1. Variety is key
“People are so caught in a routine, doing the same things over and over. I want to be an expert in different fighting styles, new training methods, new ways of thinking.”
Variety really is the spice of life. Frequently changing around your workouts and targeting different muscle groups will help develop greater strength and build bigger gains. Sticking to the same routine every day, is not only tedious, but your muscles will quickly become fed up, too. And before you know it, you’re stuck in a plateau that can seem almost impossible to smash through.
Remember, if you want muscles that’ll show through your T-shirt, you need to put them through a whole lot of stress. And it’s this stress, along with adequate recovery, where gains are made.
This is known as the overload principle.
But here’s the thing. There’s always a thing, isn’t there? Your muscles, are extremely adaptable and very quickly become used to the stimulus – that’s weights to you and I. Can’t lift any heavier? Not seeing big enough physical improvements? Chances are you’ve stalled. If you don’t change that stimulus (sets/reps/exercises/intensity) then don’t expect your gains to grow, bro.
2. Knowing when to stop
For many, getting fit and lifting big can become almost an obsession. Especially when you are starting to see improvements. But knowing when to ease off the gas can sometimes be more beneficial than pushing through the pain barrier.
“I didn’t lose [to Diaz] on skill; I lost on stamina,” says McGregor. “My greatest strength is my work ethic. And my greatest weakness is my work ethic. Leading up to Diaz, I was fucked from overtraining.”
Overtraining is a thing. In fact, it’s a bloody important thing. And it’s more than just feeling a little tired. If serious enough, it can cause sickness and even injury.
“Overtraining occurs when there is little balance between stress and recovery,” says Sports Therapist at Embody Fitness, Sophie Whitehead. “Consistently overloading the body and not allowing recovery will lead to overtraining.”
If, after a heavy period of exercise, you are starting to feel lethargic, discomfort, difficulty sleeping or simply finding your everyday workout a struggle, ease off and take a break. Now you need to rest, hydrate and eat plenty of healthy foods. Massage therapy helps as will light exercise. But make sure it’s light!
Keep a watchful eye on your symptoms and, once you are starting to feel better, slowly increase your workload again.
3. Mobility is key
“We’re the only animal that wakes up and doesn’t stretch.”
We're not entirely sure he’s right but you get what he means. You need to stretch!
As we age (yes, it’s happening, deal with it), our flexibility and mobility starts to diminish, increasing the risk of injuries and an inability to do simple tasks that we always take for granted. Ever wondered why you are starting to grunt as you get out of your chair?
But a series of rigorous stretches won't just improve your shoelace game. Research has shown that muscles with more pliability – a result of stretching and mobility exercises – are stronger and able to withstand more forces placed upon them, resulting in bigger gains from your workout. Scientists from Brazil have even discovered that stretching the muscle opposite to the ones you’re about to use provides an instant strength boost that’ll help you pump out 15% more reps.
4. Bodyweight = better
There’s a time and a place for machinery. Just to be clear, we’re talking about the squat rack, not forklift trucks. But, if you want to build serious strength and muscle, then your body is the only tool you need.
Don’t believe us?
A study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercisefound that a 45-minute bodyweight workout increases your metabolic rate for an incredible 45 hours. Research has also shown that bodyweight-based exercise like plyometrics yield quicker fitness gains in shorter durations.
As McGregor points out: “Machines don’t use machines. And I am a machine.”
5. Don’t complicate food
A lot of gym bros get caught up in macro counting. And while it’s a sure-fire way to bigger gains, forever fixating on the numbers can be exhausting.
Keep it simple.
Speaking to Men’s Journal, McGregor says: “I just try to eat clean. I’ll eat good quality meats, good-quality greens, good-quality carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and butternut squash, and that’s it.”
If you want to build muscle, then your diet needs to be on point. It is, after all, more than half the battle. But don’t use it as an excuse. Try to ensure you’re getting roughly 30% of your calories from fats, 40% from carbs and 30% from protein; a US study found eating double your RDA of protein – up to around 110g – boosts muscle growth and fat loss.
Avoid fatty foods – the odd fast takeout won’t kill you – drink plenty of water, and try and cut down on sugar. Couple this with your workout plan, and you’ll have a knockout body in no time.