We put out a lot of content for athletes, but I think it’s important to include some information for the regular health enthusiast.
Someone that’s just looking to get healthier, trim down a bit and get a little stronger.
So here’s what we should do.
First of all, avoid specialist training programs. Favour generalist training.
What does this mean? When specialising in a program, i.e. bodybuilding, bootcamps, olympic lifting, endurance-only, powerlifting... you get really good at one thing, but you’ll develop holes and you’ll miss out on a bunch of other things. This isn’t ideal for well-rounded fitness. If you think of it as filling up the various fitness buckets (strength, work capacity, body composition, power etc.), you'll have one bucket that's extremely full but the rest will be close to empty. For general health and fitness, we should try and fill the buckets evenly.
Bodybuilding may get you big, but are you hitting enough strength or conditioning work? Are bicep curls and leg extensions going to translate into lifting your child off the ground or fighting off the nursing home?
Bootcamps may get you fit at doing bootcamps, but how much work are you doing at maximal intensities? Super low intensities? How much strength and mobility work are you getting in?
Powerlifting may get you extremely strong, but can you run 5km without the need for a ventilator? Can you touch your toes and do a pull-up?
If you’re not training for a specific goal – bodybuilding competition, long distance running or a powerlifter meet, then don’t train like it. Become a generalist – a jack of all trades – become good at everything but master of nothing. This is the formula for success and longevity.
Fill the holes in your training plan by following what we outline in this article.
Here’s what you should do:
· Spend 2-3 days getting stronger
· Spend 2-3 days getting sweaty
· Do MOST of your work at medium intensity
· Do SOME work at super high-intensities
· Do SOME work at really low-intensities
· Prioritise sleep, nutrition, and NEAT.
Seems simple enough right?
So what should your training week look like?
2-3 days getting stronger
Perform big compound movements. Favour movements over muscles and prioritise mobility. To make it simple, do some sort of squat, some sort of hinge, and do an exercise on one leg. Do some pushing, both overhead and out in front of you. Do some horizontal rowing and some pull-ups. Carry something with both arms one day. Carry something with one arm the next day. Prioritise strength in bodyweight movements (pull-ups, rows, push ups, squats), but get some weight in your hand and lift heavy once per week. Most of your sets and reps should be 3-5 sets, 5-10 reps. There’s no need for you to push below 3 reps, and occasionally you should go over 10 reps. Focus on getting into deeper positions before adding more load. You should be able to squat down close to the ground (ass to grass) and you should be able to reach overhead without pain.
2-3 days getting sweaty
Breathe hard and heavy a few days a week. Your heart, lungs and blood vessels are important for longevity as well as your Vo2max. Most chronic diseases and causes of death are linked to a poorly functioning heart, lungs and blood delivery system (hence why it’s important to train it). Do SOME work at really high-intensities with really long rest periods. Say 10 seconds as hard as possible with 1-2 minutes rest x 5-10 efforts, every 2-3 weeks. Do MOST of your work in the medium range, 30 seconds to 4 minutes. Similar rest time to work time. Then do SOME work at really low-intensities for really long periods of time. Something like an hour to 90 minutes once every 2-3 weeks at a 4 or 5 out of 10. You should be able to run 5km or more and you should be comfortable going for a 10km walk.
We were what we repeatedly do. We’re creatures of habit so what you do when you’re not actively training is even more important then what you do when you are. Sleep is of the utmost importance. There is not one system in the human body that isn’t enhanced by quality sleep so you should hold it high on the priority list. Aim to sleep and wake at similar times every day, keep the room cool, dark and quiet and limit electronics too close to bed. Alcohol, caffeine, large meals and other liquids too close to bed will kill your sleep. Avoid them like the plague.
Eat real foods, mostly plants, and not too much. Real foods are foods that came from the ground, the ocean, some sort of waterway, or an animal. Alternatively, processed foods usually come in packages, make health claims (high in potassium and fibre, yay!) and contain more than one ingredient. Stick to foods that you could have found in nature 5,000 years ago, drink water and you’ll be fine.
Increase your NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) by doing household chores and yard work, getting more exercise at work by taking the stairs or parking further away from the shops. Aim to get 10,000 steps every day by going for short walks throughout the day, having walking meetings or just go for a big-ass walk. If your health is important to you, you’ll make time to get this in.
And that’s it. Follow these simple instructions with your health and fitness plan and you’ll realise you don’t need to spend money on all these fad diets and gimmicks you see on tv. You’ll live a high-quality life free from pain and you’ll be able to play with your kids or grandkids for much longer than most people. It doesn’t have to be complicated. As Dan John says, “it’s simple, not easy.”