I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything better than having a chiseled, tight, strong, lean body! That’s one of the zillion reasons why I get up before the sun every day of the week to work out. And I’m nothing special. I just have a lot of discipline, desire and motivation. If I can put myself through the rigors necessary to get in great shape, you can too!
Since you are in a hurry to get strong and lean, you darn well better be willing to make some sacrifices. The faster you want results, the harder you are going to have to work. That being said, I’m going to give you 10 tips that will make the girls do a double take when you walk by them shirtless on the sidewalk!
1. Take a mental picture.
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I’m sure you probably weren’t thinking of this tip being No.1, but it is. Out on the streets where I come from, there is this thing called mental imagery. When I teach someone a new skill, like kettlebell snatches, I tell them to practice behind the wheel of their car, while they’re cooking dinner, when they’re sitting in a boring meeting at work and right before they fall asleep at night.
I specify that I want them to see themselves going through the motions of the snatch and practice it as much as possible. This is the true essence of mental imagery. I want you to do the same thing. Feel and see yourself stronger and leaner all hours of the day with no exceptions.
2. Take your food intake seriously.
I promise you right now; if you don’t feed your body right, you will not make an ounce of progress. Only consume foods that are whole and as free of contaminants and preservatives as possible. Ideally, I’d go organic, but if you can’t, just get as close as possible. The higher octane the fuel is going into your body, the better it will respond.
3. Eat often.
This is essential to maintain high energy levels, keep your muscles preserved and your metabolism revving. Eat a balanced meal every two to three hours throughout the day. Aim for five or six meals when it’s all said and done. A balanced meal would be something like a veggie avocado omelette with sprouted toast. This contains a portion of protein, complex carbs and healthy fat.
4. Make a calorie reduction.
If you want to get leaner, you will need to lose weight. The amount is going to vary, depending on how much weight you have to lose. Since you will be exercising, and I’ll get to that in a minute, it will not be necessary to make a huge reduction. A modest amount like 250 calories a day should be fine.
5. Drink water over everything else.
Water hydrates your muscles and body and it’s also free of calories. Give up the sodas, sweet teas, processed juices, sugary coffee drinks and alcohol. Calories from beverages will sabotage your efforts to become leaner faster than a speeding ruffed grouse, and those things can boogey!
6. Lift heavy weights.
Here’s a shocker, in order to get strong, you need to lift heavy weights. This doesn’t necessarily mean barbells and dumbbells either. Your body makes a great weighted tool to get stronger and leaner. As a rule of thumb, use a load with your exercises that will allow you to do no more than 10 reps. If you can do more, go heavier.
7. Focus on functional and compound exercises.
Functional exercises are performed in multiple planes and they require you to recruit multiple joints and muscles at the same time. Compound exercises are similar in the fact that they recruit multiple muscles and joints, but they are more linear.
A dumbbell squat thrust push-up and press is an example of a functional exercise. You are basically doing four different exercises in one fluid movement. A barbell deadlift is a compound exercise that works the glutes, hamstrings and back all at the same time. Both exercises enlist a high amount of core recruitment too as an added benefit.
The bottom line is, structure your entire workouts around these exercises.
8. Execute proper form.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen atrocious form in the gym over the course of time. I’ve seen people on the lat pulldown machine swinging back and forth like a door that’s about to become unhinged. I’ve seen people curling more weight than they need to while using gross amounts of momentum and arching their backs. I’ve also seen people flipping and flopping around on a pull-up bar doing some kind of exercise that I can’t even define.
You’re not going to do any of that though. YOU are going to move through a full range of motion, and use a slow and controlled tempo. Do not use momentum, do not bounce weights off your body, do not arch your back, and if the weight is too heavy, go lighter. Always think in terms of learning movement patterns first, then increasing weight.
9. Do sprint intervals.
I’m not going to lie to you. This step is going to suck. Sprints are just plain hard. There are no two ways about it. However, I have never once regretted doing a sprint workout and neither will you.
Why are sprints so effective? Well, they require you to cross the anaerobic threshold where your body is burning stored carbs for energy. The end result is a boosted metabolism and a sinister spike in testosterone and growth hormone, which leads to rippling, toned muscles. Just look at any Olympic level sprinter or any athlete who has to sprint a lot in his or her game. They look like two-legged horses and have gigantic defined muscles.
For a fun variation, do sprint intervals up hills. Start with a light warm-up on flat ground, then sprint up a hill for about 50 yards. Jog back down to recover, then turn around and repeat as many times as you can until you run out of gas.
10. Get sufficient sleep.
If you like to stay up late, that’s great. But for the duration of your pursuit of becoming stronger and leaner, you’re going to hit the hay early. While you sleep, your body recovers from tough workouts and your muscles get a chance to heal. As an added benefit, you get a surge of testosterone and human growth hormone, just like with sprints. Try to shoot for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
OK, now you have some tips to work with. The rest is up to you. I can’t be there to hold your hand so you’re going to need to step up and take control of the situation. I am here for you though. If I can be of any further service, don’t be a stranger.