Bio-individuality is a law that none of us can avoid. We're all different. This demands that specific supplements are prescribed, tailored training programs are needed and precise nutrition is optimal.
But there are also some core values that a 41 year old soccer mom and a 22 year old stallion can adhere to. I plan on being in the fitness industry for a while, but in my short 10 years thus far, there are 10 rules to eat, lift and live by that have stood the test of time.
Related: 9 Brutal Ways to Kill Your Sets
In a time when it seems like everything changes as fast as your Twitter feed, I think you'll find it refreshing to find a list that will never grow old. Some might apply to you right now, and some might apply years later. For the rest of your days in the iron game, these 10 rules will always be at your side.
10 Life, Nutrition & Bodybuilding Rules to Live By
1. Create spaceIn your training and in your work life creating space is critical. Rest between workouts allows you to recover and build your body back up to return to the next workout bigger, faster and stronger. The importance of recovery isn't revolutionary in the iron game.
But that same concept is often neglected in another important area of life. It would be absurd to try and deadlift at 95% for 5 hours straight, wouldn't you agree? But when we try and pull 60, 70, or 80 hour work weeks for years and maybe even decades, we wear it as a badge of honor.
Just like in training, you get to a point where more stimulation of the muscle can actually be detrimental, the same applies in your work life. At some point, more work decreases your productivity, the quality of your work, your health and your relationships.
Lifters take pride in periodization of their training in the gym; it's time we also periodize our work life. There should be seasons of over-reaching to allow for super-compensation, but it should also be followed by seasons of recovery.
Work life can very well follow a micro, meso and macro-cycle (daily, weekly, and yearly) that have built in recovery periods. Waving your workload to optimize work performance is key. Create space and recovery time in your work schedule.
2. Understand repsThere will always be new peer reviewed articles coming out claiming which rep range is best. A lot of the time its either saying the same thing with different words, or its just downright confusing. The general idea in understanding how many reps you should be doing lies in your desired training outcome.
If you're goal is to get freaky strong, you'll want majority of your training in the 1-5 rep range. If you're goal is to pack on muscle, you'll want a lot of your training to be in the 6-12 rep range. For muscle endurance, you'll be doing 15+ reps per set.
Balance your life by reducing stress, improving sleep, bolstering your hormone levels and backing up your diet plan with Machine Greens + Multi.
3. SleepI used to tend the bar and get off 3 A.M., head home, grab a bite and hit the sack at 4:30 A.M. I would get up around 9 or so to train. At the time everything was all good. It seemed that my training was going well and I was seeing the gains I wanted.
I knew getting 5 or so hours of sleep a night was probably cutting it short, but that was all I could get given my current situation. It was reality for me. So even though I knew I should be getting 8 hours according to science, 5 hours of sleep was all I could do.
My point is that you need to do the best you can given your situation when it comes to sleep. You may work the night shift, you might have 3 kids that are under 9 years old, or you might be in a season where working 2 jobs is your reality. If getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep is just out of the equation for you, that's understandable. I get it.
But you do need to prioritize as much sleep as you can. If that means 6 hours a night, make sure you get that amount and nothing less. Sleep is arguably the most important aspect to your health. Not getting enough shut-eye can cause a laundry list of issues including things like weight gain around the waist, impaired cognitive function, and an imbalance in hormones that throw off your appetite.
4. Progressive overloadNo strength training program will be complete without progressive overload at its foundation. This isn't an opinion, but rather a law that all lifters live by.
That surge of functional fitness has hit the scene. And from the looks of it, it's not going anywhere for a while. I think functional fitness is better than doing nothing. But if you are training (meaning, you have a long-term performance goal that can be quantified) the functional fitness route has an obvious weakness: It replaces progressive overload with randomness.
Related: Progressive Overload: The Fuel That Drives Muscle Gains
Regardless of the medium you prefer, whether it's powerlifitng, Olympic lifting, powerbuilding, strongman or bodybuilding, if you take progressive overload out of the equation you are simply exercising.
The iron game is a long haul. The common approach to progressive overload is to simply lift more weight. And while that's true, it's incomplete. There are several ways to leverage progressive overload into your training aside from just lifting more weight. They include:
- Doing more sets with the same load and reps
- Doing more sets with the same load in less time
- Lifting loads with more speed
- Using extended sets like drop sets, forced reps, partials, rest-pause, mechanical drop sets
- Utilizing accommodating resistance with bands and chains
- Lifting loads with better form, increased range of motion and less effort
- Lifting loads for a greater distance
- Changing the tempo of the lift
5. Don't be an assWork hard. Be polite. Stay humble. Rack your weights. Help people. Be positive. Love your wife (or husband).
6. Supplement your greens
Even with the best intentions, eating a perfect diet is difficult. In some cases, impossible. Getting all of your nutrient needs from whole foods can put more a burden on you than it can improve your life. That's why supplementing is crucial. It fills in the gaps in your nutrition.
The glaring numbers are obvious that we have a hard time getting our fruits and veggies in our diet each day:
- Less than 1% of men and 4% of women ages 18 to 24 eat five daily servings of fruits and veggies.
- Less than 14% of men and 16% of women ages 35 to 49 eat five daily servings of veggies a day.
These green supplements are essentially fruits and veggies that have been compacted and distilled into powdered form. Depending on the brand, they include a broad stroke of ingredients like spinach, broccoli, kale and an assortment of grasses.
My favorite greens supplement is Machine Greens + Multi by MTS nutrition. With a synergistic "green" formula of naturally occurring phytonutrients, clorophyll, live enzymes, this greens supplement is my go to when it's hard to fit in my fruits and veggies for the day.
7. Life supports your training, not the other way aroundWe can't ignore the fact that lifting can take over your life. Admit it, you've been there, right?
You shut everything off and focus on PR'ing your deadlift for the next 6 months. Along the way your job performance suffers, your relationship start to tank, you start to feel isolated and you begin to look like a hermit.
That ain't no way to live.
Now think about the times when you had other areas of your life healthy. You were doing your best work at your job, you invested into the relationships that matter to you and you maintained good friendships. I would bet that your training was more fun and probably delivered better results.
Life supports your training, training doesn't support your life.
Opinions have a marvelous way of disrupting your path. Respecting opinions is a lot different than agreeing with them. Learn to decipher the difference.
8. Ignore everybodyEveryone has a right to their opinion. How you handle the opinion is up to you.
These days, this can be very difficult. The internet has given everyone a loud speaker to voice their opinions. While I appreciate the luxury (because I voice my opinion via the web) opinions can often pull us in every direction except the one we want to head in.
Getting paralyzed by the opinions of others is a dangerous pool to swim in.
You have an assignment to fulfill. The dream has been given to you (and nobody) else for reason. Opinions have a marvelous way of disrupting your path. Respecting opinions is a lot different than agreeing with them. Learn to decipher the difference.
9. Have a deadlineTime constraints light a fire under your tail to get things done.
If you've set a hard deadline for any project, it sets in motion a pressure to do your best work. You have no choice but to deliver. But when you operate with no deadlines, you tend to sail wherever the wind takes you. You'll check Instagram again, you'll watch another episode of House of Cards, and you'll skip another workout.
Regardless of the efficacy of the 30 day fat loss challenges we see all over the place, why is it that so many people do them? It gives them a deadline. It provides a light at the end of the tunnel. A tangible goal to strive for.
Deadlines not only work for fitness either. How many sales can you make it 30 days? How many words can you write in a month? How much progress can you make on your product launch in 90 days?
Setting deadlines pushes you into action. It kills idleness. It gives you direction.
10. Learn how to waitThere will always be a natural delay between planting and harvesting.
You may have done everything right up until this point, and nothing has happened. The weigh hasn't come off. The job offer hasn't showed up. The dream girl is nowhere to be found. But maybe the point of all of this isn't' for it to be fast.
Maybe you're just as patient as a 2 year old. When you arrive in the waiting room of life, it's not a time for passivity. It's a season where you've got to develop habits and learn skills that you'll use later.
Waiting isn't a bad thing. We've just conditioned ourselves to think it is because we live in a world where everything happens faster than Usain Bolt's 100m sprint. Learning to wait may be the most valued skill you can cultivate moving forward because when your time actually arrives, and you've prepared during the waiting season, you'll be so good they can't ignore you.