I joined my first gym when I was 15 years old. This year I turned 30 which means I’ve now been training for 15 years, or half my life.
While I certainly am no expert, I do have a fair share of experience both initially as an inexperienced lifter and more recently as a power-lifting coach and gym owner which is my full time job.
Here are 15 training and nutrition tips in no particular order
1. Prioritise the compound basics
If you’re not doing squats, bench presses, dead-lifts, overheads and rows at least once per week then your training program probably needs tweaking. No exercises are better ‘bang for your buck’ than heavy compound training. Ditch the dumbbell concentration curls and go dead-lift instead. You’ll thank me later…
2. Squat deep
Nobody is impressed if you squat high. Sure, you will probably move some more weight but anybody who knows how to squat won’t care how much weight is on the bar if you aren’t hitting depth. Ditch the ego and learn to squat full range of motion.
3. Bench to your chest
Similar to above, don’t be that person who doesn’t touch their chest during bench press. Unrack the bar, start with elbows locked, lower the bar until it touches your chest then press to locked elbows. Repeat until set is finished. Don’t half rep bench press.
4. Longer is better
When I first started training I read somewhere that any more than 45 minutes in the gym was a waste of time. Something about cortisol levels being too high after 45 minutes making anything you do after that useless. What a joke.
Put simply, more time spent training equals better results, so commit as much time as you can to each training session and make them count.
5. Frequency doesn’t matter
I know people who train once per week, twice per week, three times per week, four times per week, five times per week, six times per week and even seven per week. What matters most is finding what suits your lifestyle. If you can only manage three one hour sessions per week, then that will work. If you can do five one hour sessions, even better.
Any time you spend in the gym will help you to make progress. So don’t worry about how often others train and just focus on yourself.
6. Worry about yourself, not others
At the end of the day, there will always be people in the gym you don’t like. The dude in tights, the guy in a stringer, the sweaty man, the grunter, the instagram ‘model’, the list goes on.
Rather than worrying about how others dress or train focus on your own training and get it done. This is particularly important for people who feel intimidated in the gym. Anybody who is serious about their training doesn’t look twice at others while they train so chances are nobody is watching you do whatever you feel nervous doing.
7. Get stronger
One of the simplest mistakes I see people making is failing to progressively get stronger. You can’t expect to increase the weights every session, every week or even every month, but if you aren’t increasing your weights every few months then you probably need to reassess your training program or lack thereof.
If you didn’t increase your squat, bench press or dead-lift last year then what on earth were you doing in the gym that whole time?
8. Age is no excuse
This is one of my pet peeves. The older individual who thinks they can’t lift any more due to their age, dodgy knee, bad back etc. There are always options. Whatever excuse they have, it’s probably not good enough. There are power-lifters in their 80’s and 90’s lifting more weight than many people in their 20’s and 30’s.
There are guys with one arm or one leg lifting more weight than people with all their limbs. Get rid of your excuses and get into the gym.
9. Ditch the fads
Atkins, paleo, 5:2, intermittent fasting, gluten free… There are countless diet fads that are all the rage for a few weeks or months then die out once people get bored of them.
Ditch the fad diets and instead develop a healthy, sustainable relationship with food rather than living your life by foods that are “good” and others that are “bad”.
10. Eat meat
Unless you are a vegetarian or vegan, meat will likely be your primary source of protein and is packed full of crucial vitamins and minerals. If you don’t have meat on your plate most of the dinners each week then you should probably fix that.
11. Supplement with whey
Whey protein is the most research proven protein available on the market, so take advantage of the science and supplement with some Bulk Nutrients Whey Protein Concentrate or Whey Protein Isolate. If you can’t have whey for whatever reason, then pick an alternative that works for you such as Earth Protein, Future Whey, Hemp Protein or Egg Protein.
12. Eat enough calories
When I was in high school I ate two Weetbix for breakfast and thought that was heaps. No wonder I was 70kg and weak.
The biggest mistake I see skinny lifters making is simply not eating enough. Until you’ve proven you can eat enough to gain weight, then chances are you are under eating and could benefit from consuming more calories.
Want an easy calorie booster? Drink one litre of full fat milk every day.
13. Drink water
If you aren’t having at least two litres of water per day then that needs to be fixed immediately. I’m at around 5L per day, around 10L during summer.
Ensure you drink enough water to keep your urine relatively clear throughout the day. If you don’t actively keep a water bottle on hand at work or the gym, then I suggest buying a sustainable one and carrying it with you at all times.
14. Take fibre
This is a favourite of mine but commonly overlooked. Fibre is crucially important for a healthy bowel which in turn promotes an ideal digestive system which supports your immune system. One of the simplest things you can do to help this process is supplement with fibre, such as Tri Fibre+.
Getting adequate fibre through dietary intake can be hard but a tablespoon or two per day of fibre in your shakes goes down easily and will do wonders for your gut.
15. Sleep heaps
Seven to nine hours per night is ideal, depending upon the individual. If I get 8+ hours a night, I feel invincible. Less than seven and I feel weak, fatigued and grumpy. Not only does sleep help you perform at your best in the gym but you also helps you to recover better. Spend less time on social media or watching reality TV and more time making gains while you sleep!
Well that’s it. 15 training and nutrition tips to help you avoid making the same mistakes I made for many, many years of my training. Want some extra training assistance?
You can contact me on Dave@BrisbaneNorthBarbell.com.au about my online programming and coaching options. Simply mention this blog to get 50% off your first month.