The tricky thing about fitness — or life, for that matter — is that there is no definitive road map. Most people adopt working out as a way to get in shape, improve their self-confidence, or maybe just try and become more appealing to potential partners. These may be simplistic goals, but they’re goals nonetheless. And establishing goals is the very first thing you need to do when deciding to adopt a lifestyle change that includes getting in shape.
The Cheat Sheet is here to help, yet again. If you’re truly starting from scratch, and hoping to pack on some serious muscle, you’ll need to have the most fundamental fitness routine elements in place. That may mean tearing your daily habits up, and rebuilding. It might mean a few simple tweaks. Either way, you’ll need a step-by-step guide that covers the basics of how to get to your goal.
And here it is, in five easy-to-follow points. This is your muscle building to-do list.
1. Plan and record
Again, you’re going to want to have some goals in place. Want to bench press 200 pounds? Or maybe just build up your abs? Establish some goals, and work toward them. There are a variety of weightlifting plans out there that you can check out as well, many focusing on both building strength and zeroing-in on your form, and getting you in the habit of lifting. See what’s out there, and which plan you think will best help you hit your goals.
Finally, and this is something that we harp on repeatedly, but record your progress. Write things down, or get a fitness tracker of some kind. You won’t be able to properly track anything if you’re not recording it.
2. Start in the kitchen
The muscle-building battle is mostly fought in the kitchen — not the gym. What you’re fueling your body with is going to make the biggest difference toward getting you in to shape, so you need to have your diet properly structured and planned. It’s a pain, and it’s definitely not fun, but eating clean, hitting your macros, and getting proper protein with an acceptable caloric balance will do more to transform your body than an endless number of squats. Consult a doctor or nutritionist, or do some searching around online. There are tons of diet plans out there, and many can be customized to fit your personal preferences.
3. Do the work
Aside from nailing-down your diet, this is the hardest part: getting your ass into the gym, and putting in the work. This is time consuming, painful, and, at the end of the day, incredibly rewarding. Once you can fight off all of the resistance that’s keeping you from actually getting to work — be it family obligations, video games, etc. — you’ll start to see the benefits of working out immediately. You’ll feel better, become more productive, and, of course, start seeing physical changes that hopefully correspond to your goals. Putting on muscle requires two major components: fuel (proper diet), and using your body as a foundry to turn that fuel into muscle.
If you hate eating clean and spending time in the gym, this entry provides some welcome relief. Sleep is incredibly important to muscle development, though it’s often overlooked. Sleeping provides our body critical recovery time, and helps kick-start the muscle-building process. While you sleep, our bodies take the fuel we’ve provided and repair the damage done during a workout. You’re essentially tearing your body apart, and while you sleep, it’s rebuilt. So, sleep away. Get a solid six to eight hours, at the very least.
5. Stick with it
Once you have the routine down, the important thing is to stick to it. It’s easy to fall out of the habit of eating correctly, going to the gym, and making sure you’re getting plenty of rest. All it takes is one late night out, and before you know it, you’re making excuses as to why you can’t get to the gym today, or why it’s OK that you just ate an entire Little Caesar’s pizza. “Tomorrow, I’ll make up for it,” you say. But then tomorrow turns into “next week, I’ll get back on track.” Excuses cascade, and before you know it, you’re back to square one.
Be persistent. Be vigilant in your persistence. And don’t give up if the results come slow — you’re still making progress.