1. Make technique and form a priority with the big 3 lifts. Brute strength will only get you so far when it comes to being as strong as possible. Taking a few steps back to perfect your technique may be a bit tedious at first but in the long run you will be potentially a lot stronger with better mechanics and with a lower risk of injury. You’re in this for the long run, don’t rush things when it comes to loading the bar and you will thank yourself later on!
2. Work on weaknesses to get stronger. Focusing on what you’re good at will hold you back in terms of the potential progress you can make when it comes to strength and power. Analyse what your weaknesses are. What exercises do you struggle with or find hard? What don’t you like doing? 9/10 times these are the movements you should be focusing on! For example, if you struggle with power off the floor when it comes to deadlift, add in deficit deadlifts, if you struggle with lockout with bench pressing then put a greater emphasis on triceps movements after your main movement during your session. Having said that, don’t eliminate the movements you are strong at completely but give them less priority behind the movements you are weak at and need to focus on more.
3. Mobility. As you find yourself getting stronger and lifting heavier weights, eventually it will take a physical toll on your tendons and muscles and the risk of injury increases. To prevent injuries and ensuring you are mobile enough to be mechanically efficient with your lifts, adding a regular mobility routine will profoundly help. Invest in items such as a foam roller, lacrosse ball and a light resistance band and you can assemble a very easy and effective routine to keep your body limber and injury free.
4. Hydration during the day and training. As clichéd as it may be, hydration is still very much overlooked when it comes to performance as well as daily health & wellbeing in general. Internally you are 65% water and dehydration is not a state your body can adapt to thus it having a profound impairment in physical and mental activities. Losing as little as 2% of you bodyweight from water loss can have a considerable impact on your performance, so ensure you hydrate adequately across the day and during training to prevent dehydration from occurring. Thirst is also not an accurate indicator of when to hydrate, as by then even once the thirst is satisfied you can be up to 25-50% dehydrated which is a considerable amount; drink throughout the day and throughout sessions to avoid this. Including a product such as PhD Intra BCAA+ is something can also aid in hydration as it contains coconut water powder rich in potassium as well as other electrolytes included within the product to ensure hydration is met during training.
5. Carbohydrates are not the enemy. Despite low carbohydrate diets becoming increasingly popular within the fitness industry, cutting them out completely will spell disaster when it comes to training performance and recovery. Fats are a poor source of energy for high intensity and anaerobic based exercises, thus carbohydrates become essential in terms of replenishing muscle and liver glycogen rapidly. Timing carbohydrates around training will ensure you have the sufficient energy for maximal output in training within affecting body composition. You wouldn’t put cheap low quality fuel in a high performance racing car, so why do the same with your nutrition and your own body? Fuel yourself appropriately to get the most out of your performance and recovery. PhD’s Battery +3 and Recovery 2:1 are excellent products designed to meet both intra training and post training needs for any self respecting performance athlete who wishes to take things to the next level.
6. Leave the ego and heroics outside the gym door, every week is not a max week. “Go hard or go home” is only appropriate when said training is done within a smart and calculated manner. Contrary to what some of you may think, hitting one rep maxes and high percentage ranges week in week out wont make you stronger, they merely test your strength. Build a solid foundation using a 3-5-rep range scheme with manageable percentage ranges focusing on technique and efficient mechanics, which will build strength in conjunction of the correct assistance exercises targeting weaknesses.
7. Listen to your body. Don’t be afraid to rotate training intensities if need be to prevent any stalling or plateaus from occurring, that way you can ensure progress is always being made even if it slower, it will be more consistent. If the initial plan was to go heavy and you feel fatigued, tired etc. take a step back and work on a lighter weight and focus on getting in volume to make the session productive without pushing beyond your means. In addition if you feel great and feel a personal best is certain then push harder don’t waste any opportunities to progress on a lift and beat personal bests if your body feels ready to do so. The more you can auto-regulate your training the better an athlete you can be and the more consistent your progress will be. Life can throw scenarios at you that are unavoidable and seriously affect your training, so instead of fighting against it, go with it and regulate your training in accordance to it.
8. Learn to count macros. Getting to grips with macro counting can be tedious and confusing at first, however it is a very effective tool that once learned will become instinct and ensure you keep on track of your nutritional habits at all times. It also allows the flexibility to add variety into your diet so you don’t have to stick to the same mundane diet plan day in day out whilst still being accountable to your goals. With apps like MyFitnessPal being available on your laptop, pc, tablets and smart phones it's hard not to be on track wherever you are!
9. Be mindful about your nutrition, it’s a lifestyle not a crash diet. Being too strict about your eating habits unless your in a competition prep or making weight for a specific event (MMA, Boxing, Powerlifting, Weightlifting etc) will only create disorderly eating habits which could develop an increased risk of mental illnesses if not properly kept in check such as Depression, Anxiety, Anorexia nervosa or Bulimia etc. Don’t let food take hold of your life and omit you from taking part in social activities such as going out to eat, just be mindful of the meals you order and what you eat, exercise moderation and your progress won't be threatened. Food should be something that is celebrated and used to bring people together, so never allow it to do the opposite and bring a negative connotation within your life.
10. Poor sleeping habits = poor recovery. Sleep plays just as much of an important role as diet and hydration does when it comes to recovery. Sleep deprivation increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, research has also shown that sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease the production of glycogen and carbohydrates which are stored for energy during physical activity which will lead to more chance of becoming fatigued as well as a compromise with regards to overall recovery. In short, reduced sleep quality will reduce athletic performance over time. 6-8 hours of uninterrupted quality sleep tends to be recommended, it all depends on the individual themselves, quality is more important with regards to sleep then quantity, 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep will always be more efficient then 8 hours of interrupted broken sleep. Black out blinds can be used to help individuals fall to sleep quicker blocking out any light from distrupting them, in addition supplements such as ZMA have been shown to improve the quality of sleep, PhD’s ZMA formula is a perfect product of choice to use in conjunction with other methods to enhance sleep quality.