BODYSTRONG has assembled some of the best coaches in the world to show you how to transform every part of your body, mind, and life. Here are seven crucial lessons from them that you can put into action today!
Tip 1: Don't Limit Yourself To A Single Version Of Periodization
It's a tale as old as time: You can lift a weight for a solid set of 8-10, so you add another small plate. And another. You get stronger, and you start seeing muscle where there wasn't any before.
It should keep progressing like this forever, right? Alas, it doesn't. Eventually, the strength and size gains that seemed so easy at first grind to a halt—and maybe even slip backward. When the weights can't get any heavier, the true art of exercise programming begins.
"If your gains have stagnated, try changing up your training at specific times to maximize results," says Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., the force behind Shortcut to Size and Shortcut to Strength.
Both programs tweak the crucial variables that allow you to keep moving forward—not only sets and reps, but also exercise selection, rest periods, and exercise order, among others. Master the subtle dance between these, and you can truly keep progressing for years.
Tip 2: Think "Cardio Acceleration," Not Just Cardio
If you want to add muscle, lift hard and rest between sets. If you want to lose weight, do cardio. So says the traditional way of doing things. And sure, this approach can help you make some progress. But to chase fat away like it's got a Rottweiler on its tail, mix strength and cardio with what Stoppani calls "cardio acceleration."
"Instead of resting between your lifts, do high-intensity cardio between every single lift to fire up your fat-burning furnace," Stoppani advises in the third pillar of his All Access triumvirate, Shortcut to Shred.
Of course, picking the appropriate exercise is paramount here. The right pick will help every workout be more effective. The wrong pick can ruin an otherwise perfect workout. When in doubt, go for non-competing body parts. So, bench press with bench step-ups is great, but bench press with battling ropes is only going to fry your upper body for your presses.
Tip 3: Exercise At A Pace That Makes Sense For You, Not Someone Else
"There's nothing to be gained by trying to keep up with someone who is on a completely different level than you. Find your own speed," says Hannah Eden, a highly sought-after trainer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who works with top-tier fitness organizations including Reebok, Men's Health Magazine, and Lululemon.
What does this mean for you? Sure, you can destroy yourself every day trying to keep up with an elite athlete's program or follow-along workout, but any gains you have are going to be temporary at best. And, once you get burned out and need a week or two off, it's that much harder to get started again.
A better way is to be honest about your ability level, especially in the early going. In FYR: Hannah Eden's 30-Day Fitness Plan, she offers three levels of follow-along intensity. Yes, it's tempting to try to keep up with the highest level, which is Hannah herself, the first time through the program. No, we don't recommend it.