First of all, I must tell you that I am a “normal guy”. I do not have a super physique which makes all the girls immediately turning their heads at me. But I do my best and I can say that I have never had a girl who had not been impressed with my body, when I take off my clothes. Or that, at least, has said something like “you know Andreas, you should work out more because you look a little bit flaccid/out of shape/weak”.
I am a person who (still) has a job and therefore does not have so much time available to lift, for instance, five times per week. I could do it, eventually, if I would put aside my dancing classes, my football training and my jogging sessions, but this is something I really do not want to. Because not only I believe in a complete scheme to shape your body, from eating healthy and sleeping well to practicing “normal” sports regularly, but also because being stuck in a fitness studio for such a long time it is simply not for me. I find it too individual and even anti-social and, if you exclude the self-motivation you get from seeing the changes happening in your body, it is usually a repetitive, boring activity.
That is why the pieces of advice I am about to give you are totally feasible and headed to every one of you who neither has the time nor the patience to follow extreme lifting programs. I work out for almost 17 years and have done it on my own on the last 5 or 6 years, adapting and optimizing the knowledge which I have been acquiring with the effects and results I see in my body. Consequently, I can say proudly that I am not talking based on any random theory but on my pure, direct experience.
I am not the most ripped guy on the block (I do not take any gaining supplements, aside from the protein shake after my work out) but, looking at the final “product”, I am quite satisfied with the outcome. So in case you also intend to be, then the following hints are the best ones I can give you:
Food and drink
There are lots of myths regarding this topic, being the following one of the most repeated around: “Eating more makes you fat”. First, everything has to do with your nutrients imbalance, meaning that if you have a sedentary lifestyle and you only ingest calories without burning them, surely and naturally you will fatten.
Then, of course the quantities you ingest matter, but it matters much more what you eat. There can be a sedentary person who “only” ingests 200g of pure sugar per day, while there is another one who exercises a lot and eats 2kg of saturated and sugar-free food per day, that I guarantee you that the latter will be the one with the best physique. So regarding what you eat and drink, my advice is that you stick to the following:
- Try to eat at least 5 times per day. Below I show you a typical day:
- Breakfast, between 09:00 and 10:00 am: Rice milk with whole-grain cereals, which contain a maximum of 15g of sugar/100g. In the days I go to the gym in the morning, I usually eat bread with peanut butter and green tea;
- Lunch, between 12:30 and 01:00 pm: Vary varied, but always containing “normal” carbohydrates – rice, pasta or potatoes – and either fish or meat;
- Middle of the afternoon, between 4:00 and 5:00 pm: Bread with low fat ham and yogurt (here I must say that I hate natural yogurt, so I always go for the tasty ones which contain some sugar);
- Before training, around 07:30 pm: 80-100g of either peanuts, cashews or almonds;
- Dinner, around 10:30 pm: Also quite varied, but again always containing “normal” carbohydrates – rice, pasta or potatoes – and either fish or meat;
- Do not eat right before you sleep but DO eat before you sleep. Confusing? Well, contrary to the common belief, there is not such a big problem about eating before going to bed, if you do it at least one hour and a half before you go to sleep. Actually, if you do not fill yourself with too much food (which would just put you feeling unwell, since the first hour and half of digestion shall not be done lying down), it is actually recommended that you do it so. By eating, you are just activating your metabolism and guess what? The faster it works, the more you will burn calories. Besides, even if you are sleeping, your body functions are still fully active and they require nutrients to work properly.
- Totally avoid …
- Refined sugars, present in sodas, chocolates, ice-creams and all type of candies you can think of; instead, take fruit and natural juices – but do not trust these blindly, always check the label to see both the quantity of real fruit and the level of sugar they contain. As an extra, opt for real dark chocolate (yes exactly, that bitter one, even “boring” one, which most of the people do not like) as it is a real natural energetic which also helps in keeping high levels of testosterone for men;
- Fried things, going from nuggets, chips or any other stuff which are simply poisonous and corrosive to your stomach, adding absurd quantities of trans-fat/LDL cholesterol (the bad one) to your blood stream. Instead, either grill or bake your food and forget about using oil (even olive oil, when fried, is as bad as the sunflower one);
- Alcohol! Oh yes, you thought that I was forgetting about your best friend, weren’t you? I know how great it is to get looser and bolder when going out, approaching women like a king but remember that first, this state will disappear as fast as lottery money – so make sure you rely on your cool being and not on the vodka bottle you drink at the club – and then that you only have one liver. Actually, alcohol in itself does not make you fat; what happens is that he is such a selfish son of a bitch that he gets priority before all the others – protein, carbohydrates and fat – meaning that first your body chooses to oxidize it and then to decompose the other nutrients. In the end, it is most likely that you will not burn all the extra calories from the latter group, which are then converted into pure fat.
- Concerning carbohydrates, watch out the “white”. Whenever the bread, the pasta or the rice you are ingesting are too white, replace them by dark ones, as these latter contain whole-grain which contrast with the refined grains, as these only retain endosperms, basically providing to the human body a much lower quality of nutrition.
- Regarding the fat you ingest, make sure you always choose the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated one. Concerning the former, use olive oil in your food, consume nuts such as almonds, cashews and peanuts, seeds such as pumpkins and sesame and the super powerful avocado, which has among its endless benefits the fact that it maintains a man’s testosterone on a good level. Regarding the latter type of fat, always go for the fish, due do its unique source of Omega-3, walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans. Saturated fat is always seen as the devil, but you should know that it is present in such healthy foods as the coconut oil, chicken or turkey, so you should go for it. The only foods you must avoid at (almost) all costs is butter, cheese, sausages, bacon and most of the red meats, but everything can be eaten in a moderately way, especially if it is burnt afterwards.
I have written a whole article just on this topic, just for you to understand the importance I give (and everyone should give) to it. Aside from all the “general” benefits I have referred, there are still some which are important to highlight concerning you getting ripped:
- You grow while you sleep. If you somehow think this statement is false or exaggerated, than I regret to tell you that you are totally wrong. Most of the people, especially due to their busy lives (which usually lead to nowhere), treat sleep as something totally disposable and not that important. But let me tell you that you can have the best nutrition and training plan of the world, that your body will never get the way you want it because a proper sleep is as important as the two former factors;
- But if sleeping is crucial for after your workout, the same applies for your pre-workout. Many guys talk about the best food to give them that maximum energy or the best supplements which will provide them the necessary boost to lift that extra pound, but usually fail to understand that a good night of sleep is the best friend you can have to really rock on the gym.
We reach now the core of the business (but please understand that the sport itself is on the same level of importance as the food you eat and the sleep you get), meaning what you should do to your body in order to get in real shape. As I am much more a sportive man than a guy who only lifts weights – as using just the latter is just too boring and also limiting to your body in terms of functionality – I believe that you should always combine aerobic and anaerobic exercises, even if the former in excess can limit the muscular growth you could eventually get, in case you were just lifting weights in the gym.
- Always choose sports which give your unexpected switches of speed and intensity – such as football, martial arts or tennis – than just the regular ones like jogging.
- Do it at least two times but maximum three times per week: you want to get a ripped physique, not a thin physique (which is what happens if you exaggerate on the number of hours you do an activity which put you heart rate on more than 140 beats/minute, rate for a normal person). Joining a sport club or fight club/gym is probably the best option for you, as they not only provide regular schedules but also the social side.
- So many theories, opinions and methods have been written on this topic, explaining what and how you should train in the gym but the undeniable truth is the following: it will never be pleasant! You can bring up whatever mindset you want, take 1000 different supplements (not steroids, in that case the story is another one and will have a bad ending) or sing the red army hymn every day, that all of these will not exempt you of working hard and suffering. Start seeing lifting weights as a second job and not as a not a cool place to meet girls, that sooner or later your mind will eventually be aligned with your body;
- Still related to this last point, you can come up with all the theories of the world, including the different morphologies and types of body and how each person must have a training adapted to his or her physical characteristics, that in the end there is now other way around: you have to lift heavy and hard…but also continuously and into “technical failure”. Concerning the former, it is quite obvious: By adding a high load to the bar you are lifting – of course to a degree which you can still handle, without bursting your joints, bones and muscles – you are forcing your muscles to the limit, by adding fibers and renewing them once they get damaged; regarding the latter, muscle tension with heavier weights can cause fiber damage that allows for swelling and metabolic stress to occur. Your job is to make sure that while performing reps your muscles do not take a break. It’s the constant process of stretching (the eccentric) and squeezing the muscle (the concentric) that makes it really grow.
- You have to train a minimum of three times per week and a maximum of five, as less than the former will simply be too little and your body will stay idle and more than the latter will make you overload your muscles and the results will be the opposite of what you are looking for. As I have told you before, because I have an active life and I like to combine the aerobic with the anaerobic, I do not lift weights more than three days per week and this has just worked fine on my body (everyone is different, so find the balance which will give you the best results). Of course that I could become leaner if I trained more but honestly I do not want to lose neither my athletic look nor my mobility.
- Do not train more than one hour per session. And why? Well this phenomenon commonly called overtraining (even if technically overtraining is a much deeper physiological state) has basically a simple explanation behind it: excess of the hormone cortisol in your body. It seems that your best friend, testosterone, has a peak when you reach the 30 min’ mark, which goes then back to the normal levels between the 45 min’ and the 1 hour mark. Beyond this, your worst enemy, cortisol (attention that this hormone is fundamental for many functions in the human body but, concerning bodybuilding, its increase is translated into decrease in protein synthesis, conversion of protein into glucose and inhibition of tissue growth), takes over and starts eating your muscle tissue and increasing your body fat, among other harmful effects;
- Train all your body every training and go for the compound exercises. First, I do not know where this silly idea of dividing parts of your body came from, as if the body were a Lego which you could take its different components separately. Your body works as whole, meaning that it grows or decreases more or less in a homogeneous way (that is why, for instance, doing crunches singly will never work to get a six-pack). And this is totally related to the second point: that you should throw away the isolate exercises – there are only four exceptions I tell you just afterwards – and embrace the compound movements. These latter are basically exercises which work diverse muscles at the same time, which results into a much higher blood flow, carrying the necessary cells for their growth;
- “But hey Andreas, so much theory and you do not tell me which training to use?” First of all, let me tell you that I have tried them all: pyramid 6-8-10, pyramid 10-8-6, keeping the number of repetitions (e.g. 6-6-6), maximum strength 6-4-2 and, last but surely not least, 5×5. And because this latter method is eventually the most effective one – and the one I am using right now – I am going to break it down:
- Training A:
- Squats 5×5;
- Incline Bench Press 5×5;
- Dead Lift 5×5;
- Dips 3×5;
- Glute Ham Raise 5×5 (one of the four isolated exercises which are worth doing);
- Barbell or Dumbbell Shrugs 5×5 (one of the four isolated exercises which are worth doing).
- Training B:
- Lunge 3×5 (each leg);
- Bench Press 5×5;
- Bent-over Barbell Row 5×5;
- Military Press including High Pull 5×5;
- Standing Calves Raise in the Machine 5×5 (one of the four isolated exercises which are worth doing);
- Barbell Curl 3×5 (one of the four isolated exercises which are worth doing);
- Training A:
Note: this split of A and B is optimized for training three/four times per week, one hour per session. If you eventually train five times per week, then of course you can reduce the time of training to 45 minutes and distribute the exercises accordingly, but always taking into consideration that the first four exercises of each A and B training must always be present.
Many things have been written about this topic and surely I will neither revolutionize anything with this article nor bring any miracle to any of you guys.
I also know that every person is different and that, being more specific, there are three types of human morphology – Mesomorph, Endomorph and Ectomorph – which totally predefine and set the foundations of how your body builds up muscle. Naturally, if you have a mesomorph type of body, you already have a competitive advantage in the first place, which will be useless if you simply sit down every day on couch and jerk off watching all the hot ladies you will never sleep with (at least if you continue with this lifestyle).
So the other way around holds true: a Slumdog can become a millionaire if he goes against what is established and fights back with all his will – the metaphor is that an ectomorph person, who has the tendency to accumulate fat much more easily than to gain muscle, can indeed become lean and totally defined. What I want to say is that in the end everything comes down to two words your teachers love and your parents even more: method and discipline.
So basically if you watch out what you eat, if you reserve sufficient time of your day to sleep and if you train hard – all done on a regular and on a consistent basis – you will see the changes in your body starting to happen until you will finally reach a good physique. But in case you are with doubts and wondering whether all of my previous hints really work, I believe a picture worth a thousand words, so below I send a couple of photos of myself just for you to see the results with your own eyes and draw your conclusions: