With a constant wave of new workout plans, supplements and studies that provide different ideas on how to approach your training, it can be easy to lose focus of the big picture. Truly maximizing your results may always be a bit debatable, and it depends a lot on specific personal goals, but it’s more important to adhere to classic, foolproof training concepts that you’ll always be able to remember. These old-school techniques are simple and proven, and should remind you to avoid overthinking your training regimen – no need to make things complicated. We spoke with natural health expert Tony Hale and David Schenk, the owner of Cross Train LA, to get the best tips.
Schenk focuses a lot of his energy on teaching functional exercise with his clients, incorporating several variations of exercises like squats, lunges, and pushing and pulling exercises. These serve as foundations of strength, and can be altered according to your fitness goals. “If your goal is to gain mass, you’re gonna have to go heavier and force the body to adapt to those heavier weights, which will require more rest time to recover, he says. “You’re gonna have to keep your rep count somewhere between eight and 12.” As for other parts of your workout, it’s never a good idea to completely tune out one area of fitness in favor of another, but excessive cardio training will definitely hinder your ability to pack on pounds.
Building Mass: Increase Your Intake, but Keep it Clean
“Try to eat good, quality calories,” Schenk says. “Sometimes, guys looking to gain mass have a hard time doing it because they burn a lot of calories while working out and have good metabolism, but that doesn’t mean you should go for junk food.” Yes, you want to put on mass, but we’re sure you want it to be muscle. Unfocused eating that includes a lot of empty calories won’t help your body recover bigger and stronger – it’ll just add some more fat to your frame. Schenk recommends mixing up a protein shake instead of raiding the fridge when you’re at your hungriest, maybe post-workout, since it can help to stem your appetite and enhance your recovery. After that, you can be more focused and disciplined in what nutritious foods you choose to eat to keep your weight gain at a controlled pace that will give you the exact results you want.
Getting Lean: Eat Fat to Drop Fat
It may sound counterintuitive, but your body simply needs fat for its basic function. So don’t cut any bit of fat from your diet just because too much of it will set you back – too much of anything can be detrimental. Try to focus on the essential fats – monounsaturated fatty acids, which can be found in foods like nuts, seeds, avocados and dark chocolate. If you don’t get enough in your diet, that means you won’t be flushing out and replacing stored fat, which can eventually wear out its welcome in the body. “By consuming healthy fats, like coconut oil, on a consistent basis, you can train your body to burn the fat it’s holding in [loose connective] tissue,” Hale says. Fat is a requirement for boatloads of processes in the body, including brain repair. “Give your body what it really needs and it will be more willing to let go of old garbage it has been holding onto for too long.”
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Getting Lean: More Reps, Less Weight
Here’s the other side of what Schenk was getting at earlier. He still recommends doing all the same fundamental exercises (squats, lunges, pulling/pushing exercises), but with the opposite spin. “Aim for a higher rep count with lighter weights, maybe 15 or so, with decreased rest time,” Schenk says. The more active and constant your workout regimen is, the better chance you have of achieving a body with a lot of lean muscle. In general, try to keep activity levels high during your workouts, without much rest time in between exercises. Of course, leaning your regimen more toward cardio than heavy weight training is also something you’ll want to do.
Getting Stronger: Push Your Muscles to Their Limits
Within reason, of course, but remember that your body is generally going to stay about the same unless you give it a reason to adapt. Unless you simply want to maintain (and then you’d really be in the minority), always remember that a workout routine shouldn’t just be a routine where you do the same exercises week in and week out. You don’t need to go through the day after a workout suffering from debilitating soreness, but there needs to be a certain “shock to the system” if you want to increase strength. “You want your body to say, ‘What the hell is this idiot trying to make us do? We can’t do this,’” Hale says. “Give your body a reason to get stronger and it will.”
Getting Stronger: Catch Some Zzz’s and Relax
A lot of guys feel at their strongest right after a good workout. It’s hard to deny that feeling of accomplishment and exhilaration. However, remember that you’ve just broken down your muscles, meaning you won’t actually grow stronger until after you’ve recovered, letting your body come back to your next workout in a better state than last time. So, don’t just overdo it in the weight room by returning too soon, but find some time to take it easy as well. You’ll get much more out of your efforts in the gym if you follow it up with a relaxing night and eight hours of sleep, as opposed to going out, binge drinking and coming back for a few hours of rest. “Remember, if you don’t take some time to take it easy, your body is constantly in breakdown mode so how are you ever going to build, strengthen and repair?” Hale says.