More Tips for A Bigger, Leaner 2013
written by Sean Hyson
Here are your 2013 tips continued...
STRONGER and BIGGER
7. Pump up to protect yourself. This relates back to my tip about pyramiding the other day but it’s important enough to stand on its own. Getting a pump is valuable for more than just muscle growth and looking better than you really are. It’s probably the best way to avoid injury and perform heavy lifts more safely. One of the longest-running “strength rules” says to perform your toughest, heaviest, compound lifts first in your workout so you’re fresh and can give them your maximum energy. This is important but it’s more important to have blood in your muscles and joints that are warm before hoisting hundreds of pounds, and simply working up to a heavy top set isn’t really enough to do that. Pyramiding is one way, but if you’re not into that, start your workout with what Mountain Dog trainer John Meadows calls a “pre-pump” exercise.
Pick a lift—could be compound or isolation—that isn’t stressful on the joints (no barbells) and do 3–5 sets of 10–15 reps with it. Keep the rest periods to a minute or less. The point is only to get a pump going and warm you up. If you’re not going to failure or using too heavy a weight, you won’t be that fatigued. You’ll be able to go on to bench presses or squats or deadlifts and still push hard with max weights. You’ll notice that your shoulders/elbows/hips feel a hell of a lot better when you do.
8. Don’t let anybody tell you your workout sucks. There’s a lot of ego in the fitness industry and a lot of favoritism. When one guy gains 10 pounds of muscle doing one program, he’s bound to think that that’s the best one and everybody else should be on it and those who aren’t don’t know what they’re doing.
There ARE sucky workouts out there and boneheaded approaches that need fixing, but if you believe in what you’re doing, enjoy your training, and do it consistently, you will see gains. Sometimes staggering gains that no one will be able to explain. Don’t let yourself get psyched out or or tempted with the promise that the grass is greener with another program. Jumping from plan to plan before you have a chance to measure any progress is MUCH less effective than doing a poorly designed program long term.
9. Keep a training journal. If you’re too lazy to do this, you’re just too damn lazy. I’d rather forget my protein shake and my gym sneakers than my notebook where I’ve written down every workout I’ve done for the past three years. When it comes to strength, the ONLY way you can really, truly, unquestionably tell if you’re getting stronger is if you can beat your performance in previous workouts. This goes back to the first rule of weight training—progressive overload—and it will never, ever, change. You need to be able to lift heavier weights, perform more reps, or do your sets with less rest in between them to know that you’ve gotten better. The only way you can possibly be sure that you’re doing this is to write each workout down and refer back to it. Don’t rely on memory. Mine sucks. I often think I used less weight last week than I really did or performed an exercise more recently than I remember. If I wasn’t able to look this stuff up in my journal, I’m sure I’d repeat workouts, miss lifts, or just spend too much time guessing when I could have it all planned out already.
And don’t just record the numbers and exercises. Make note of how you feel that day and any changes you made on the fly. Do you usually do good mornings after deadlifts but that day swapped them for leg curls because your lower back was smoked? Write that down. If you tried a new supplement or ate something new before training, write that too. The more thorough your journal, the more you’ll learn about how you make progress.
10. Economize your grip work. If you can’t hold on to deadlifts or rows or you just want bigger forearms and a handshake that crushes people’s palms, grip work is necessary. What isn’t necessary is adding on multiple grip exercises from plate pinches to farmer’s walks, wrist rollers, etc. Make no mistake, these are fine exercises that have a lot of value, but unless your grip is hilariously weak (as in salsa jar lids kick your ass), I don’t think you need them if you’re already building some grip training into your workouts—and assuming you’re not competing in strongman or rock climbing or something. I love Grip4orce grips because you can apply them to pretty much every exercise from deadlifts to rows to presses and curls. Squeeze these rubber sleeves onto the bar and you’ll be fighting to hold on throughout the set. They not only increase the amount of musculature that’s activated in the forearms, they redistribute the weight across your joints so your elbows and wrists don’t hurt (if they already do).
That’s it. You don’t have to add any exercises and spend more time in the gym. Just slide the Grip4orces on and you’re getting that extra work automatically.
5. Don’t think green tea is the answer. I remember a few years ago when a study came out “showing” that people who drank multiple cups of green tea a day lost pure body fat, mostly from around the belly, with no other modifications. So off I went, drinking several cups a day until I was so caffeinated I couldn’t even sleep. Ridiculous. Green tea is healthy and should be enjoyed, but it doesn’t make any significant difference in weight loss. Especially when you’re not making any other changes. The same goes for all these wonder herbs, superfoods, and supplements that come up now and again like cayenne pepper and dark chocolate. They’re all healthy and useful, but they don’t make a difference in your fat loss bottom line. They really don’t. (You still need to diet.)
6. Don’t let anyone tell you your diet sucks. That is, as long as it’s keeping you healthy and doing what you want it to do. Nutrition is 10 times more complicated than training. We don’t know all the answers and no one ever will. One diet expert might recommend adding grapeseed oil to your shakes and another one tells you to go 0 carb and another guy says all supplements suck and still someone else says to avoid dairy.
Just look at what they all have in common, which is usually lots of vegetables, no processed foods, and lots of protein, and start with that. Dairy and supplements and a tablespoon of oil now and then all amount to details—not the main thrust of what a successful dieter is doing. Experiment with those details one at a time on yourself until you discover what makes you feel best. I don’t like to add oils or eat lots of carbs anymore, but there are many who do so and look as good or better than me. It goes to show that whatever path you choose can be made to work if you commit to it.
7. Do two a days. Since the most important part of weight loss is burning more calories than you consume on a regular basis, you need to increase your activity level as well as cut calories. Diet is still paramount, but to get really lean, you’ll have to do some kind of exercise nearly every day. Twenty minutes of jump rope in the morning and lifting at night or an hour-long walk in the evening or yoga class now and then will go a long way without endangering your recovery. Relatively easy, long-term bouts of exercise are just as good as high-intensity intervals for fat loss.