If you’re on any social media platform at all, you’ve seen an assortment of variations of exercises: drop sets, giant sets, supersets (yes they are different), accessories like chains and blocks, paused and pulse reps, using machines for a different purpose than their original design, etc. On top of that, there are about a million different “diets” or ways to arrange your macros that promise better results than anything else out there. I frequently get asked what my favorite exercises to target a specific area are, or how I set up my macros to see the best results. Most of the time I feel like my answer isn’t as exciting as what people expect – I don’t track macros for a majority of the year; I utilize the big three lifts consistently with varying rep ranges and I rarely hit new PR’s or do anything “interesting” with my training. In fact, most days I don’t feel like I have anything worthwhile of posting because my training is very simple. But, I think that’s what many people in the general population don’t understand – what they see on social media is only a portion of the training that happens, and what they do see has been cherry-picked to peak their interest.
For most lifters who have been in the game for a long time, their training is pretty basic but extremely effective. You might introduce a new way of performing an exercise to create a novel stimulus, or because right now equipment is limited due to gyms being closed or only allowing limited occupancy. Powerlifters and Strongman competitors introduce chains, blocks, bands, paused reps, etc as a way to break through plateaus or increase power – not because they think it looks cool. Overall, the goal is to be consistent with your training. Including compound lifts regularly with progressive overload will yield better results than constantly trying to “mix up” your training or using the chest press machine sideways, or use a hip abductor machine backward because you saw a famous athlete do it for the Gram. Advanced athletes can use trendy Instagram worthy exercises and feel the ‘pump’ or targeted muscle because they have built the connection to the muscle already through years of training. If a person with little lifting experience tried to replicate the exercise, they probably wouldn’t perform it correctly and see minimal results. If you are unsure where to start, find a trainer that can educate you or do some reading on your own – here are some great resources of basic training methods: New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding , M.A.X. Muscle Plan, NASM Essentials of Personal Training. (These are not sponsored, just my personal picks)
When I first started training clients 6 years ago, I had them stick to very basic exercises, and most didn’t touch a barbell until they could perform a movement correctly with just their bodyweight or light dumbbells. It’s very similar to how I was trained as an athlete growing up. We did basic drills EVERY SINGLE PRACTICE.. to the point where it just became second nature and almost boring. But, when it came to game day – we performed at a much higher level than many in our age group because we had built a solid foundational base. Personal fitness is no different. If you immediately try to jump into exercises that are more “exciting” without properly learning how to do them, you put yourself at a higher risk of injury and encourage poor form habits that are much harder to break later down the road. As you become more competent in the gym, you can introduce new stimuli. Your training should still be fun, and including new exercises or ‘challenges’ can be a great way to keep motivation – just don’t let the overwhelming desire to try cool tricks overpower the structure of long term training goals. I recently saw a comment left on an elite Olympic Weightlifter’s page about how she only ever posts the same handful of exercises… well yeah, that’s why she is so skilled at her craft. Training for long term goals means you are doing a lot of repetitions of the same moves.
Nutrition and health should also have a long term focus. Diet actually refers to the food a person/community habitually eats – NOT “a way to shed excess body fat quickly”. We need to start focusing on what we eat and make sure it is sustainable for the long haul. This is the easiest way to maintain a healthy weight and decrease the risk of disease. Find foods that provide high nutritional value and that you can see yourself preparing frequently. If you don’t know how to prepare food, there are tons of meal prep services available to you, both locally and nationally. If you are drastically changing the way you eat every few months because it helps you shed weight, but then go back to your “regular” diet and gain it all back, what are you accomplishing? There are legitimate reasons for eliminating certain foods – allergies, intolerance, issues with texture, or even morality (vegans and vegetarians). Seeing a nutrition plan on Pinterest or IG that recommends going Keto, Paleo, Carnivore, Vegan, Gluten-Free, etc because “I lost so much weight” is not a legitimate reason and your commitment to it for the rest of your life is going to be questionable. If you enjoyed eating a food prior to this big shift, chances are you will still want to eat it again at some point in your life. Focusing on long term nutrition teaches you that you CAN still enjoy these foods occasionally while maintaining a healthy physique and overall health. Restrictive dieting does not.
Trying to find a shortcut or the ‘secret’ to fitness and health isn’t the answer. Creating a long term lifestyle with consistency and structure is. Once you have a solid base in place, then you can accessorize with the fun tricks and treats. 🎃
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