It always pains me to hear from people who exercise often but don’t get the results they want. It pains me even more to see people in the gym who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing.
Attacking your fitness goals can be tough, and while the main ingredients are hard work and discipline, there are many other concepts you must recognize before you can get to where you want to be.
Here are eight tips to help you sculpt your body into a museum-worthy work of art:
1. Make a good playlist
For me, good music is essential for a good workout. It gets me in the zone and helps me stay there. If you have a lot on your mind before you hit the gym, you might find yourself losing focus or wandering. Music will not only keep you from drifting off but also help to get you fired up and ready to hit it.
Make or find a playlist that ignites a fire in you.
2. Recognize your goals and your accomplishments
Don’t just go to the gym and do whatever you feel like doing. If you do so, chances are, you’ll stop once you feel like stopping, which is usually too soon. You need structure.
Before you step foot inside the gym, you should have a plan of attack. Know exactly which exercises you'll hit and how many sets and reps you will do for each. Don’t leave until you’ve completed everything on your list.
Following this tip will help you in three ways: 1) You will get much better results when you complete workouts than when you half-ass them; 2) you will be much more efficient in the gym if you have your whole agenda already planned out, and 3) you will get the sweet satisfaction of doing everything you sought out to do.
Equally important to tracking your goals is tracking your accomplishments. Once you finish your workout, write down what you did on your calendar. This is great not only for organizational purposes but also for motivation.
Compete with yourself. See if you can top what you did last week. Before you know it, you’ll look back on a calendar full of wins.
3. Diet according to your goals
Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand. If you do one without the other, you’ll only get 50 percent of the results you could be getting. Read up on diets that help you accomplish what you’re trying to do. Communicate with other people who share similar goals. See what they do, ask about their results and see if it works for you.
Allow yourself one cheat day per week. Keeping a stringent diet can be taxing, especially if you’re just getting started. Designate one day out of the week during which you can eat whatever you want. This way, you won’t have to feel badly about stuffing your face full of ice cream — you earned it.
4. Focus on form
Form is astronomically more important than weight. When you exercise with proper form, you will not only get better results, but you will also help yourself avoid injury. If you’re doing the exercise wrong, it doesn’t matter how much you’re lifting because you’ll just look like a dummy.
Take the time to look up the proper form for each exercise you plan to do. The Internet supplies endless videos and information to outline this.
Getting injured is the f*cking worst. You spend your days in crippling agony and there’s nothing you can do about it beyond waiting until you’re healed. So, don't be stupid; exercise with good form.
5. Get high
...On endorphins and oxygen!
When you push yourself to the brink of muscle failure, your body will release endorphins, which literally get you high. Endorphins act on opiate receptors in your brain (same concept as heroin and morphine) to make you feel euphoric and on top of the world.
Endorphins will reduce anxiety, boost confidence and intoxicate you with happiness. When you breathe correctly during your workouts, you’ll also get an oxygen high. Breathing correctly is just as important as having good form.
Generally, you want to breathe out when you’re exerting maximum force and breathe in when you’re on the negative. For example, on the bench press, inhale when bringing the bar down and exhale when pushing the bar up. Stay consistent and breathe correctly for every repetition.
6. Get a workout partner
Workout partners are great for many reasons; they’ll help keep you motivated and on track, and they help you push past plateaus.
Having someone with whom to share the struggle helps a lot. One day, you’ll feel like a lazy slob and your partner will feel like a hummingbird on crack and he or she will get you off your ass and in the gym. Another day, it’ll be the other way around.
Your partner can also help you finish that last rep when your muscles can’t make it all the way. This will help you achieve muscle failure, which is the goal if you’re trying to build muscle. Learn from each other and share new things you learn from elsewhere.
7. Confuse your body
The best results come from diversified workouts. If you do the same exercises, on the same days, at the same times, you’ll eventually hit a hard plateau. Muscles grow when they are worked completely and from every possible direction. This is why you need to confuse the sh*t out of them.
If you find yourself always doing the same combo of workouts for a given muscle group, try a different combo. If you find yourself always going to the gym at night, throw in some morning workouts.
Mix it up every few weeks so you can keep your muscles guessing and growing.
8. It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Getting in good shape is not something that happens overnight. It’s not something that happens in a week and it’s not a hobby or something to do every once in a while. Staying in shape is a way of life.
Your goals might seem daunting and you may be inclined to get ahead of yourself and try to do more than your body is capable of doing. If your body is not ready for the jump forward and you bite off more than you can chew, you will surely get injured. Again, don’t be stupid.
Take it day by day. Listen to your body and go at your own pace. When you’re healthy, you have all the time in the world to reach your goals. When you’re injured, you have all the time in the world for anything except working out.
Keep in mind that exercise is a jealous mistress. If you don’t pay her the attention she craves, you’ll surely feel her wrath. Keep these tips in mind and soon, you'll transform into a chiseled Greek god.
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