Stop training for aesthetics and start training for performance
Having been involved in competitive sports at a high level for most of my life, I understand what it takes to be in the best physical shape possible. Although I competed in national swimming, rugby and athletics competitions, my focus was always on specific performance goals, not aesthetics.
Obviously looking fit and healthy is great, it can help boost your confidence and overcome insecurities.
However, lots of the common problems people encounter with exercise – such as imbalances, injuries, a lack of mobility and motivation – are often a result of making aesthetics their only goal.
Putting how you look rather than how you feel at the core your training programme can be counter-productive, especially if injury breaks your routine and leads to extended periods of inactivity.
Change your focus: if you want to make your training sustainable it has to be about more than escaping a negative body image, you need to be training for positive reasons. Celebrate what your body can do, strength and mobility are gifts that don’t last forever. Building good training habits to make the most of what you have now, and maintain your body’s condition into the future.
How to train like an athlete:
Use a training diary to track your progression. It’s a but crucial step, every athlete will have a periodisation training schedule when they are training for something specific. Yours doesn’t need to be complicated, just log what you do in each session so you can track your progress.
Start using compound movements like Pull Ups, Press Ups, Dips, Squats, Deadlifts and Plank variations to improve overall strength rather than isolating individual muscles. Training for strength will build dense muscle mass which lasts rather than giving you a quick pump that makes you look big after the gym. Training in this way will lead to a much more balanced and proportioned physique as you are training muscle groups.
Reduce the variety of exercises – At most I will do five compound exercises in one workout. Each exercise very taxing on the nervous system, so less is more.
Lift heavy – Once you have spent time getting good at these compound movements and have built a solid bodyweight foundation, start adding extra weight to them and keep the rep range low.
Incorporate the “quality, not quantity” principle. As a competitive sprinter, I learnt that when it comes to increasing speed, strength and power it’s about the quality of the rep not the quantity of reps. Reduce the number of reps, increase the weight and focus on the movement and the muscles being used.
Rest more – This ties in with the point above, but most of my workout sessions are spent resting. If you want your reps to be perfect, then you need to recover properly after each set. If you are lifting heavy weights, I suggest at least 2 minutes between sets.
Train less – This may sound counterintuitive, but once you start pushing yourself in this way, focusing on quality, your nervous system needs time to recover. At most you should be training 3 or 4 times per week. On the recovery days, you should move as much as possible, stretch and work on your mobility.
Give yourself goals – Just because you aren’t competing, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set yourself time-sensitive goals. For example, my current goal is to improve my strength in all my Olympic lifts. All my strength training is structured to achieving this goal.
The 2 Meal Day incorporates all of these principles into the workouts and fitness routines you are given to do.
If you start training to be the strongest, fastest and fittest than you have ever been, I can guarantee that your aesthetics will be transformed in the process. This way of training will lead to aesthetic results, but as a by-product of a targeted training program focussing on specific performance goals. You will build dense, powerful, and well-proportioned muscle mass that lasts and is functional for whatever the world throws at you.