Truths About Exercise

Long-term commitment

People usually workout with a short-term goal in their minds. You need to focus on being consistent over the long-term. Ignore the short-term results. If you commit to the long-term process, the results will come anyway. Furthermore, stop acting like living a healthy life is a big deal. You can go to the gym every week. That can be “normal” for you. Not a sacrifice. Not an obligation. Normal.

 I like looking at health in a different way :

  • The goal is not to lose 50 pounds in the next 10 weeks. The goal is to regain your health for the rest of your life.
  • The goal is not to bench press 200 pounds. The goal is to be the guy who never misses a workout.
  • The goal is not to sacrifice everything to get your fastest time in next month’s race. The goal is to be faster next year than you are today. And faster two years from now than you will be next year.

Schedule for your training.

Most people never train consistently because they are always wondering when they are going to train next. We always are wondering “Will I be motivated to workout when I get home from work?” or any other assumption that we made. In other words, most people train when they feel motivated or inspired. Stop treating exercise as something to do when it’s convenient and start setting a schedule for yourself to follow.

For example, I train every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5pm. I don’t have to think about when I’m going to train. I don’t sit around and wonder which days I’ll feel motivated to lift. I don’t hope that I’ll have some extra time to work out today. Instead, I put it on the schedule and then organize my life and responsibilities around it (just like you would organize your day around your class or your meeting or your kid’s baseball game).

Setting a schedule for your training becomes even more important when life gets crazy. There will always be occasional emergencies that prevent you from working out. It’s part of life. The problem is that most people miss one workout and before they know it, they haven’t been to the gym in 4 weeks. But when you have a schedule for your training, you have a way of pulling yourself back on track as quickly as possible.

Focus on the best exercises

Great results come from great focus and consistency, not with a great variety. Too many people waste time in the gym because they bounce around without any real goal, doing a little bit of this machine and a little bit of that machine. Thankfully, there is a simple rule that will always guide you toward the best exercises: the more an exercise makes you move, the bigger the benefits it will deliver. This is why the clean and jerk and the snatch are the kingpins of weightlifting. They are the exercises that force your body to move the most (and the quickest). As a result, the people who do these exercises see incredible results. Here’s a shortlist of the best exercises. In my opinion, at least one of the first five exercises should be included in every workout.

  1. Squat
  2. Deadlift
  3. Bench Press
  4. Clean and Jerk
  5. Snatch
  6. Sprints
  7. Overhead Press
  8. Good Mornings
  9. Pullups
  10. Pushups

Start light and train for volume before intensity

Ask most people if they had a good workout and they’ll say things like, “Oh yeah, it was so intense.” Or, “I’m going to be so sore tomorrow.” Or, “I finished my workout by doing a set to failure.”

It’s great to push yourself, but the biggest mistake that most people make is not building a foundation of strength. Everyone wants to jump in and max out with a weight that is “hard.” That’s exactly the wrong way to do it. Your workouts should be easy in the beginning. Training to failure is a good way to wear yourself down, not build yourself up. You should have reps left in you at the end of your workout (and at the end of each set). Take point #5 (below) to heart and your workouts will get hard enough, fast enough. Trust me. The phrase that I like to keep in mind is “train for volume before intensity.” In other words, I want to build the capacity to do the work before I start testing my limits.

Slow progress each week.

Most people walk into the gym every week, do the same exercises with the same amount of weight, and wonder why they aren’t getting stronger. You’ll see people step onto the same treadmill, run two miles like they always do, and wonder why they aren’t losing weight.

When you start to train, it’s like turning on the fan. Something new is happening in the environment, and your body registers the change by getting stronger and leaner. But after a few workouts, your body realizes “this is the new normal.” Your body finds a way to adapt to this new environment, just like it did with the noisy fan. As a result, you stop getting stronger and stop losing weight.

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