Are you tired of putting in the effort at the gym and not seeing results?
You’re not alone—many people show the drive, determination, and consistent effort, but don’t reach their goals. If this sounds familiar, the next logical step is usually to find an educated personal trainer with proven experience.
But if you’re not ready to take that step—or if you’d prefer to go it alone—then you can do that, too.
To help you out, we did some extensive research on some of the world’s finest personal trainers. Check out their 11 insightful tips and strategies specifically designed to help you build strength, gain muscle mass, lose fat, enhance your endurance, and maintain healthy eating habits.
- Make sure you’re eating healthy.
Ask almost any personal trainer and they’ll tell you that regardless of your training goals, healthy eating is the backbone. Food is what fuels your body to reach your goals, and without proper nutrition through quality foods, you’re likely to stall. Maintain a balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, complete proteins, and healthy fats like fish oils and flaxseeds.
- Prepare ahead.
Preparing meals in advance gives you the best chance to accomplish your nutrition goals, says Micah LaCerte, a personal trainer and fitness competition world champion. That way, he says, you won’t feel pressured to eat unhealthy foods or skip meals.
- Eat more clean food.
Eating only three daily meals? Not a great idea. “Half the people I deal with aren’t losing weight because they don’t eat enough,” says veteran personal trainer Mike Duffy. Duffy advises his clients “to eat five times a day, about every three hours, to stimulate their metabolism” including two mini-meals between three basic meals. With activity levels decreasing throughout the day, he advises to “eat less as the day goes on.”
- Control your portion sizes.
You’ll be eating more often, so paying attention to portions is extremely important. “Make sure chicken breasts, (and) meats, are no larger than your palm, and that pastas are no larger than your fists,” says Jay Cardiello, a personal trainer to countless celebrities and professional athletes. He also suggests using “smaller bowls, plates, and cups” because studies show people “serve themselves 20-40% more food when they’re using larger plates.” Here’s how to estimate portion sizes.
- Eat with purpose.
Everything you consume should have substantial nutritional value. “You want the most nutritional bang for your buck,” says Dan Trink, C.S.C.S., a strength coach and trainer. “Everything you eat should serve some sort of nutritional purpose in your body, fuel your workouts, and (be) geared toward optimizing your body.”
- Understand the basics of building muscle.
Talk to any personal trainer and they’ll tell you there are certain muscle-building basics. First, increase your caloric and complete protein intake, so your body has enough building blocks to get bigger. Then, when you enter the gym, focus on your form. Perform compound movements and train with weights on average around four times a week. Never underestimate the importance of rest. Remember, muscle tissue grows outside of the gym when you’re giving your body time to relax and recover following your workouts.
- Work your full range of motion.
Don’t take any shortcuts. “Aim for the largest range of motion you can achieve in your exercises,” says Lee Boyce, C.P.T. “Your muscles will do more work per rep, and it will result in your breaking down more tissue by the end of the workout.”
- Don’t go too heavy.
Wondering how to get the most out of lifting weights? “Use a weight that will have you failing on the set between the 30- and 40-second mark,” Duffy says. Time under tension causes muscle to grow. “If you’re failing at 20 seconds, you know that weight was too heavy.”
- Change helps.
If you want to make progress, sometimes you have to change things up. “Ensure your body never gets adapted to what’s coming next,” LaCerte explains. Once that happens, you may notice diminishing strength gain results. To avoid this possibility, “switch up how heavy you’re lifting, your tempo of an exercise, your rep/set count, or what time of the day you’re lifting,” he says
- Choose supplements intelligently.
Some trainers and lifters feel supplements can play a key role in boosting muscle gains. If you subscribe to that theory, then chances are, you’re already taking protein supplements—but what else? Creatine, for one, “seems to be about the most effective strength- and size-building supplement,” Trink says. To boost your performance, you may also want to try peppermint. Cardiello explains that the scent “alters the perception of how hard you’re working out,” making it seem “less strenuous, slower-paced, and easier to complete.”
- Take Notes.
Can’t get the scale to budge? It’s possible you’re gaining muscle and shedding body fat—and that means your net weight change will seem “stuck,” even though you’re making progress. “Take pictures on a weekly basis—front, back, (and) side pictures all from the same angle, same lighting, same clothing.” That way, you’ll see change over time, even though it may not look like it day to day.
So, what do you think? Are you seeing the changes in your fitness habits??