1. The First Step: Establishing a Goal.
Before you begin your fitness journey you need to determine what your ultimate goal is. Are you trying to become a bodybuilder? A powerlifter? Physique competitor? Maybe your goals are much simpler such as building an aesthetic physique, losing excess fat, or improving overall health. Once you have established your ultimate goal, start creating your “stepping stones” to success. Establish monthly, or even bi-weekly, goals. Make your goals realistic and achievable, but on the same token don’t take it easy on yourself. You want to test your body, so push yourself harder and harder each week. Those who are willing to go the extra mile will progress further not only in their fitness journey, but in life in general.
For example, if you are a beginner, look to increase weight on all lifts every other week. If you aren’t seeing bi-weekly progress and are hitting the gym consistently, you are likely lacking either sleep or sufficient nutrition. Make the appropriate changes and continue on your journey to success. This is an easy fix and a great way to avoid prolonged stagnation in your progress.
2. Do Research. Don’t Waste Beginner Gains.
If you are just starting out, you are lucky enough to still have an enormous amount of untapped growth potential in your beginner gains. Basically, as you progress in your lifting career, your body will become more and more accommodated to the stress you are putting it under when weightlifting. The reason you grow is because you force your body to overcome the stress placed upon it with weightlifting. Your body becoming more efficient at adapting to this stress results in a decreased rate of natural muscle growth. During your first year or two of working out, you will experience your biggest gains. In order to maximize this growth, it is important to eat, sleep, and train properly. Find a caloric maintenance level calculator online to determine how many calories you need to maintain your current body weight. Add 250-300 calories to that to determine your daily intake in order to grow. As a beginner you can increase this number slightly because your body will be rapidly building muscle and could certainly use the extra energy. Getting your diet right is the most important part of fitness. If you have the proper nutrition, everything else will fall into place naturally.
3. Create a Workout Regimen.
Decide what type of workout split you will do. The three most popular options are: full body workout, push-pull-legs, or a five/six day split.
The full body workout schedule is usually for people who can only dedicate 3 days a week to working out and are simply trying to maintain a healthy body and improve their overall fitness. This is a great plan for maintenance, but not optimal for great muscle growth.
For those of you who are looking to build muscle and are just starting out, I would recommend the push-pull-legs split. This split consists of 3 different workouts. Day one: push, day two: pull, day three: legs, day four: off. After day four, the cycle repeats. This split is great for beginners because you are going to be hitting each muscle group twice a week while still providing your body with sufficient rest time to recover and rebuild. Increasing the amount of time spent on each muscle group increases the opportunities you have to grow those muscles. It is just like training for a sport. The more you practice a sport, the better you get at it. To a degree, the same applies for weightlifting.
Workout with that Alpha Mentality!
For more experienced lifters, a five/six day split would be recommended. These splits are highly personalized allowing you to mix and match muscle groups and hit certain muscles more or less frequently depending on where your weaknesses are. These workouts allow you to dedicate a lot of time to one or two muscle groups during your training session. This allows for high volume, high weight work because you are focusing your energy on those muscle groups instead of expending it on other exercises. A common way to do a five day split is: chest and triceps, back and biceps, shoulders, legs, and the fifth day being whatever muscle group you want to bring up. A six day split would incorporate another day of a major muscle group such as chest, back, or legs. The flexibility with the five/six day split is why it is one of the most popular styles of training regimens.
4. Choose a Time to Train.
Class schedules vary from student to student. Also, some people are early birds while others are night owls. Once you have established your course schedule, plan your workouts as if they are a priority. There are plenty of extra activities you can do while in college, but if you want to be successful in the weight room you will need to make the choice to forgo these extra activities if they conflict with your workout regimen. Determine when you can workout based on not only time but when you feel energized. You shouldn’t be going to the gym late at night if you are generally very tired and drained during this time. Also, try to establish a time that you can go at consistently throughout the week. Your body will recognize the pattern and learn to prepare itself to train during this time. This will prevent lulls in your training and allow you to optimize your performance in the weight room.
You may also find it helps to keep a fitness journal. Record your lifts during each exercise session, including the amount of sets, reps, and weight used. Recording your progress can help you notice improvements or stagnation in your fitness progress. One of the best feelings is looking back on your previous records and noticing how far along you have come in your fitness journey.
5. Expect to Get Sidetracked. Be Willing To Make Sacrifices.
College is FULL of distractions. Being free from the restraints of your parents, it is easy to get lost in the college party scene. Not only will you be fighting your own temptations to crack a cold one on the weekend, but all your new friends will be too. While many of them will likely fall to this temptation, it is your duty to stay strong. You have committed yourself to fitness. There are no days off from a healthy body. You may have days off from training, but these days are to be used for rest and repair, not running around partying. You will notice your gym performance suffer after a long night of partying because you simply don’t have the energy you need to really crush those weights. If you want to maximize your gains and avoid wasting the countless hours you have put into fitness, be smart about when, and when not, to indulge in the party scene.
If you’re too busy to work out because of exams or other time commitments, it is okay to take the day off, but you better get back at it the next day. There is no time for excuses. There will be days when you must sacrifice an hour of sleep in order to get a workout in. Sleep is important, but if getting 7 hours of sleep versus your usual 8 means you get to workout that day, go for it. However, if you are looking at a maximum of 6 hours of sleep that night, forgo the gym and get your rest.
6. Don’t Quit Early.
After several months of training you will likely see some impressive results. This is the tipping point. This is when most people decide they are happy with their body and quit the gym cold turkey. Why keep going if your body looks good as it is? Never settle. You can always improve your physique. Even if you don’t want to improve, maintaining isn’t as easy as you may think! After a couple months away from the gym you may notice your body reverting back to its previous state. Once this happens you will be regretting your decision to stop going in the first place. You will be frantically trying to fix your mistake, and it will take a lot of time to rebuild what was lost. This is essentially wasted time. Don’t quit early. The fitness lifestyle is a hard, but prosperous one. Once you have experienced your body with fitness, a life without it will be a dull and unenjoyable one.
And Now We’re Here.
The gym will build you up, and break you down. This is how it will test you. Right when you think you are about to reach the top, it hits you with injury or plateaus. It breaks you when you are so close to achieving success.
Make SUCCESS your priority
It is up to you to overcome these obstacles and push past these moments of weakness. You must become stronger than who you used to be…because when you do, when you do… that is when you will rise to greatness. This is YOUR journey. It is up to YOU to see it through. Don’t let anyone take that from you. Not even yourself.
Progress should inspire you to work even harder to reach that next step. Reward yourself by not letting yourself fall behind. NEVER stop moving forward. Those who yield on the path to greatness WILL fall behind. Those who keep pushing WILL climb the mountain of success.
Never forget, fitness isn’t just a hobby, it is a way of life and it isn’t for everyone. Fitness is for the strong-willed, the persistent; the people who are willing to go the extra mile to achieve success. Push yourself to greatness. The only thing that can stop you is yourself.
Sacrifice today, for what you will become tomorrow. Live by these words, and YOU WILL SUCCEED.
If you are looking for more tips and tricks on how to handle the college fitness lifestyle, check out my YouTube channel! I put a fun and entertaining twist on common problems students face while trying to stay fit in college, along with videos of my daily life and how I incorporate fitness into my fun, but hectic, schedule. My channel is Alpha Mentality Fitness. Here is a link to my channel page:
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