Making the commitment to get yourself in shape is going to be one of the most rewarding, and undoubtedly the most important thing you’ll do in your life. I should point out though, that it’s not some one-off thing where you work out for a few months, get in shape, and then stop. It’s something you are going to have to work at, and do regularly for the rest of your life. (Or, for as long as you want to be in shape.)
My advice to those thinking about embarking on such an epic journey is, first of all, know your goals. If you don’t know what you are trying to get out of your workouts, as clearly as possible, you’ll get very little out of them. You need to know where you are going.
For example, do you want to lose 5 stone of fat, and just maintain a lean body with a little muscle definition?
Do you want to go from being skinny, to having an extra 30-40lb of thick, dense muscle on your frame?
Or are you overweight, wishing to lose the fat and have 30-40lb of extra muscle on your frame?
In brief, in each instance, I’ll now explain what approach you need to take to get you started on your journey:
Fat to lean:
Naturally, this applies to those who want to lose a lot of fat and stay lean and have the ‘toned’ look. But, in part (and I’ll say which part when I come to it) it also applies to those looking to go from fat to looking like a budding bodybuilder with a lot of muscle mass.
From fat to lean is relatively simple. It’s all about eating less calories and exercise to keep the metabolism high. When you eat less calories than your body needs to stay at the same level of fat, your body burns fat for energy.
Unfortunately, during the process of dieting, the metabolism can go out of whack, and fight back by slowing down so it maintains the fat stores. (The body loves to store fat.)
So, you need to continue to keep the metabolism high by doing two things:
- Regular exercise: weight training – particularly heavy leg work.
- Not eating too little calories which puts the body into starvation mode.
My advice on training is a simple 3 – 5 day program for an hour a day (there is plenty more in depth advice on this on my site.) And, as for dieting, it’s also simple: begin counting calories and eating 500 calories less per day than you normally do. If the weight comes off, continue until it stops.
Dieting at the rate of 500 calories less per day will likely allow you to prevent your body from suffering from a huge lack of energy and will keep the body out of starvation mode so fat loss continues. Of course, as time goes on, you’ll need to continue adjusting. For instance, if you ate 4,000 calories per day before you began dieting, eating 3,500 will only last for so long, before you have to reduce it by another 100 per day, etc.
Eating a set diet makes counting calories much easier, but, it’s not necessary.
Fat to well muscled:
Follow the identical information given above (including weight training) to help you lose fat first. Things need to be done in order, as you can only build muscle or lose fat at any one time. (Muscle building requires excess calories and fat loss requires a calorie deficit which can’t co-exist simultaneously.)
You lose fat first because when building muscle – no matter how stringent your diet is – you also put on a little fat at the same time, so, as for the myth of losing fat and getting muscles at the same time – it doesn’t hold water. Lose the fat first, and get your fat loss down to a level which is very low (not abs low, but close) and then begin on a clean bulk – which involves continued weight training, but, a slight calorie excess on a daily basis to feed, repair and grow the muscle fibres. (As well as having the key nutrients – carbs, protein, fat – in place to support the growth of lean mass.)
Skinny to well muscled:
Skinny to well muscled is also relatively simple. For most people, the pitfall of not being able to put muscle on has far less to do with any specific program, but more to do with how much you eat. If you are the type who eats a lot but doesn’t put an ounce of fat on, then you are going to have to eat even more to put muscle on. Maybe a lot more. Maybe a ton more. (You’ll soon find out just how much.)
For beginners, a program of 3 – 5 days for an hour a day with plenty of heavy compound exercises is what’s needed. Exercises such as squats, dead lifts, bench presses, shoulder presses and rows, etc.
There is much more in depth information on specific training methods, exercises and diets on the site.