Losing fat shouldn’t be as hard as many people try to make it. People who are desperate to lose fat are often prone to take more risks (something that I try to help you avoid). The truth is that with some basic principles you can make some serious progress toward fat loss without any major effort. Often a client will come to me looking for some hints that will help them shed some weight quickly. I am always happy to tell them my “secret” tips that are always surprisingly effective. In fact, many people have found these tips to make an easy ten pound difference as they get started on a new program. You might thing that these suggestions are really hi-tech or mysterious, but in reality, they are basic principles that I’ve seen successful over and over again. Here they are.
Avoid “white” food. This includes white breads, pastas, many cereal products, and even cracker-type snacks. Think about some other white things too like flour, potato products, rice, and even processed milk and cheese products. Some white foods that are OK for you to eat are cauliflowers, fish, and chicken.
Ditch the sodas and other drinks that have calories, sugar, or even artificial sweeteners. I don’t want you to drink much coffee either. Creamer? No. It’s white, isn’t it? I want you to take in at least half the weight of your body in ounces of water. This means that if you weigh 250 pounds, you should be consuming 125 ounces of water every day. This will be essential for getting the fat loss process in gear.
I’ve already taken you off white products, now you need to do away with wheat products. I don’t care if the package says “whole wheat” on it or not: it has to go. Check the ingredients of everything you’re eating and if it has wheat in it, don’t eat it.
These three tips are pretty easy to follow, aren’t they? Sure, you’ll have to adjust your habits a little bit, but it really won’t be very hard once you get started. If you consistently adhere to these hints, you will be surprised at the progress you make in just a couple weeks.
Begin making even more progress in your fat loss program: get the Fat Loss Factor today.
Discover Something to Motivate You to Exercise
Even though most people are aware of how significant exercise is to weight reduction, many have trouble making themselves do it. There are others who never can seem to find the time. Reality is that developing an exercise routine can be difficult when you are starting out. The key is developing a lifestyle that is accommodating to an exercise routine.
One thing is for sure: you need to get involved with an exercise plan that will keep your attention. In other words, I want you to be involved in exercises that you enjoy. This will make it natural to get into the daily routine since you want to do it.
You can even stay home and exercise. For many people this is key because the time and effort it takes to go to a gym often precludes participation in an exercise program. I use a spare bedroom, but I don’t have fancy equipment as you might expect. I don’t need it and neither do you. What you do need is a balance ball and weights that can be adjusted. A mat helps as well as a stationary bicycle. That’s it. You don’t need a lot to get a fat loss program going. By having a way to exercise at home, you will find that it is easy to work out when you don’t have to go across town. The truth is that many people don’t exercise because they don’t like where they exercise.
What I want you to think about is what might make your exercise time more fun. Whatever you do, you will find that building it on the foundation of activities you enjoy is the key to developing a lifetime of fitness.
As we mention in Can You Burn Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time? ”Now, if you want to burn fat, you have to create what is called a calorie deficit. That is, you must ingest less calories than your body is burning on a daily basis. Of course, your training regiment will have to change but to alter your body fat levels, you will need to cut down on calories to burn the maximum amount of body fat.”.
Can You Burn Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time?
If there is one question that I’ve been asked the most, it’s how to burn fat and build muscle at the same time.
There seems to be a lot of confusion about whether or not this can actually be done. On top of that, who actually knows how to do it?
Well, it’s no wonder. Just take a look around the internet and you’ll find 101 different answers to this question. Some sites say you can build huge amounts of muscle while reducing fat and others say you can’t.
Others say you need to bulk up first and build a large muscle base after which, you can cut the body weight and fat to show the “new” muscle.
So, who’s right?
Where do I stand on this issue? Well, I find myself caught in the middle of this question. That is, it is sort of like a balancing act when it comes to building muscle and burning fat. You see, it all depends on what you want and where you currently stand with your training program. Now, there are a whole lot of you out there who want the best of both worlds – Including me, but can it be done?
However, I can’t possibly say that you can actually build the maximum amount of muscle while at the same time, losing the maximum amount body fat. I tried this and it doesn’t work. Well it worked when I first started training but that soon stopped.
Now, I mean, when a person is training hard and heavy, their body is relying on a huge supply of nutrients to fuel and build their bodies. In order to grow, you need to feed your body the correct amount of nutrients that is required for growth. You cannot grow by reducing your overall caloric intake that is needed to lose weight and burn fat.
However, with that being said, there is a very fine line between gaining muscle and gaining body fat. You see, in order to build your muscles, you need to get strong first. When you are training, your muscles start to get strong and when they start to get strong, they get bigger and bigger to meet the demands of more weight being stressed upon them. Once this happens, they need more and more nutrients to keep growing. This is the the cycle of building lean muscle tissue.
As you get stronger, your muscles will start to get larger and your body will actually demand that you feed them a certain amount of nutrients to sustain this new growth. If you don’t feed your body the nutrients that it demands, it will get weaker. Once it gets weaker, your muscles will start to get smaller and it will draw on other sources of energy.
The general line of thinking is this. To build muscle, you need to create what is called a calorie surplus. That is, you need to ingest more calories than your body is burning per day. Let’s say you need 2,500 calories on a daily basis, taking into account your exercise levels, to sustain your current body weight.
Now, if you want to add body weight and build the maximum amount of muscle, you will need to adjust your training schedule to exert new demands on your body but more importantly, ingest more calories to support these new demands. You will need additional calories on a daily basis to support new growth.
Now, if you want to burn fat, you have to create what is called a calorie deficit. That is, you must ingest less calories than your body is burning on a daily basis. Of course, your training regiment will have to change but to alter your body fat levels, you will need to cut down on calories to burn the maximum amount of body fat.
To build muscle, you need to get strong – This is a fact. Once you start getting stronger, your body will demand more nutrients to sustain these new strength and muscle levels. However, this is where the balancing act comes into play.
You know that in order to build muscle you need more and more nutrients to support new strength levels That means more and more food. Let me be very clear about this. You need clean, powerful, muscle building food to support this new growth. All increase in calories should come from clean, whole foods.
You see, muscle is a very active tissue and once they start working, they turn into mini metabolism machines that are constantly going. Once they start to get strong, they crave more and more nutrients to keep that machine going. And if you feed them the right nutrients and in the right order, they will keep on going.
However, this process depends on a variety of factors such as age, gender, training styles, and so forth. But, all things being equal, the process of building muscle stands the same which is:
• Get strong with hard and heavy weight training;
• Muscle gets larger to sustain strength levels;
• Body needs more nutrients to sustain new growth;
This is the basic process of growth. Now, this is very important for you to remember. The foods you choose to sustain new growth will have a direct impact as to how much fat you gain as compared to how much muscle you build. Yes, the foods you choose will be one of the deciding factors as to the kind of mass you want to gain. I’m a firm believer that calories are not all created equally. And this is where most people get confused when it comes to building the maximum amount of muscle while losing or maintaining current fat levels.
You want to eat just enough calories to help with the growth process. If you ingest more calories than your body can use to sustain new growth, some of it will go to fat. This is the trick. By gorging yourself with high fat foods, you will ultimately ingest too many calories to sustain new growth. However, if you eat clean, whole foods, your body will use up most of those calories for fuel and growth.
Yes, there are some sites on the internet will insist that all calories are created equally and the body doesn’t recognize one calorie from the next. I totally disagree with this statement. Eating 3,000 calories from cheeseburgers and haagan daaz is not the same as eating 3,000 calories from whole foods such as lean meat sources and complex, fibrous carbohydrates.
If you want to eat fatty, high calorie foods, you will gain a lot more fat than muscle. I think this is where most people get confused. When you get right down to it, it will come down to the foods that you choose that will be the deciding factor when trying to build the maximum amount of muscle while maintaining current body fat levels.
A diet high in quality nutrients will produce much better results than a diet high in fat and processed foods. Don’t believe me? Try cutting out all high fat foods and sugars from your diet and replace them with lean protein sources and complex carbohydrates. Do this for a week and see how it impacts your training. I can say with 100% certainty that you workouts will improve drastically and your body will take on a whole new look.
Now, there is an exception to this rule. It is during this period of growth that certain individuals can actually experience a certain level of body fat reduction while building muscle. However, before you get confused with this statement, let me explain. For beginners and those of you who are already out of shape, this is very possible.
That is, your body is in a state of growth from the weight training and your testosterone levels are increasing. Since your body is using up everything to build muscle, your fat levels are actually being reduced. For those of you who have been training for awhile, you can probably remember how fantastic those times were. You could eat just about anything and still build muscle without getting fat.
But, this happens only for a certain period of time before your body needs more and more food to sustain strength levels and where most people experience plateaus. By not feeding your body the necessary nutrients to grow, it will stop growing. That means no more strength gains and why a lot of you reading this page now, are not getting stronger and bigger.
The following point I’m about to make is very important. Building muscle and burning body fat is all dependant on:
- Somatotype (Your body type)
- Activity levels
A naturally heavier person is going to require a different amount of nutrients, weight training program, and cardiovascular regiment than someone who is naturally thin and lean. Body specific nutrition and training will take most of the guess work out of building muscle and burning fat.
I’ve written a more detailed article about this subject at:
Now, most sources on the internet and other fitness publications will say that you have to choose one or the other - Build muscle or lose fat. However, you have to be smart about this . Increasing caloric intake, doesn’t mean increasing your consumption of cheeseburgers and chili fries. You have to increase calories from high powered, clean whole foods.
This is what I suggest. You don’t want to consume so many calories that you become fat. You want to consume just enough calories that will support new growth but keep fat levels to a minimum. If you simply gorge yourself with food, it can be difficult to get rid of those extra pounds when it comes to stripping off body fat. I suggest you do the following:
1) Find your starting point;
Multiply your body weight by 18 to get your base starting caloric intake for adding mass. If you weight 165 pounds, multiply that by 18 to get 2,970 calories. This will be your base, daily caloric intake.
You will monitor your progress with a mirror, skin calipers, measuring tape, and weight scale. Remember, this is a starting point, since you want to monitor how your muscles are growing. If you find your adding too much body fat, cut down on your daily caloric intake by 500 and monitor on a weekly basis.
Keep in mind your body type. If you are a naturally heavier person, you will need to keep a very close eye on your calorie intake and possibly start with a lower calorie intake. You may need to cut body weight and fat in order to start seeing results.
If your a naturally thin person with a high metabolism, you may need to increase your calorie intake in order to start adding muscle mass.
2) Decide who much protein, carbohydrates, and fat you need;
You should be consuming at least 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That is, if you weight 165 pounds, you should be consuming anywhere between 165 grams to 198 grams of protein per day. You should also be consuming about 3 to 5 grams of quality complex carbohydrates per pound of body weight. Keep fat down to about 15% to 20% of your overall caloric intake.
You will also need to eat, at the minimum 5 to 6 meals per day. If you skip breakfast, this won’t work. If you wait 4 to 5 hours in between meals, this won’t work. If you skip a meal or two, this won’t work. You must, eat 5 to 6 meals per day, spaced 2 to 3 hours apart. No questions about this part.
3) Decide on what kinds of foods you want to eat;
Cut out all junk foods! This is a priority. Cut out all sugars and processed foods. Eat only high quality protein, carbohydrate and fat sources. Remember, you don’t want to add a lot of fat but you do want to grow muscle. I can guarantee all of you who are reading this page now that if you cut out all junk food and sugars, and replace them with whole foods such as lean protein sources, fibrous carbohydrates, and clean fats, your workouts will shoot through the roof and you’ll notice a difference in your appearance within a couple of weeks.
This is what I do every Sunday. I get out a piece of paper and a pen and I write down all the meals I plan to have for the following weak. Once I get down all of the ingredients, and head to the grocery store and pick up all the food I will need for the following week. I cannot stress how important this simple process is!! If you truly want to gain the most muscle while maintaining current body fat levels, you have to follow this step. I’m not going to lie to you, you must know exactly what your putting into your body at each meal. Sorry, no getting around this fact.
Remember, you will need to gauge your progress on a weekly basis. For this, I recommend you get a weight scale, tape measure, and maybe a skin fold caliper (to measure body fat). Take your measurements on a weekly basis and record them in the body evaluation log provided at the above noted address.
Alright, now you know that you can actually build the maximum amount of muscle while maintaining current fat levels. You also know that in order to do this, you need to keep close tabs on what you eat and the kinds of foods you choose. If you can do this, I can assure you that you will build the kind of muscle your looking for without getting really, really fat.
Now, the weight lifting part is another story. If your looking for great workout routines, try going to the following page:
You CAN gain muscle and lose fat at the same time and I will show you how. Common wisdom is that you have to gain some fat to gain muscle, its the whole bulking and cutting mentality. I’m here to tell you its wrong, at least for most people. Because of many peoples unrealistic expectations about adding muscle they come to the incorrect conclusion that you can’t gain muscle while losing fat.
Gaining muscle. Most mature adults can gain a maximum of 15 pounds of muscle in a year but many can only gain 5lbs of muscle a year. That’s only 1.25 pounds of muscle gain per month maximum – pretty slow whether you are losing fat at the same time or not. In rough numbers, to gain that 1.25 pounds of muscle each month while maintaining your current bodyfat you should eat an additional 3125 calories more a month, that’s about 100 more calories a day – not much of a calorie surplus.
Losing fat. Now lets look at losing fat, its much faster than gaining muscle. You lose fat when you consume fewer calories than you burn off in a day (the TDEE). For an average person losing weight, they will eat about 400 calories a day less (12,000 calories a month) than their TDEE to lose a pound of fat a week, or 52 pounds of fat in a year.
The first important thing to note is that the calorie surplus to gain muscle is very, very small when compared to the calorie deficit required to lose fat.
To gain muscle and lose fat at same time. Now lets try to put the two together – losing fat and gaining muscle. Now, your first thought is probably that it can’t be done because to gain muscle, you have to eat 100 calories more per day and to lose fat, you have to eat 400 calories less per day. How can you eat less and eat more at the same time? The secret to this is that our assumption that you need to eat more to gain muscle is incorrect for most adults.
Lets look at what your body does with its calories, please look at my body on left side of the above diagram. A whopping 25% of your energy goes to your brain. 50% is housekeeping stuff to keep us alive – breathing, pumping blood, maintain body temperature, replacing dead cells, etc. Its only down here where it gets interesting. About 20% is actually spend DOING stuff – walking, lifting, moving and only about 5% is spent adding muscle. Don’t get hung up on the exact numbers, the important thing is that exercise and building muscle uses very little of the calories we consume.
Now look at the right side of the above diagram, the sources. To keep you alive, your body needs two things, plain energy to burn in the form of carbs or fat and then amino acids in the form of protein. Your body has an amazing series of emergency backup system to keep you alive should food be scarce. Your stomach is the gas tank for ordinary use. Your bodyfat is the backup up generator to be turned on when food is scarce. And your muscles are the emergency backup, your body wont turn on this nuclear power plant to cannibalize muscle unless its a DIRE emergency. Energy can come from any of the three systems but amino acids can only come from the stomach or the muscles.
Lets talk about this nuclear reactor here and how to stop if from turning on and burning up our muscles. Our bodies are really smart, they know muscle is really important and they wont burn it unless they absolutely have to. There are three occasions your body will fire up the nuke in the above diagram:
It needs energy to stay alive that is not available in the stomach or fat stores (the barrel or the portable generator in the above diagram)
It needs amino acids to stay alive that are not in the stomach (the barrel in the above diagram)
Its afraid you are starving. If you cut calories more than 10% under TDEE, risk burning muscle.
40% of energy from protein eaten
50% of energy from fats and carbs eaten
10% of energy from stored bodyfat
So YES, you can gain muscle and lose fat and here’s how:
Constant influx of protein. 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day taken 5-6 equal portions spaced evenly through out the day – otherwise your nuclear power plant will have to turn on between meals and burn muscle, you don’t want that.
Consume enough calories to keep your body from thinking its starving but not so many calories that you gain fat, 10% under your TDEE is a good value to use. My calorie calculator will tell you exactly what that is for your type metabolism. Make sure to set your goal in step 6 to “10% calorie reduction”
eat less than 30% of your calories from fat and eat only good fats like olives, nuts, and avocados
eat whole grains and low G.I. carbs – no simple carbs like sugar, alcohol, or white flour
eat omega-IIIs daily, flax or salmon are great sources
Hardcore, consistent weight workouts. You can use my custom workout plan generator to design a workout plan appropriate for you.
Daily cardio, 30-40min. Cardio will not burn muscle, it will help you gain muscle while losing fat at the same time.
Many beginners to fitness ask if they should lose their fat first or start lifting to gain muscle first, the answer is that they should do BOTH at the same time!!! Especially for beginners, it is very easy to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time!
Now lets talk about the exceptions to this, those who can’t gain muscle and lose fat:
Losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is very difficult for advanced bodybuilders. Many of them are close to their genetic limits so adding muscle is very difficult and slow for them even under the best of circumstances. Losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is something that only beginning and intermediate bodybuilders can do. (By my somewhat arbitrary definition, an advanced bodybuilder is someone who can do 8 flawless, ultra slow-motion pullups and 20 flawless, ultra slow-motion pushups.)
Skinny teens who can’t gain either fat or muscle even when they eat as much as they can.
Advanced bodybuilders with low bodyfat (under 8%).Your body needs some fat so when you get to a certain point, your body will start choosing to burn muscle instead of fat if you have a caloric deficit. If you are 8% bodyfat and want to get down to 4-6% bodyfat you wont be able to add muscle while you do this, at best you can do is to maintain your muscle mass. With regular dieting, its tough to drop down to 4-6% without losing muscle mass but carb cycling seems to really help for this specific purpose.
Building your muscles is one thing; being able to see them is another. What’s the point in owning a set of strong, shapely muscles if you can’t see them? It’s like having a mint-condition vintage car that never leaves the garage. In the space between your skin and the underlying muscle lies a layer of fat. Fat owns that space; we rent it. Unless your body fat percentage is below 10 percent, that insulating layer of lard will obscure your hard-earned muscle mass.
The human body contains 20 to 30 billion fat cells. As well as providing a layer of insulation from the cold, body fat serves as an energy savings account; instead of money, the currency in this account is calories. The more calories you feed into the bank, the bigger the account gets.
Fat is a potent source of energy. Each gram of fat contains nine calories, compared to four calories per gram of protein or carbohydrates. So it’s understandable that our bodies prefer to invest energy funds in a fat account. Fat storage is a survival mechanism; the swollen fat cells provide a savings account of calories to draw on during lean times. Fat cells are also resilient—they love to stick around and hate to get too small.
Not all fat is the same. A fat cell’s precise qualities vary according to which fat deposit in the body it resides in. Fat from the belly, for instance, will lose and gain lipid more quickly than fat from the thighs and buttocks. When you’re ridding your body of lard, the thighs and buttocks are the last areas that shed fat. In many people, these stubborn fat deposits won’t disappear until body fat percentage slides below 6 percent.
So, how do you get rid of body fat and deflate that spare tire of blubber? You must stop feeding excess calories into the savings account. Stop making deposits and start making withdrawals. When you withdraw calories from the savings account, the fat cells shrink in size, and their number decreases.
In the fight against flab, the points on the scorecard are calories. Calories are the units of energy contained in food and are a measure of how much energy your body uses. When you consume more calories each day than you actually need, the excess is put into storage, and your body fat savings account grows. On the other hand, if you don’t consume enough calories each day, the deficit is taken from savings—-you burn body fat to provide the extra energy.
Each pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories. If your average daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories, you’d have to starve yourself for two days to lose that pound of fatty flesh. Even if you starved yourself for a week, you’d lose only four pounds of body fat.
Starving out the army of fat cells is a tough battle to win. The good news is that we have a secret weapon—exercise. Exercise requires energy. To provide this energy, your body taps into its fat reserves. Exercise forces fat cells to give up their ammunition, their calorie stores. As the fat cells lose lipid, they shrink in size and decrease in number.
Remember that losing fat depends on the balance between calories consumed and calories used. To kill off the fat cells, you either consume fewer calories, burn more calories, or both. As the fat melts away, your muscles come out to play, visible for all to see.
It’s true that metabolism slows as we get older. The aging process depletes muscle while increasing fat deposits. Fat burns fewer calories than muscle, so as your body’s proportion of muscle shrinks your metabolism slows down. In the older years, fat tends to accumulate around the midsection, which poses more health risks than, say, thick thighs.
Women feel the effects of this body mass transition more so than men. To begin with, women tend to have less muscle mass than men. Age-related weight gain may also be linked to menopause. Some researchers posit that the hormonal shifts that accompany the change of life affect the way the body breaks down and stores fat, leading to weight gain. Generally, this weight increase begins in perimenopause, a pre-cursor to menopause lasting two to eight years. On average, women gain a pound a year during perimenopause. These pounds can be more difficult to lose compared to weight that might have been gained earlier in life.
A third explanation for weight gain as you age is genetics. Due to genes, some people are simply pre-disposed to be wispy or wide. Your relatives may some offer clues as to what’s in store for you. For example, if your family is on the thin side, you may have inherited a tendency to be slender as well. On the other hand, if your clan is a bit hefty, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will balloon up after your thirtieth birthday. Weight gain triggered by menopause usually appears after age 40, giving you at least another two decades before extra pounds may emerge.
Although many sources of weight gain are out of your control, one cause — excess calories — is possible to keep in check. If the number of calories you consume is greater the number you burn, weight gain will probably result. Eat too much, and your body stores the energy as fat. Exercise, and the body burns fat for fuel. One way to stay trim is to keep up your healthy eating and exercise habits. Keep in mind that you will need to adjust these habits as you age. Older folks generally need fewer calories due to their decreased muscle mass and lower activity levels. However, many people continue to eat the same amount resulting in a calorie surplus and weight gain.
Continuing to exercise regularly and eat well is the best way to stay healthy overall. However, you can’t stop the clock, and it’s also good to have reasonable expectations about growing older, even if that means adding a few pounds. Here’s to building healthy habits for life!
Understanding Your Body Fat Percentage
Body fat measurements and the measuring tape are recognized as superior methods for measuring “weight loss”. When one declares that they want to “lose weight”, what they often mean is that they want to lose fat. So, now that you’ve had your body fat percentage measured, what does the number really mean?
First, your body fat percentage is simply the percentage of fat your body contains. If you are 150 pounds and 10% fat, it means that your body consists of 15 pounds fat and 135 pounds lean body mass (bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood and everything else).
A certain amount of fat is essential to bodily functions. Fat regulates body temperature, cushions and insulates organs and tissues and is the main form of the body’s energy storage. The following table describes body fat ranges and their associated categories:
*General Body Fat Percentage Categories
Women (% fat)
Men (% fat)
*American Council on Exercise
Knowing your body fat percentage can also help you determine if your weight loss goals are realistic. Remember, weight loss doesn’t always mean fat loss. For example:
Let’s say you’re a 130# woman with 23% body fat, and you goal is to “lose 20 pounds”:
Initial body fat: 130# x 0.23 fat = 30 # body fat
Lean body mass: 130# total – 30# fat = 100# lean body mass (bones, organs and all else)
Goal: 130# – 20# = 110 pounds
As you can see, the goal of losing 20 pounds is not realistic or healthy. At 110 pounds, this woman still requires 100# of lean body mass (bones, organs, etc.), but would only be carrying 10#, or only 9% body fat. From the chart above, you can see that this is a dangerously low percentage.
A better goal might be for the woman to reduce her body fat from 23% to 18%. In this case:
130# x 0.18 = 23 # body fat
100# lean body mass + 23 # = 123# goal weight
So, for this individual to achieve a lean, but healthy 18% fat, she would need to lose only 7 pounds of fat, reducing her weight from her current 130 pounds to 123 pounds. Losing more than 7 pounds means losing lean body mass (usually metabolically-active muscle tissue), which is clearly not desirable.
So before you decide that you need to “lose weight”, remember to consider that “weight” consists of both lean body mass and body fat. Try to keep your weight loss goals realistic, and remember, keep the calorie-burning muscle, and lose only the fat.
The Top 10 Most Common Training Mistakes And We Show You How To Fix Them
Get out your workout logbook and tighten up your wrist straps as we count down the 10 most likely derailments of your training progress and explain how to avoid them. Class is in session.
Featured Model: Luke Guldan
Mistake #10 Cheating Your Gains
Used correctly, cheating can up the intensity of sets, but it’s frequently employed too soon and therefore lessens intensity. Many bodybuilders cheat (i.e., use bad form) throughout a set, and therefore transfer stress away from the targeted muscles. Biceps curls, for example, are often cheated from start to finish by the use of momentum, which shifts the focus off of the bi’s and onto the front delts.
Learn how to do each exercise with the proper form, and then practice until you have this form mastered. Warm-ups and the lighter sets of a pyramid are also like practice rounds to get you into the groove, so you can do your heaviest sets correctly.
If necessary, take steps to curtail cheating, such as standing against a wall and/or pressing your elbows against your sides during barbell curls or performing side laterals while seated.
Do not loosen your form until you’ve reached full-rep failure. Cheating should be used to make a set harder (pushing it beyond failure), not easier (preventing you from reaching failure via strict reps).
Photo Credit: Brian Moss
Mistake #9 Going Too Low
The best range for muscle growth is 8-12 reps per set. Consistently doing 7 or fewer reps with heavier weights may feed your pride in the gym, but it won’t build as much muscle as moderate reps with moderate weights. A recent study found that when subjects used a weight that allowed them to complete 25-30 reps per set, they increased muscle protein synthesis (the process that leads to muscle growth) by 60% more than when they did sets with a weight that limited them to 4 reps. What’s more, going too heavy often leads to truncated reps. This is especially true of leg presses. It’s likely you can use more metal with this exercise than any other.
This stokes your ego, and because the guy before you used 900 for six half-reps instead of 600 for 12 full reps, you want to crank out 900-pound partials, too. Resist this urge. More reps and better form with a lighter weight will build more mass.
A recent study from Italy found that when subjects did dumbbell shoulder presses with half-reps or three-quarter reps, they did not use nearly as much deltoid muscle fibers as they did when they did full reps. Using more muscle fibers during an exercise will make that muscle bigger. Even when training for power, the fewer reps you do, the harder it is to eke out another one and thus make consistent gains.
Do movements from full stretches to full contractions. Carefully control the negative half of reps.
Keep the reps of most sets in the 8-12 range.
Focus on your muscles contracting, not the weight moving.
Mistake #8 Failing to Fail
Failure is the point in a set when you cannot complete another full rep with good form. Not every working set needs to enter the failure zone, but many bodybuilders fall far short of failing on every set. Often this is because they set a target well within their reach, hit it and quit.
On a failure set, don’t bail out of a strict rep until it has stalled for at least three seconds. Then you can stop, or you can cheat just enough or get just enough assistance to complete the rep.
Keep a workout log, noting your personal bests in lifts. “Beating the logbook” will give you something to shoot for each workout.
Don’t set a rep target unless it’s beyond your full-rep comfort zone and, ideally, a personal best.
Shoot for at least one or two sets taken to failure on every exercise you do.
Featured Model: Brad Gouthro
Mistake #7 Machine Love
Most modern gyms have a plethora of machines, but resist the urge to fill the bulk of your routine with mechanical movements. Barbells and dumbbells remain the best bodybuilding tools ever invented, and free-weight or bodyweight exercises should be the cornerstones of your routines for chest, back, arms, shoulders and quads. The best chests of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s era still compare favorably with the 12 pecs in this year’s Mr. Olympia posedown despite all of our modern advantages.
Why? Pecs then were worked almost exclusively via barbell presses, dumbbell flyes and dips.
Do mostly free-weight and bodyweight basics.
Emphasize compound exercises (those that use more than one bodypart). For example, do dips and close-grip bench presses for triceps, as opposed to all mechanical isolation exercises like pushdowns and machine extensions.
If you do mechanical lifts, try to choose a unilateral Hammer Strength, FreeMotion or similar machine that approximates the freedom of free weights.
Mistake #6 Insufficient Intensity
There are those who never push sets beyond full-rep failure and thus never truly challenge themselves in the gym, and there are those who have journeyed deep into the pain zone but, over time, their intensity progressively wanes. For the former, there are several techniques for going beyond failure, including forced reps, cheating, partial reps, rest-pause, negative reps, static contractions and descending sets. (Research shows that techniques such as forced reps boost growth hormone levels far higher than workouts in which sets are taken just to muscle failure and not beyond.) For the latter, almost everyone experiences periods of waning intensity.
The mistake is trying to work your way out by doing more of the same. Instead, you need to recharge your physical and mental reserves. To reach your goal in the fastest time, you sometimes need to slow down, or stop and refuel.
Learn the various techniques for pushing your sets beyond failure and apply these to a few sets each workout. Not every technique fits every exercise. For example, you don’t want to cheat squats or do negative-only deadlifts, but a spotter can help you with a couple forced reps on squats and you can rest-pause deadlifts.
Waning intensity is a warning sign for overtraining. Heed this warning, and cut down on your workout frequency and/or take a week or two away from the gym.
Cycle higher intensity periods of 8-12 weeks with lower intensity periods of 2-4 weeks. In the latter, break up your normal training style with something fresh, like circuit training, powerlifting or high reps (20-50 per set).
When you’re back on the fast track and trying to push sets to failure and beyond, choose challenging but (barely) attainable short-and long-term strength goals.
Photo Credit: Alex Ardenti
Only cheat to extend sets beyond full-rep failure.
Keep most of your sets in the 8-12 rep range.
Push some working sets to the point where you fail to complete a full rep on your own with proper form.
Choose mostly free-weight and bodyweight exercises.
Push some working sets beyond full-rep failure and cycle your training to maintain intensity.
Mistake #5 Too Little Rest
When it comes to overtraining, we prefer to focus on the resting component and not the working component because, for most bodybuilders, the problem is not too much workout volume or intensity. Instead, the culprit negating their gains is almost always insufficient rest between workouts. You need to properly space your gym sessions to make certain you fully recover and grow before hitting the heavy iron again.
Allow at least 72 hours between workouts for most bodyparts (calves and abs, excepted). So if you train triceps on Monday, you can hit them again on Thursday.
Avoid doing heavy squats and dead-lifts on successive days. Try to schedule 72 hours between such workouts.
Be aware of how secondary muscles are worked in compound exercises and schedule your workouts accordingly. For example, front delts get stressed during chest-pressing movements, so avoid training shoulders and chest on contiguous days. Instead, allow at least 48 hours between such workouts or hit both in the same session, so they can recuperate simultaneously.
Cardio can rob your recuperative reserves. Avoid leg-intensive cardio the day prior to leg day.
Mistake #4 Avoidance
Except for those lucky few who already have too much of a good thing, bodybuilders don’t neglect biceps or pecs. On the other hand, from raw neophytes to those doing their thousandth workout, too many bodybuilders neglect cardio, stretching and abs none of which provide the pleasing pump of dumbbell curls or bench presses and they may not allow any room in their routines for smaller bodyparts, such as forearms. You’re likely unaware that you’re shortchanging some crucial bodybuilding components and therefore shortchanging your overall progress.
Sweat the “small stuff.” Make time and space in your routine for abdominals, calves, forearms, lower back and traps. In fact, abs and calves can be trained more frequently than other bodyparts. Likewise, always schedule time for cardio, instead of relegating it to “if I have time” status.
Give every bodypart its own routine. Instead of a “leg routine,” have a “quad routine” and a “ham routine” and a “calf routine,” even if one follows the other in the same workout. Similarly, give your traps their own routine instead of merely lumping them in with shoulders or back.
Find a way to work in muscles you might otherwise avoid, such as abs. You can do this by performing sets of abs between those for another bodypart, such as shoulders.
Mistake #3 Missing the Target
Abs, back, quads, triceps and traps those are five bodyparts where, over the course of our classes, we discussed missing the targeted areas with exercise selection and performance. What do they have in common? They’re all complex bodyparts with a variety of areas to hit and thus a variety of areas to miss. Too many bodybuilders think they’re hitting, say, their lower lats or outer quads while in fact they’re whiffing over and over again.
Know your anatomy. For example, the deltoids and triceps both have three heads. You need to know where those heads are before you can then target each one.
Learn how to hit the target. Sometimes the best exercise may surprise you, but trust us to give you the proven formulas as well as the latest scientific research, so you’ll know precisely how to nail every target.
Do your target practice. It’s up to you focus the most stress on the muscles and areas of muscles you want to grow to attain a complete physique.
Photo Credit: Jason Ellis Photography
Mistake #2 Short and Quick
It’s easiest to stay in the midrange of reps and avoid stretches and contractions, and that’s why bodybuilders work the middle on set after set. Consequently, they also minimize their gains. This can and does occur with any bodypart, but it’s especially prevalent on leg day. Too many bodybuilders go too short and quick on reps of squats, leg presses and standing calf raises. This allows you to move more metal, but not motivate more muscle. The key to growth is stressing your muscles through full ranges of motion.
Learn the proper range of motion, and use a weight that allows you to get at least eight full-range reps.
During reps, forget the weight and instead focus on feeling your muscles contracting.
You may wish to extend some sets via burns (quick partial reps), but do this only after reaching failure with full-range reps.
Mistake #1 Same Old Workout Syndrome
The most common training mistake is sticking to the same routine long after it’s outlived its usefulness. For some, it’s a lack of imagination that keeps them doing the same basics in the same order. For others, a kind of inertia takes over, so they robotically do the same exercises for the same reps with the same weights, giving their muscles no new stress to adapt to. If you’re making continuous strength gains on a routine, you can stick with it. If you’re not, change it now.
As with our number three mistake, sometimes the problem is a lack of knowledge. Learn all the exercises you can do for each bodypart. You may be surprised by all the variations to even limited movements like shrugs and wrist curls.
Try the various machines in your gym. Sometimes just subtle differences in things like the placement of pulleys and hinges can make a big difference in how two similar machines work your muscles.
It’s not just exercise selection you can alter. Other variables include the number of sets per exercise, the number of reps per set, exercise order and the workout order of your training split.
Schedule at least 72 hours of rest between working bodyparts.
Make time for your smaller bodyparts, and schedule each into its own routine instead of lumping it in with others.
Learn your muscle anatomy and how to focus exercises on specific areas.
Learn the proper range of motion, and use a weight that allows you to get at least eight full-range reps.
Embrace variety and regularly alter the variables of your routines.