Hack Beast Mode
Are you ready to start building muscle?
If you haven’t already implemented what we’ve explored so far, then now is the time to bring it all together, put your plan into action, and kickstart your muscle-building journey.
Following on from our previous articles, you should now be in a position to answer the following questions:
- Body type: Are you an ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph? Maybe even a combination of two?
- Calorie count: Based on your TDEE, how many calories should you be eating each day?
- Macros: What is your optimal macro breakdown for your body type and fitness goals?
- Meals: Have you planned what you’re going to eat to fuel your workouts and that keeps you in line with your calorie and macro counts?
- Workouts: What is your preferred workout split across the week? What do your ideal gym sessions look like?
Knowing the answers to these questions should have you primed and ready to build some muscle. However, there’s one more thing we want to look at, and that’s how you can kick this plan off and then stay motivated to hit the gym and stick to your meal plan – especially when things get tough.
How to get going with your muscle-building plan
If you’ve got all of the information but are wondering how to best start putting your plan into action, the answer is simply that: start.
Just get out there and do it!
Don’t wait until conditions are perfect or for some magical idealized start date. The best time to start is now! It sounds cliche, but cliches are often based on truth.
You might hit some roadblocks or make mistakes, but you’ll adapt and learn from them. Doing nothing might mean you never mess up, but it means you’ll never build muscle either.
You have to make it happen. Nobody else can do it for you. But this is a good thing. It means you can take responsibility for your actions and your results without having to depend on other people or external factors.
There’s no luck involved. It’s all hard work and determination. And it will be hard. But the payoff is absolutely worth it.
If building muscle was easy, then everyone would already be in phenomenal shape. But it’s not, so they aren’t.
It’s the effort you put in that determines what you get out of it all. With that in mind, let’s now take a look at how you can keep yourself on track.
Goals are key. Without goals, you are flying somewhat blind, as you won’t know if you are heading in the right direction or even what you are aiming for.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to make SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that encompasses five crucial aspects of a goal. Your goals should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
- Specific: “Get into shape” isn’t good enough for a goal. On its own, it is meaningless – you need to get specific. Broad goals like this don’t give you much to go on. Narrow it down by asking yourself who, what, when, where, and why questions. “I want to gain X amount of muscle mass / be able to bench press X amount of weight / have X percent body fat / have an X inch chest” – these are more specific goals that can be tied in with the next aspects of SMART.
- Measurable: How will you know if you’re on course to reach your goal if you can’t measure where you are now and where you started from? The answer is: you can’t. You need to be able to track your progress. Don’t aim to “work out more”, instead, “complete four one-hour weight-lifting sessions in the gym each week.” Don’t just assume your chest is getting bigger, get the tape measure out and check.
- Achievable: If it isn’t attainable or realistic, it isn’t going to happen – so make sure you can actually achieve what you set out to do. “Gain 20kg of muscle mass in one week” is not just unlikely; it’s impossible. “Gain 2kg of lean muscle in the next 12 weeks” is absolutely reasonable and well within your grasp. Likewise, how you reach your goal needs to be doable – four one-hour gym sessions per week and a slight calorie surplus = good; daily three-hour gym sessions and a liquid diet = bad.
- Relevant: Is what you’re doing in line with what you actually want? If you set yourself a muscle-building goal, then your plan won’t include the same things as it would if your goal was to be able to run a marathon. They involve completely different types of training, so make sure the targets you give yourself fit into the overall bigger picture. It should also take into account your safety, your own biology, and what is recommended and possible according to scientific evidence.
- Time-bound: Perhaps you have a deadline (e.g. you’re getting married next summer), but maybe you don’t. Either way, you’ll still need to give yourself a series of checkpoints to measure against. Even if your goal relates to putting on something without a harsh deadline, give yourself time to aim for that will allow you to see if you’re on track or if you need to make changes. Keeping with an example from above, if after 12 weeks you haven’t gained your 2kg of lean muscle mass, you’ll now know and can therefore assess your next move.
As a follow-on from this final point, you can even make your SMART goals SMARTER by adding two more components: Evaluate and Review. Take stock of what you’ve done so far (Evaluate), assess its effectiveness (Review) and then set your next SMART goal based on what you’ve learned.
As you can see, by setting SMART goals, you are able to give some clarity to what you are trying to achieve, which makes it much more likely that you’ll be successful and see the results you want.
You don’t just have to stick to one overarching goal, either. Breaking down your main goal into smaller chunks will make you more likely to stay the course and keep you motivated and invested in what you’re doing.
Setting one big goal can be overwhelming for some people. So don’t worry if it takes longer than expected, and don’t give up if you aren’t instantly seeing results. There can be a temptation to look too far ahead, but it doesn’t have to be a race to the finish line. Chunking your main goal into smaller components can ease this pressure and make it easier to assess where you are.
Once you’ve set your SMART goal, you should find it easier to implement your plan, as you’ll have something concrete to aspire towards and a timeline that you can work with.
Speaking of time, one of the things that lots of people find the hardest about a muscle-building routine is finding the time to fit it into their current schedule.
And we totally get it. You’re busy. You’ve likely got a demanding job or a heavy workload from school. There’s family, friends, and social life to take into account. Life can definitely get in the way. Let’s be honest, that’s probably the main reason for needing to put together a plan of action in the first place – life has gotten on top of you, and your fitness has been cast aside for too long as a result.
But you’ve made that all-important first step of deciding to make a change; now you just have to commit to the process. The only way to do this is to make the time. Make this a priority. It’s your body, your health, your life – why wouldn’t you want to find the time to take that seriously?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for when to work out or cook your meals, and that’s the beauty of the plan: you can fit it into your schedule.
If you’re one of those lucky people who are able to pick any time to work out, here are a few benefits to morning and evening training times that might help you choose when to hit the gym.
- Boosts mental acuity – early workouts will get you set up and energized for the day.
- It’s out of the way – you won’t be tempted to skip the gym after a long day at work or school, as it’s already done.
- Your evenings are your own – the hard graft is done, so you can socialize, relax, or do whatever you want guilt-free.
- Starting off on the right foot – begin the day as you mean to go on. If you get straight into a healthy mindset, you’re more likely to keep making healthy decisions (e.g., food choices) throughout the day.
- You’ll learn discipline and form healthy habits – making the voluntary decision to get up early in the name of self-improvement will rewire your brain to expect to start the day in this vein.
- No early morning rushing around – you won’t stress yourself out by adding to your hectic morning tasks as you try to avoid being late for wherever you need to be.
- You can take your time – as there’s no need to squeeze a session in before work or school, you can concentrate on getting full workouts in at your own pace and ensuring you get a proper warm-up and cool down in.
- Relaxed atmosphere – with the main events of the day done and dusted, the gym will likely be a calmer place to visit and will wind down as the evening goes on (which is great if you prefer a quiet or empty gym).
- Destress your mind – put the problems of the day behind you by taking your pent-up energy out on the weights.
- Wind down – tiring yourself out late in the day may help you wind down in preparation for a good night’s sleep (although, for some people, this can have the opposite effect and keep them full of energy for too long into the night).
- Improved physical performance – as you’re used to being up and about and have taken on plenty of sustenance already, your performance levels will likely be higher if you lift later in the day.
These are only minor points to consider, though, as the main thing is that you just get your workout done, no matter the time of day.
Here are some quick tips to bear in mind regarding how to use your time effectively.
- Work harder, not longer – gym sessions don’t have to be mammoth slogs (45 minutes of hard graft trumps two hours or half-heartedness every time).
- It’s all about balance – make health and fitness an important part of your life, but don’t let it rule or ruin your life.
- Preparation and planning can help you build good habits – once something becomes a habit and a natural part of your life, it’s much easier to stick to than when you have to convince or force yourself to do it. Know what you have to do, then do it consistently.
- Pre-commit – one of the best ways to actually build those habits is to shape your environment to reflect your goals. Lay your gym gear out the night before… Throw out any tempting junk food you have in the house… Discard any unhelpful triggers… Don’t allow yourself any bad excuses.
- Meal prep – preparing your weekly meals all at once is a HUGE time saver. Just an hour or two out of your weekend can set you up for the whole week. Doing this will make you more likely to stick to your plan and eat the healthy meals you’ve already cooked. It can also give you peace of mind if something comes up that would otherwise preclude you from making food in the evening – there’ll be no need to stress as it’s already sorted.
Even when you know exactly what to do and how to do it, there will still be times when you just don’t have the motivation or inclination to stick to your plan. At those times, it is particularly important to have a strong mindset to get you going and push through the difficult days.
This can be easier said than done, but there are many ways to get into a good mental space that will benefit your health and fitness.
One of the first things you can do when you are stuck for motivation is to remind yourself why you wanted to build muscle in the first place – then use that as mental fuel.
Perhaps you want to look good for an upcoming event. Or to improve the performance of a sport you play. Maybe you just want to be fitter and healthier for the sake of yourself and your family. Whatever the reason may be that sparked your interest in muscle building and physical fitness, use that to spur you on when you need a mental boost.
Developing an elite mindset isn’t just for getting you in the right headspace to go to the gym and stop yourself from giving in to junk food cravings. It can also play a role in the workouts themselves if you embrace the mind-muscle connection.
This essentially means mentally connecting yourself to the muscles you are exercising by visualizing the contraction and focusing on the way in which the muscle moves. By being deliberate in your actions and paying conscious attention to how your body does this, you are able to perfect your form, limit distractions, and improve your mind as well as your body.
Your brain is absolutely incredible and has an almost limitless capacity for self-improvement – you just have to know how to put it to best use. Here are some ways to utilize your brain’s potential so it works for you, not against you.
- Set yourself up to win – as mentioned above, creating good habits improves your results. Your brain loves to take mental shortcuts and automate procedures wherever it can, so make sure you give it good rules to follow that can form a natural part of your day with minimal effort required. Make it easy to do what you have to do.
- Change is good – because your brain loves its shortcuts, it might be resistant to change at first. It just needs to realize that change can be good. Push through those first initial barriers, and those changes will soon become part of your new normal. It’s all about consistency.
- Don’t fear failure – failure only happens if you give up. So if you don’t give up, you don’t fail. Not being able to lift as much as other people in the gym is not a failure. Not seeing results as quickly as you like is not failure. As long as you keep going, you’ll get there in the end.
- Success snowballs – small wins turn into big wins, and big wins turn into successful results. It’s the little things that add up. Gratification won’t be instant, and change doesn’t happen overnight – slight improvements over time are the way to go.
- Be positive – this is not always easily done of course, but keeping a positive attitude is much better for your progress. Negativity gets you nowhere.
- Give yourself rewards – hit the SMART goal you set for the month? Treat yourself to some new gym wear. Smashed a new PB? Book yourself in for a massage. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, so take time to acknowledge and appreciate how far you’ve come. Setting up future rewards also gives you motivation and something to aim for.
- Don’t punish yourself if you slip up – just because you had a night out over the weekend, or celebrated your birthday with some takeout and beers, doesn’t mean everything has fallen apart. You’re only human, and life is still allowed to happen. Just move on from it, don’t make it a regular occurrence, and get back to your plan the next day. One day of healthy food and a gym session doesn't magically get you ripped overnight, just like one day of junk food won’t instantly undo all of your hard work.
- Meditate – practicing some form of mindfulness can reduce anxiety, lower your blood pressure, improve your sleep, and remove stress from your life. Meditation can have an incredible impact on your mindset, making you more patient, forgiving, and tolerant of any roadblocks that might get in your way.
- Get a mantra – having a motivational phrase you call on is a great way to bring your focus back and provide a quick motivational boost whenever needed. Nobody else needs to know about it; it doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need is a word or phrase that means something to you or can inspire you to act. You could even use it as a focal point during meditation or mindfulness sessions.
- Don’t worry about the scale – if you’re building muscle, you’re not be getting any lighter, so don’t worry about how much you weigh. As muscle is denser than fat, you are actually going to weigh more as you lose body fat but build lean muscle mass. Take photographs and measure your dimensions to assess your progress instead.
- Have a support network – along with holding yourself accountable for your results, you may also benefit from sharing your progress with others. Having a friend, family member, or gym buddy to spur you on can give you an extra push and remind you of what your goals are should you need them.
Let’s get to work!
Hopefully, you’re now feeling hyped up and ready to go out and smash it.
All of the information we’ve worked through together can now be put into action so that you can build muscle, get shredded, and improve the health of your body and brain.
You know your macros. You’ve planned your meals. You’ve sorted your workouts. Your mind’s fully focused on the task at hand.
All you have to do now is get out there and build that muscle.
It’s time to get to work!
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