67 Ways To Build Strength, Lose Fat and Be Fucking Awesome

tom_hardy_warriorWith another year in the books, it’s a common tendency to look back at what did and didn’t happen in 2013, wondering what shoulda, coulda, woulda been…

Did you have a solid plan for getting stronger, building muscle and shedding fat, knowing exactly what to do every time you set foot inside a weight room?

Or were you simply going through the motions of working out, without clear direction, focus and progression?

How were you dealing with inner resistance on days that you didn’t particularly look forward to making the trip all the way down to the gym?

Were you able to overpower the sorry excuses your mind was coming up with? Or did you give in like a gutless wimp, rationalizing to yourself it was okay to skip training this time and you’d start again next Monday? We all know how that ended…

Did you prepare healthy, unprocessed, nutritious meals from fresh ingredients? Or was the sweet siren song of delicious pizza, pastries and candy too much to handle once you parked your lazy ass on the couch after a long, exhausting day at work and flipped on the telly?

Were you sound asleep by 23.00 on most nights, like you know you should have been? Or was watching stupid infomercials and late night talk shows more important than quality sleep and regeneration?

Which course of action did you choose at social gatherings? Staying up late and getting hammered at parties week after week with deadbeats or waking up refreshed and completing an early morning training session while everybody else was nursing a terrible hangover?

Maybe you did some stupid stuff and got injured? You wouldn’t be the first one.

Or perhaps you simply got lost listening to too many people, chasing contradictory goals, ending up spinning your wheels with no progress to show for your efforts.

Whatever choices you’ve made in the past, now is the perfect opportunity to wipe the slate clean and make sure 2014 is gonna be your best year yet.

I know it’ll be for me. I expect continual progress, consistent strength development, injury-free training, new personal records and shitloads of hustlin’ in and out of the gym.

Here’s how to make it happen…

1. Stop chasing a magic pill.

There are no secrets. Whoever is trying to convince you otherwise is a scammer and should not be listened to.

2. Become a Lifer. No more “I’ll give this new training program a go for the next 6 weeks, wake up jacked like Tom Hardy in Warrior and be done with it”. You’re gonna get that nonsense out of your head right now.

Physical excellence requires an immense amount of dedication over months, years, decades. Prepare to be lifting weights, eating quality foods and improving yourself in all kinds of ways literally for the rest of your life – starting today until the day you die.

3. Don’t program hop.

Pick any good program (could be 5×5, 5/3/1 or anything else) and do it for at least a year, keeping it as simple as you possibly can. Stop looking for shortcuts that don’t exist. Shut your brain off and fucking lift weights.

4. Write down your goals and pursue them with passion.

What gets measured, gets improved. I have been slacking off in this department as of late, so the other day I wrote down a few numbers I wanna reach this year… numbers that I should’ve hit months ago. Needless to say, I’m friggin’ stoked!

5. Get your priorities in order.

Training + good food + quality sleep + little stress = fit

No/crappy training + lots of junk + staying up late + getting worked up over minutia = fat

Which is it gonna be?

6. Lift, drag, push, pull, carry heavy shit.

There’s nothing more effective than that for building raw strength.

david_rigert

7. Screw fad diets.

All they do is help you lose strength, muscle and water.

8. Base your eating habits on fresh, natural foods.

Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, fruits, vegetables.

Nobody ever got fat eating those.

9. Get rid of your TV. Read books instead.

If you chose to follow only one pointer on this entire list, this one would have the biggest impact on the quality of your life.

10. Limit your training sessions to 60 minutes or less.

If you can’t get shit done in an hour, you’re either following a less than optimal training program or dragging rest periods too long. Whichever the case, you’re wasting valuable time.

11. Start every new training cycle light.

The #1 enemy of solid progress is ego. There’s no worse feeling than starting too heavy due to inflated expectations, thinking you’re the baddest mofo in your gym, only to hit a plateau and having to deload 3 weeks into your strength training program.

The first 2-3 weeks of ANY intelligent plan will have you train with submaximal loads building a foundation of speed and perfect technique, getting accustomed to your program and staying CONSISTENT with it.

12. Sleep at least 8 hours every night.

Do I really need to explain this one?

13. Switch to a thumbless grip on overhead pressing from the front (military and push press).

After implementing this small adjustment, most people will notice how the bar path feels “right”. But refrain from this with the bench press unless you know what you’re doing. They don’t call it the suicide grip for nothing.

14. Make training fun.

I could give you the best training program for building strength and losing fat known to man but if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, your results will never be anything more than average.

15. Stop wasting your time on expensive, bogus supplements that do nothing for your health.

Just because a supplement manufacturer is pushing high-protein, low-carb “energy bars” doesn’t mean they’ll do jack shit for you.

16. Choose the least amount of exercises required to get the job done.

The biggest fitness fallacy is that beginners need a lot of variety in terms of exercise selection.

No, they don’t.

What they need is a handful of big, compound movements – pulls, presses, chins, rows, squats and deads – and training them with a (relatively) high frequency, perfect form and progressive overloading.

17. Do at least as much vertical pressing as horizontal pressing.

You want to make sure that for every set of bench pressing you do, you’re performing at least an equal amount of overhead pressing (military press/push press/behind the neck presses etc.) as well.

This not only builds stronger shoulders (obviously) but will prevent any muscle imbalances that may occur due to an over-reliance on the bench press as the primary upper body lift.

heavy-overhead-press

18. Complain less.

The fact that you’re reading this site implies you’ve got access to the Internet and a roof over your head. Which is a luxury millions of people on this very planet are lacking.

Remember that the next time you’re about to bitch and moan about how tough your life is.

19. Cut your rest periods.

For a long time I bought into the notion that you should rest several minutes between sets on the big barbell exercises. Through experimenting and learning from more experienced guys, I found that this is simply not necessary.

However, don’t turn your sessions into circuit training either. Your main objective at the gym is still to get bigger, stronger and faster.

20. Perform soft tissue & mobility work 5-7 times per week.

As Eric Cressey says, foam rolling and lacrosse/tennis ball work are like having the world’s cheapest massage therapist. You’ll thank me when you’re still able to run, jump, lift and throw at 50 while all your friends complain how they’re too old to do anything remotely active.

21. Set PR’s in training as often as possible…

Always approach every training session with the intention of beating your previous best.

22. … But respect the ebb and flow of training.

Beyond the beginner stage, improving your lifts every week is no longer possible. Some days you crush shit, some days you feel like shit but it’s consistency in executing the program regardless of how you feel on any given day that ultimately matters in the long run.

Just train, strive to get better and don’t worry about it.

23. Don’t fear carbs.

Eat starchy carbs (rice, taters, yams) at night after your strength training session.

24. Limit the time you spend on Facebook, Twitter or other avenues of social media.

Here is a great tool for making your Internet browsing more productive.

25. Keep a journal where you record your thoughts.

Not just for lifting. For life.

You’ll never know which one of the hundreds of ideas passing through your head each and every day would have made you incredibly successful unless you capture them on a piece of paper to be acted on later.

I highly recommend this planner. It has proven invaluable in my life.

26. Add single-leg work into your sessions.

Single-leg exercises are invaluable for athletes. They increase mobility, stability and reduce the likelihood of injury while giving the body a break from heavy spinal loading.

27. Learn to let go, relax and say “Fuck It”.

The world is a light place, don’t take it seriously. You won’t make it out of this life alive no matter what you do. So you might as well have a laugh before you go.

28. Drink more water.

Cut out sugary juices and energy drinks.

29. Compete.

Playing, jumping, running and throwing on the field or pitch while playing a sport is an excellent way to add in a healthy sense of competition while you’re getting into shape, and should not be overlooked as a conditioning method. It’s a lot of fun, too.

robert_griffin_3

30. Stop hating on people who are more attractive /popular /successful /*insert desirable adjective* than you are.

What other people are doing or thinking is none of your business. You can only work on improving your body and mind.

31. Include phases of higher volume into your training.

Low volume training is great for making you stronger but can lead to achy joints.

32. Listen to In Flames regularly.

‘Nuff said.

33. Don’t be afraid to piss people off.

Nobody will remember the guy who spent his entire life tip-toeing every line that society put in front of him.

Never let anybody dictate to you what your place in this world is or blindly succumb to other people’s expectations of you. That’s a recipe for a sad, boring, mediocre life.

34. Find a gym where many people are stronger than you are.

You always want to surround yourself with people who are better or more accomplished than you are in any aspect of life. You’re forced to work twice as hard and learn twice as fast if you want to move up and gain the respect of these people as an equal to them.

35. Don’t psyche yourself up for a lift all the time.

By all means, get fired up for a big squat attempt and crush that weight. But sniffing ammonia and banging your head through a wall between sets of face pulls is simply moronic, and will compromise recovery.

36. Always question any fitness or life advice you receive.

Even if you read it on this site. I could be wrong. Don’t become a brainless sheep. Learn to think for yourself.

37. Master advanced bodyweight exercises.

Just check out the ridiculous upper body development of U.S. gymnast Brandon Wynn below to comprehend why I’m a huge fan of them.

brandon_wynn

38. Add strategic deloads or off weeks to your training schedule.

Nobody can train balls to wall 52 weeks in a year.

Take some time off and come back stronger.

39. Donate to charity.

Millions of people on this planet live in poverty or nutritional scarcity. Sending a couple of tenners per month their way is not gonna break your finances but could make a huge difference to someone in real need.

40. Start every training session with an explosive full-body movement, such as a hang clean or 1 arm dumbbell snatch.

This is an awesome way to lubricate the joints, activate the muscles and fire up the central nervous system before you move on to the main barbell strength exercise of the day.

41. Never use your age as an excuse.

Whether you’re 30 or 55, you should be dominating the guys 10-20 years your junior. Not being viewed as a sorry old man desperately trying to get into shape.

You’ve been handing the young’uns their asses in training throughout 2013, right? No? Keep on reading and turn the tables around this year…

42. Remove excess clutter and bullshit from your life.

The more you own, the more owns you. Possession of physical products brings about a ton of mental baggage as well.

One of the most relieving moments of my life was when I moved to a different city and posted up an ad for people to come by my old apartment, instructing them to pick up and carry away everything I owned at the time – except for my laptop, basic clothing and a few personal items.

You haven’t enjoyed material freedom until all your belongings fit into one suitcase.

43. Read fiction an hour or two before bed.

Doing this helps your brain wind down, allowing you to pass out like a roofied sorority chick at a frat party. Dean Koontz and Agatha Christie always do the trick for me.

44. Eat saturated fat.

Saturated fat raises your natural test levels.

45. Stop reading so many health/fitness sites and discussion boards online.

Pick one whose message resonates with you. Trying to follow any and every trainer/coach/expert/guru under the sun will leave you confused as a blind lesbian in a fish market. A few good guys to follow are Jay Ferruggia, Eric Cressey and Tony Gentilcore.

46. Full-body programs and upper/lower splits work extremely well for the majority of population who simply want to get stronger and look great naked.

Arthur Saxon, Kaz and Captain Kirk would agree with me.

arthur_saxon

47. Get rid of people who don’t contribute to your life.

You’re the average of the five people you spend most time with. Cast out every energy-leeching, time-wasting, productivity-killing parasite who doesn’t have a positive impact on your life.

48. Tell the ones who do contribute how much they mean to you.

They will not be around forever.

49. Respect science, experiment on your own.

I’m all for a scientific approach to training and nutrition. But it’s one thing to read about findings from guys in white lab jackets in the medical and scientific community vs. actually being responsible for designing a program with the goal of adding 30 kilograms to Sean Soccerplayer’s back squat in the off-season.

Science will always be years behind what the leaders are doing in the real world to generate results for clients/athletes. There’s no wiser teacher than time spent under the bar.

50. Build strength, don’t demonstrate it.

How often have you hit a plateau, yet stubbornly insisted on piling on more weight to the bar week after week, only to notice you’re actually getting weaker?

You want to DOMINATE a weight in training, not grind yourself into the ground all the time. Save that for the rare competition or planned max effort day.

51. If you can’t maintain a straight lower back or feel beat up all the time when deadlifting, switch to rack pulls.

Pulling off mats/blocks/pins in a rack reduces the ROM slightly which allows most people to deadlift with good form, and is also easier to recover from than pulls off the floor.

52. Don’t stress about shit.

Stress kills.

53. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Preferably multiple times per day.

54. Practice often…

High frequency training rules for learning a new skill quickly.

Let’s say you had never thrown hoops in your entire life and Tony Soprano placed a basketball in your hands, informing you that he expects you to play point guard for his side and win the game against the Russian mobsters taking place in 30 days – or he’ll cut off your coglioni. Would you rather practice a couple of times per week or train any and every opportunity you found to save your ass (or balls in this context) from annihilation during the month leading up to the challenge?

Thus, if your goal is to go from 0 to 10 handstand push-ups or nail your kettlebell swing technique or play guitar like Jimi Hendrix, you want to train as often as possible. Perhaps even every day.

55. … But don’t go to failure on a regular basis.

High frequency only works when your recovery between training sessions is fast. Training to failure repeatedly impairs recovery.

56. Spend an extra 5 minutes before every workout on rehab/prehab exercises for your shoulders.

Shoulder problems are one of the nastiest types of injuries you can inflict on yourself as anyone who has struggled with them will attest to (hell, just ask me!)

Some good movements for getting the shoulders ready for the upcoming training session are lateral raises, band pullaparts and shoulder dislocations with a band or broomstick.

57. Perform not only axial-loaded exercises (squats and deadlifts) but anteroposterior-loaded exercises as well.

Hip thrusts, reverse hypers and weighted back extensions will allow you to pack more junk in the trunk. Let’s spend more time training the glutes and hamstrings, and rid the world of pancake asses for good. Thanks, Bret Contreras, for this tip.

glutes

58. Avoid negative people and thoughts.

Cut out all the deadbeats in your life. Those people don’t merely pull you down to their level of endless worry and negativity, they also fill your mind with sorry excuses, a scarcity mindset and destructive habits such as procrastination, envy and laziness – the building stones of mental midgetry.

Associate only with positive-thinking, hard-working winners.

59. Warm up properly.

Benching the bar for 10-20 reps, then immediately piling on the weights for your heaviest set is a recipe for suboptimal performance and injury. Working your way up with multiple sets of low reps will better prepare your body for the top set(s).

60. Use straps on pulling movements if needed. A lot of times, grip strength is the limiting factor with rows or pulls. While many people would chastise the use of straps as “cheating”, using a weight that is 20-40% less than what you’d be able to handle with straps does not exactly equal smart training, does it?

Which brings us to the next point…

61. Practice gripping on Captains of Crush grippers.

But ease into it. Excessive amounts of grip work can lead to elbow problems.

62. Build the quality of your existing relationships in real life, not the quantity of the superficial ones on Planet WWW.

A good place to start would be cutting your online contacts in half. Who the hell needs 1300 Facebook “friends”?

63. Don’t take your health for granted.

Chances are you’re not suffering from a deadly disease or bound to a wheelchair for the rest of your life. But all of that could change in an instant with a drunk driver swerving into you while you’re gazing at your car stereo, flipping through the channels, looking for a song to fire you up on your way to the gym.

Training and good health are a privilege. Treat them as such.

64. Use a thick bar or a pair of Fat Gripz on a regular one when doing barbell curls.

The added thickness makes it easier on the joints.

65. Always strive to make your training harder, not easier.

Paused squats and bench presses are great examples of this as they force you to go lighter while still making the exercise more difficult. Plus nothing is more effective for building bottom position strength than taking out the stretch reflex in a lift.

66. Consider wrapping up your training session with a strongman finisher. This is a fun way to mix strength work with conditioning. Sandbag carry, sled push or farmer’s walks are three excellent choices to pick from – if you’ve got the equipment.

67. *shameless plug* Read this blog daily.

Anything I missed or did you come up with a list of better ideas? How will you make sure 2014 rocks? Please share your comments below.

If you enjoyed this article, please do a brother a favor by liking, commenting and sharing it with others who might dig it as well.



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About the Author Yunus Barisik

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.

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