Spring is here, which means summer is fast approaching. Your ambitious goals to get in shape by summer now seem destined to failure—but are they? Can you find ways to speed up muscle growth and fat loss so you're confident peeling your shirt off at a pool party or the beach?
The answer is yes. But, that means maximizing your efforts starting now, with extreme focus and commitment. I'll show you five smart training and nutrition strategies especially effective for a time-squeezed deadline.
1. Set A Deadline
While your struggles to get into great shape may extend year over year, one group of fitness fanatics is seeing fast results. What makes them different? They set deadlines!
Tens of thousands of individuals enter contests like the Bodybuilding.com 90-day transformation, though few expect to win the grand prize. Their trophy, however, comes from competing against themselves; a winning formula so successful it's now replicated industry-wide. You simply work harder and achieve more when you're serious about a deadline.
If you don't have a set plan there's no sense of urgency, which is why so many people never make it off the couch. Setting a deadline encourages you to start now, view this as a short-term journey requiring daily effort, and "peak" by your deadline.
Once you have a firm deadline written down, work backward from that date, giving you a 2-3-month window from which the work begins. The clock is ticking; Now you have a real sense of urgency.
If you want suggestions on how you can set up your training, Bodybuilding.com offers a wealth of smart programs, including an approach that helps you lose fat so you look bigger, and another geared more toward muscle building.
2. Hire A Respected Coach
The world's best bodybuilders and physique athletes all use coaches to make improvements, so why not you? I don't care who you are or how long you've been training, or even how hard you train, no one can push you harder than a good trainer. What's more, you'll be exposed to new training methods and exercises you may have never considered.
Just as an Olympic athlete requires a top-level coach, you're not looking for a run-of-the-mill personal trainer but rather an individual with a track record of taking clients to the next level.
Paying someone to expertly guide you isn't a long-term solution (unless your daddy is Warren Buffett), so consider this a short-term strategy. Invest in a coach for either a few weeks, to get you started right on a new program, or for one workout a week, to help make improvements to what you're already doing.
If it's just about pushing yourself, you don't necessarily have to pay someone if you find a solid workout partner. Ideally their time commitment, goals, and experience level should match up with yours. If you're accountable to someone else, you're less likely to skip workouts, and more likely to be pushed harder.
3. Double Up Your Daily Workouts
Doing a single daily training session that includes both weights and cardio is ambitious, if not short-sighted. Your energy and focus start to drift after about an hour, meaning you'll get less returns for your time. You may even skip some elements of your workout. If you're looking for results, and willing to commit, try two-a-days. Training both in the morning and the afternoon or evening is an effective short-term strategy because you'll have more energy to tackle each half.
One approach is to do cardio as your first session, then return later for your weight training. This works especially well for individuals seeking to lose the greatest amount of body fat in the shortest amount of time possible. Alternatively, you can train one muscle group in the morning and the other in the evening, rather than doing both in a single workout. This way each training session is shorter, so fatigue shouldn't affect you as it might during a single, longer workout.
4. Hit Each Body Part With Greater Frequency
Most lifters, who are intermediate level and above, train each body part about once a week. This allows for greater volume for more complete muscle development. In the short term, an alternate strategy is to increase training frequency so that you're working muscle groups twice over the week, instead of just once. The more frequent stimulation is a smart way to introduce a new training stimulus if your workouts are no longer very effective. You will, however, want to back off the volume (think fewer total sets for each muscle group) by about a third.
A split, like the one below, breaks your training into push muscle groups, pull muscle groups, and legs. While the sample one suggests training six days on with only the seventh day off, one common variation is to take a rest day after each three workouts, so you end up hitting the entire body two times over eight days, not seven, allowing an extra day's recovery.
- Day 1: Chest, shoulders, triceps
- Day 2: Back, biceps, abs
- Day 3: Legs, calves
- Day 4: Chest, shoulders, triceps
- Day 5: Back, biceps, abs
- Day 6: Legs, calves
- Day 7: Rest
In addition to reducing your training volume, do different exercises on each of your training days for a given body part. For example, on your first back day you might focus on deadlifts, barbell rows, seated rows, and T-bar rows. On your second back day, you could do weighted pull-ups, lat pull-downs, reverse-grip pull-downs, and other cable or machine movements. Likewise, one shoulder workout can be more overhead-press heavy, while the other could emphasizes single-joint movements. You can even alternate between heavy days with fewer reps and lighter days with higher reps.
You get the idea. When following a highly demanding split like this one, extra attention must be paid to rest and recovery. Prioritize a good night's sleep, and grab a nap if you have the opportunity.
5. Invest In The Right Supplements
Training hard with a poor diet will limit your results, so following a smart nutrition plan is just as important as what you do in the gym to maximize your results. Including the right nutritional supplements can further help you achieve your goals, but don't think they can overcome poor eating habits.
Some supplements are better for putting on muscle and strength, and others aid in fat loss, so dialing in the right combination depends first and foremost on your goals.
A good place to start is with a high-quality protein powder, multivitamin, creatine, and caffeine.
Some of these ingredients can also be found in pre- or post-workout formulas.
Get A Move On!
Warm weather is around the corner, so there's no time to waste. Redouble your training efforts with these strategies and you'll be the center of attention this summer. It sure beats wearing a T-shirt on the beach!