It sounds trite, but it's true: The only bad workout is the one you don't do. Getting fit doesn't have to be complicated, but burning off that flab and building your musculature starts with actually doing something.
Go outside and take a walk. Do pushups, break out some lunges—just get moving. You don't need marathon gym sessions. About 10-15 minutes of moving, stretching, and doing bodyweight exercises will add up very quickly in a week. Start slow and work out three times a week. As you progress, work out four or five times a week if you want.
That's the basics.
Now, if you're looking for some next-level strategies to improve how much fat you burn and muscle you build, scroll through this list for seven top-notch tactics to get you going in the right direction.
1. Keep progressing
Getting back into a fitness routine is great. But if you just do the same old routine forever and ever, you'll hit a plateau. Remember, even the best workout programs will only help until a certain point. After your body adapts to stress, your plan will stop working. That's when you either look for a new program, or learn how to create your own.
The most common ways to increase the intensity of your training session:
- Modify rest periods (shorter rest = higher metabolic stress)
- Vary the load (heaver weight = greater muscle hypertrophy)
- Increase the speed of your movements (more explosive moves = more power)
- Progress from isolated to compound movements (full-body exerxises = more recruited muscles)
All of these components can be grouped together into a principle called the Principle of Progressive Overload.
2. Keep a training/diet journal
The only way to stay consistent with your diet is to monitor exactly what you eat every day. If you record this in a journal, you'll probably be surprised how much you're eating or not eating. Eating a good-quality protein source every 2 hours and having the majority of your complex carbs for your first meal and the meal immediately after your workout is a great, very basic way to be consistent with your diet. Also, setting a goal to drink a gallon of water a day and eliminating sugary drinks will pay off big time.
You should also keep a journal. (After all: If you don’t know where you’ve been, how can you know what your destination is?) A training journal allows you to lay out your "microcycle," or short-term succession of workouts. A journal also shows you immediately what weights and exercises you did for your last similar workout, helping you to track your progress over time.
3. Find your balance
Some guys go to the gym and only exercise their chest and abs. Why? They're targeting the muscles they can see in the mirror, and only the muscles they can see in the mirror. Problem is, their training program will miss crucial areas—like, oh, their lower backs—and that makes them unbalanced.
In Alwyn Cosgrove’s Periodization Design Bible, Cosgrove teaches how to design a sound program on the basic principle that movements and movement patterns should be balanced. For example, you should be doing push movements and pull movements in equal volume. This will ensure that muscle groups and joints are strong, and that your body creates appropriate tension when presented with the opportunity to overcome a weight.
4. Avoid specialized programs
Sometimes those who “specialize” think their training is the ultimate program and that everyone should be only doing form of training. Well, they’re wrong.
Athletes of all ages need a wide variety of training adaptations and protocols. You need to do things you're not good at, too. If you want to build muscle and gain strength, you have a variety of options. The problem is lifters stay on a program too long or without progressive overload and they plateau. That's not to say that sticking to a particular training regimen is bad—just that doing the same thing over and over will limit your development. Always challenge yourself.
When you're trying to choose the right training protocols (yes, plural) for your training, make sure you analyze the following:
- How long you’ve been training
- How long you’ve been playing your respective sport(s)
- The metabolic, physiological and neurological demands of the sport
- The movement patterns of the sport
- Your ability to adhere to the prescribed training and restorative modalities (sleep, massage, foam roller, good nutrition, etc.)
- Your current injuries and/or stage of recovery, if any
5. Zero in on recovery and proper warmups
Ever notice guys at the gym rolling their muscles on a lacrosse ball? It's a worthy habit to adopt, because rolling improves your soft-tissue quality and extensibility. Rolling is also very effective at removing scar tissue, adhesions, and trigger points—thereby freeing up your muscle to grow and get stronger.
Rolling out your muscles is essential after every workout, as well as during your non-training days. It provides a huge improvement to your strength and overall movement. But if you're not a lax bro, no worries—you can use other tools for myofascial release, like:
- "The Stick"
- Foam rollers
- Tennis balls
- Golf balls
6. Stay dedicated
As long as your workout routine is healthy and works for you, then the most important way to make it work is to follow through with it.
- Even when you’re tired.
- Even when people are driving you crazy.
- Even when work sucks.
- Even when you have absolutely no time in the day.
- Even when no one thinks you can do it.
- Even when everything else has failed.
You can power that dedication with the help of a support system—be it friends, Twitter, or Facebook groups. If you're serious about changing your life through fitness, then you must dedicate yourself every day (even if that means simply recovering right on a rest day!). Tell people about your goals—it'll give you accountability.