21 Ways To Get Strong And Get Lean

Want to accelerate your gains? Just make sure you follow some of these expert tips and mix them into your current thinking to enhance your gains.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Make this the year that you get strong and lean.

1. Go Big

Getting muscular and getting lean is all about hitting the big muscle groups with compound exercises. Think squats, bench press, lunges, pull ups, press ups, deadlifts, bent over rowing, military press. These will change your body. Need to lose weight? Up the reps. Now is not the time for isolating dumbbell curls and bench flyes.

The more weight you can lift, the more fuel you’ll burn. Spend some of your training time getting stronger and you’ll be able to do your other work at a higher level.

2. Pause, Don’t Stop

Cram more work into the same amount of time and you’re going to see better results.

Make sure you monitor your rest between sets. Sometimes it’s easy to rest too long. Focus on shortening your rest time to between 20 and 60 seconds, and stick to it.

Get yourself a stop watch. It’ll be one of the best workout decisions that you ever make. Don’t use your phone instead – it’s a tempting distraction and you need to focus on your workout. Oh, and it’s far better to accidentally drop a dumbbell on a stopwatch than to wreck your phone.

3. Intensify

Long, slow distance work is the enemy. Not only is it inefficient, it pummels at your joints and can wreck your body. Intense cardio is far more effective and saves you a big slice of time in the process.

Going for ten one-minute bursts of effort, with a 30-second recovery period in between each effort is far more valuable than a 60 minute jogging session.

4. Dig In And Grind It Out

The last rep of a set or that last 15 seconds of a cardio burst are where the gold is. These are the make or break points that get your body engaged and stimulate your muscle fibres.

Always bear this in mind when you’re closing in on giving up. Dig deeper and squeeze out that last extra piece of effort. It could make all the difference between destroying your body targets and failing miserably.

That last 5% of effort could make 20% of the difference.

5. Keep Guessing

Expertise is overrated. The more efficient you get at a movement, the less energy you’ll expend doing it, so mix it up a bit.

Don’t just stick to one form of cardio, rotate between jumping rope, hitting the bike, running and suicides.

Don’t get too familiar with one rep range or core go-to exercise, mix it up and keep your body guessing.

6. Explode

Explosive sprinting is one of the simplest forms of high-intensity exercise. It puts your body through stress, so don’t overdo it, but keep it simple and build it up gradually. Perhaps start with five 50 metre sprints with a 30-second recovery in between, and up it when you’re ready.

More importantly, make sure that you warm up thoroughly or you’re going to get hurt.

7. Be Inclined

Sprinting up hills can quickly make you improve your form. It forces your body into focusing on what’s needed to do the job. And they are way nastier than hitting the flat track.

Find yourself a decent hill that is at least 30 metres long and start with five or six hill sprints. Walk down each time to recover.

8. Dream Big

Skipping sleep won’t do you any favours. Sleep deprivation messes with your brain’s ability to make decisions and control your impulses. A lack of sleep won’t only drain your motivation for exercise and hamper your body’s ability to repair itself, it’ll also have you reaching for the snack foods as your resolve begins to dissolve.

Get the sleep you need, no excuses.

9. Drink, Drink, Drink

Water helps normalise your body’s functions, regulates appetite and improves your liver’s ability to metabolise fat.

Keep a glass of the good stuff within reach at all times. Don’t force yourself to drink, just take a gulp whenever you feel like it to keep hydrated. Plain old water is all you need. Ignore the hype around coconut water.

10. Go Giant

Giant sets are a great way to save time, build muscle and burn fat.

A giant set consists of four sets of four different exercises working the same muscle group. For example, a chest giant set might consists of 10 reps on a flat bench press, 10 reps of dumbbell pec flies, 10 reps on an decline bench press and 10 reps of incline dumbbell presses.

When performing a giant set, quickly move from exercise to exercise. Your rest period should not exceed 10 seconds. It’s fast. And it’s not easy.

Check out the Body Beast workouts, which have some great examples of giant sets.

11. Get More Done

More effort in less time equals a muscle growth and fat burning explosion.

Try mixing an upper-body exercise with a lower-body move: a press-up followed by a squat or a bent over row followed by a bent leg deadlift. Your cardio will increase and your heart will have to push the blood around your body a lot harder, without you having to stop working out when your arms or legs get tired.

Give it a go!

12. Where’s The Beef?

Pay attention to getting the protein your muscles need to rebuild. Protein and amino acids are the building blocks of life and if you don’t get them into your body in large amounts, you are going to get very little out of your workouts.

Whether it’s cardio or strength training, your muscles are going to suffer without at least 0.8 to 1 gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight. That’s around 2 grams per kilo pf bodyweight.

Use a high quality whey protein if you’re having trouble getting the protein from other sources.

13. Break Away

It’s all about the long haul. You want to maintain your fitness regimen across the years, rather than losing enthusiasm and crashing out never to train again. That’s something that happened to me.

The reason?

I trained too hard for years and didn’t give myself any time off. My training partner and I even went out looking for a gym that was open on Christmas Eve, because it fell on a training day. This happened a lot. And I burned away my enthusiasm. It took me nearly ten years to come back to it.

To get results, give yourself some time off. Aim to workout consistently for ten months of the year and give yourself the other two months off.

When you accept that fitness isn’t all-or-nothing, you’re more likely to stick with it for life.

14. Stretch When You’re Done

Never, ever finish a workout without spending a few minutes stretching your tired muscles. Giving your body a much-needed stretch will ensure that you increase your flexibility and ease some of that delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

These post-workout stretches are great no matter what your workout of choice.

Even if it’s just two minutes of stretching at the end of your session, make sure you do it. To maximise the impact of your stretching session, try taking a cold shower or bath straight afterwards, as it has some muscle building side effects.

15. Write It Down

Make sure you keep a record of everything you do in the gym and in your training. Whatever you do, write it down.

If you can’t remember what you did last week, how are you going to know how much to push yourself this week?

If you’re a runner, use an app like runkeeper. If you’re working out in the gym, take a notebook and write it down.

Make sure you also weigh and measure yourself and take pictures. There’s no better way of gauging your progress than in real numbers. Here’s a worksheet that you can download to track your progress.

When you can see how much you’re improving you’ll want to keep on tracking your progress.

And when the gains start slowing this indicates that it’s time to shake up your system and change your routine.

16. Drop It

Use drop sets. Keep going until technical failure, that’s the point at which you can no longer do the move with good form. Then reduce the weight and squeeze out more reps. Dumbbell moves are great for drop sets, as using the rack lets you switch weights quickly.

Don’t rest between the drop sets, keep going.

If you’re trying this at home then you can’t go wrong by buying yourself a set of adjustable dumbbells, these things are great.

17. Home Invasion

Can’t make it to the gym? Extreme weather stopping you hitting the streets on a run? Then you need a backup plan that allows you to work out anywhere, anytime without having to rely on equipment.

Take a look at the Insanity workout or Hip Hop Abs. Workouts like these can be your go-to gym fix when the gym is unreachable.

18. Forget The Kit, Focus On The Kitchen

Fixing your diet makes everything else easier. Don’t put all that training time in and then throw it all away by eating like a dustbin.

Diet counts for so much more than exercise. It’s a fact that what you put into your body makes more difference than the workouts you sweat through. On average, if you exercise to lose weight, but don’t work on your food you’ll only shed 2 to 3 percent of weight over 6 to 12 months.

It’s much easier to deny yourself 500 bad calories a day, the amount you typically need to cut to lose a pound of fat each  week, than to burn that much through exercise.

500 calories is approximately the equivalent of 50 minutes of bootcamp, 80 minutes of strength training, 140 minutes of yoga or 20 minutes of interval sprints.

19. Get Inclusive

Instead of concentrating on what you’re going to stop eating, focus on adding foods to your diet. Gradually, as you find the good stuff that works for you, it will push the bad stuff out.

20. Swap Out The Soft Drinks

Never mind the full sugar soft drinks. Even so-called diet drinks will trigger an insulin response due to their sweet taste. They can also make you hungry by messing with your body’s perceived energy levels.

Go for a lime and soda instead. The lime will keep your blood sugar in check, while soda water has a mild alkalising effect on your body. This may help delay fatigue and lactic acid build up in the muscles. By delaying fatigue and lactic acid build up, you’ll be able to exercise harder and longer.

21. Egg It Up

For breakfast, ditch the cereals and grab two eggs instead. Boil them, poach them or scramble them in the microwave.

Either way, it’s fast and it gives you a protein hit as well as keeping you feeling full until lunch.

So, That’s The 21!

Keep on going and make sure you’re in it for the long term. There are a few things you can do in order to make sure you don’t stagnate or abandon your fitness goals.

And the most important thing to remember is that turning up is the hardest part. If you’re not psyched up to train, just do it anyway. Once you’re there and ready to go you’re less likely to abandon it.

Focus on just turning up to your training session and the rest will follow. Look upon it as doing your future self a favour.

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