A person without a goal is like a ship without a captain. When the waves of life come, it’s best to
have direction so you don’t let the waves push you around.
When you just start out, you can build muscle, burn fat, and get stronger all at the same time! Once you’ve been lifting for a few years, without a singular focus, it’s likely you won’t make significant progress in any area.
Prioritize and execute.
Don’t skip your mobility work or corrective exercises because one day you could injure yourself and have to spend 6 months recovering. The risk-reward is too great.
If your left knee bothers you, prioritize couch stretch and glute warm-ups. If your shoulder bothers you, prioritize hangs, lower trapezius, and external rotation work.
It’s not rocket science. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
I see the same dudes in the gym who look exactly the same year after year.
Without control over your nutrition, going to the gym isn’t going to get you results.
If you want to build muscle, you need to eat slightly more than your body needs. If you want to lose body fat, you need to eat slightly less than your body needs.
Just choose which you want and do it for six months, then review your results.
Build Your Program
Train Every Muscle
In order for you to look your sexiest, you need to train every muscle in your body.
If you’re a dude and you don’t care about your legs, cool, you still need to train your legs otherwise you’re going to look dumb.
You can prioritize upper body over lower body, but if you’re not training your lower body with intensity, your upper body isn’t going to grow much.
There are foundational compound movements of the human body that we want to prioritize: Pull, Push, Squat, Lunge, Hinge, Rotation and Gait.
These movements focus on recruiting multiple large muscle groups, making them efficient for building muscle and getting stronger.
Prioritize getting stronger on compound movements. To grow your biceps, prioritize chin-ups over bicep curls.
Consider Weekly Volume
In any given week, you want to have 10-30 working sets for each muscle group. This is a big range because every person and muscle group is unique.
It might take only 10 sets to grow your biceps, but maybe your legs don’t start growing until you have at least 15 sets per week.
The only way to learn how much volume you need is through trial and error. Keep track of your training and recovery to adapt over time.
Exercise with Purpose
Each exercise you do should have a specific purpose. It’s important to know which muscles you’re targeting so that you can effectively activate and contract the desired muscle(s).
If you’re doing deadlifts, is it because you’re trying to lift more weight, or are you trying to get a back pump? Understand the reasoning behind each exercise so you can focus your mindset and effort to get the best results.
Build Muscle vs Get Stronger
Prioritize time under tension in the 6-30 rep range.
Doing 1-2 repetitions will get you stronger, but you won’t build as much muscle because there isn’t enough time under tension with two reps to stimulate muscle growth.
You can still perform lower reps, but when you lift really heavy you’re giving up time under tension and you’re creating greater fatigue for your body.
For those of you who want to get bigger and stronger, I recommend switching up the rep range you use between workouts and within the workouts themselves.
For example, you could start your leg day with heavy 5’s then move on the leg press and perform light weight for reps of 30. This way you’re stimulating your body to get both bigger and stronger. You could also have one leg day that’s heavy and another that’s lighter because this will give your body more time to recover.
Exercise is stress that micro-damages your body. In order to get better, we must ensure we have sufficient time outside of the gym to “super-compensate” or build back stronger.
If you’re not getting stronger week to week it’s likely because you’re training too frequently (or not eating enough).
A way to ensure sufficient time for recovery is to use periodization - the planned manipulation of training variables (load, sets, and repetitions) in order to maximize training adaptations and to prevent the onset of overtraining.
One of the most common periodization methods is to gradually increase the intensity of your workouts week to week until you “peak” at your greatest strength and effort, then “de-load” by lowering the weight, reps, or intensity to give your body the opportunity to recover and get stronger.
Training is Boring
If you’re doing it right, your resistance training should be mostly boring, with occasional feelings of euphoria when you test your strength.
My current favorite periodization method I use for myself and my clients is a 6 week program including 4 weeks of increasing intensity, one week of de-load, then one week to re-test. This means that in a six week program, for only one week you are trying to PR.
If you go to the gym every week to PR, you’re going to get injured and you won’t make progress long term.
A sustainable weight loss goal is 1% of your body weight per week, and for muscle-gain 1% of your body weight per month. If you’re a newbie it might be more, but too much is likely unsustainable.
Tools for measuring progress include:
Body weight weekly average,
regular pictures, and
A waist/muscle circumference measurement.
We don’t choose our results, we choose our habits and our habits choose our results for us. The best measure of progress is habit consistency.
For example, track your habit of eating a healthy breakfast. Then continue to add healthy habits until your goal is reached.
If you’re struggling with consistency, don’t get upset, see it as a challenge to overcome or a game to be played. Look for ways to simplify the habit so that it’s easier. Working with a coach can be helpful, and here are three books that can help:
Mini Habits by Stephen Guise
Those are the basics for building your own training program. I have a 12 week training program and I offer online fitness coaching. You can purchase either of those products here.
Hope this helps! - Tom