The signs are clear: Winter is winding down and the first hints of warmer weather are in the air. Before you know it, Memorial day will be upon us along with outdoor barbecues, pool parties and trips to the beach. That means you’ll be wearing less clothing, showing off some skin. Is your bod ready?
All too often, people wait until the warm weather approaches before they begin exercising, only to be frustrated that there isn’t enough time shed those unwanted pounds they’ve accumulated and tone up. Realize that fitness is not an instant gratification process. If you want to want to look good in that tank-top or bikini by the summer, start training early. This means now!
Here are three tips to set you on the proper exercise path. Follow these tenets and you’ll be well on your way to a hot summer body.
Create a Game Plan
You wouldn’t embark on a road trip without mapping out your destination, right? If you did, you’d be bound to get lost. Yet, in effect, this is often the way people approach their workouts. It is all too common for a person to aimlessly wander around the gym thinking, “What should I do now?” Clearly, such an approach is inefficient. There is an old adage that states: Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. With respect to exercise, never was a saying more apropos. Without a definitive game plan, it is only a matter of time before you hit a plateau.
The first step in creating a game plan is to clarify your fitness goals. Determine what you want to get out of your training efforts. Is it more size? Better symmetry? Enhanced definition? Each of these objectives requires specific training protocols and, thus, a different game plan. By defining exactly where you want to go, you’ll have a much easier time getting there.
Once you have qualified your goals, you then can formulate a routine. It is important to plan out each workout in advance. You must know precisely what you are going to do prior to entering the gym. Decide on the exercises, sets and reps that you will perform. Write them down, if necessary. You can download a free customized exercise diary from my site by clicking on the highlighted link (just scroll down and click on the PDF icon). Account for any possible contingencies. In this way, nothing will be left to chance.
During training, avoid any interruptions or distractions that might arise. Now is not the time to socialize or daydream. Save these activities until after you’ve completed your last set. All of your energies should be focused on carrying out your game plan. Remember, your time in the gym is precious. If you want to make ongoing progress, make sure that every moment is spent productively.
Vary Your Routine
It is amazing how many people go to the gym and perform the same workout from one session to the next. Day after day, month after month, year after year, their routines don’t change. How boring! When training becomes mundane, apathy is bound to set in. Ultimately, motivation wanes and a plateau is sure to follow.
The best way to avoid complacency is by constantly varying your exercise regimen. Variety is the spice of training. Not only does it help to keep your workouts fresh, but it also fosters more complete development of your physique. You see, the human body is a very resourceful entity and readily adapts to a repetitive stress. When the same stimulus is applied on a regular basis, the body doesn’t respond as well to the stimulus. Only by keeping your body off guard will you continue to reap muscular rewards.
One way to vary your routine is by utilizing a wide array of exercises. You should strive to perform different movements every time you train. For instance, if you normally perform seated curls, cable curls and concentration curls for your biceps, change your routine to include hammer curls, preacher curls and EZ curls in your next session. In the following workout, you might employ incline curls, prone incline curls and 21′s. There are dozens and dozens of different exercises at your disposal – make use of as many as possible.
Another way to interject variety is by changing the composition of your routine. If, for example, you work your back and chest on Monday, shoulders and arms on Wednesday, and legs on Friday, switch things around so you train shoulders, chest and triceps on Monday, legs on Wednesday, and back and biceps on Friday. Or perhaps split your routine into four days, performing shoulders and triceps on Monday, back and hamstrings on Tuesday, chest and biceps on Thursday and quadriceps and calves on Friday. You could even employ a total body workout where each major muscle group is trained with only one basic exercise. As you can see, by using a little ingenuity, the possibilities for variation are endless.
Go All Out
When you first start lifting weights, results tend to come rather easily. Virtually anything you do is a new stimulus to your body and, as long as your technique is reasonably sound, you are apt to make good progress. However, after a while, your body becomes accustomed to specific load patterns and results begin to slow down (remember the adaptive nature of the human body). Hence, in order to elicit further gains, you need to train harder and harder. If you don’t, your body won’t change. It’s as simple as that.
To avoid this fate, your muscles must be stressed beyond their physical capacity. By nature, the human body strives to maintain stability – a phenomenon called homeostasis. If your training intensity doesn’t sufficiently tax your body’s resources, there won’t be enough of a stimulus to force your body from its homeostatic state. Only by progressively overloading your muscles will they be compelled to produce an adaptive response and grow beyond their normal potential.
As a rule, you need to be struggling on each set. This means the last few reps should be difficult, if not impossible, to complete. Sure, there will be some temporary discomfort associated with this type of training. However, to achieve optimal results, you must push past the pain threshold and completely fatigue your target muscles. Anything less and results will be compromised. Give it your all and you’ll be rewarded with a better body.