I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to my experience in health and fitness. I don’t claim to be an “expert,” but I have been around enough experts to absorb their knowledge and learn how to apply it to my own training and thus impart that to you. I also spend what most people would say is a ridiculous amount of my personal time reading about fitness. I love it so to me it’s enjoyable, but I get why it might seem like too much to some people.
With that being said, I wanted to compile a list of of my Fitness Tips. Tips that have been forged and molded through my fitness junkie lifestyle over the past 20+ years. As with all things fitness, opinions are ever evolving and I could have a different spin on this in the next 5 years, but for now this is where I stand.
My hope for this post is that it teaches you some fitness hacks that truly makes you a better, healthier, more well-rounded individual. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in this game so I hope you also use these pointers to help skip over those and not make them for yourself.
1. Get Stronger by Lifting Weight
The fastest way to build muscle is by getting stronger. We do this by working on back squats, deadlifts, bench press and strict press. These lifts all have relatively small learning curves (when compared to something like an Olympic lift) and can be applied almost on Day 1 barring some sort of pre-existing injury.
If I had my choice I’d take most beginner and intermediate athletes and put them on Jim Wendler’s 5 – 3 – 1 program. A program where you do the above lifts each day of the week based off a percentage of your max with a few other movements that support those lifts. I would supplement this 4-day per week routine with probably two metabolic conditioning (cardio) workouts that would be no more than 12 minutes long, but intense to keep your heart rate up.
The other cool facet when you implement a program like this is when you get stronger and build muscle you also begin to burn more calories. That’s because your metabolic rate goes up as it takes more calories for the body to maintain a pound of muscle than a pound of fat.
2. Take Fish Oil
Omega-3’s are like a wonder drug. There are truly a number of studies that have shown a whole host of benefits from taking a regular dose of fish oil. Anything from improving ADHD symptoms to reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. They’ve also been shown to have weight loss benefits as well.
I take 6 grams a day (3 morning / 3 night) for a variety of reasons. First off, they’ve shown to help increase your HDL levels (good cholesterol) and mine already sits naturally low. I’ve also had a number of shoulder surgeries due to college football and my joints feel better when I’m on a regular dose of fish oils. They kind of act as a natural anti-inflammatory as well as improve blood flow which is a plus if you’re training regularly.
I would recommend for any healthy adult male to take around 6g and adult female around 4g. There are certainly studies that have shown you can take a lot more and receive even more benefits, but it can get costly. As for brands, I would recommend SFH who sells them in the liquid form or just your Plane Jane Nature’s Made from your local pharmacy should do the trick.
3. Just Show Up
I workout six days a week every week and I’ve been doing that for a long time. If you think I’m excited to roll up to the gym every morning you’ve lost your mind. There are days when I have to force myself out of bed and hit the snooze button over and over. Even for people that love fitness it can be a daily battle to get into the gym.
What I convinced myself a long time ago was that I was just going to show up. Every night, I lay out my gym clothes and my work clothes for the next day. Then, when I wake up, I eat a little something, throw on my gym clothes and head to where I’m going to workout for the day (whether that’s an actual brick and mortar gym or my garage gym).
My agreement with myself is I’m just going to show up so whether that’s drive to the front door of the gym or walk down into my basement, I’m just going to get myself there. Once I’m there, I can decide to either workout or go home. Ten out of ten times I workout and I always feel better about it leaving. Maybe there are days I need to take it easy and that’s okay too, but I’m still going to do something for my body that day.
4. Do Intervals for Cardio
Cardio is probably one of the most hotly debated issues in fitness other than nutrition which probably takes the cake (pun intended). Instead of telling you what not to do and risk upsetting someone, I figured I’d give you some pointers on what I’m finding to be the best protocol for myself right now and that is interval training.
Cardio is one of those things that I feel most people over complicate. We need to work smarter not harder. One thing I’ll never understand is why some people stick to certain ideas when we know the landscape has changed. I’ve decided that it’s essentially because it’s a personal preference and that individual prefers one type of training over the other, but that doesn’t mean it’s more effective.
To get in better shape all around which includes heart health, fat burning and muscle building give this a shot. Pick two to three days per week and do 10 – 12 minutes (no more than that cardio junkies) of :15 seconds of total body work with :45 seconds of rest. That could be pushing the sled for that :15 seconds and resting for :45 seconds for 12 rounds, row sprints or even swinging a kettlebell. It’s a safe, effective and efficient way to help get your body in better shape.
5. Do Lots (and Lots) of Pull Ups
I would say I’ve averaged doing pull ups at least twice a week since 2007. Whether that was through whatever workout program I was on or just something I would do in my spare time. Currently, I’m probably doing different variations at 3x per week or more.
Pull ups make you strong on so many levels. Some people say grip strength is a true measure of strength and doing pull ups regularly will definitely aid in that endeavor. Your back muscles also recover quickly allowing you to these regularly without overtraining. A strong posterior chain (back) is key as you begin to age and your body deteriorates.
You also are hitting a number of other support muscles while doing pull ups getting a lot of “bang for your buck” like your core, biceps, shoulders, among others. I read a study once that said women look at a v-shaped back before abs on men so for the single guys out there this will help you get more dates too. For women, you’ll learn to do something that that majority of others can’t and it will help tighten and tone your physique.
If you can’t do pull ups yet that shouldn’t stop you either. A great way to build pull up strength is by doing negatives. This is where you jump up and hold yourself with your chin over the top of the bar, do this for as long as you can for 3 – 5 sets. As you get stronger start timing yourself and holding for longer. Over time, you will build the strength to begin knocking out pull ups.
Hopefully, utilizing one or all five of these tips will help you as you pursue your fitness goals. I know they’re tricks that have helped me on my 20 plus year journey. Try to integrate them into your current regimen and see how they pay off. You might just surprise yourself with new found results and improvements in your fitness.
Sarah oversees social media and internal communication for Iron Tribe Fitness. Her goal is to share the mission of Iron Tribe so others can be transformed by the program, and ultimately become the healthiest version of themselves.