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Your New Fitness Rules

Robert’s very own fitness commandments. Make your workouts effective—and no more complicated than they need to be.

You won’t always have an hour to go to the gym. But pushups, bodyweight squats, pullups, situps, and running—are all free. Don’t stress about sets and reps and total duration. If you’re sweating, you’re doing it right. (Read more in-depth on this in the Keep It Simple column on Pg. 61)

Every complete workout program needs three things—a push, a pull, and a squat. Examples of pushes: bench press, dumbbell bench press, pushups. Examples of pulls: pullups, dumbbell and barbell rows, and rowing machines. Examples of squats: bodyweight, barbell, dumbbell, and all varieties of lunges. Make sure your program has a healthy balance of all three and you’ll avoid imbalances and injury.

It’s much more than just an efficiency tool. You’ll not only save time, you’ll sweat more and keep your heart rate elevated. You can and should use supersets—performing back-to-back sets without rest—on as many exercises as you can. I recommend supersetting opposing muscle groups, such as biceps and triceps, chest and back, and hamstrings and quads.

Experiment with different grips on every exercise. For example, on barbell curls, rather than a standard shoulder-width underhand grip, try an overhand grip (this is called a reverse curl) and try moving your hands out wide on one set and then in tight on the next. On machines, swap out different handles. Your body is an adaptation machine; these variables will keep it guessing and moving in the right direction.

Cheat meals don’t just save your sanity; they’re an effective way to keep your diet working for you. Try eating as clean as possible for six days in a row and then, on the seventh day, give yourself one meal where you allow yourself to eat anything you want. The extra calories you consume will stoke your metabolism to burn at a higher rate. Just be sure to return to a normal, balanced dietary plan when your cheat meal is over. If you get lazy and let your cheat meal bleed into a full-blown cheat day, it defeats the purpose and effectiveness of the cheat meal.

Even on days where your energy levels suck and you think you can’t do much at the gym, just go and plan to do 10 or 15 minutes on the treadmill. If that’s all you wind up doing, fine. But chances are by the time you get your heart rate up and the endorphins start to flow, you’re going to want to stay and do more than you planned. If you just show up, it’s amazing what can happen.

Too often we look for partners—in the gym, at work, and in life—who are “on our level” rather than looking for people who can push and inspire us to elevate our game. In the gym, this is simple; link up with someone who’s stronger and fitter than you. Will you be able to do everything that they’re doing? No. But you will push yourself harder and further than you ever would alone. Apply this to all areas of your life and watch what happens.

Write those three words on a piece of paper and tape them to your mirror. Having a fitness goal is not an end-point, and the words “love the process” will help you remember that. You could do a lot of things you hate to achieve a goal, but how sustainable do you think your progress will be if you hated it every step of the way? You need to find ways to enjoy the process of getting there. As you eat healthy food, visualize it making you stronger and healthier. As you lift weights and run, visualize your body as you want it to be. Every step of the way gets you closer. You don’t have to hate any part of the goal.

It’s okay! Really. People in your workplace might think it’s strange to see you doing pushups or bodyweight squats (or replacing your traditional desk with a standing desk) but you can let them snicker all they want. Break every two hours for a few quick sets! If you ask me I think it’s much stranger to sit in the same chair all day long. Not only do all those short sets add up over time, it will give you a better boost of energy than another cup of coffee or a snack from the vending machine ever could. When they see that it’s keeping you healthy and fit and making you more productive at your job, they won’t be laughing. They’ll be coming to you for advice.

Originally published in Robert Irvine Magazine.

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