Remember your New Year’s resolution? You were going to finally focus on your physical health. You promised yourself that you would shed the extra pounds (blame COVID!), gain strength and fit into your old bathing suit by summer. What happened?
No need to beat yourself up. Believe it or not, it’s not too late to renew your resolution and get in shape. The bathing suit may not fit perfectly for the Fourth of July festivities, but you’ll look buff and feel even better by Labor Day.
Make sure to choose the right strength program; intake the proper calories, protein and supplements; and get proper recovery and rest. Here are 11 tried-and-true ways to get stronger in a hurry:
LESS REPS AND MORE WEIGHT
Here’s a general guideline to follow if you are looking for gains in a hurry. For more strength, fewer reps, and a lot more weight. For more muscle mass, more rep volume, and less intensity (weight). Trainer Matt Bliss wrote on bodybuilding.com: “If a muscle is subjected to the correct stimulus with sufficient intensity, it will grow stronger and larger.”
DON’T RESIST RESISTANCE BANDS
Most of us associate muscle growth with pumping iron. But a big rubber band is just as effective. “For being able to work out wherever you are and being able to do a variety of exercises without needing a lot of equipment and being able to use them no matter what your fitness level, resistance bands are a great piece of equipment to use,” exercise physiologist Christopher Travers told the Cleveland Clinic. Almost every muscle in your body can be exercised with resistance bands. They are much lighter than dumbbells (duh!) and are convenient for those who travel a lot.
Whenever I have trained for a marathon, the anthem on my playlist has always been Nelly’s “Heart of a Champion.” It begins with the St. Louis rapper pushing himself, “five more, five more.” “A lot of people probably do not push themselves that much,” Brad Schoenfeld, director of the human performance program at Lehman College, told The New York Times. “You have to reach failure” during any training regimen for the workout to succeed.
13 MINUTES AT THE GYM
A study by Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise proved someone who puts in an all-out, wipeout workout in just 13 minutes can achieve the same strength as a gym rat who does sets of reps far beyond that person’s program. The study’s result was so popular, in fact, that theNew York Times, after publishing its results, was bombarded with people asking what the seven exercises were that the study used for its basis.
The exercises included flat barbell bench press; barbell military press; wide-grip lateral pulldown; seated cable row; barbell back squat; machine leg press and unilateral machine leg extension. A set of any of those required “lifting to failure” through 8–10 repetitions, but here’s where the study found a surprise.
One group did five sets each, with about 90 seconds’ rest between sets, for a total gym session of about 70 minutes. The second group completed three sets of each exercise, for a total of 40 minutes. A third group was asked to finish just one set of each exercise, for only 13 minutes. All participants worked out three times a week for eight weeks. After two months, they were all equally stronger. The first two groups may have developed muscle mass, but in terms of pure “strength” the study showed that they all benefited equally.
Takeaway: Do those exact exercises, or maybe your own variation on them. Either way, strain your working muscles to exhaustion with each set. You should not be physically able to do another repetition, without resting. Again, push yourself.
SUPPLEMENTS THAT ROCK
Havasu Nutrition grew as a leading brand out of its popular workout supplements, like L-Arginine, Beet Root Powder and DHEA. If you want quick gains, consider using pure L-arginine Powder. This fermented L-arginine is a great Nitric Oxide booster in an amino acid formula with enhanced absorption. Mix one serving into 6–8 ounces of water daily as a dietary supplement, preferably with a meal.
DHEA helps support hormone balance, but it also boosts fitness endurance and lean muscle mass. Athletes who use it regularly report increased physical performance and a more toned look.DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is a natural energy supplement for women and men, produced by the body and secreted by adrenal glands. It can help support the maintenance of a healthy weight, muscle mass, and mood.
Your diet must have sufficient protein to power your goals. Make sure you always hit your protein no matter what. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is my go-to for daily protein, same with friends and family. It has whey protein, and that works all the time and digests quicker. Calories and protein are what it’s about. Whatever you weigh, learn your lean body mass. Then you get one gram of protein per lean body mass, so if your lean body mass is around 180, you’re looking for 180 grams of protein each day.
CALORIES AND TDEE
One of those shakes is about 24 grams of protein, and the shake is literally a supplement. You should try to get your protein from food as much as you can, and whatever you can’t get from food, use the protein powder to help fill in the gaps. For quick gains, just remember that you have to EAT. You need to eat in surplus to get stronger, in order to eat above your maintenance calories. Remember TDEE: Total Daily Energy Expenditure. Here’s a link to the TDEE calculator website. If you want to lose weight, eat 500 calories below your TDEE number. If you want to gain weight and get stronger, eat 500 above it.
Track macros so you know what’s in certain foods. If I’m going out for beer and pizza one night, I’ll probably have protein powder in a shake that morning or lunch, and not eat much during the day, because there’s no protein in that pizza.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT BUDDY
It’s more fun to push yourself when there is someone there to encourage and drive you, whether it’s someone to spot your barbell or run beside on a 10-miler. Ever watch the classic sports movie Brian’s Song? Chicago Bears running backs Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo were opposite in every way — black and white, introvert and extrovert — but it was their brutal workout regimens that brought them together as best friends and NFL starters.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT TUNES
You march to your own drummer, literally. I mentioned Nelly above and can’t stress enough how important it is to have an effective Spotify playlist or other motivational beats. You want to lose yourself in the moment, free of distractions around you, and it helps to have those AirPods in and either pound a Mumford & Sons’ Wilder Mindshuffle or stream that new Google Earth Radio Garden live radio station you like from an outpost around the planet.
A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP FOR YOUR MUSCLES
Here is a fact: Your muscles need sleep. Your workout won’t make you stronger unless you give your muscles a chance to build back up after training. Eight hours a night is optimal. When your body is at deep rest, protein synthesis takes over. Your muscles are growing and repairing while you sleep. If you don’t make time for adequate sleep, your progress will be slower. And there is no shortcut solution.
SELF CARE VIBES
Any training program requires ample stretching, warmup sets, and recovery time. You are basically injuring your muscles in the course of any hard workout, and stretching keeps your blood flowing properly to those muscle groups for proper recovery. For lifting, start with warmup sets. If your best bench is 315 pounds, consider warmups of 45 x 10, 135 x 3, 225 x 2, 275 x 1, and 315 x 1. A good hard foam roller is also an important companion after any athletic training sessions, again to aid blood flow and to help remove toxins. Incorporating days off is crucial as well because you need rest as well as food. Your body needs time to recover so that you can keep enjoying the gains at your next session.
Consider seeing a doctor before adding a new high-intensity program, and think about a trainer at the gym. Whatever you do, don’t wait . . . hit the weights!
Thank you for reading.
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