Every one of us hitting the gym regularly wants to get stronger in some capacity. We may not classify ourselves as “strength athletes” but we do want to feel a little bit more “indestructible” due to our work in the gym. Here’s the thing; gym work will generally only take 1-2 hours a day a couple times a week. What you’re doing in between those session has as much of a role, if not more, to play in your progress. Below are a few lifestyle factors I feel are the most important that you need to take control of in order to give you the best chance of success.
Adequate sleep to someone who isn’t currently getting enough is like a steroid. This is, without a doubt, the most important tool in your recovery arsenal. Your body recovers and adapts to strenuous training in between sessions and the time when this is the most efficient is when you’re sleeping. About 8 hours/night is what you should aim for. If this seems like a lot then figuring out how to get more sleep should be a priority for you.
(If you’re not familiar with energy balance, caloric deficit and caloric surplus, I suggest googling that before reading this section.)
Can you get stronger while being in a caloric deficit? Yes. But as you progress this gets a shit ton more difficult. For someone who’s new to training, you’re going to get a lot stronger quite quickly regardless of how much you’re eating. There are a few reasons for this but for the purpose of this you just need to know that it will happen. However, after a while this will level off. Once you’ve passed beginner lifter stage, getting stronger takes a lot more effort and with this comes the need for more calories. You’re going to need to be sufficiently fuelled for your training sessions and your body will need sufficient fuel to RECOVER. Being in a caloric deficit will make this a heck of a lot harder and the chances of you overtraining increase.
Most of you don’t drink enough water. The human body is mainly comprised of water and good ol’ H20 is responsible for SOOOOOO MANY processes in the body yet it’s hardly ever talked about in terms of performance. Water is critical to the balance of all the body’s systems, including the brain, heart, kidney, lungs and muscles and a 2% drop in body water can result in a small shrinkage of the brain which can impair neuromuscular coordination. Dehydration can also reduce endurance, decrease strength, cause cramping, and slow muscular response. So how much water should we be drinking? The rule of around 2 litres is about right if you’re inactive but you lose a lot of water through perspiration and respiration during training so you can bump that number up by at least 500ml if you’re active.
These 3 factors, when done sufficiently, will help your training and recovery significantly but there is one more point which I think most people don’t think about;
DECREASE TRAINING VOLUME
I get it. You’ve got a goal and you need to hit the gym everyday until you reach it. If you’re not working towards it you’re wasting time. Bla bla bla. The only problem is that that that’s not how the body works. For most people (you are most people), 3-4 proper strength sessions a week is enough. This ensures that you can bring enough focus and enthusiasm to each session, you’re getting enough rest time between sessions (which is when adaptations actually take place) and you’re going to decrease your risk of injury which will allow you to lift for longer and ultimately get stronger.
If you’ve got any questions on this stuff, give me a shout.
Until next time, (I’m off to sleep, eat and drink water now)