by Coach Aaron Hyatt
We are now a few weeks into 2018. How are you progressing towards your 3-month goals, your year-long goals? Many of you have goals related to specific movements or accomplishments in the gym. Quite a few of you have goals related to getting stronger, getting leaner, or maybe both. We all would love to accomplish our goals but, what I will tell you is, the “easiest” ways to help yourself are the ones you are consistently overlooking. Do not assume the only way to washboard abs is through the hardest of work and the Instagram highlights. In fact, most of the things on this list can’t fit into your 1-minute Instagram window or even be placed into your story, but they will get you leaner and stronger in 2018. Read and apply!
- Sleep more.
Okay, there is a reason this is number 1! It is literally what will dictate your hormones the greatest outside of you taking anabolic steroids of some sort. Nothing is more anabolic than sleep. So how can this work for you? I got it, go to bed earlier. Simple. It is not sexy, it is not fun, you may need to pass on your Netflix obsession until the weekend, but it will be worth it. Trust me. Aim for a solid 7 is what I tell most people who ask. If you can get more, then please do so, more will only help the training athlete.
- Eat whole foods.
Again, another one that is not the fun part. This isn’t slamming heavy weights and posting to Instagram, but this is what moves the needle the most, folks. A 6-pack is made in the kitchen. How can you attain one? Well like Coach Glassman said in Fitness In 100 Words, “Eat meat and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and NO sugar.” It’s pretty simple and even explains a brief idea of HOW MUCH of each to consume. As many meats and veggies and nuts and seeds as you want, less fruit than veggies, less starch than fruit and yes, you see it, NO SUGAR. That’s the hard part but also where the magic happens. Another simple application to this is to shop on the parameter of the grocery store and avoid the isles, envision your menu each day consisting of food you could hunt and kill or grow yourself.
- Say no to refined carbs.
For some reason, many athletes that come into the gym one hour a day think they need to eat pasta and rice and oats in order to get jacked and lean. Stop it. You are not a bodybuilder and you don’t train like one. Unless you train two sessions and have a vision for competition, you are really just making things harder on yourself. Stay safe and avoid things that come in a package. This goes a lot with number 2, but you can get all of your necessary carbohydrates from fruits and veggies and, when you need something more dense, a sweet potato will do!
- Eat at least five meals a day.
There are a few reasons for this and the primary being it keeps you from overindulging at any one particular serving. We know that the optimal goal is to keep our blood sugar fairly even through the day to avoid “lulls” and “spikes” and the best way to do this is to eat frequently. The hard part is that it takes planning. Be sure to plan your food at least one day ahead. My advice is to use the day of the week you have the most spare time, maybe that’s a Saturday or Sunday, and use an hour or two for food prep. It is best to make sure you have enough protein prepped for the week and then you can always find carbohydrate sources from fruits or veggies even when in a pinch.
- Drink MORE water!
Okay, by this point you are like, “Coach, c’mon man, we know this stuff.” If you do, then why aren’t you doing it? There are several different guidelines on how much water we should be consuming and it will differ from person to person, so I don’t have an exact number. Some sources will suggest around ten 8oz. glasses a day for men and eight 8oz. glasses a day for women. If you can shoot for something like this throughout the day, you’ll perform better in your training session for sure. And this is the number one hunger satiate we know of keeping you from making bad food choices.
- Set a training schedule!
Look, everyone is busy. We all have lives and some of us are in the hustle as a stay-at- home parent and some are business owners and others are servicemen. We come from diverse backgrounds but finding time to train is hard for everyone. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. You have to set your routine, then set your goal within that routine and give yourself some wiggle room. Know what time you will train each day as well so you can block it out in your schedule. It is important to have the ability to say “No” to things that can get in the way of your training if you want to reach your goals. An example of a great goal for most people is to make it to the gym five days a week. Let’s say for most CrossFit athletes out there they go Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. BUT the world we live in isn’t perfect and events come up that force us to reschedule. Maybe you have a big meeting on Wednesday but you still want to make it into the gym five days that week. So you simply change some things up and head in on Thursday so you can substitute that training session. This gives you the wiggle room that allows you to “make up” for what you can’t make happen. The point is, you must be willing to say NO to things that get in your way when you can.
- Lift heavy weights at least three days a week.
I know to many of you reading this it is an obvious point, but to other people out there training, they don’t see the benefits of heavy multiple joint movements. Men and women alike that want to get leaner and stronger MUST lift heavy things often. Movements like squats, lunges, press, push press, dead lift, bench press, the clean and jerk and the snatch are all very beneficial to building physique. Right now there is a trend of a lot of people wanting to do a lot of what we call “accessory” work to look like the people putting it out, but you won’t. You must understand that the foundation of any strong and lean physique was built through multiple joint movements done heavy, for years! Accessory movements are great and have their role but stick to moving as much weight as you can through the foundational lifts listed above and you’ll get phenomenal results. And don’t worry, we’ve got your back here! We lift heavy all the time!
- Increase the loads.
In order to do this correctly you have to track your progress. So the first thing you need to do is record your sessions somehow. It could be in an app or in your notebook. Doesn’t matter. But track! And do your BEST to increase the weights as you go! The truth is again that everyone wants fancy percentages and sexy numbers to perform movements based on but the best results happen when you simply go as heavy as you can from set 1 until you are done. Simple. The more the loads increase the more the strength gains continue to climb and in order to move weights you have to grow muscle! Which, if you are reading this, this is one of your goals anyway. Keep it simple.
Yes, it will be necessary. In fact, you will still get many good anabolic effects when this is done correctly. If you keep this short and intense it will allow you to hold onto your strength gains and allow the physique to keep going in the direction of GAINS! The downside to long, slow cardio is that it is boring and it takes forever! It can be very beneficial and if you plan on being a competitive exerciser or even a physique competitor, it will be a necessary evil, but you will not need it to see that 6-pack! Keep your conditioning sessions between 8-12 minutes for the most part and train multi-joint movements in different combinations as much as you can. You know, basically do CrossFit. You can also add in single modality work like rowing, running, or swimming, but keep most of those sessions to interval-based efforts. This will help you keep the intensity high, get great results and not force you to go LONG in order to do so.
- When in doubt, eat more protein.
The bottom line is, protein is the building block of our cells. We need it in order to create more lean body mass. The more we get, the better, for the most part. When it comes to how much you should take in, it differs depending on your body size, but it is often recommended to take a minimum of 1 gram per pound of body weight each day. A 200lb. male should be consuming 200 grams of protein per day. If you have any experience with tracking food you know that eating that amount each day can be hard. Which is why it is important to have a supplement that you can take in order to help get those grams, especially after your training session.
Follow some of the above steps or follow them all. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel to help you reach your goals in 2018, keep it simple.
Best of luck! If you focus on these ten steps you will begin to see progress heading in the right direction in a matter of weeks.