December is coming to a close and January is fast approaching. The best time of year to be a gym owner is nearing. The “New Year-New Me” crowd is going to flood gyms all across America. There will be the guy who hasn’t lifted since high school who swears he used to bench 400. The girl who wears $200 clothes to the gym, but is afraid to sweat. The grease-ball who talks on his cell phone while hogging up the equipment you want to use. And lets not forget painfully awkward girl who has no idea how to exercise so she has her head turned to the side and imitates that in-shape woman 20 feet away. Perhaps you are starting to understand why I currently lift at home.
For those of you brave enough to join a gym in January I offer the following TO DO LIST.
SET REASONABLE OBJECTIVES
Please don’t join a gym with the goal of losing weight or getting stronger or looking better. Define your objective! “I want to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks”, is a start. “I want to add 50 lbs to my bench press this year” is measurable.
DEVELOP A PLAN
You wouldn’t walk into a job interview with zero knowledge of the job or the company would you? So why would you show up to the gym and just wing it. Develop a structured plan based on your goals.
There are essentially two types of fitness: GPP and SPP. GPP or General Physical Preparedness is essentially basic fitness. A little bit of this and a little bit of that. Think running, lifting, stretching, and bodyweight exercises. SPP or Specific Physical Preparedness is specific to an individual sport. Think maximum effort deadlifts in powerlifting, throwing for a football quarterback, forearm exercises for an arm wrestler.
IMPLEMENT YOUR PLAN
Talk is cheap! Walk the walk! If your plan is to lift weights 3x a week and do cardio 3x a week you need to schedule these sessions and get to work. You need to bring the effort to the gym. You need to find a time of day that works for you. For me that means waking up at 5 a.m. For you it might be on your lunch break or after work. Just make sure it is consistent and you strive for progress.
Progression is the key to success in any fitness program. Math does not lie. You should be striving to beat your last workout every time you step in the gym. If you bench pressed 100 lbs for 5 reps last week you should aim for 6 reps this week or up the weight 5 lbs. If you ran a mile in 9 minutes last time aim for 8 minutes and 55 seconds. These simple little progressions add up over time.
Think about this. Johnny deadlifts 200 lbs for 5 reps on January 1. He deadlifts once a week for the next year and adds 5 lbs each week. That is 51 more deadlift workouts. Johnny adds 255 lbs to his deadlift and now lifts 455 lbs! Those 5 lb increases don’t seem so small now do they? This is very doable for a beginning lifter. Obviously, this progression will not go on forever or Johnny would be the strongest human in history. The point is to always strive for progress, otherwise you are stuck in neutral.
BASICS ARE BEST
Whether you strive to be the baddest dude on the planet or you want to fit into a sexy dress the basics are the best (hopefully, you don’t want to be a bad dude wearing a sexy dress…but to each his own). This means training efficiently. A set of deadlifts will do far more to improve your physique than a set of concentration curls. If I could only do three lifts for the rest of my life they would be squat, bench press, and deadlift. They basically hit every muscle in the body.
Starting out with some crazy bodybuilding split that has you training days a week with 20 sets per muscle is crazy. Most adults do not have that kind of time or energy. It is a recipe for failure and your joints will hate you. Plus, you will hate training and ultimately quit. More does not always mean better.
Think of training like a game of chess. Do you want to make 80 moves to win the game or do you want to make 10?
If you are in your 20s you can get away with more than if you are in your 50s. This means more training volume and wiggle room is allowed. I used to be able to spend 3 hours a day in the gym. I thought that was what was needed to have success. Yet the absolute strongest I have ever been in my life only required 4 days a week for 1 hour a day. The stronger and better you get the less work you have to do in terms of total volume. This is mostly because your body can’t handle the workload once you get stronger. Your muscles may grow, but your joints don’t.
Also, being realistic requires patience. You can’t go “OMG I worked out for a whole week and I haven’t lost a pound!” It is going to take at least 8 weeks to see any noticeable results.
You can’t out-train a bad diet. You can work and work and work, but if your diet is garbage your results will be sub par or nonexistent. I have belonged to several gyms in my lifetime and I have come across people who were consistent. They were there everyday working hard….with little to no results. They were in purgatory. Mostly because their diet sucked.
I am a big believer in eating for your goals. I know what a concept! If you want to lose weight…you eat less. If you want to gain muscle…you eat more. If you are consuming more calories than you burn you will gain weight period. The slower you gain weight the more likely it is to be muscle and the less likely it is to be fat (assuming you lift properly).
I don’t believe in some perfect macro-nutrient breakdown. I think experimentation is important. However, I always lose weight the fasted on a low-carb approach. I tend to lose weight too fast with this approach. As a long-term approach I favor Intermittent Fasting and carb-cycling. Read about how I do Intermittent Fasting, Lifting, and Cardio
This way I get to eat the foods I enjoy while getting all my vital nutrients.
Hygiene is important! If you are gonna sweat you don’t want to stink up the place! If you don’t sweat you aren’t working hard enough…period!
A BEGINNING GYM PLAN
If you do this you will be far better off than everyone else entering the gym How I would train if I was a beginner to strength and fitness
Add a few 30-minute cardio sessions on off days and you are good to go. You can walk, use the elliptical, stair-master of whatever floats your boat. It is all about burning calories and working your heart and lungs.
Don’t forget to warm-up before you lift and stretch after your workouts.
Good Luck and don’t quit come February!