If you’re not happy with your body, chances are good that if you mention it to someone, you say you need to lose weight. Losing weight can, of course, help, but do you honestly care what your weight is, or do you care what your body looks like?
The first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think about reshaping their body is going on a diet, a diet that either leaves them hungry all the time or drastically reduces the range of what they can eat. While that sort of diet can work, there’s actually a way that’s much faster and more effective, a way that doesn’t leave you hungry all the time, nor deprive you of either meats or vegetables.
The fastest, safest, and most effective way to reshape your body in a short period of time involves three elements: sleep, diet, and exercise. It may surprise you to see sleep listed along with diet and exercise, but poor sleeping habits can considerably reduce the effectiveness of the other two factors.
The first thing to understand is that aerobic exercise (also called “cardio”) is not the most effective tool for reshaping your body… it can certainly be one component, but an exercise plan that doesn’t cover resistance training, also known as lifting weights, will be far slower and less effective.
Let me dispel a myth quickly that I’ve heard from many people… weight training (more properly called resistance training) doesn’t have to make you big and bulky. What it does do is sculpt your body… putting muscle in the right places while allowing that muscle to burn extra calories and remove fat from other places.
Speaking of an exercise plan… you need one. You need to set up a schedule for your exercise, knowing what you’re going to work on at what times. My personal preference is to rotate upper body, lower body, and cardio. That means that one day I’ll work out the major muscle groups of my upper body, the next day I’ll do the major muscle groups of my lower body, and the next I’ll work on my cardio (generally running on the treadmill for me). This gives your muscles a couple of days to heal before they’re worked again.
Once you have a general plan like the one mentioned above, then you can work on plans for individual days. You’ll need to choose a specific exercise for each muscle group that you’re going to work that day, and you’ll need to change the exercise that you use for a given muscle group fairly regularly, or your body will adjust and that particular exercise will become less and less effective for you.
You may want to start each day with a bit of a warm up… I usually jog for one mile before I really get started.
Regardless of the exercise, you’ll want to use this pattern while doing it:
- 12 repetitions (reps) at the original weight
- 1 minute break and increase the weight for the next set
- 10 reps at the new weight
- 1 minute break and increase the weight
- 8 reps
- 1 minute break and increase the weight
- 6 reps
- 1 minute break and decrease the weight
- 12 reps
- 2 minute break and move to the next exercise
You can continue that until you’ve done all the muscle groups for that day.
So how do you decide how much weight? You should always select a weight subjectively, rather than objectively: the first weight you use, for 12 reps, should be about a difficulty of about 6 on a 10 point scale. The next weight should be a 7, then 8, 9, and the final set of 12 should be at a 10… in other words, you should barely be able to complete it. Whether that’s 5 pounds, 50, or 500 doesn’t really matter… it’s the amount of effort your body is putting into it that determines how much you get out of it.
When you first begin your exercise routine, you’ll likely find that your muscles are sore the next day, and even the day after… the best cure for this soreness, believe it or not, is to lightly exercise those same muscles again, doing something like what you would do for your first set if you were working that muscle group that day. If you avoid exercising because you’re sore, on the other hand, that soreness can last much longer.
If you keep it up, you’ll almost certainly notice a major difference in how you feel after just a few days, and it won’t take much (if any) longer for you to be able to start seeing it. There is usually a measurable (as in tape measure) difference within 7-10 days… assuming you’re not already in top shape, of course.
I’ve personally done this before, and I intend to do it again (and soon, too!). I did it for twelve weeks before, and in that twelve weeks I lost about 10% body fat and gained over 20 pounds of muscle. I don’t have pictures of myself, but if you want to see pictures of other people who’ve followed the same plan (or a VERY similar one), you can check out the Body For Life Challenge champions pictures… and remember, this is in twelve weeks… less than three months!
Good luck… and feel free to send me before and after pictures if you do try it! I may even post them if I get enough… and I might appear in that post, as well.