The following post is an e-mail I wrote to a teammate who wanted advice on fitness and strength training as a college student. I thought it was a pretty comprehensive post and felt obliged to provide it for the good readers of this blog.
Okay, so we know the goal is “damn good shape” and that you want to be at (enter amount of weight here, this future badass wanted to get to 190 from 177). The first step is to kind of quantify where we want to be. My first thing would be to say to ignore the idea of “damn good shape” and focus on getting stronger every week. Let’s do all of this in steps because I tend to ramble (a LOT, ask Joey, lol). Let’s make this cute, it might be a blog post later, or something…
3 Steps to Fitness Success
1. Identify your goals
- Make these concrete numbers. For the beginner (this means YOU!) your first solid goals should be
a. Deadlift double your bodyweight
b. Squat double your bodyweight (a real squat, mind you)
c. Bench press bodyweight for 5 reps/strict overhead press bodyweight
d. Make a “bodyweight” goal (as you already have). This is secondary to the preceding goals because how much you weigh is not even close to being as important as how strong you are. If you hit these numbers, you will be much bigger and stronger. Trust me.
2. Take baby steps, strength and power is a marathon, not a sprint
- Make small, CONSISTENT gains. Focus on adding the smallest amount of weight you can do the bar every week (for the same amount of reps if that’s how your coach writing it and you’re “stuck” with his/her program). Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you put 2.5 pounds on your bench press every week for a year, you’d be over 100 pounds stronger than you are now. CONSISTENCY IS KEY!!! It is not only key, it is THE key!!!!!!!
- Take the same approach with your diet. If you’re gaining 10 pounds a week, you’re gaining lots of fat. Shoot for making slow, consistent gains–a pound or two a week isn’t a bad goal at all. Again, consistency with your diet and supplementation is key.
3. Work your ass off, but realize that without recovery it will only get you so far
- People get big and strong by RECOVERING from lifting heavy ass weights, not from lifting in itself. This entails a few things that could very well be a mini-article of it’s own.
Quick Keys to Recovery
- Daily diet and nutrition: Real food! You need lots of it. You need lots of the right kinds. If it has a face, eat it. If you can pick it out of a tree/bush or out of the ground, eat it. If it’s junk and you know it, don’t.
- Sleep: 4, 5 or 6 hours doesn’t cut it. Sleep is prime time for your body to recover and build muscle. 7 hours minimum. Period.
- Supplements: ESPECIALLY as a college student, the odds of you having the time to consistently eat “right” aren’t that great. Supplements can be divided into 3 categories:
a. Foundational/General Health
: like training when your sick? Me neither. A solid multivitamin your body can actually absorb and use (hint: not found at HEB) and a good fish oil product from a certified company are things that can be taken year round to promote general health. Sure you can probably get everything you need from real food, but you would be the first person I’d ever met to eat sufficient enough quantities of the appropriate VARIETIES of veggies/fruits to satisfy an athlete’s needs….
b. Meal Replacement:
protein drinks and meal replacement shakes and bars go here. These are options you can use when you just don’t have time between classes to get a good meal in. A quality protein supplement can be a lifesaver (I used to take a shaker bottle with powder in it and would fill it up for a meal between classes when I didn’t have a break for more than 2 hours)
c. Workout Nutrition:
I know this is number three (or C???) on this list, but for track and field kids that are practicing over an hour and a half a day a good workout nutrition supplement is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. The 30 minute periods directly before and (especially) directly after training sessions have a greater effect on your recovery than, really, the other 23 hours combined. Note: when money is an issue–have your basic protein shake from the category above with something like oatmeal or a tablespoon of honey to get by without completely spinning your wheels. It may be basic, but it works. A hell of a lot better than leaving it to chance.
Let me know if you have more questions, and by golly stay thirsty, my friends!