Today marks my 22nd year of life on this planet… crazy thinking about how quickly this past year went. I've transitioned a ton since I turned 21, between graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science & Nutrition at Queens College and landing an internship at the renown Cressey Sports Performance. I have become a much better fitness professional thanks to countless hours of practice and education. With that being said, here's 22 tips that I believe could help enhance your lifestyle today!
1. As a novice trainee, it's better to have complete proficiency over a simple exercise, than struggling with the technique of a more difficult variation. While pistol squats and heavy Bulgarian split squats may look cool, you'll greatly improve your longevity in the gym by mastering a split squat or reverse lunge on day one.
2. Pain doesn't just randomly appear, it's an indicator that something is wrong. Whether the problem present is a structural issue or an aberrant movement pattern, refer out to a credible professional when something doesn't feel right.
3. There are thousands of different exercise variations that you could perform in a gym. From all the equipment you're surrounded by, I understand how overwhelming it could be in regards to what type of workouts you should, and shouldn't be doing. A good starting point would be to choose just 20 exercises, preferably total body exercises, and master them. Squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, and single leg movements should be among the twenty chosen. Break these exercises up into 5 per day, 4 days per week. As they get easier, challenge them with different variations or heavier loads.
4. I'm a huge fan of kettlebell ballistic movements like swings and snatches, as you may already know. If you can't perform a proper deadlift, however, you have no business even trying to attempt either of these exercises. It's repetitive already, but stick to the basics until they're completed efficiently.
5. Regardless of how hard you train or how healthy you eat, you're leaving a lot on the table if you can't successfully manage your sleeping habits or negative stress. A healthy lifestyle consists of all aspects of well-being, not just a select few.
6. I've always been reluctant about aerobic training in the past. My opinion has changed as of late though, thanks to the philosophy of coaches like Mike Robertson and Alex Viada. Aerobic training doesn't necessarily have to be a 10-mile run, or a multiple hour bike ride. Twenty to thirty minutes of low- to moderate-intensity cardio can improve your aerobic window, which enables better performance and durability with training of greater intensity.
7. CrossFit boxes, bootcamps, and tons of other training modalities typically get a bad reputation throughout the fitness industry. In my opinion, any gym that gets people moving more often is doing a great job already; although intelligent coaching and programming is obviously preferred. Do your research before looking into investing your hard earned money and time in these types of gyms/studios.
8. If you're not 100% committed to working out, try finding a dependable gym partner. Not only will this make the experience more fun for you, but it also adds the incentive of being held accountable. Don't bail on your buddy to sit at home and throw some beers back on the recliner!
9. There's more to core exercises than just crunches and Russian twists. Just doing a push-up with proper form will make your core fire hard, as it prevents you from falling into less-than-optimal postures. I like to consider every movement a core exercise, as you should be bracing your abdominal muscles to create better stability.
10. Professional bodybuilders, powerlifters, and basketball players all excel in their respective sports, obviously. You might realize that all three of these individual groups have completely different body compositions. This just goes to show that there's numerous methods of training, and it's important to find the style that best fits your goals.
11. I'm sitting here eating a pint of Talenti coffee chocolate chip gelato while writing this post. The point? Earn your sporadic indulgences by eating clean a majority of the time. Frozen dairy has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, and this flavor is only helping the cause!
12. To follow up with nutrition, here's a great suggestion by Brian St. Pierre, Director of Performance Nutrition at Precision Nutrition.
"If you couldn't hunt, fish, pluck, grow, or culture/ferment the food, you shouldn't eat it often."
In other words, if it's not a product of Mother Nature, it's probably not the best food option for you. You can learn more from Brian through his nutrition guide in Eric Cressey's informative resource, the High Performance Handbook.
13. If you're an individual that works the typical 9-5 office shift, find ways to be physically active throughout the day. Move around every hour, whether it be a bathroom break, or just to get up from your chair for a couple minutes. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Go for a walk during your lunch break. There's plenty of ways to incorporate movement into your relatively sedentary lifestyle. Make it a priority.
14. Getting physically stronger will not have a negative impact on your life. As a matter of fact, it will make activities like moving furniture and carrying groceries much easier. As Bret Contreras says, "If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous."
15. Footwear is a commonly overlooked factor in regards to lower extremity function and durability. Casual wear Jordan's are probably not the best option to squat or deadlift in. I am a big fan of New Balance footwear, as I squat in their Fresh Foam sneakers and deadlift in their minimalist shoes. It wouldn't be a bad decision to ask for a credible podiatrist's suggestion. Their advice on what to wear based on your foot orientation could save you from injury down the road.
16. As a lefty, I always had the tendency of demonstrating exercises to my clients strictly on my left side. Without thinking about the consequences, I slowly, but surely, developed a decent muscular imbalance. I've dealt with discomfort and pain for awhile before realizing this one of the biggest culprits to my success. If you're a person that favors your dominant side with carrying groceries, handbags, childen, etc., make sure you start to incorporate carrying with the opposite side. Although it may feel uncomfortable at first, it's important to maintain neuromuscular balance on both sides of the body as much as possible.
17. If you can't perform a proper bodyweight squat or push-up, you have no business attempting barbell movements like the back squat or bench press. You can't expect a third grader to solve calculus equations, how can you expect your body to do so without mastering the basics?
18. Believe it or not, there's other muscle groups to the body besides those located in your chest and arms. It's awesome to have nice biceps, triceps, and pecs. It's not awesome if that's all you have. Aesthetics are the primary goal to most gym goers, but functionality should be the primary task at hand.
19. Quite often, I see training become an important part of somebody's life. Whether it be CrossFit, powerlifting, or Olympic weightlifting, to name a few, your true passion could be hiding behind an iron bar and a couple weight plates.
20. Nowadays, there's a medication for everything. Whether prescription or over-the-counter, is a drug always the optimal remedy to cure the problem at hand? While medication might be necessary in certain situations, it's probably best to stick to natural modalities for treatment as much as possible.
21. For people that struggle with gaining weight, there's a solid chance you're not taking in as many calories as you truly think you are. I've been in this situation before, where I would just label myself a "hardgainer".
Since I started my internship at Cressey Sports Performance, I've managed to increase my bodyweight from 200 pounds flat to 216 pounds as of this past Tuesday. A few weeks ago I topped out at 221, the heaviest I've ever been. I accredit this to upping my total food consumption, as well as incorporating coconut oil, peanut butter, and a banana to ever protein shake I've had. This alone could add 500 calories to my daily intake, and it takes very little effort to do so.
22. Remember that exercise doesn't always necessarily mean you need to lift weights. Walking, dancing, and recreational sports are all different activities that can help you remain fit throughout life. However, I'd be lying if I said that strength training wouldn't help benefit your performance and longevity in each of these forms of physical activity. As I said earlier, being stronger will not have any negative side effects on your life.
That's all folks! These suggestions are based off of questions I typically get asked on a daily basis. Whether or not you choose to apply them is completely up to you! I appreciate everyone for their warm messages they sent me over the past 24 hours, it means the world to me.