So after reading part one of this two-part series to improve your physique you should now working in the right rep ranges, have figured out where your weakness are and be using the most relevant exercises for your goal? Whilst also paying much better attention to your nutrition and recovery? If you missed part one read it HERE
Lets move on to add to that list taking a look at some more important factors to consider when building your perfect physique.
6. Intention & Stickability:
Are you chomping at the bit for your next session?
Are you focused on what you are doing or just going through the motions? Chances are you have switched off your mind, your workout is unstructured or is doing little for you because it’s too easy/hard.
Are you a program jumper? Do you jump on each bandwagon as it rolls along doing one system for a few weeks and then dropping it as another more interesting idea comes along or before the benefits of the original system can be seen?
We have all been guilty of these at some stage, but if you want results you need intention coupled with stickability.
Pick a plan, follow it through till the end minimum of 8-12 weeks usually to see a result. If it works great if not forget that plan and try something else. Take what works leave the rest, just do not give up before you have given your body a chance to catch up with your brain!
Hit every session with the energy and intention to improve yourself – counting every rep and every rest period; if you believe you can fulfil your intention you will put more into your training and you will get results. If you doubt yourself you will have to work that much harder or seek out help to reinforce your intentions.
7. Intensities & TUT/TUL:
Increasing volume (sets/reps/weight) is the most important variable for gaining muscle strength but manipulating the time your body is under load or tension is a great variable to work with when looking to maintain volume and improve your level of conditioning, or lose body fat.
Time under tension (TUT) refers to the length of time a muscle is active (i.e. under tension) during an exercise. This is usually calculated by multiplying the number of repetitions by the time taken to perform each rep. For example, if the tempo for an exercise was 3010, that would involve a 3 second eccentric (lowering phase), followed by a 1 second concentric (lifting phase), which in turn would result in a 4 second rep. Therefore a set of 10 repetitions would give a time under tension of 40 seconds. The other two numbers represent the moment at the top and bottom of the lift so you could add a pause or stretch here too.
For most people who are new to lifting focusing on working at 40-60% of your max, maintaining volume and counting to 4 during a slow eccentric phase is enough to see improvement and ‘feel the burn!!!”.
Slowing the eccentric portion of the lift increases tension, eliminates the use of momentum or switching off of the muscle group, this stimulus when used with shorter rest periods will instigate a higher calorie expenditure (via EPOC), It also allows you to focus on perfecting your technique and your mind muscle connection….
8. Mind Muscle connection:
Doing this helps you focus your intention to the muscle and retain full tension during the lift avoiding momentum or switching off of the muscle group.
This is easy for some muscles e.g. a bicep but for others not so easy e.g the muscles in your back. Looking directly at the muscle you are working or thinking intently about the area helps.
Try to feel the muscle working, stretching and contracting, stay in the moment and block out everything else.
Try it now, do a bicep curl but keep your muscle flexed on the lowering and raising phase, do not let the muscle relax or switch off at any point in the movement, do this for 1 minute without weight, your arm will be pumped!!! Now imagine doing this while also lifting a weight, consistently every time you lift I think you will quickly see some changes.
9. Unwanted timeout:
If you had a few days out of the gym maybe a week, as long as you are not injured get stuck straight back into your plan where you left off. Strength will not have disappeared overnight; you may feel weaker but this is just your nervous system needing to be kick started.
If you have been away for a fortnight then adjust your plan back a notch, your body will have regressed, don’t start over but jump back a few weeks and work back up till you are feeling good again.
Injuries, dependant on the severity and limitations could have a positive effect on your training if thought about sensibly.
Always take the advice of a doctor or physiotherapist, but look for ways to work around a problem, It gives you a chance to set your weaknesses on centre stage and work on them to improve. If you have hurt your shoulder for example there is nothing stopping you exercising your legs and core. Plan a workout that works around a problem and seek help if you are unsure how best to do this, don’t waste all your previous hard work you can do a lot to maintain your fitness even when injured just be sensible and listen to your body.
I am talking about pre workouts, fat burners, protein powders, juice diets, meal replacements, lotions, potions or performance enhancing drugs, there are no quick fixes to your problems.
These supplements all have their place but should never replace good nutrition and great training.
When all of the options have been explored your training and nutrition is on point, you are sleeping like a baby and there is no stone unturned, there is a role for supplementation in helping you achieve your goal but remember a supplement is just that, something you take (usually expensive!) that can aid you temporarily, when you stop using that aid you will lose its benefits.
Some supplements can also have drastic side effects especially if you have heath complications so always seek advice and help from your doctor, trainer and/or nutritionist before trying anything new.
As a rule of thumb when looking at supplements if the claims sound too good to be true they usually are.
In summary, eat like a saint, sleep like a baby, train like an educated beast intent on flexing & counting your reps, working in the right rep range and consistently working to increase volume.
Meanwhile look out as you may be in danger of becoming the latest version of the desired physique you were after!