Fitness isn’t easy. Lots of people sell supplements, programs, and false promises all claiming to make changing the body easy. The truth is fitness isn’t and never will be an easy journey. I’ve worked with hundreds of clients and there is one thing I can tell you that sets the successful apart from the unsuccessful: their mentality. Having a great mentality in my opinion is the one thing that will either make or break your fitness routine.
Before we get into the “facts” I want to talk about a client I met in my second year of being a certified trainer. This client was given to me by the establishment I was working at during that time and she had the goal of losing over 100lbs. A big goal, but definitely achievable. So, we got to work. She came and worked out with me twice a week every week and she would leave sweating and usually swearing at me for all the work I made her do. Yet, check in’s would come and her weight was unchanged. Now granted she was losing inches, but it was a very slow process. It wasn’t until our 5th month together that she saw any actual change in the scale. 5 MONTHS! 5 months is not a long time. Most people would have been so discouraged at that point that they would have given up. But, she had a great mentality and she didn’t give up. She learned from her mistakes, whether it was eating too much or skipping her workouts outside of our sessions and she kept working. Fast forward 9 months and she had lost over 70lbs. If she had given up would she have lost that weight? Probably not. Now, this is an extreme example and I have never dealt with someone other than this person that didn’t see any weight loss for that long of a time period. But, the point I am trying to make is, mentality is what helped her succeed. Theres a few reason why mentality is important.
I know this may sound crazy, but if you don’t believe you can change your body then you never will change your body. I’m sure some of you are thinking what is this guy talking about? Allow me to explain what I mean. If you don’t believe that you can and will change your body then you will never take the steps necessary to do so. Let me give you some scenarios here. Let’s say person A is trying to lose weight and he’s working out and making his portion sizes smaller and all the sudden Friday night comes and his buddies invite him out for some beers. He accepts thinking he will stick to the plan and be good. But, he gets there and theres so many delicious foods on the menu calling his name. Now, if he really doesn’t think that he can lose weight and be successful at it then all those external pressures are going to make him cave. Then maybe he will get back on track. But, when temptation arises again if he doesn’t believe that he can be successful he will probably cave in again. Let’s now look at person B who wants to build muscle. This guy has been small all his life and has always wanted to be big so he decides to take up a weightlifting regimen. He starts hitting the gym, but then he realizes he has less time with his friends and he’s sore all the time. And it’s been a couple months and he really doesn’t look all that different. Thats where the mental toughness comes in. If he believes he can change his body, then he will push through that, but if he doesn’t odds are he’s going to give up on his journey. Now, these are extreme examples, but anyone who wants to do some serious work to their body has to believe that they can achieve what they set out to do. Believing is the first step, being tough when the going gets tough is the second.
Anyone who’s alive knows what it’s like to fail at something. Maybe when you were a kid you couldn’t throw a ball very well or maybe as an adult you didn’t get that job you really wanted. My point is, we’ve all failed. The process of changing your body is no different. Even dealing with the temptations I mentioned in the last paragraph, there are going to be times when you don’t win those battles. Or when you go into the gym and have a horrible workout. Or when you have a horrible day and can’t even imagine stepping foot inside a gym so you go home and skip your workout. The point is you’re going to fail. And you will never push past those failures if you don’t have a great mentality. Imagine going to the gym for months and not seeing gains in your strength or seeing gains in your muscle mass. Then trying a new program that you find just doesn’t work for you. Then being back at square one being more frustrated than you were in the first place. Well, the sad truth is that’s how fitness is sometimes. It’s a journey that you walk with yourself to improve yourself. And that is really not an easy thing. So yes, you’re going to fail sometimes. And you need to have a great mentality to break through those failures. You have to believe you can. Then you have to be tough when the going get’s tough. Once you’ve mastered those techniques then comes the most important step in your mental journey.
You have to constantly learn more about yourself day after day and year after year. You have to learn what your body responds to and when it doesn’t why it isn’t responding. You have to learn how to balance your food while maintaining a social life. You have to learn how to break through weight loss and muscle building plateaus. You have to learn how to train as you age. You have to learn how to train for your specific goals. You have to constantly learn. In my experience, once you figure something out, your body or your life will throw something new at you that you weren’t expecting. Maybe you’re shift changes at work, or maybe you get sick and can’t workout. Or maybe you just had a newborn and have less time to devote to your health. No matter what, you have to constantly learn, grow, and adapt to the new things that happen inside and outside of the gym. As I said before it’s not easy, but that’s why it requires a great mentality.
Mentality is everything when you’re trying to change yourself. It requires a complete shift in habits, choices, and thoughts about yourself. In my opinion changing your body is one of the hardest things to do from a mental standpoint. You have to believe that you can achieve the goals you set for yourself. You have to break through the walls that will be in your way to achieving those goals. And, you have to learn how to hit your goals and set new ones as your life changes. There was a time in my life before I knew much about fitness where I would go to the gym for hours on end every week and do what I thought were the “right” things. It was honestly at times demoralizing. I would ask myself: “why do I keep coming here?” Or “Is this even worth all the time I put into it”. And there were many times I failed and almost gave up. But, If I didn’t push through those barriers I would not be here writing this blog post to help out those who are struggling with the same things. I promise you that you can set out to do whatever you see for yourself. No matter how hard the journey, don’t give up it will all be worth it in the end.
I’ve been in the fitness industry for about three and a half years now. Over that time I have tried several approaches with new clients. When I was a brand new trainer I trained all my clients exactly like I trained myself with a split routine. I’ve had clients follow the OPT model developed by NASM focusing on balance work, then progressing to strength, followed by hypertrophy, and ending with maximum strength and power. Now, all of these methods “worked” per se. Also let me preface this blog post by saying that you can achieve results training a myriad of ways. But, in my experience, total body training reigns supreme for new lifters.
There are several reasons why I feel the way I do about total body training being useful in the infancy of fitness journeys. The main reason is, when you’re a new lifter you don’t need a lot of volume to grow. Going from being sedentary, or even active in a cardio sense, to strength training provides a completely new stimulus for the body. When the body receives a new stimulus it reacts to overcome it. It does this by recruiting more motor units from the brain (strength) and enlarging existing muscle fibers (growth). When you’re new you really don’t need to put your body through the wringer to get insane results. Even doing 1-3 sets of an exercise 2-3 times a week will yield both strength and size gains. Will this work forever? No, but it's definitely enough to get you through your first 3-12 months in the gym. Not needing a lot of volume leads me into my next point as to why total body training is the best for new lifters.
Your body simply can’t handle copious amounts of volume when you aren’t a seasoned lifter. The longer that you train, the more your body adapts to training. After a little while the volume or weight that got you results in the beginning will need to be increased to keep seeing results. But, that is because your body adapted to the volume. If I were to throw a high volume workout at my new clients that I use to build size they would leave the gym feeling awful, possibly get sick, and maybe never come back to training. When I have a new client and I make them perform a movement for their legs they usually complain to me about how sore they are for a week, sometimes more. Now imagine if I had thrown three workouts at them for that body part. You can probably guess that it would do more harm than good. Just enough volume to get better is all you should be aiming for, especially as a new lifter.
Excess volume will create unnecessary problems in everyday life as well. Too much volume can further trigger delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Have you ever gone to the gym for the first time in a long time, or even the first time ever and been sore for over a week? Yes, me too. It’s definitely not a good feeling. It basically makes the rest of your life harder for the next week. Now, total body training can alleviate this problem in a couple ways. One, it keeps the volume per body part per session lower which creates less muscle damage. As I said earlier in this post, the longer you train the more volume your body can handle, and also the quicker it can recover from it. When you are a seasoned lifter, you can handle 3-5 exercises per muscle per session and wake up the next day with little to no soreness. But, when your'e new your body has not adapted to recovering that quickly, so you will feel pretty sore for a few days even doing one exercise per body part. The second reason total body training helps with recovery is, when you return to the gym for your second or third session of the week your workout will bring blood to the whole body. Blood and movement help alleviate soreness and fix the initial muscle damage. This makes life a lot easier for the average person because they can get back to pain free normal activities quicker. Creating less damage and also aiding in recovery are two great benefits, but that’s not all that total body training can do.
Total body training will also help with adherence and success with a new workout plan. I’ve found this to be true for a few reasons. First off, when you’re new, working out is usually not the easiest thing. And I have found that if you can’t show people some kind of measurable success within the first few months, they will fall off the wagon. So, let’s say you’re following a split routine and you miss a workout one week. By the time you get around to training those body parts again it will have been two weeks. This creates a couple problems. One, you’re most likely going to get pretty sore again. Two, you will have a higher tendency to miss more workouts because in your mind you have already fallen off the plan. I know that sounds a little weird, but it's true. I cant tell you the amount of times I have heard someone say, “Well I already ate bad today so I’ll just get back on track tomorrow” as they continue to consume excess calories and push themselves farther away from their goals. It’s the same with working out, “Well I missed a workout for the week, it’’s an off week, I’ll get back on track next week. Total body shifts the focus of I missed a workout, to I got two workouts in and hit each body part twice! This leads into why total body training helps with success. When you miss a workout no part of your body misses out on work for that week. And, let’s face it we miss workouts sometimes because we’re human. In my experience, total body training can really make or break someones workout routine, especially in the beginning.
Total body workouts can also save you a ton of time. A lot of people seek out personal trainers because their life got busy, they gained some weight, and now they need to learn how to lose it. But, theres one thing that doesn’t change in that equation, how busy someone is. I’ve seen first hand people who can barely make it to the gym for our sessions because they are so busy. Total body workouts can get you in and out of the gym in 30 minutes. One of the main reasons these type of workouts allow for this is everything can be turned in to a circuit or multiple circuits. Let’s say you’re doing 1 exercise per major body part. You would have to complete 8 exercises in a workout. For a normal style workout with rest in between each set this could take 40 minutes or more depending on how much you rest. However, when you complete everything in a circuit it cuts that time in half. This is effective with total body training because while you’re working one muscle the other muscles are resting and stretching out. So, if you complete a circuit of 4 exercises by the time you get back to exercise 1 that body part has almost fully if not fully recovered. Also, total body training condenses the number of sessions you need to train per week. You can train your whole body in one session. While I would not recommend training once per week consistently if you are really trying to change your body, once is still better than nothing. And on a side note even working out once per week does yield health and longevity benefits. On a split routine you would have to get to the gym 4 to 5 times per week, but when you training everything together you can get similar results in 3 days. Time is something we could all “use more of” and total body workouts can make that happen.
As a fitness professional it is my job to create effective workouts for my clients. Being effective can be judged on several factors like results, enjoyment, adherence, etc. In my experience total body training will always come out on top for newer lifters. As a side note, I also feel this is the best method of training when returning to lifting after a long break. Total body training can get you great results, help you save time, help with adherence, and overall just make things more simple. Imagine working out and only having to learn 6 moves in the gym instead of 30. If you’re a new lifter and just getting started I highly recommend you start with total body training. Even if you’re someone who is just into general fitness total body workouts can work wonders for you as well. Try it out, if you do it right I promise you wont be disappointed with your results.
My name is Patriel Dunford and as the owner of Infinite Fitness my main goal in life is to spread good advice in the health industry and help people live healthier, longer, more fulfilling lives.