by Matt Weik
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an avid gym rat who could use a refresher, there are some essential fitness tips that you should follow to get the best results possible.
What you’ll find below is a quick list that you should run through and use as a checklist to set yourself up for success in achieving your health and fitness goals.
1. Change Your Lifestyle
When it comes to health and fitness, it’s a matter of changing your lifestyle and behaviors. You’re going to want to start taking bad habits and changing them over to healthy habits. That means minimizing/eliminating junk food and ensuring you are moving more versus being sedentary. There is no “quick fix” here. To get the best results, you need to be dedicated and in it for the long haul.
2. Start Slow and Focus on Progression
Jumping into something with both feet before first getting your feet wet can cause you to become overwhelmed and set you up for failure. Start slow. With health and fitness, it’s not a race — think of it as a long marathon.
Each week, focus on progression. That means adding time to your cardio or going at a faster pace, adding more weight to your exercises (or doing more reps or sets), and improving your nutritional habits. Push for constant improvement in everything you do.
3. Never Compromise on Proper Form
Proper form not only helps you get the most from each rep of an exercise, but it also keeps you safe. If you compromise on form, you put yourself in a position where you could injure yourself. Use a slow and controlled movement when completing each rep and if you cannot complete additional reps with good form, stop the exercise and rest before doing your next set.
4. Don’t Neglect Your Warm-Up
Before your workouts, warm up for around 10-15 minutes by doing light cardio. This can be a walk on the treadmill or hopping on a bike pedaling at a moderate pace to get your heart rate up. The goal is to get the blood pumping throughout the body to help prevent injuries while getting the muscles warm and loose. You should also do some warm-up sets using a light weight to push blood into the muscle and prepare them for resistance training.
5. Be Sure to Stretch After Your Workouts
Stretching is something most people fail to perform after their workouts, and it could cost them in the end. By stretching after workouts, you are helping to prevent muscle stiffness, which can lead to chronic flexibility issues. Stretching also helps with the recovery process and should never be neglected.
6. Hit the Weights Twice a Week (Minimum)
It doesn’t matter if you want to hit the weights twice a week or seven. What you don’t want to do is hit the same muscle group within a 24-hour period. Leave at least a day’s rest in-between to allow your muscles to properly rest and recover from the previous workout. You can set up your workout split however you want according to how much time you have during the week to get in a workout. That being said, research has shown that a minimum of two full-body resistance training sessions are needed to help promote muscle growth and fully stimulate the muscle to achieve hypertrophy if you aren’t able to work out more than twice.
7. Cardio May Not Be Fun, But It’s Necessary
As much as you may hate cardio, it’s necessary. Not only does cardio help you stay lean by burning calories and promoting weight loss, but it also helps improve heart and cardiovascular health. You don’t need to go crazy with the cardio, but it’s recommended to get a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. That said, you don’t have to do it all in one session. You can walk several times a day for 10 minutes if you are tight on time, and you’ll still see the same benefits from your efforts.
8. Recovery is Vital
Many people think it’s what you do in the gym that gets you the results you desire, when in fact, it’s what you do outside of the gym that’s even more important. Rest and recovery are necessary for your body to recover from workouts. If you don’t focus on recovery and hit a workout before your muscles have time to build and repair, you’re essentially taking one step forward and two steps back. Strive for a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night while also taking in around 1g of protein per pound of body weight.
9. Make Sure You’re Staying Hydrated
Your body is made up of predominantly water. When you become dehydrated, your workout performance suffers, and you’re losing key minerals and electrolytes that could cause some adverse health effects. While drinking water throughout your workout is essential, it’s just as important to drink water throughout the day to keep your body properly hydrated and functioning optimally.
10. Put More Focus into Your Nutrition
Nutrition can truly make or break your results. You can’t out-train a poor diet. Binging on fast food or ice cream can add thousands of calories to your daily intake. It would take you hours to burn all of that off. Additionally, consuming unhealthy fats and empty calories (such as drinking alcohol) can cause you to gain weight, which has its own list of adverse effects on your health and physique. Start replacing unhealthy foods with healthier options. Don’t do it all at once, though. Instead, start with one area of your diet and slowly start making changes every 1-2 weeks by making substitutions.
11. Track Your Results
You don’t know what you don’t know. If you were asked how many calories you ate today, would you know the answer? If not, how do you know you consumed enough calories and protein to promote muscle growth? Or how do you know if you were in a caloric deficit to help with weight loss? You don’t. Therefore, tracking your nutrition and even your workouts where you’re certain that you’re progressively overloading the muscle is key to achieving the results you desire. Use an app like MyFitnessPal or simply grab a pen and paper to track everything.