Training Strategy – It Helps To Have A Plan

How many of you have seen guys in the gym who seem to be wasting their time, huffing and puffing, and never seeming to make progress?  It’s not always the guys trying to lose weight, either.  I’ve seen guys in great shape, but a little too skinny, who’re trying to gain more size who can’t even put on an ounce… in a year.  So what’s my point?  There’s more to it than that Attaining “body beautiful” status is as much about what you do OUTSIDE the gym as what you do INSIDE the gym… and all it takes is a little thought in coming up with an overall strategy that’s best for YOU.  Here’s what I mean. Most of what you see and read about working  out is just that… the process of working out.  But look into the training strategy of any of the great bodybuilders, and you’ll find that sleep, rest, eating, and training schedule had as much to do with their progress as anything else.  It’s all tied together, and if you can spend a little time coming up with the best strategy for YOU, you’ll see better results. Before we get going, I want to emphasize that your strategy is to get RESULTS… so setting priorities is a must.  For those who don’t have much time to think about it, let alone do your workouts, then your strategy is to do SOME exercise!  Doing something is better than nothing, and 30 minutes, three times a week, is sufficient for progress and better health.  And then you can build on that strategy as you go.  A successful strategy can become more successful, but at least you’re moving forward, so don’t worry about taking small steps.  They’re better than NO steps! Don’t be one of those guys who figures that if you can’t duplicate Mr. Olympia’s workout, eating, and sleeping routines, that it’s just not worth it.  You’ll look back in ten years (or less) and wish you’d done SOMEthing.  Don’t make excuses!  Just decide what you want and then make it happen… because you CAN. The best TIME to work out is whenever you have the chance.  The important thing is that you fit it into your schedule sometime, because working out at 3am is better than nothing… assuming you don’t lose any sleep as a result. Most guys go to the gym after work, which means 5 or 6 O’clock for most of you.  Physiologically, research shows some differences with regard to time of day, but there are a lot of factors that come into play.  So, if you’ve got freedom to work out whenever you want, you should work out when you’ve got the most energy during the day.  I’ve read studies that show mid-morning to be best for most people, but it’s an individual thing. When I was in college, working out was as much a priority as academics, and I experimented by working out at all different times.  I found that no matter what, I had the most energy, focus, and strength at around 8pm .  I figured out that it had to do with the fact that my body had been “loosened up” from the day’s activities, and that my energy stores were good because I’d already eaten 4 meals to that point. When I tried to work out at 8am , 10am , noon , or in the afternoon, I felt better as the day wore on.  The mornings were the worst for me.  I felt sluggish, and lacked energy. But now it’s quite the opposite.  I prefer working out sometime between 10am and early afternoon.  I think it has more to do with mental energy though.  If I’ve been working (my work is low-stress, and mostly done from my home office), and I work out late in the day, I find that it takes more time to get my mind clear for the workout.  So I wake up around 8-10am , have breakfast, and make a few phone calls or whatever, and then I head to the gym. It may be different for you, but again, the best thing is to figure out when you’re going to get your best workout.  Try a few different times if you can, and go with what works best for you. Once you’re getting to the gym on a consistent basis, the question is, how much working out is optimal?  How many days per week and how long for each workout?  Again, it’s an individual thing.  Most of us will need at least three workouts each week, but probably more like four or five.  If your priority is to lose weight, then more workouts are usually better, especially when you’re talking cardio.  But if you’re trying to gain muscle, and your workouts are very intense, then you’ll need more rest. Your workouts should be about an hour in duration… give or take.  Mine have been taking 2 hours on ultra intense days, or when I do legs.  If I’m training during a lighter phase I’ll keep the pace faster, lighter, and do a few more sets, but the workout goes quicker because I don’t need as much rest between heavy sets. It’s smart to get in touch with your body, and learn when it needs rest by how you feel, or how your muscles feel.  If I have two ultra intense workouts, one day after the next, I take a day off.  If I don’t, my next workout is going to suffer, and I’m not allowing my body to heal.  If you’re sore, or feel a lack of energy, take a day off.  A little tightness or soreness is fine, but experiment a little, and you’ll find that more rest between workouts is usually better than less if you’re unsure. If you’re not sure, train two days in a row, and then take a day off, and every week or so take two days off in a row.  Fit your workout into an hour for starters, and adjust it from there based on your needs, and progress.  If you feel great and want to string together 3 workouts in a row, then do it.  If you have to work out 4 days before a rest day due to travel or whatever, then do it, but get back to your routine after that. Equally important in creating your physique strategy is eating, and scheduling your meals.  Normally, whether you’re trying to gain or lose, 5 smaller meals are better than 2 or 3 larger ones, but you have to do what you can.  Protein bars can be a great thing if you can’t find time to eat, by the way. On training days, it’s best to eat a light meal an hour before your workout… and if you work out after a large meal, just wait a little longer.  The key is to not feel sluggish in the gym due to a bunch of food in your stomach.  So again, go by how you feel.  In college, I could eat a huge meal and work out immediately afterward.  It just depends on you.  Listen to your body, and make adjustments. And now, EQUALLY as important, if not MOST important in creating your physique strategy, and LIFE strategy, is SLEEP.  I heard on a news program last night about more data that shows we Americans are becoming more sleep deprived as time goes by.  Studies have shown that waking up to an alarm clock is not as “healthful” as waking up naturally.  Eight hours of sleep shouldn’t be considered a luxury, or wasting time, or non-productive.  It’s the way the body is geared.  It needs time to heal, and for the mind to do its processing.  Your health depends on it. Parenthetically, a poll was taken asking some top CEO’s about their sleep time, and most of them said that they slept at least 8 hours… and felt it was important to their success. As for workouts, if you go to the gym feeling like shit because you haven’t had enough sleep, you may as well not be there… so go home!  Basically, get enough sleep as a rule, and if you only get six hours of sleep once in a while, as a departure from the norm, your workout will go fine.  Make it a habit, and you’ll be one of those guys huffing and puffing and never making any progress. And that goes with the rest of the strategy items.  Eating, sleeping, training time, and frequency… they all make an impact on your progress… as much an impact as the actual workout.  Every month or so, sit down by yourself, or with a workout partner, and talk about what you’re doing… strategy-wise, covering all the areas I’ve just covered.  Use it as an excuse to go have a drink and hang out without any other agenda.  You’ll like your results.

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