Despite what you’ve been told appearance matters. Due to social media, and influences of modern-day society, we care what we look like now more than ever before. Which is fair enough. However this desire to change requires some effort and knowledge. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been going for a while, this simple guide should point you in the right direction towards improving your physique.
Start working out
Okay, so if you’re not working out already then that’s the place to start. (Obviously!) If you’re new to fitness (or returning after a bit of a break) it really doesn’t matter where you start, or how slow. This can be through sports, HIIT workouts, calisthenics or hitting the gym. Then go from there… Already working out? Awesome! Just remember, it doesn’t matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.
Focus on compound movements
Whether you’re new to fitness, or you’ve been at it a while this still applies. I firmly believe that compound movements are the KEY to a great physique and building core strength. Here’s the idea:
A compound movement can be defined as: ‘Any exercise that engages two or more different joints to fully stimulate entire muscle groups and, indeed, multiple muscles.’
When you first hit the gym there’s always the temptation to become very stereotypical, by hitting arms and chest. The problem? By working on smaller muscles such as your biceps with isolation exercises (Eg: Curls) you’re unlikely to see much progress.
The solution is simple. By focusing on compound movements (Squat, bench press etc.) you get a lot more ‘bang for your buck’ kinda thing. Working these bigger muscles give us a serious testosterone boost, which ultimately increases muscles growth around the whole body. In addition to this compound exercises are the easiest way to increase our core strength.
Here are the four core/compound exercises to focus on:
- Barbell Squat
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
When training throughout the week, you should put emphasis on all four of these exercises. One really effective workout routine to begin with is the ‘5 x 5 workout.’ Although this workout doesn’t usually include overhead press, you can always add that in later. Check it out:
This table shows the workout spread across a three-week period. The weight is the heaviest weight that you can comfortably perform 5 reps of that exercise with. If you follow a simple programme such as the one above for a month or so, you’ll be on your way to a stronger, and fitter physique! If you want to learn more about the 5×5 workout, there will be post about it in the near future. (5×5 refers to 5 sets of 5 reps)
Okay, so now you know how to develop your core strength It’s time to move on. The chances are from hitting compound exercises on their own you’re lacking a bit of definition…but that’s okay. Now (because you’re stronger) we can move onto some isolation exercises, targeting more specific muscle groups.
Not sure what I’m on about? Here are just a handful of exercises you can add into your routine:
- Bicep Curls
- Skull Crushers
- Lateral Raises
- Battle Ropes
- Pec Fly
- Leg Extension
Adding these into your routine will allow you to tone those muscles developed from compound exercises. Just remember to continue hitting those compound movements as they’re the foundation of that great physique.
Switch it up!
Our body is incredibly smart, and therefore it adapts. When you’re hitting the same routine, on the same day, week after week, your body will adjust. Despite it being desirable for us, our muscles hate breaking down and re-building. Therefore in-order to continue our progress we have to switch it up.
This means different exercises, on different days. For example: If you hit chest on the Monday perhaps swap it with legs on the Friday? The key is to stay unpredictable. In fact if you do it right you won’t even know what you’re training until you rock you at the gym! Unfortunately, we have to switch up our exercises too. This means finding new ways to workout. Eg: Why not try something completely different and smash out a Crossfit WOD during the week.
If full body workouts are more your style then, you could even go two days on the bounce. Whether that’s in the gym, a calisthenics routine, WOD or HIIT. Yes you’ll be sore, but it’ll be one hell of a shock to the system. In addition to this here’s a bit of a pro tip for switching things up in terms of cardio:
Cardio can suck, it’s defiantly not everyone’s thing. However if you’re looking to switch it up, I seriously recommend working the battle ropes and the rowing machine. These full body exercises are guaranteed to give you a run for your money. Who said you couldn’t build muscle from cardio?
You get out of it what you put in
As the saying goes, you get out of it what you put into it. Therefore if you don’t work hard and put 100% effort in when working out, your results will show. Your body is a representation of how you treat it. Meaning if you eat well and exercise regularly this will show in your physique. Simple right?
Watch what you eat…
Unfortunately you can’t out train a bad diet. However, with that being said I’m not one to be miserable because I can’t treat myself at dinner time. My general rule would be this: Avoid eating rubbish as much as possible, this includes junk food, processed food, and anything high in saturate fat. However when it comes to burgers and pies, tuck in! Everyone’s body is different, and everyone trains at different intensities. Therefore it’s all about finding what works for you. Just make sure you get In some fats, protein and carbohydrates.
However. Your body is NOT a machine, meaning that counting your ‘Macros’ and anything else you put into your body is hardly practical. Just go with the flow! Stuck for some healthy breakfast ideas? Check this out: ’10 Simple Healthy Breakfast Ideas’
Consistency is key., this applies to many things, especially when it comes to your health and appearance. Unfortunately plucking up the motivation to workout twice a month isn’t going to cut it. As previously mentioned our bodies are a representation of what we do the majority of the time. Therefore, if the majority of the time you’re at home tucking into some fast food, your body (and health) will show it.
If you’re having any trouble with finding the motivation to get out of the bed in the morning, I feel your pain. Check out this post for my effective solution ‘5 ways to make your early morning workouts actually happen’. If you simply can’t muster the motivation to even consider working out, then I have a solution for that as well: ‘Tips & tricks to stay motivated’.
Warm up and cool down
By far one of the most overlooked things when exercising is warming up and cooling down. Although I must admit, it’s not particularly entertaining. With that said we don’t just do it for a laugh. Warming up your muscles, joints and ligaments significantly reduces the risk of injury. Where as a quick 5 minute cool down can work wonders in terms of a speedy recovery.
Take it from someone who has been injured for the past 5 months. Injury sucks, and there is nothing worse than wanting to train and not being able too. The solution? Spend 5-10 minutes of your time to significantly reduce the risk.
In conclusion Men of all ages want to look their best, and with a little motivation and a point in the right direction, this is easily achievable. This simple guide starts off with developing your strength and conventional movements with four fundamental compound lifts. Further down the line (whenever you feel ready) you should progress by implementing isolation exercises into your routine, alongside the compound lifts.
To accompany this training regime it’s important to switch it up from time to time, warm up and cool down to avoid injury and promote recovery. Finally adequate diet and nutrition is essential for maintaining that killer physique.