My go to principles, workouts and nutrition tips
I’ve been training for more than 20 years and staying motivated has always been a challenge, the truth is that anyone that tells you otherwise is full of it. There will always be those days, even months that will be tough mentally speaking, especially when you live up north in cold weather, with a lot of days without sun, just white and grey as colors everywhere.
As we all know, no training for more than 2-3 weeks can have disastrous consequences. You feel like you start all over again and that you lost all kinds of strength and gains. So psychologically speaking, keeping on is the only options, but the question is, how?
Learning to know thyself is the only thing that can save you. Learn how to periodize your workouts, which is principle number one in my go to advice for all trainees and trainers that crosses my path for guidance. Learning how and when to manipulate the elements such as volume, intensity, play around with overcompensation and rest is of the utmost importance in my opinion if you want to live a long and strong life.
For the skilled trainer, we need to be able to play in that goldilocks zone which is called overcompensation, and most of all, be able to time it and maximize it well. When your body has fully repaired itself from training it doesn’t stop there. In order to prepare for stresses in the future, it will become a little stronger than before. This progression is called overcompensation, the physiological mechanism behind the training effect – it is how you get fitter and stronger.
But how do you plan for it? I don’t think there is any given set of rules, except one, learn to…
‘’Know yourself, and your enemy, a thousand battles, a thousand victory.’’
In training, the same goes with our own weakest and strongest abilities and this goes in many areas of our lives. For instance, your schedule may not allow you to train more than 4 times a week. Overlooking this simple but very important detail may impact your ability to recuperate and may cause great damage to your health in the long run if you try to do more.
Follow the wave and be realistic. Nothing is temporary. Don’t risk it all for the sake of pride. Use these busy times to rest and reassess.
For those who burn the candle from both ends, having a few tricks up your sleeve can help you come back faster from those sleepless and restless nights induced by overbooked schedules. Magnesium will help calm your nervous system down and ease your mind. Working late at night on that bright blue computer screen may have a part in it, messing up your body’s perception of sleep so melatonin and magnesium can help improve your sleep quality.
For those who are involved in sports with competitions, the accumulation of work prior to it can be a challenge. The problem is that you need to prioritize the work that needs to be done. For example, if strength needs to be maintained while a lot of work is being done on the sports specifics, it is important to plan ahead. While you get closer to competition, you might have to sacrifice a few days of gym to focus on specifics, and sometimes, it can be the opposite, it all comes down to the goals in mind.
‘’He who knows when he can or can not fight, will be victorious.’’
One must learn when to calm down, to take it easy, rest and restore, take a break from practice and training. This is where efficiency of the periodization principle lies. Our body (and obsessive propensities) does not always recognize the early symptoms of overtraining. Many would want us to believe that overtraining is just an excuse for the weak, but that would be their weakness. Know when to ease off the accelerator and throughout the year, plan periods of rest, regeneration and refocus. You don’t have to wait until you crash and burn, keep progressing by implementing this principle. This will prevent many overuse injuries and will add many more years into your practice.
‘‘To be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues.’’
In training, we set goals so we don’t waste our precious time. The best trainers always have a plan B. Injuries, planning mistakes and what we call ‘’life’’ happens and can throw curve balls to the best of us no matter how well the plan goes so being prepared for any eventualities is in fact, the greatest virtue.
The fact of the matter is this; we all fail at some point to understand that we all need to train efficiently, not maximally. I don’t care if you can benchpress 350lbs for reps but can’t do a pullup for shit. I’ve come to understand, with the help of my colleagues and primarily my mentor Charles Poliquin, is that if you are not sound structurally, sooner or later, you WILL breakdown or have some kind of issues. The same goes for nutrition.
In my opinion, if you are following, paleo, keto, or whatever the fuck you want to follow as a meal plan and can’t sustain it easily and can’t enjoy life, in general, it is not what you should do.
Eat to live.
However, if you have lived to eat, than don’t think you will get away with it. You have to earn your carbs, especially if you abused them, especially for a long time. If you have been indulging for a while, don’t think you’ll reverse the damage in a few weeks.
You will not have to weigh your food.
You don’t have to count your calories.
This is for food nazies. If you eat what your body knows, macronutrient speaking, nothing can go wrong. There will be an adjustment period. If you eat well, the right choices, you will get better. You might have to lower your calories, but for starters, I wouldn’t give two shits about counting calories, it’s useless. I never heard anyone say that results weren’t showing by replacing junk food with loads of veggies and protein. Stick with the basics and if you stick to it long enough, without giving into temptations and old habits, there is no way in hell that you won’t see results.
For instance, I’ve had people who were overweight and weren’t eating a lot believe it or not. Maybe it was because of genes, past experiences, hormones, years of malnutrition, etc. As soon as we increased their calories with the help of great nutritional choices, they started losing weight. So the theory that you have to eat less calories to lose weight can be misleading.
Obviously, those who are overweight and eat tons of calories (bad calories) will benefit from lesser calories and greater nutrient dense calories.
If some of you are thinking, ‘’well, I could cheat once in a while no?’’, well the more you do it, the longer it will take to get results. What do you want more? Those freakin cupcakes or your newfound health and body? A few weeks or months of sacrifices in exchange of a healthy lifestyle and the well earned cheat nights are in order.
Now, the last 20% of what is actually the fuel of your progress is still up for grabs.
Like I said earlier, the goal is the train efficiently.
Time is of the essence
Train for your goals
Train for your body
Train from your past
Too much focus is put on what others do and not enough on the person in the mirror. The training you read in the magazine or you saw on instagram might be awesome on paper, but not what you might need at the moment. Be honest with yourself.
Match your goals with your present situation and lifestyle. If you are stressed out, maybe you should hold off that next intensity phase. You want to gain muscle, maybe you should bring that that 25% bodyfat to around 15% first.
If you know you will have to lean down by the summer, don’t try to bulk up in the winter. In my opinion, bulking up is just an excuse to just eat crap when you want under the illusion that you gain more lean muscle mass in the process. Don’t kill the messenger, it is what it is. Just say you are off diet for while, just a question of perception.
Train from your past is one very valuable lesson for most advanced trainees for many reasons. I always say that you are the last three months of workout and nutrition you just did. Depending on your type, if you do too much volume for a while, you should think about cutting down, etc.
The basics do wonders. If you look at all the effective workouts out there, it always goes back to the 5×5, German volume, wave loading, 6-12-25, isometronics, strongman training (my favorite), etc. But again, you can use these and still get no results because of one simple fact of training, constant progression. If you just go to the gym ‘’to go to the gym’’ and post beastmode status, you aren’t doing anything good.
If you are using the exact same weight as the last workout, you are wasting your time. Sure, there might be a few exercises here and there that might get stuck to a given weight, but as long as you try to push through, you’ll see some progress eventually.
Technique is one thing. Perfect practices makes perfect, I get it. But for god’s sake, push hard and make some calluses. Don’t be scared to do a few forced reps, even if it means that you have to pull a few faces and let go of the perfect technique. Like they say, nothing remarkable has ever been achieved in your comfort zone.
Regarding injuries, you should address them ASAP, there is no question about it. Waiting can only make matters worst and can bring a whole new set of structural issues. However, for old injuries, there is always a way around. For example, let’s say you have bad shoulders; you should know exactly what movements are causing problems so work your way around it. By lifting weights, you’ll always be more prone to injuries than if you were sitting your ass on a couch everyday right? So injuries should not be an excuse. The longer you wait to address the issue, the longer you’ll have to wait before it heals. In the mean time, do what you can, never stop.