Wether you want to get stronger or leaner, or a combination of both, there are TONS of programs that work and will give you the results you want. However, gaining muscle or losing weigh depends more on fundamental principles than the actual program you choose.
I always recommend that people find a program/method they enjoy and apply the following 3 principles to it. It's important to note that these have do be done together.
The most important in my opinion. It does not matter if I give you the best training plan in the world, if you don't do it, it's rendered useless.
If you want to put on muscle and your training program calls for 4 workouts a week, but you only do 3 the first week, 4 the next week, 2 the week after that, it is not going to work.
For weight loss, if your training programs tells you to eat a certain way, but you only follow it 5 days out of 7, it will not work.
Consistency is a long term thing. I don't care if you're consistency for a couple weeks. Show me consistency over a few month. And that's where 95% of people fail. It's easy to be consistent for a few weeks. Your consistency will get tested when you get sick, when work get's really busy, when your kids get sick, when you go on holidays...basically a lot of the time. As a trainer I can tell you that most people do not reach their goals because of it, or lack thereof.
Finding ways to remain consistent on the long term is challenging, but once you find ways to do it, you will get a massive win on your side.
Here are a few things you can do to be more consistent:
- Find a program you enjoy doing. There are lots of them out there, so take the time to understand what is required of you when you start one. If you don't like it within the first few weeks, find another one you can stick to better.
- If you don't have to time to do a full workout because life gets in the way, do whatever you can that day. Workout for 15 minutes instead of 45 minutes. Keep your momentum going. Here's a secret: I personally rarely get to finish a full workout. However, I almost never miss a workout.
- When you don't feel like working out, make your workout as easy as you need to for you to start the workout. Here's an example. It's the end of the day, you're tired. You don't want to go workout. Just go to the gym and do your warm up. Telling yourself you are only doing your warm may help you get there. Once you're there, you'll notice that after you are done the warm up, you will feel up for the workout.
You can use this trick in other ways: if you still don't want to go to the gym to do the warm up, focus on putting your workout gear at home. Maybe that will get you to go. Or you can workout at home. Just do 10 squats at home and call it a day. Again, once you complete the 10 squats, odds are you'll want to do more.
Consistency sounds easy but most of us aren't good at it on the long term. Find a plan you like, commit to it and stick to it.
How you do your program matters a lot. How good are your workouts? The easiest way to ensure you are doing great workouts is to take it one rep at a time. When you do a rep, did it have good form? Did you feel the targeted muscles work? Did you use the right intensity for that set?
Workout quality is a skill that is acquired through consistency. The more you do your workouts, the better you will get at making them high quality. Proper form comes with time and practice, same with feeling the targeted muscles. Using the right intensity comes from knowing how your body responds to certain sets and exercises, and usually takes a few workouts to nail down. All this comes from doing your program consistently.
Here's what I look for during my workouts:
- Are all of my reps done with good form?
- Am I focusing on what's to come, or am I scrolling through the gram (or other distractions)
- Am I feeling the right muscles work?
- Am I breathing properly during my sets?
- When I do challenging sets, am I stopping at form failure or muscle failure?
- Am I using weights that are appropriate for my goals?
- How is my energy? Am I tired? If I'm consistently tired, what is the cause?
Quality can also be applied to the program as a whole. Are you prioritizing your health by making time to workout, or are you always rushing through it, squeezing it wherever it fits in your schedule? Are you eating properly? Are you sleeping properly? How's your hydration?
Consistency and quality will get you in decent shape. Apply those two and you will be on the right path to your goals. The last principle will make you sure you A. reach them and B. replicate them in the future.
Progressive overload (or P.O) means making your workouts slightly more challenging over time to keep your body adapting to them.
Let's say I want to get better at deadlifting. In my first workout, I do 4 sets of 8 deadlifts with 150 pounds. I get home that night and notice I am quite sore from that workout. Yay! The next week I do the exact same workout, and notice that I am not as sore. I am getting stronger! The following week I repeat the same workout and notice that I am not sore at all. If I keep doing the same workout, my body will not get stronger, because it can already do that workout easily.
If you keep doing the exact same workout, or the exact same weights, you body will not adapt once it can do that workout easily. This is where P.O comes in.
Let's say that during my seconds workout, I do 4 sets of 8 deadlifts with 160 pounds. That's 10 pounds more than the last workout. And maybe the next workout I do 5 sets instead of 4. both of these strategies place new demands on my body, which will need to keep adapting and getting stronger.
There are many ways you can progress your program. You can lift heavier weights, you can do more reps per set, you can do more sets, you can do more exercises per workouts, you can add workouts, the combinations are endless.
What does matter is that you apply P.O in a safe manner. As a rule of thumb, if I am increasing the weights I am lifting, I'm going up by 2-5% from my previous week. If I am adding reps, I am only adding 2 reps per set.
Tracking your workouts either on paper or on an app is the easiest way for you to see what is the best progressing strategy.
I wrote a longer article dedicated to progressive overload here, which you can read to understand more about it.
Implementing these three principles is as close to a secret fitness sauce as you can get. Take the time to do each one properly. Remember that they work synergistically, so doing the three of them properly is important.
If you are starting out, it will take time to do them properly. Give yourself AT LEAST three months. Work on your consistency first, then your quality and finally your overload. When you get to the point of working on your overload, make sure you are still being consistent and do quality workout.
If you want to learn how to apply these principles easily, join my next online training group here.
Enjoy the process, be patient and have fun.