Yo yo, in this article I want to lay out the 10 things I believe are the key to building a great physique. If you decide to ignore any one of these you’ll most likely never achieve your full potential with weight lifting. I hope this article helps some of you to get the focus back on what really produces results. Reminding yourself of the basics every once in a while is the best thing you can do to keep yourself on the right track, we are all human and falling off our habits from time to time is normal. These ten commandments below are essentially the big picture we should follow as closely as possible. So let’s dive into it!
1. Thou Shall Be Consistent
You can have the best nutrition, the most superior genetic potential and all the supplementation in the world but if you don’t get your ass in the gym at least 3 times per week, every week of the year or at least 90% of the year you’re never going to reach the physique you want.
I know, sometimes it’s boring, annoying, you don’t feel like doing anything, your friends are calling you to party, you’re in a new city, it’s raining, your girlfriend dumped you, you got a new exciting date, you’re stressed or you just feel like there’s bigger problems in your life right now there is absolutely NO EXCUSE that can justify not doing a 45 min – 1 hour workout.
People who get results have the ability to shutdown that voice in their head that’s saying “you can skip one day… it doesn’t matter… you’ll do it tomorrow… you deserve to rest” and instead the just go to the gym anyway.
It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll suddenly start loving gym so much that you’ll be waking up every day happily waiting for the moment to hit the weights, although we all have those days but for most of the time it’s just a steady boring habit you have to go through because the benefits out-weight the emotional and physical pain.
I can tell you that even after 3 years of consistent lifting I still get that damn voice all the time, but I just ignore it and lift anyway. If I can do it so can you.
2. Thou Shall Eat the Right Nutrients EVERY day
There’s absolutely no way to achieve a great looking physique without proper nutrition. What you eat will determine exactly how you look, how you feel and how fast you progress.
You don’t have to become a nutritionist or a dieting expert but you do have to know the basics. It comes down to understanding how to fuel your body with the proper foods and what the food you’re eating is made off. Start by exploring how much carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water you need on a daily basis so you can consume these nutrients at the right time from the right sources. This will ensure a healthy good looking body and a sharp mind.
I’ve written dozens of articles on nutrition on this blog and I urge you to check out the Nutrition category after you’ve done reading this article.
3. Thou Shall Get Enough Sleep
I know you’ve heard this one a million times but it’s here for a good reason. While you’re sleeping thousands of processes in your body are working hard to recover your body from the hard work and to build new muscle tissue. This is when the growth happens, most people neglect recovery and are regularly over-trained. If you can’t get enough sleep (8 hours per day) it’s better to exercise 1 day less per week and get proper rest.
I’m amazing of how many times I see guys destroying themselves in the gym and then doing the same thing the next day without giving the body enough time to recover. In many cases they have a great diet and workout plan but the results just aren’t there because of not giving the body enough time to heal.
Novice lifters do have the ability to recover faster and since they can’t really lift very heavy weights the risk of over-training is minimal. However intermediate lifters who can pull some good numbers on the main lifts: around 100 kg(225 lbs) bench press, 125 kg (275 lbs) squat and probably a 150 kg (330 lbs) dead lift are almost always over-trained, these are the guys who I’m hoping to reach with this article.
They are very consistent, have a good workout plan, know their nutrition, had some great progress in the past but the results just aren’t there anymore. In reality 80% of these intermediate lifters are over-trained due to lack of sleep & increased stress in other areas of life. Get some sleep guys!
4. Thou Shall Train with Great Intensity
It’s not enough just to train, you have to amp up the intensity if you want results. The 1 hour you spend in the gym should be a trip far outside of your comfort zone. If you have time to joke around with your buddies, check your Facebook notifications or fix your hair in the mirror during the workout you’re wasting your time in the gym.
For me personality an hour spent in the gym looks like extreme punishment, when I walk back home it feels like I came back from war. I’m not saying you don’t have to train this intense (if you don’t want the best results) but I hope you get the general idea.
One of the most popular posts on this blog is about proper focus and intensity in the gym. Read it at Biggest Workout Mistake I See Guys in the Gym Make all the Time
5. Thou Shall Not Forget To Stretch
Most guys don’t take stretching seriously enough, it not only improves flexibility which improves range of motion which leads to more muscle mass but also increases your blood flow and massively reduces the risk of injury.
The best time for stretching is after workout, it takes only 5-10 minutes to stretch the muscle group you trained that day and the previous day to get all the juicy benefits I’ve previously mentioned. Old school bodybuilders used to stretch a lot, even between sets. I’ve done that a few times and it’s not a bad idea to try it from time to time just to get some better pumps but the after-workout stretch is a essential!
PS. DO NOT stretch before workout as it’s proven to reduce your strength and power. If you want to learn more on the negatives of before-workout stretching check out the study at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22692125
6. Thou Shall Stay Mentally Focused
I would say that one of the biggest challenges in weight lifting today is staying focused during exercising. It’s very easy to slip away in a stream of thoughts during your workout sessions as our minds are not trained to focus on one thing at a time. We could go around and start blaming stuff like social media or advertising that keeps reducing our attention spam but since most of us don’t have the power to change that let’s see what we can do to stay focused.
For me personally what helped the most are these 3 things:
- Regular mediation 20 minutes per day
- Mp3 player with my favorite songs
- Focusing on presence during workout warm-up sessions and using the Mind-Muscle Warm-Up Routine
Apply all 3 for the best results!
7. Thou Shall Drink Enough Water
Your muscles are 80% made out of water, the entire body is 60% water, this alone should have you reconsider your habits and how often you focus on staying hydrated. All the functions in the body use water one way or the another, as weight lifters our requirements for water intake are much higher than in the sedentary population.
I recommend an intake of 4-5 liters of water every day, besides water the only thing I drink is tea (mainly green tea).
Sports drinks are also not bad but you need to be counting calories that come from the sugar content and many of these drinks have a lot of simple sugars. I do not consume any sports drinks because I prefer to get my carbs from more nutrient dense sources like sweet potatoes, oats, fruits and berries.
8. Thou Shall Not Ignore Cardio
Cardio is often ignored by those who do heavy lifting, although we do increase our lung capacity and improve the cardiovascular system with heavy duty training I still recommend adding at least 1 sprinting session to your weekly workout regime and go for a walk whenever you have the opportunity.
Just one short sessions of 6 full-out sprints will flood your body with anabolic factors growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3), and increase testosterone levels. ( As shown in this study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21785293)
As for walking it not only improves your cardiovascular system it also builds up the VO2 Max enough to significantly assist with weight training recovery. Besides that it’s a great way to increase energy expenditure without stressing the body to help reduce body fat. More on walking at: HIIT vs Steady Pace Cardio vs Fasted Walk: Which Will Get You Six Pack Abs Faster
9. Thou Shall Not Ignore the Basic Lifts
So many workout plans out there, so hard to choose 🙂 If I had 1 dollar for every time I seen a “NEW REVOLUTIONARY WORKOUT PLAN” I would have enough money to build myself a replica of the Gold’s Gym. Not saying it’s bad to have variety but it shouldn’t be just for the sake of variety, people want results, we are all in this for results. It’s painful for me to watch guys running around playing on $2000 machines and doing some weird dumbbell isolation exercises that some dude just made up because he needed a new “next best thing” to attract guys to read his blog.
Fact is some exercises just work better than others and these exercises are proven over 5 decades to produce the best physiques mankind has ever seen. By ignoring these lifts you’re directly limiting your results.
The Core of Weight Lifting Mastery
Here’s a list of MUST HAVE exercises:
- Barbell Bench Press (not incline, decline or smith machine. Just regular bench press)
- Deadlift (just plain deadlift, not Romanian or stiff legged or whatever variation)
- Standing Overhead Barbell Shoulder Press
- Bent Over Barbell Row
Other exercises to consider once the above are included are:
- Chin-ups & Pull-ups
- Front Squat
- The Clean and Press
I’m not saying that isolation exercises don’t work or that curling 60 kg (130 lbs) doesn’t build nice biceps but if you can’t deadlift at least twice your body-weight you’re doing something wrong.
Core lifts mentioned above are hard to do especially if you’re been avoiding any of them, they will push your body to the limit and beyond. The benefit is that you’re doing lifts that are GUARANTEED to produce the BEST results. On top of that it will eliminate any muscular imbalance you might have which will prevent injuries and ensure long term progress for the entire body.
10. Thou Shall NEVER Stop Learning
One of the main things that separates people who reach their goals from those who don’t is the fact that they never stop learning new ideas and trying new things. The more you know about fitness and health the faster you’ll achieve your goals and the more motivated you’ll be to pursue them.
The only reason why people fail at dieting or gaining muscle is their own lack of will to explore and seek out the right information that can be applied to their particular situation.
My favorite things to read are books and recent studies, there is also a few blogs on the internet who still “keep it real” but generally it’s not very easy to find quality information out there. Still this is not an excuse to ignore and stop reading.
Here’s a short list of my Top 5 favorite books that I recommend everyone to check out if you want to learn more about building muscle, increasing strength and nutrition:
- Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe
- Beyond Brawn: The Insider’s Encyclopedia on How to Build Muscle and Might by Stuart McRobert
- Bodybuilding: From Heavy Duty to SuperSlow by Craig Cecil
- The Stubborn Fat Solution by Lyle McDonald
- A Guide to Flexible Dieting by Lyle McDonald
Have fun reading these books and I hope you enjoyed this article.
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