So many people in life want to jump straight to the finish line. We want immediate results, that magic pill. But, to achieve anything great in life, there is no shortcut. This month, I’m going to take you through why taking your time to reach your physical goals is so important, and how to achieve your dream physique.
The two goals I most often hear from people are: “I want to put on some muscle and get bigger” and “I want to lose weight and get skinnier.”
But let’s think about that. In an attempt to put on muscle, if we put on weight too fast, we’re likely to put on an excess amount of fat, which we don’t want. In an attempt to become skinny quickly, we may go on a crash diet that will help us to lose the weight, but will simultaneously result in losing a very large amount of muscle. Even worse, this puts us in an unsustainable position where we are in danger of rebounding quickly and putting on all the weight we lost, plus possibly even more.
So how do we achieve this fine balance?
You may have heard the terms “bulking” and “cutting” in the bodybuilding world. This can easily be a very effective tool in your fitness arsenal, helping you towards your fitness goals, not just Arnold’s.
The idea behind bulking and cutting is that since it’s difficult to add muscle when you’re losing weight, and difficult to lose fat when you’re gaining weight, you need to work towards your goal in stages. It’s simple science. Combining these two one after the other allows you to put on muscle for a period of time, while ideally limiting the fat gain. Then cut the fat you put on, while limiting muscle loss. The end result will then hopefully see you gaining the amount of muscle you’d like, without increasing your fat percentage. Actors constantly employ this tactic for their film roles.
This is a training phase in which you put on bulk, or size. In order to put on some muscle, you need to eat more calories than you’re expending on a daily basis. This nutrition strategy should be combined with a weightlifting programme that allows the muscles to be torn apart and rested in order to allow them to grow back bigger and stronger. For the nutrition aspect, I would recommend eating 300-500 calories in excess of your daily caloric expenditure. Keeping the excess minimal will assist in keeping your fat gain minimal as you move towards your goals. The aim is to eat enough protein, carbohydrates and fats, to be able to grow, but to work out the ratio in a manner that’s suited towards your particular body type. For example, if you’re a hard gainer, ie, someone who struggles to put on weight, you may need to eat more carbohydrates and fats than someone like me who puts on fat very easily.
As for the weight training portion, I would recommend training one body part a day for a 45- or 60-minute stretch. Try to work in some compound exercises such as benchpresses and dumbbell chest presses and perhaps squats, and stiff leg deadlifts. You can finish up with some shaping exercises such as flys for chest; and quad extensions and hamstring curls for legs. The ideal set and rep range for muscle growth is generally 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions. A minimum of one rest day should be taken each week. All of these are general recommendations. Your individual regimen will vary depending on your skill and experience level.
Cutting is a little trickier. As mentioned, you’d start this phase after completing a strong bulking phase. The goal is to keep the gains that you’ve made during the bulking phase, so you should take the cutting phase nice and slow. The aim should be to lose 450gm per week. This should help you to complete the process at a pace that’ll allow you to maintain your final weight as opposed to bouncing back hard. A controlled pace will also help in maintaining as much muscle as possible, while losing weight.
Similar to the bulking phase, the caloric deficit here should be about 300-500 calories per day. This should be combined with a slightly higher intensity workout programme. I would recommend training two body parts a day, and focus more on the 12-15 repetition range. You can change up your workout routine by adding in some supersets and drop sets as well. While the cardio activity should remain fairly low – if any at all during the bulking phase – during cutting, you should increase the cardio to multiple times per week, if your schedule permits. HIIT cardio is something fun to try as well. Ten second sprints on the beach followed by 10 second walks are my favourite. Ten sets.
These methods involve a lot of trial and error to discover the perfect formula for each individual. As you develop your physique, you may need to adjust even further. But this is a proven method that’ll allow you to reach your physical goals at the end of the day.
The biggest takeaway should be that anything worthwhile is not achieved overnight. Everything earned in life always tastes sweeter than if achieved instantly. If you want to reach your physical goals, set a long term plan in place and take one step closer to it, day by day. In your physical journey, just as in life, sometimes you need to take a couple of steps back, in order to take several steps forward.
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