This guest post is written by Lai Wee Kiat, bodybuilder, personal trainer, Mr Kuala Lumpur 2013 overall champion and blogger of Fabodylous. For his personal training service in Singapore, click here
Protein? Check. Intense weight training? Check. Creatine? Check. These are the essential requirements to build a lean, strong and muscular physique. Who can ever forget them? However, whenever we hit a plateau, more often than not. it is the principles we take for granted that kills our progress. What principles? Here are five of them.
#1 Rest and recovery
Don’t forget, you don’t actually build muscles in the gym, but when you are sleeping. Many trainers, especially beginners push their body so hard and so often in the gym and stay up late at night for a football match or a drink with their friends that they don’t get enough sleep for their body to grow. Get in 8 hours of sleep each night AND if you have been training hard for 2-3 months, give your body a complete week of rest, away from the gym. You’ll be surprised how fresh you will feel after that week.
#2 Intense focus
What are you thinking about when you are performing your set of bench press or squat? Lunch? That hot chick wearing yoga pants? If your mind is not in your muscle, you’re not fully stimulating it. Take a few seconds before each set to forget about the world around you and focus solely on the muscle you’re training. Feel every movement and contract them hard. Control every movement, both concentric and eccentric. Believe me, it’ll make a huge difference.
#3 Putting what you learnt in to practice
A lot of beginners are looking for shortcuts. That’s why they fall for fads and workout programs that promise them loads of result in minimal amount of time. Even as an advanced trainer, I admit that I sometimes fall into this trap. The thing is, if you already know the basics of dieting (protein, carbs, fats and some supplement knowledge) and training (compound vs isolation exercises, rep ranges), you should be able to build a decent body. Knowledge is power and yes, although we should always strive to learn more, we should apply all the knowledge we already know and push hard. Just look at Arnold Schwarzenegger and his friends. I’m willing to bet that in the 70s, they barely knew anything about creatine, but they trained extremely hard with the knowledge available to them back then. And they’re huge!
You might have heard that different people respond differently to certain training and dieting programs. This claim is legitimate, especially for dieting. Play around with carbs. Some people feel great and burn fat fast on a low carb diet, whereas others will feel weak and lethargic. That is why there are diets out there that recommend plenty of carbs and others recommending as little as zero carbs. Both might have worked for others and are scientifically proven, but you must find what works for YOU and stick to it.
Using the same weight and reps every day when you train? No wonder you look the same! One thing we often forget is that to build muscle, we must challenge ourselves. This doesn’t mean you have to add a huge increase of weight during your next workout. Instead, strive for tiny but consistent improvements in every workout. Add another 2.5kg to the bar or perform one extra rep. Soon enough, these little changes will add up and so will your muscle mass.