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These tips and strategies can help you live a better, fitter life and achieve all your fitness goals, whether you want to add muscle, burn fat, or just get in better shape so you can play with your kids. Most are pretty short and simple, which makes them easy to implement. Not all of them will apply to your situation all the time. Some might even contradict each other, but be effective at different times in your training plan.
The more tips you can implement in your life, in general, the better your results are going to be. The great thing is, you can do it over time. Some people try and change every single thing when they make a decision to lose weight or exercise or go on a diet. Some go from never working out to going to the gym six days a week for two hours at a time. Others radically change what they eat and decide to never eat their favorite food ever again.
This usually ends up not working so well for most people. But with these tips, you can implement one or two or three at a time and gradually add more over time as you adapt and get comfortable with your new and improved lifestyle. Add what you are comfortable with at your own pace. For some, that’s a lot of changes right away. For others, it’s one at a time. Only you truly know the answer to which way is best for you.
1. Sleep more
We look at a lot of things when it comes to fat loss. We try and put together the best workout program for boosting our metabolism. We change our nutrition and even try and eat specific foods and food combinations that are supposed to help burn fat. And these are obviously crucial to your body transformation. If you want to shed fat and build some lean muscle, while feeling better, too, you need to eat right and exercise.
But one of the most important things we can do, and you almost never see it recommended, is just getting more sleep each night! Most of us don’t get nearly enough sleep. This can not only affect your fat loss or muscle building efforts but your overall health as well. Stop staying up late to watch crappy television!
A lack of sleep raises cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that increases when stress levels increase, one of the causes being a lack of sleep. Cortisol causes a breakdown of body tissue (think muscle). Combine this with dieting, which also raises cortisol levels and you have a problem with the potential loss of muscle mass.
Losing muscle mass is the opposite of what you want to happen when training for fat loss. Losing muscle makes everything worse – how you look, how you feel; it slows down your metabolism which makes it harder to lose fat. On top of that, it brings about a loss of strength which makes your training as well as everyday activities more difficult.
A study that appeared in the journal Laboratory of Physiology in Belgium, showed that those who were not getting enough sleep, had higher cortisol levels in the afternoon and early evening, when compared to those that were getting enough sleep.
Ever crave carbohydrates after a night of tossing and turning? It seems a lack of sleep has an impact on hormone release and levels as well as on the metabolism, one of which is an increase in appetite, according to a Chicago study.
Two hormonal issues with sleep restriction that can become a big problem are insulin sensitivity and a decrease in glucose sensitivity as well. These are extremely important factors when it comes to diabetes as well as how full you feel after a meal.
You might want to reconsider how much damage that extra hour of television each night is doing to your health and your fitness.
2. Perform interval training
In its simplest definition, Interval training is alternating bouts of high intensity with bouts of lower intensity. One example would be hill sprints. Sprint up the hill, walk down, and repeat. There are many ways to incorporate interval training into your program.
What is probably the most well-known interval, thanks to a study done by Dr. Tabata is the 20/10 interval where you do an all out bout of exercise for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest before repeating.
But there are many, many effective interval ranges you can perform, with an almost endless variety of exercises. You can do intervals while running, or on a stationary bike or treadmill, which is what most people do. But you can also perform intervals using resistance training, such as with barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, sandbags or even body weight exercises.
You don’t have to complicate things. If you’re doing some sort of cardio training with your intervals, you can use longer intervals, like 60 seconds hard, followed by 30 seconds or 60 seconds easy and go for 20 to 30 minutes.
With resistance training, you’ll most likely want to keep the intense portion of the interval between 10 and 40 seconds.
A great interval training workout could be as simple as 8 rounds of bodyweight squats in 20/10 style, followed by 8 rounds of push ups in 20/10 style, which makes an 8 minute workout.
Or you could alternate by doing one round of the body weight squats followed by one round of the push ups and repeat for 8 rounds.
However you do it, DO IT!
3. Eat more protein
Eating more protein to burn fat was confirmed in a study published in the American Journal of Physiology. One group was fed a high protein diet (just over one gram per pound of bodyweight per day) while the second group consumed a protein diet near equal to that of the RDA.
The group eating the high protein diet burned more fat than the group consuming protein near equal to the RDA.
4. Use a green drink
We don’t get nearly enough nutrition from our nutrition these days. Be absolutely sure you’re feeding your body what it needs. And don’t get some “green” drink that has a lot of filler in it or tastes so absolutely horrible that you stop taking it after a day or two. Check out something like Macro Greens on Amazon, which doesn’t have that nasty taste associated with most green drinks.
Another option is making your own green drinks if you have the time and the inclination. You’ll definitely need a high-quality juicer like the Breville BJE200XL Compact Juice Fountain 700 Watt Juice Extractor.
5. Include body weight exercises in your routine
Adding body weight exercises to your fitness routine will work wonders for you. Body weight exercises allow you to workout any time, anywhere, so the lack of time or space is no longer an excuse for missing a workout.
You can get an endless variety of workouts with body weight exercises.
You can do an interval workout, a challenge workout, an endurance workout or even a strength workout. Yes, really. Don’t believe me?
Give me twenty true single legged squats or one arm push ups or pull ups. With good form and no cheating. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
With body weight exercises you can get in a complete workout whether your goal is strength, fat loss or overall conditioning.
6. Perform a comprehensive warm up before each workout
You MUST warm up properly! Without a proper warm up your workout performance will suffer, you’ll increase the chance of injury, and you’ll develop aches and pains that nag you the rest of the day, or tomorrow. Instead of feeling great like you should, you’ll be hobbling along.
Be sure to use a variety of bodyweight exercises for your warm up, as well as a foam roller. Do NOT just ride the stationary bike for a few minutes. Warm up your entire body.
It can be as simple a warm up as the following:
5 minutes of foam rolling
Complete the following circuit once or twice.
Body weight squat – 10 reps
Push ups – 5 reps
Jumping Jacks – 20 reps
Mountain Climbers – 20 reps
Alternate Forward Lunges – 10 reps
Arm Rolls forward and backward – 10 reps each way
Leg Swings forward and backward – 10 reps each leg
7. Divide your meals into two types, Carbs + Protein and Fat + Protein
This is the best way to keep your metabolism revving the way you want, as a highly efficient machine. High carb, high fat meals jack up your insulin levels like it’s shooting out of a firehouse, signaling your body to pile on the blubber so you look like the Michelin Tire Man in no time flat. And who wants that?
8. Hit the big compound movements
Compound movements give you the most bang for your buck, whether you want to jack up your metabolism so you burn tons of calories and drop fat, or you want to add pounds of muscle mass and reshape your body.
This means stay away from the isolation work, whether it’s concentration curls with a dumbbell or pec deck flyes on a machine. Focus on the big movements.
Movements like the following:
All kinds of squats and lunges
Pull ups and chin ups
All kinds of push ups
Kettlebell or Dumbbell Swings
Turkish Get Up
Kettlebell or Dumbbell Snatches
All kinds of deadlifts
All kinds of rows
9. Quality over Quantity
It’s not about how long you workout but about how smart you workout (and yeah, hard too, although you don’t want to go all out all the time, hence the smart).
Don’t just go into the gym and run yourself into the ground for two hours (or do something really crazy and stupid like pedal the stationary bike for two hours while reading a magazine without even breaking a sweat).
Utilize a properly designed workout routine as part of an overall program designed to get you the results you want according to your goals. You don’t need to workout for two hours per day. You really don’t even need to workout for a full hour. 45 minutes is more than enough time for an effective workout that will give you the results you want. It’s even possible to use workouts that last less than 10 minutes if you do it right and are willing to put in the work.
10. Go Green
You know what I mean; spinach, peas, beans, broccoli, asparagus, etc. Just do it, you’ll thank me later. Hate this stuff? Put spinach or kale in your protein shakes. Don’t taste it at all.
11. Train like an athlete
Sure, some of you are going for the big bodybuilder look, but most of you reading this want to look (and be) fit and healthy. Like sprinters, linebackers, hockey players, MMA fighters (not including heavyweights, although some of them look great, too), etc.
These athletes don’t training to look a certain way. They train for performance and the lean, ripped look is a byproduct of that training. Want to look like an athlete? Train like an athlete. This means a lot of the training mentioned above with full body exercises and body weight movements. Forget the machines that lock you into place. Move your body!
12. Get more fiber
Fiber is SO important! And we don’t get nearly enough of it. Last I checked the average intake in the typical American diet is less than 14 grams and we should be getting at least 35 grams. So grab a fiber supplement and drop some into your shake every day. It’ll improve your health AND your fat loss efforts. Seriously. It even boosts your metabolism.
13. Train Unilaterally
What is unilateral training? It is simply working one side of your body at a time. This is not the same as, say, alternate dumbbell curls where you do a rep with the left arm, then a rep with the right, etc.
You do a complete set for one side before moving to the other. For example, do a set of 10 reps on the leg press with your right leg only and then do a set of 10 reps with your left leg only.
Unilateral training allows you to increase your focus on the muscle you are working by doing a better job of isolating the working muscle.
Your intensity increases because you increase the muscle involvement due to the bilateral deficit.
The bilateral deficit means the total weight you can lift by working one limb at a time is more than the total weight you can lift when working both limbs together.
This increase in focus and intensity will help your muscle building efforts while boosting your strength.
14. Skip the ab exercises
Forget the crunches or the silly circles you sit on and spin, those things will never get you the flat abs you want. The best core exercises are things like the farmer’s walk where you simply hold a heavy weight at your side and walk with it. It could be dumbbells or kettlebells. An uneven weight works fantastically for engaging the core. Try holding two dumbbells, one heavier than the other. Each set switch hands on the weights.
Exercises like squats burpees, deadlifts and push ups work the core very well.
15. Workout at home
You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment or a lot of space to get a killer effective workout and the results you want.
Working out at home also helps avoid the excuse of getting up off the coach and making the trek to the gym. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the right piece of equipment being used when you need it.
You can listen to the music you want, etc. Some people are motivated by working out in a gym setting and that’s fine, but don’t think you need a fancy gym to get great results.
In fact, a home gym with a few pieces of quality equipment and body weight exercises are really are you need. Even if you like to hit a gym, try a home workout now and then for a nice change of pace.
16. Superset, superset, superset
One of my absolute favorite techniques! A superset is simply doing two exercises back to back without rest between them.
You can do supersets using different exercises for the same body part (ex. Incline dumbbell curls and standing barbell curls), for opposing body parts (like back and chest) or for completely different body parts like squats and shoulder presses).
Supersets allow you to do more work in less time, jacking up the intensity and quality of your workouts. And they are great if you don’t have enough time to get in your full workout.
Here’s a sample:
1A. Deadlifts 5 x 5 (five sets of five reps each)
2A. Dumbbell Bench Press 5 x 5
Rest 1 to 2 minutes after each superset
17. For a smaller waist, train your shoulders
It’s all about proportion. If you want to make your waist appear slimmer, work your shoulders (and your hips/glutes). This will give you that hourglass appearance. And guys, wider shoulders don’t get hidden under clothes in winter like your upper arms do. Ladies, well developed shoulders and upper back look awesome in a sleeveless dress!
18. Eat more beans
Yes, really. Seriously, though, beans are good for you, have a variety of health benefits and most are fiber rich. And you already know you should be eating a lot more fiber every day!
19. Include HRA’s in your workout to boost your metabolism and burn more fat
These go by different names, dynamic interrupts, dynamic finishers, metabolic accelerators, metabolic scorchers, Heart Rate Accelerators. These are exercises you throw into the middle of your workouts, or at the end, to boost your heart rate (metabolism).
For example, you might be doing circuits or supersets like this:
1A. Dumbbell Bench Press
1B. Barbell Bent Over Row
1C. Dumbbell Squat
After 3 circuits you go to your HSA. Some examples of an HSA could be:
Jump Rope – 2 minutes
Jumping Jacks – 100
Squat Thrusts – 25 reps or 45 seconds
You would only do one of those, not all three.
Sometimes your dynamic interrupt could be two exercises like:
Push Ups – AMRAP
Sit Ups – 25
Then you would hit your next circuit, like this one:
2A. Dumbbell Standing Press
2B. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
2C. Dumbbell Alternate Forward Lunges
20. Become a photographer (Take pictures)
You don’t ever need to show these pictures to anyone else but it’s a great way to keep motivated and actually SEE the progress you’ve made over time. When you see yourself every day it’s tough to see the results and so it’s easy to get frustrated.
21. Get SMART
The S stands for specific. Be specific about the goals you want to achieve. Forget things like, “I want to get in shape,” “I want to get big,” or “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to increase my bench press.”
Instead try things like “I want to run a 6 minute mile,” “I want to add 10 pounds of muscle,” “I want to lose 20 pounds of fat, or “I want to add 40 pounds to my best bench press.”
The M stands for measurable. This ties in well with specific. You can’t measure ‘getting in shape,” but you sure can measure ‘running a 6-minute mile’ or ‘bench 3 plates’.
In addition to specific and measurable, your goals must be A, or attainable. The R stands for realistic.
As I’ve said before, it’s important to set challenging goals. Challenging, but attainable, that is.
A goal of a 50-pound increase on your bench press max in 12 weeks would be a challenging goal, but also one that is possible.
However, setting a goal of bench pressing 300 pounds in 4 weeks when you currently bench press 75 pounds will do nothing but set you up for failure and frustration.
Same thing with weight loss. Don’t set a goal of losing 30 pounds in 30 days. You’ll only set yourself up for frustration. Challenging but realistic, remember? Make it tough but give yourself a chance. That way you’ll really battle for it but even if you fall short, you’ll still make great progress.
The T stands for Timely. If you do everything previously mentioned, it’s still not enough. You must give yourself a deadline to achieve your goal.
More importantly, if your goal is attainable and realistic, but also long term, break it up into smaller goals.
If you wish to lose 75 pounds, start with losing just 10 pounds in 2 months. Reaching that goal will motivate you further and before you know it, enough time has passed that you’ve lost the 75 pounds.
But if you focus solely on losing the 75 pounds, which could take a year or more to accomplish, your motivation and discipline could wane, and you could fail to follow through on what you need to do to make your goal a reality.
22. Drink water BEFORE you eat
Be sure and drink 8 to 16 ounces of water 15 to 30 minutes before each meal. Doing so will help you feel full and reduce the number of calories you eat.
Nothing tastes as good when you’re truly thirsty!
Extra tip: Drinking ice water will help you burn up to an extra 100 calories per day.
23. Extend your set
Most people’s set length is too short, which doesn’t give them the optimal training stimulus for muscle building or accelerating fat loss. Unless you’re specifically working pure strength, try and make each set last for at least 20 seconds and 30 to 40 is okay, too. This means either doing timed intervals, higher reps, or slowing down the speed of each rep.
24. Beware the fitness trend
Fitness trends come and go. Techniques that work stick around (and sadly sometimes get lost amongst the “new” stuff). Use REAL tools, like barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, TRX or Jungle Gym, sandbags, bodyweight, etc. You can’t sit and spin your way to great abs and you can’t squeeze a piece of plastic between your thighs for great legs. You’ll have to work. Be sure to work smart and use the correct tools.
25. Go nuts
Nuts. Eat them. Walnuts, almonds. Get them natural, not with a bunch of crap added. Great source of protein, fiber and the good fats your body needs.