The following is an excerpt from the new Men’s Health Training Guide 90 Day Makeover Challenge: Weapons. In one volume, you’ll get all the tools you need – information, a nutritional guide, and workouts – to grow your arms in just 3 months.
GET A PLAN is one thing. Following this plan to completion is a completely different task. We’ve all had that workout plan, nutritional advice, or cardio routine that we hoped would put us on the right path to the version of ourselves we want to become. Coming up with a plan isn’t the part people struggle with: it’s following through, sticking to the plan every day.
I understand! Most people start new programs with the best of intentions, but life gets in the way. Late hours for a work project, a sick child, feeling overwhelmed, or a number of wrenches can derail the schedule, and sometimes you never get back on track. This is the pain point that keeps many people from making the changes they originally planned to accomplish.
Fortunately, all of that is a thing of the past. Here are the best tips and tricks I suggest to my clients to help them go from well-meaning to well-equipped!
1. Pick small goals, or milestones, to hit along the way
We all have goals we want to achieve. But often we look at the goal and it seems almost insurmountable, too big to ever achieve. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a client say “I could never do that” before we started working together. The saddest thing is that we tell ourselves that we are starting to believe it so much.
Instead of trying to conquer the world of health and fitness in one grand act, start with small victories. Small wins build momentum and your confidence, giving you the ability to achieve big things.
Say, for example, you want to do a pull-up. You can’t just grab the bar, hang on to it every day and eventually get back up, that’s asking too much of your body. Instead, use a progression: start with grip strength, then work on your back strength, progress to assisted pull-ups, and eventually you’ll complete a full pull-up. Deconstruct the movement into its components, then work in very deliberate steps, attacking it one step at a time until you have mastered it.
It’s the same with this plan. Building muscular arms will take time. But don’t feel overwhelmed: take a deep breath and trust the process.
How we approach this in the program: Most people quit their programs because they don’t see results fast enough. their idea of progress is simply too ambitious for the time they devote to it. In this program, you will notice that we modify one variable at a time. We will add a set to the exercise, reduce the rest interval or modify the exercise. This means that volume, conditioning, or progress goals all happen in small increments.
2. Adapt the plan to your needs
Do not attempt to insert a square peg into a round hole. Exercise programs come in different patterns, modalities, progressions, and more. There are endless variations and types. To be honest, there’s more than one way to do it!
It’s important to find a plan that fits your abilities, the time you have available, and your schedule. In fact, that’s the key. And I found that people realize that. In fact, one of the most common questions I get is, “What’s the ideal training program?”
Unfortunately, I can’t answer this question with a list of days and times, or timed minutes of deadlifts.
A recent study compared muscle hypertrophy (or growth) in participants who did resistance training six days a week to those who did resistance training three days a week. They found that when the volume was equal, the results were similar.
What should that tell you? When it comes to exercise, you can’t apply the “more is better” mentality that might work in other areas of life. With exercise, better is better.
Should I train in the morning or in the evening? Work when you have the most time and energy. Should I do cardio first or lift first? Do them in the order you are most likely to do them. How much weight should I lift? As much as you can while maintaining proper form. Agree to work under conditions that work for you.
How we approach this in the program: The program is designed not to take up your whole day.
The challenges are short enough to sneak in on your days off, and the basic workout-challenge combo scheduled for 4 days a week only takes around 45-60 minutes. It’s flexible, so you can do it at a time of your choosing, without quitting your job or taking days off to participate!
3. Build strong long-term behaviors
It’s not just about committing to the plan for 90 days, but also about creating an environment in which you can continue to thrive beyond that point. The goal is to deliberately make fitness and health your top priority.
Most people followed diet plans or workout routines that were, simply put, grueling. You may have had short-term results. But did they last? Most of the time they don’t. That’s because the program wasn’t fixing the root of the problem, which is your day-to-day behaviors.
With this plan, each week focuses on a specific behavioral goal to help make this 90-day plan a lifelong adventure.
How we approach this in the program: Each week, you will be given habit goals to work on. These are the long-term qualities that complement your fitness to meet your physical demands. As with my first tip, these will be small mile markers. Focusing on one at a time will leave you with a different mindset at the end of the 90 days. You could see a completely different version of yourself in just three months.
4. Create enough variety to keep it interesting
There is a sweet spot with a varied lineup. If you do too much of the same thing over and over again, it can become a very boring chase with diminishing payoffs. But if you change things up every time, you’ll create a moving target, making it almost impossible to see any real enlargement or physical changes.
A recent study on exercise variation and its effect on hypertrophy and strength gains found that redundancy (repetition) and excessive variation interfered with strength and hypertrophy. After reviewing current studies, the researchers suggested that “exercise variation may be focused on including exercises that have movement patterns similar to the primary exercise and induce muscle hypertrophy on the prime mover while decreasing joint stress”.
What does that mean? For the best results, you need the right amount of variation to address complementary muscles, slight variations in movement demand, and more advantageous positions to maintain strength and hypertrophy.
How we approach this in the program: Small, subtle changes in the way you perform exercise make a big difference in the long run. Even small adjustments, such as slight bends of the
Hand position can change muscle emphasis on biceps and triceps exercises, creating just enough variety to keep the movement fresh and the results coming. Additionally, we add exercise techniques such as tempo shifts, rest shifts, and volume boosts to further challenge the muscles.
5. Don’t worry
You will have days where you feel amazing – like a superhero – and days where you feel deadly, or even worse. It happens. And, to be honest, that’s part of the reason why some people start to lose interest or even quit their program.
Always remember: if you fall off the cart, you can get back on it. If you miss a workout or two, or have a bad day at the gym, that doesn’t mean you have to scrap the whole program. You can pick it up where you left off or a little earlier. Reset and get back to what you seek to accomplish. Whether you missed a workout, skipped your dinner diet, or didn’t get enough sleep, don’t worry. Just reset and restart.
How we approach this in the program: Life Happens. Committing to the 90 Day Challenge is the first step, but I also understand that life can change quickly or some sections of this program may be more difficult than originally anticipated. If, at the end of a phase, you feel particularly tired or exhausted, you can always start the previous phase again. The goal is to complete this on a schedule that makes sense to you.
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