Tracking your progress is crucial to you being successful in your health and fitness journey. This also means understanding what methods and metrics of measurement apply best to you and your goals.
For anyone who is at the start of their health and fitness journey I can completely understand if you're a little puzzled as to what direction to turn when it comes to building muscle. Just google "how to build muscle" and you'll be bombarded with over 8 million search results! So here's a couple of key things that in hindsight I wish I had got to grips with sooner when I made my start.
1/ CALORIE SURPLUS - Without this you won't build muscle. It's as simple as that. What this means is you need to be eating more calories than you are burning for a sustained period of time. It works a little like this... Imagine a house (your body right now) and it's made of a certain amount of bricks (calories). If you want to build a bigger house, you're going to need more bricks right? Very simplistic analogy but you get the picture.
2/ MUSCULAR DAMAGE - This is something you're looking to create through training. Not in the same way that you would tear a muscle and end up with an injury, we're talking about tiny micro tears within the muscle tissue. Causing these microscopic tears is one of the goals of weight training when trying to build muscle. Again, lets use the above analogy... If you're going to build your bigger house, you're going to need to chip away a few bricks and cement (muscle damage) to be able to add on more bricks (new lean muscle tissue).
3/ PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD - This is crucial for making progress in whatever the aspect of fitness and building muscle is no exception. The term progressive overload simply means progressing your training over time. This might mean adding extra weight on certain movements or maybe more total reps and sets of specific exercises. The key is to log your training so you know your numbers to then push forward on as the weeks move on.
4/ PROTEIN - Being in a calorie surplus is important but if you don't have an adequate amount of protein in your diet then it's all for a lost cause. Aiming for 2/2.5g protein per kg of bodyweight puts you in a great position. If you don't want to get lost in the maths of it, another good gauge is to include a palm sized protein source in every meal (based on three meals a day) and then supplement with a standard whey protein shake once a day too.
5/ FEEL THE BURN - If it ain't hurting it ain't working. You need to understand that the dull ache you get towards the end of an exercise, that's important! I'm not saying you need to yourself into the ground killing yourself 7 days a week, especially in the early days, but you do need to get your game face on and get comfortable being uncomfortable. It isn't a social event and it will require effort.
6/ IT TAKES TIME - Building muscle is a long steady process. There is absolutely zero chance of you waking up and seeing superman's torso after a week of bench pressing. If only it were that simple! One week you might notice your a couple of pounds up on the scales, the next month you might notice your t-shirt sleeves getting a little snug and next year you might be looking back at holiday pictures and getting some clean cut perspective of the gains you have made over the year.
Building muscle isn't easy, if it was everyone would be walking round looking enviably good! But the benefits of carrying a little extra muscle mass than the average guy or girl definitely make it worthwhile. In fact, they deserve a post all of their own, so i'll leave this one here for now!
Online health and fitness coaching has surged over this past few years. The development of relevant apps, software and communication technology had made online coaching a legitimate service than can help you along your health and fitness journey. That being said, it doesn't come without it's drawbacks too.
WHAT IS IT?
Well this can vary. There are many different models of online coaching out there but generally ranging from the low budget model which will involve equally low input from the coach. My honest advice is to avoid the cheapest services out there. You won't get any individualisation or contact time with your coach as the business model involves bringing in a high number of clients to make any kind of profit. You are for the most part treated as just a number.
Move across to the other end of the spectrum where you will have to part with a more chunky investment and you should find yourself in the hands of a coach that truly customises your training, nutrition and lifestyle plan to help you obtain the results you want. This means bespoke training, a nutrition plan that is tailored to you (this could be macronutrient based or more meal specific) and the guidance you need to help address the 23 hours outside of the gym, not just the 1 in it. They should also hold you accountable and regularly evaluate progress, whether that be email check ins, weekly calls, weigh ins, photo updates etc.
WHO IS IT FOR?
Online coaching works best for those with a good basic understanding of training who aren't fearful of walking into a gym environment. Those with little to no experience of training should seek a 121 Trainer first ideally. As an online client it's up to you to shoulder a lot of responsibility, you need to make sure the workouts get done and you must be honest with the Coach. They cannot pick the weights up or eat the food for you. If you find it tough to fit allocated slots with a 121 Trainer into your hectic schedule then Online Coaching might be great for you. You get all the structure of working 121 but get to train when it fits in best for you.
HOW I DO IT?
My online approach has evolved over time and still does much like my approach with each of my 121 clients. Some of the common components my online coaching involve are:
- Access to the Brisbournefit app where you can access and log your specific workouts.
- Weekly check ins evaluating the week previous and pre-empting the hurdles in week coming up.
- Initial diet diary assessment and relevant guidance moving forward (Myfitnesspal set up/meal plan templates etc).
- Detailed check in calls/Skypes/Facetimes varying from weekly to monthly.
- A number of 121 sessions if geographically viable (e.g. day one, half way point, completion date).
- 1/2 day workshops where I set aside time to go through specific, relevant content as well as spending some extra time getting to know one another.
- Nutritional sensitivity testing via blood draw.
- Basic supplemental set up.
- Hormonal assessment and custom supplemental protocol following this.
- Email/Whatsapp support as required within guide times.
If you're considering hiring the services of an Online Coach, do your research first. Run a google search, read some reviews, even speak to some of their current/previous clients if possible to get some insight first hand into what it's like to work with them. The fitness industry comes in all shapes and sizes and finding not just a coach who is knowledgable, but a coach that you get on well with and respect is massively important. Use the beer test. If you can imagine going out for a beer with them, chances are you will work well together. Well maybe, not a beer, but you catch my drift!
The gym is a fantastic tool to help get you to your goal physique but I can promise you that a gym membership alone isn't going to see you very far into your transformation.
Firstly, you need some TRAINING KNOWLEDGE on what you actually need to implement into your daily regime to make your body change. You need to learn how to train in a way that's specific to your goals and know how and when to progress your training. Whether you outsource this to a Personal Trainer or read up and learn enough yourself, you can't just rely on turning up to the gym and hoping the rest looks after itself.
The next big key is NUTRITION. This really is where most people come unstuck, especially where fatloss is concerned. Your gym might have the most expensive state of the art equipment going and you could be in there 7 days a week slogging your guts out but if your calorie balance is out of whack (you're taking in more than you're burning) your body fat is going nowhere. Understanding nutrition and your specific nutritional needs doesn't need to be overly complicated. You don't need to understand everything, you just need to understand enough.
Lastly and probably most crucially is your MINDSET. Being dedicated enough to turn up to the gym is awesome, but where that dedication comes from is what's important. If it's simply a messy Ibiza weekend in a few weeks, chances are your physique isn't going to budge much, and definitely not long term. Everyone has their own motives and I'm not here to tell you what is right or wrong in that sense, but what I will say is those who have a deep rooted, internal motivators in my experience are the ones who bring about the greatest physical changes that only improve more and more as time goes on. Maybe you want to be more confident in social situations, perhaps you want to be the best role model you can for the sake of your kids or maybe your lack of physical health is harming your business?
There are so many more important aspects than just the three I have highlighted, but I guarantee if you get your head around just those you will drastically improve your chances of finally gaining the physique you want.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is probably one of the trendiest, quickest ways to legitimately burn fat right now; but what's the best way to do it?
Here's 6 of my personal favourites that will help you torch calories and aid in your fatloss journey:
1/ Incline Treadmill Sprints- Old school and brutal. A nice simple structure of 20 seconds sprinting, 40 seconds rest for 10-15 rounds is a great place to start. To intensify it either fire the incline up steeper, sprint for longer, reduce the rest periods, increase the speed, or increase overall rounds.
2/ Spin bike Intervals- Another nasty one. You can adopt the same approach as above with structure and timings but rather than stop on the rest period it's a much better idea to keep yourlegs spinning . Bump up the resistance on the bike when sprinting and drop it right down when you are ticking over between intervals.
3/ Pad/bag work- Love this one for anyone wanting to unleash some aggression. Pads are a great way to go providing you're working with someone trained to use them; if you're on your own then the bag is the way to go. In this format you can afford to go slightly longer on the work phase as you won't be going 100% 'balls to the wall' intensity like the two instances above.
4/ Tyre flips- These are fantastic for utilising your body as a whole. Every muscle has to work to get that tyre up and over so it won't take long before you start to feel beat. Ensure you are strict on your technique and maintain a neutral back position much like you would squatting or deadlifting. Get this wrong and injury will be waiting for you.
5/ Water sprints- Get in the pool up to waist height and go mad on 20-30m sprints Great for anyone looking to minimise impact on their joints. Not one many people are conditioned for so don't be surprised when these wipe the floor with you.
6/ Home workouts- There's loads of stuff out there on this kind of thing. Great for anyone who wants a quick blast in the comfort of their own home. Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) has put a lot of good stuff out their using these kinds of movements. Think burpees, mountain climbers, star jumps, press ups.
Don't stick to any of the above for too long, your body will adapt and get efficient quickly and being inefficient will burn more calories thus helping you to become leaner!
Week 1 - GET PREPARED
This first week is all about preparation. Get yourself a gym membership, take advantage of the sales and stock up on some brand new gym clothes and gadgets. Also, if you are thinking about getting a trainer to help you get started you better get looking ASAP. The good ones will get booked up quick in January and you don’t want to settle for second best in this department. The other big one is food; get the fridge stocked up with lots of healthy foods and get rid of those last few bits of Christmas junk.
Week 2 - GET STARTED
This is a big week. You’re going to be aching by the end of it after your first full week’s worth of regimented exercise and eating well. But this week is all about setting the pace. Be sure to record all your gym-based activity so you have a baseline of what you have done. This will be crucial for next week and is a great habit to adopt going forward.
WEEK 3 - CONSISTENCY AND PROGRESS
So anyone can nail the first week of a new health and fitness regime, but can you keep the pace consistently and actually improve on that pace as you go along. This is the first chance to do it. Take last week’s baseline numbers and beat them. Be it by one rep, one kilo, one minute, whatever it is. Those tiny little improvements will add up over time if you can keep yourself within this kind of mind-set.
WEEK 4 - GET SOME SKIN IN THE GAME
The crossover between January and February is often when it’s easy to fall off; don’t let this be you. One of the most powerful things you can do in this week is put some skin in the game by scheduling something tangible that will keep you accountable. Maybe a luxury holiday, maybe a half marathon or a Tough Mudder event; anything that is going to help keep motivated and give you a big reason to stay on track. If it can fall between April and May that’s ideal. That gives you a nice solid time frame of 8-12 weeks to get some awesome results!
With 2016 on it's way out you might be starting to think about all the things you want to achieve in 2017. If getting into great shape is up there then the following action plan is for you:
DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT - Is it a six pack? Is it strength? Is it fat loss? Is it overall improved fitness? Whatever it is, it's essential you have definitive goals. The more specific and focused your goals are the easier it is to stay on course towards achieving them.
REVERSE ENGINEER - This is about mapping out realistic timeframes. We all want results quickly but some physical processes take longer than others (for example; pound for pound muscle gain takes longer than fatloss). It's important you gather enough knowledge on the time frame associated with your goals in order to make your goals 100 percent achievable.
OPTIMISE YOUR WORKOUTS - There are so many ways to make it to the same goal. What you need to do is come up with a way of doing so in the best way for YOU. If you have limited time, you need short efficient workouts. If you hate the gym, you need to get yourself outdoors and have plenty of variety to your exercise regime.
FUEL UP RIGHT - How you choose to fuel yourself is equally as crucial as the above and this is normally where most people are hindering their progress. You don't need a gram for gram, meal by meal plan. But what you do need is to be prepared and willing to change some big habits. Stop worrying about supplements for the moment, get your fridge filled with whole foods and start kicking that sneaky mid-afternoon chocolate bar habit.
COMMITTMENT - Understand that your motivation can waver. There will be days where you want to veer violently off plan. It's okay to feel that way because it happens to the best of us. But you need to be committed. Being committed to following the plan on those days you don't feel 100 percent motivated will be the difference between you achieving or not.
WHAT'S YOUR WHY - This point follows perfectly in line with the above. You can't stay committed if your 'WHY' isn't strong enough. In the past my clients have had holidays, weddings, photoshoots, social events as external whys. They're great for keeping you on track and focused.
But what is more important is that you have an internal why. A true reason you want to make progress. Is it a self esteem issue? Do you want your kids to grow up with the fittest, healthiest Dad they possibly can? Maybe you just want the confidence to make bolder career decisions or speak to women? Whatever your why is, that's the thing that will allow you to stay committed to a goal. Be open with yourself and whenever it gets tough, come back to your why.
There's no doubt about it, steroids work. Well they can if you know what you're doing with them (not without a bag full of risks in either case though).
But what if you could to some degree get the same effects, naturally?
Well the good news is you can!
Steroids are designed to manipulate your body's hormones in a way that makes it easier to build muscle and burn fat.
Here's a few things you can do 100% naturally to create similar benefits:
1. HEALTHY FATS- One of the functions of dietary fat is to bolster hormonal function, including keeping your testosterone levels amped. Keep on top of this and you're in an awesome position to slap some muscle on. Oily fish, avocado, steak and coconut oil are great choices.
2. BIG LIFTS- Getting stronger at the big compound lifts will do wonders for elevating your natural GH (growth hormone) levels. This is another chemical many will take artificially, but unless you're looking to jump on the Mr Olympia stage or have some form of Dwarfism, this is something you definitely would be better steering clear of.
3. SLEEP QUALITY- This is the best opportunity your body has to recharge and rebuild from the beastings you're giving it at the gym. Without solid recovery you're never going to get the best from your following sessions, thus losing out on some vital gains! Get to bed earlier, supplement with ZMA and keep away from tech (phone, laptop, tv) and caffeine in the hours before you hit the sack.
4. DESTRESS- Cortisol (stress hormone) is great in small spikes, specifically during/post-workout. However if your cortisol levels stay elevated throughout the day due to high stress this could be a big problem. Prolonged periods of high cortisol will pull your testosterone down making you feel tired and lethargic. Bad news when it comes to building muscle and burning fat . Manage your daily stress levels to avoid this. It might mean meditation, massage or just simply managing your day more efficiently.