.
The problem is, the more exercises you add, the longer your workouts will become. If your workouts are too long, you reach a point of diminishing returns and over-training. Stress hormones rise and anabolic hormones will fall. Workouts must remain brief and intense for you to keep making progress.
The solution is a split routine.
A split routine means that instead of doing all your exercises in one session, you "SPLIT" your body in half and train one half on DAY ONE and the second half on DAY TWO.
Adding more exercises allows you to:
1) Work each muscle more thoroughly and more deeply into the fibers
2) Work the entire muscle group; for example, front deltoid, side deltoid AND rear deltoid
3) Concentrate on each muscle more instead of spreading your attention out
4) Apply more energy and effort to each body part instead of holding back and conserving energy for the last few muscles
Here's a sample 2 day split:
Day one: Chest, shoulders, triceps, Abdominals
Day two: Thighs, Back, Biceps, calves
And here's how it would fit into the week if you're training three days per week:
Mon: Chest, Shoulder, Triceps, Abs (cardio optional)
Tues: Off (just cardio)
Wed: Thighs, Back, Biceps, calves (cardio optional)
Thu: Off (just cardio)
Fri: Chest, Shoulder, Triceps, Abs (cardio optional)
Sat: Off (just cardio)
Sun: Off: Total rest day
Repeat cycle beginning with day two workout
If you're ambitious, you have the time, and your recovery ability warrants it, you can do this split four days per week, working Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.
I don't have space to write out a complete program with every exercise, but you can check out my book, Burn The Fat, Feed the Muscle for that - It has four routines, each with two variants to fit your personal schedule, for a total of eight routines to choose from.
Here's one important tip when youíre designing your own split routines:
CHANGE YOUR EXERCISES, SET & REP SCHEMES, TEMPO AND REST INTERVALS FREQUENTLY! This will help alleviate boredom and prevent your muscles from "adapting" to the routine (Changing acute training variables every 4 to 12 weeks is called the "muscle confusion" principle.)
#8 JOIN A HEALTH CLUB OR INVEST IN SOME NEW EQUIPMENT FOR YOUR HOME GYM
Since you'll be adding new exercises, a good health club will put an almost infinite number of exercise choices at your fingertips.
Many people are scared to join a gym "until they get in shape." Thatís really putting the cart before the horse isnít it? If you're in this category, let me put you at ease:
You'd be surprised how supportive the environment is in a good health club. I've been in the health club industry for 16 years and I've ne ver heard a member or employee of any club I've worked in make fun of a beginner or someone out of shape. (Personally, I prefer to make fun of the blunders made by the "big-ego, know it all experts," but "gym blunders" will have to be the subject of another article.)
I've seen people who were very overweight in our club and the attitude of the staff and members is usually one of, "Good for you! Is there any way I can help?" If fact, you're more likely to get a derogatory comment from someone on the street than you are in a health club. You owe it to yourself to put yourself in a positive, supportive, caring environment and there's no better place than a health club.
It also helps to realize that everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone was "out of shape" when they started. We're all in the same boat in the early learning stages.
If you choose not to join a club, that's fine, but you'd be smart to invest in a few additional pieces of equipment for your home gym beyond the bare basics.
Let's assume you own a bench and a set of dumbbells. The next additions to your home gym should be a barbell set, a set of squat racks and a cable-pulley apparatus with a high and a low pulley. By owning these pieces equipment, you've just opened up a whole new world of exercise options for yourself such as:
Barbell squats, barbell lunges, barbell rows, barbell bench press, barbell shoulder press, barbell curls, barbell tricep extensions, wide grip lat pulldowns, close grip lat pulldowns, low cable rows, triceps pushdowns, cable curls and much more.
By the way, why so much talk about weights? Isn't fat loss mostly nutrition and cardio? Yep, that's true. However, I'm emphasizing strength training because it plays a more important role in fat loss than most people realize. If you're busy aerobicizing and dieting without hitting the weights, you're much more likely to burn muscle along with the fat. And when the muscle goes, your metabolism begins to go down the tubes too.