Written by Lee Boyce, CPT | Lead Photo by Paul Buceta
Having goals of getting stronger, building muscle, or just plain getting into better shape need to be met with the right attitude. The problem is, many people get caught up in the details that far surpass a logical step one, and it gives them a distorted view on where to start. But that doesn’t need to be you.
We have to remember that in order to see meaningful results, training needs to be a commitment instead of something to be squeezed into your schedule when you can. You can resolve to get into better shape, but putting in effort for the four or five hours spent per week inside the gym, and completely neglecting the other 163 hours of the week outside the gym won’t net you the change you’re looking for. This crucial mistake is what separates those who get real results from those who don’t. That’s where the concept of building a foundation comes in. Building a foundation for results (of any sort) means doing the things in your life that will facilitate and support reaching those results. If you’re looking to build some muscle, for example, aside from training and eating well, what else are you doing? Do you pay attention to your muscles’ tissue quality on off days? How are your sleep habits? How many weekends out of your month consist of partying hard?
Where It Really Begins
Building a foundation doesn’t start from what you do in the gym. It starts from what you do outside the gym. Before determining what exercises to focus on for the best method of getting stronger, more muscular, or more agile, it’s a good idea to take a reality check and see if your life and priorities are really on board with the goals you’ve set. Similarly, when you reach an annoying plateau, don’t be too quick to blame your program. A mental shift marks a change in behavior.
If you want to see change, you have to make yourself available to it. In other words, “fitting” exercise into your schedule might allow a novice lifter to see novice results—but for noticeable progression or for more advanced lifters, cementing the pillars of supporting physical fitness will be a game changer. You’ll soon realize all the hard effort you’re putting in becomes second nature. And you’ll be rewarded for it.
There are no “hidden secrets” to getting yourself on the path to results. There are, however, many habits to adopt that’ll support moving the needle.
1. Get more sleep.
You’ll maximize the release of essential hormones through resting, and giving yourself adequate rest time will elicit better results. Aim for seven hours every night, even if it means forfeiting a couple of late nights with the gang.
2. Increase water intake.
Water is something the body always needs, and consuming a few liters per day will act to help physiological processes in the body, and also flushes out toxins. Examine your pee the next time you use the washroom (gross as it may sound). If it’s dull yellow, dark, or rusty in tone, it’s time to get your water intake up.
3. Excel at bodyweight exercises.
In developing a foundation, being good at the bodyweight staples (push ups, pull ups, inverted rows, squats, hanging leg raises, and the like) are of prime importance. Core strength can’t be salvaged when doing these exercises properly. Second, having good muscular endurance where these exercises are concerned will translate into strength–to–size ratio.
4. Don’t neglect barbell training.
Squatting, pressing, pulling—not only do large compound movements often simulate common movements in life, but they also recruit a lot of muscle fibers at the same time. If there’s a serious weakness present in your body, chances are a primal movement pattern will expose and exploit that weakness. So when it comes to the weight training side of things, don’t settle for the easy stuff—do what’s right for your body and get it out of its comfort zone by doing the movements you know will reap the most benefits.
5. Emphasize ROM, flexibility, and mobility.
Always go for a complete range of motion before adding weight—you’ll get stronger by doing so. It’s also vital to remember that in the gym, we’re constantly shortening our muscles by lifting weights. It sets the stage for even more impairment if we lift for incomplete range on the regular – especially if you’re just starting out and unaware of the advanced lifting methods that may call for this protocol. Go full ROM or bust!
6. Track your progress.
Especially when you’re starting out, physically recording your results serves as a great motivating tool, and also keeps you fully abreast of the progress you’re making. Knowing your strength levels are improving will help you to stay mentally sane, but more importantly, it will enable you to add proper increments to the weights you lift, instead of lifting arbitrary amounts. As a bonus, it isn’t a bad idea to do it the old school way and use a physical pen and notebook for tracking progress. It can be more fulfilling than typing things into your phone.