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August 15, 2020 10 min read

It goes without saying that working out is hard work. 

You get sweaty and sore, risking potential injuries. Not to mention that there are minimal immediate results. You work hard for weeks and months on end, and then you have to wait weeks or months to see any results. Why would anyone work out?

Obviously, everyone has their own motivations—their eye on the prize. But while motivation will push you in the right direction, it’s those little, daily things that we do that really have the potential to make or break us over the long term. 

Never take your mind off the big picture, but also don’t ignore the details that can derail the most well thought out plans.

Which is why we’ll be going over some of the best workout tips that you may or may not already know; what’s important is that they always remain fresh in the back of your mind. These aren’t life hacks nor commandments, but if done regularly they can snowball you into reaching your goals faster and with less misery on the way.

Diet Maketh Man 

It’s often said that any workout routine (or goal) is 30% of actual physical activity, leaving 70% in the realm of diet.

These percentages aren’t exact, and they’ll change with the goals and body type of every individual, but they serve to highlight an important point. Every single general fitness goal will come down to what you’re putting into your body—not what you’re taking out. 

This is easier to see if you’re aiming for fat loss, since essentially every diet boils down to calories in, calories out (CICO). But even if you’re trying to bulk up and build muscle, it’ll also come down to how you’re fueling your body. You’re not going to be putting on any weight if you’re killing yourself in the gym and not supporting the exertion with enough food. 

Below are our best diet tips when it comes to men’s fitness.

Man drinking water on a bridge.

1. Have You Drank Enough Water Today?

As a guy, you should be on track to have gulped down 3.7 liters of water by the end of today. This is your reminder. 

Everyone’s probably sick of hearing that they should be drinking more water, but it’s an important enough of a point to keep bringing up. Water is what makes up most of our bodies, and it can’t go ignored. Especially when we talk about fitness. Staying properly hydrated allows for optimal muscle performance, clear skin, and regular bowel function—among many other things.

Avoid the water and you can expect fatigue, headaches, dry skin, and a weakened immune system.

2. Eat Clean

What more can you really say?

Without proper nutrition, you don’t have the proper foundation to build the body you want. Maintain a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs. This goes for whether you’re trying to burn fat or gain muscle—the same principles apply. 

Sure, the dirty bulk is a tempting thing indeed and it’ll let you chug along for a while, but you won’t have the necessary base to really cement your gains. That means no fast food or heavily processed foods in order to minimize the amount of fat your body stores. 

Including a cheat day into your routine can help when it comes to motivating yourself to stick to your diet. But of course, a cheat day shouldn’t derail or break your diet. It can be a good idea to opt for cheat meals rather than cheat days and don’t eat for the sake of eating (unless you’re bulking).

3. Prepare in Advance

Sticking to a diet can be quite difficult. While with workouts it comes down to working hard for a set amount of time, sticking to a diet requires diligence with every meal. It’s easier for some than for others, but important for anyone. 

And while we usually hear this when it comes to weight loss and fat burning, the same is also true the other way around for when one is trying to build muscle. Just check out the insane amounts that The Rock eats. Eating can quickly become something that’s not enjoyable in the least. 

Which is why it’s a terrific idea to meal prep.

Having a week of meals prepared in your fridge or freezer is the greatest way to stick to a diet plan. If you’re trying to lose weight, you won’t be pressured to eat less healthy alternatives than the ones you prepared in advance. And if you’re trying to pack on some pounds, it’s much harder to skip a meal if it’s already prepared. 

Not to mention all the time you can save without having to prepare individual meals.

4. The Deal with Carbs

When it comes to macronutrients, most people have similar impressions of proteins and fats. But it’s carbs that can really shake things up. 

Many people have seen tremendous success by following low carb diets such as the ketogenic diet plan. The gist of it is that your body goes into a state known as ketosis in which it begins to burn fat for fuel rather than carbs. And burning fat is what everyone wants.

But while this diet has proven to be successful for many people, that doesn’t mean you should start avoiding them immediately. The trick is to eat the right carbs at the right times.

You want to be including complex carbs over simple carbs. The latter just means that the food contains a high proportion of sugar compared to its fiber and starch levels. You want to be eating whole grains and avoiding sugary cereals.

Additionally, eating carbs after a workout is good for your body and muscle building. So, don’t be shying away from them just yet. 

Fitness Tips for Working Out Smarter

The advice found in gyms ranges everywhere from bro-science to the latest medical studies, so it’s difficult to sometimes parse the information and apply appropriate changes to your own fitness journey. 

Fortunately, however, there are several workout tips that can be applied to almost everyone and the goals they’re working towards.

5. Warming Up

Doing some light activity before a workout will pay out dividends when it comes to lifting those heavy weights.

Increasing your heart rate and your blood flow will allow you to perform on a higher level than you otherwise would. Not to mention that warming up will help you avoid injuries by loosening up your muscles beforehand. 

A cool-down activity is also complementary to a pre-exercise warm-up. Cooling down will get your heart rate and blood pressure down to pre-exercise levels.

6. Stretching and Flexibility

Adding onto the above point, stretching is a great way to warm yourself up for a workout, while also increasing your flexibility.

A key difference between men and women is that men tend to be less flexible than women. While achieving meat-head status might not call for much flexibility, being limber is a useful thing when it comes to both working out and doing functional tasks.

You’ll be able to move more efficiently, increasing your range of motion in your lifts and therefore making sure you’re getting all the gains possible. By relaxing your muscles, you can also stay injury-free (or at least less prone to injury) and feel a reduction in stress.

It’s also advised that you pay closer attention to your less-stretchy muscles. Muscle groups such as shoulders, lower back, and hamstrings are in particular need of close attention when trying to become more flexible. Focusing on your weaknesses will improve the functionality of your whole body. 

And if you’re getting up there in terms of age, it’s more important than ever to start stretching. Anyone over the age of 40 should be holding their stretches for significantly longer (up to a minute), than younger people, since muscles become less limber with age.

7. Cardio 

Love it or hate it, some amount of cardio should be programmed into everyone’s workout regime.

Especially for those who are looking to lose weight, cardio is an absolute must. This is just scratching the surface: 

  •         Strengthens our heart and muscles
  •         Burns calories
  •         Controls appetite
  •         Helps us have better sleeping
  •         Reduces stiffness and improves flexibility
  •         Boosts our mood

But for how beneficial cardio is, the treadmill is still one of the more dreaded pieces of equipment in most gyms. Thankfully, there are various ways to get that cardio-conditioning. For example, high-intensity interval training is great for people who want to improve their endurance and shave off some weight. 

On the other hand, there are those who are trying to gain some muscle mass. In that case, the name of the game is light cardio. You don’t necessarily want to avoid it entirely (unless you’re at a high level of bodybuilding or weightlifting), but it might get in the way of the bulking goals you have.

8. Compound Movements and Resistance 

Compound exercises are those that utilize a number of muscle groups and several joints. They’re differentiated by isolation movements. These exercises only target a single muscle and joint.

The benefits of compound movements are easy to see. For one, they result in a much more efficient workout program and gym experience. As much as you might love working out, you probably don’t want to spend all your free time in the gym. Some classic compound movements include the bench press, deadlifts, and squats. But even bodyweight movements such as lunges, push-ups, and pull-ups all provide a full-body workout—if done properly. 

And since you’re able to use more muscles in each movement, that means heavier loads. And what do heavier loads mean? More gains; helping to build strength, build muscle, and burn fat.

While many compound exercises are also within the realm of calisthenics, there is a strong case for including resistance activities in your workout program. Strength training with weights isn’t just good for gaining strength and size, but it can also help in extending your life and improving its quality.  

9. Keeping a Repertoire of Bodyweight Exercises 

If there’s anything that we’ve learned recently, it’s that we’re not always going to have access to a gym when we want to. Which is why it’s more important than ever to become familiarized with bodyweight movements you can do anywhere.

Not only does this help when traveling and not being able to hit up a gym, but it also allows us to get to know our bodies better.

Bodyweight exercises are uniquely poised to help us learn about our bodies as well. For example, we all know that a push-up is an upper-body movement targeting the triceps and chest. But if done properly, it relies on core strength and even the glutes.

Becoming familiar with the connections between different muscle groups and their relationship to certain movements will help you in programming your own routines that are specifically tailored to you, without the need of a personal trainer. This, in turn, will help not only with motivation but also by allowing you to reach your goals faster. 

Not to mention the benefits of cultivating the mind-muscle connection, also known as conscious calisthenics.

A man and woman sitting in a gym.

10. Take a Deep Breath and Slow Down 

As much as it may sometimes seem, no one is really impressed by speed—especially in the gym. And with training especially, slow and steady wins the race.

Going slower helps in a number of ways.

It allows us to focus on form, above all else. Sure, it’ll feel good to see you quickly improving your rep count when it comes to, let’s say, pull-ups. But you don’t want to get into the habit of chasing numbers; especially not in the beginning. 

Slowing down the movements will help you make sure that you’re completing them with perfect form and with a full range of motion. In the long run, this can only be good for you and your gains, even if you feel like you’re progressing slower than you should be.

You’ll also benefit from keeping your body in the eccentric phase of the lift. So, for example, when the bar travels down to touch your chest in a bench press. This is the part of the exercise where a lot of muscle activation comes into play, so extending this time increases your time under tension, thereby increasing your gains. 

Going back to the pull-up example; eccentric pull-ups (where you’re just focusing on letting yourself down from the top of the movement) are a terrific way to train your regular pull-ups.

11. Mix Things Up

While it’s important to have a plan and be able to stick to it, you also want to give yourself some latitude for experimentation and even fun.

Switching up your routine and the exercises you do can be a big motivation booster since you won’t be tired of doing the same few movements in every gym session. And more motivation leads to working harder.

Furthermore, doing different exercises or variations of exercises can also help in strengthening parts of your body that might’ve been left behind. Even a minute change in incline, standing surface, or foot positioning can lead to wildly different engagement with core strength, balance, flexibility, and the individual muscles worked.

Trying new things and discovering new methods of doing old exercises is the surest way of keeping things fresh. You’ll also become better versed in different movements and how they engage the body’s muscles, allowing you to have a better idea for how to program your own workouts.

Going outside of your comfort zone in such a way might be awkward at first, but it’s the best way to grow.

12. Catching Zzz's

Much like “drink enough water,” and “eat clean,” this piece of advice is one that we’re all sick of hearing by this point—but that doesn’t make it any less true. 

Getting proper rest is the surest way to making sure that your gains sit on a solid foundation. Muscles grow only because exercising causes tears in their fibers, and then those tears are healed when the body is resting. What do you get when you take resting out of that equation? Nothing. 

Especially when you’re just getting into the swing of things it’s always so tempting to push further and further. But that just leads to burn-out, a loss of motivation, and potentially over-working muscle groups and causing injuries.

Take a rest day and the next time you work out you can go that much harder.

13. Keeping Yourself Motivated 

We all know the January fitness spike after everyone’s made their New Year's Resolutions. You’ve either seen it happen, or it’s happened to you.

Like we said at the beginning of this’s all about keeping your eye on the prize. But that doesn’t mean you can’t utilize some strategies to help you along the way.

Even something like counting down reps instead of counting up can improve your mindset in the midst of a workout session. And as we brought up earlier, mixing up your exercises is also a motivation-booster.

And don’t forget to take pictures! Monitor your progress with photos, numbers, and even words—and you’ll be pleasantly shocked to see where you were a year ago from now