One common mistake almost all bodybuilders make at one time or another is they over-complicate things. We constantly question ourselves, look for a better routine, a better supplement, or add more volume to our workouts in desperate attempts to further progress. But sometimes the best results come from simplicity.
I've learned that the best routine is one I can stick to, and to listen to my body. There are times when I will take a given workout and simplify it more. For example, if my energy levels are getting low from dieting then instead of doing 4 different chest exercises I'll take it to 2-3. If doing 3 sets of incline bench, followed by 3 sets of flat dumbbells seems more realistic than all of the volume, I'll change things up.
For example, today I trained my legs. I hit 30 minutes of Stairmaster right after my workout, but I would have been less inclined to want to do that 30 minutes of cardio if my workout was too much. Therefore, here was my leg workout- 3 sets of squats, 3 sets of leg extensions, 3 sets of leg curls, 3 sets of seated calf raises, 30 minutes of cardio, done! I didn't carry on with lunges, stiff legged deadlifts, leg presses after squats, and whatever else many people do.
With getting further into the diet and energy levels further depleted, that workout seemed a little more reasonable than doing too much. I was able to bring a little more intensity to the table knowing that after these 3-4 quick exercises I was done, and onto the Stairmaster next.
Sometimes when I can concentrate solely on a few different exercises I put more into those. It's easy to get into the mind frame of just trying to go from one exercise to the next, trying to get it all done in time. If simplifying your workouts makes it easier to stick to your game plan then my advice is to do it!
Simplify your diet
This also goes along with dieting as well. If doing 8 ounces of fish or chicken 4 times a day just seems out of your manageable realm, then why not do breakfast, lunch, and dinner with whole foods, and a couple meal replacements in between? If separating egg yolks from whites is too much for you, then why not just 4 scrambled eggs for breakfast each morning? If that's the extent of what you can comfortably handle everyday, then isn't that better than just skipping it and eating out or missing a meal?
Too many people slack because of their mind frame. In their minds, instead of doing what they can they just don't do shit at all.
Bodybuilders like to run on a schedule, almost militant like. Good bodybuilders rarely jumble things around day to day. Even with top ranked guys it's usually the same deal, just a different scale:
Meal 1 – 12 egg whites, cup of oats
Meal 2 – protein shake, cup of rice
Meal 3 – 11 oz steak and potatoes from Outback Steakhouse
Meal 4 – 8 oz chicken, cup of rice
…and so on and so forth.
This guy is probably sticking to this routine as often as possible because it's what he can manage. Maybe eating at Outback Steakhouse everyday is his way of making the lifestyle manageable while he is working a day job or training clients. Whatever the case, it's simple.
I know when I cook 2 pans full of fish I have about 2 days worth of fish to eat, and 2 pans is what fits in my oven. Every 2 days I'm cooking, I know this and I prepare for this. It's always the same routine, pull frozen bags out of the freezer, throw in a sink full of water to thaw while oven the preheats, cook for 20 minutes. I rarely deviate or miss doing this!
Now, all of those fancy little tasty recipes you might see in a fitness mag, I don't do them. It's just not realistic to me, it takes too many ingredients and too much prep time. I can't see myself doing that kind of shit for my meals, but I can see myself throwing frozen fish in my sink to thaw, while the oven preheats, and taking a quick 20 minutes to cook. Then I throw the shit in a freezer bag, and in the fridge it goes. I pull out portions from the freezer bag and weigh it on my digital scale when its time to eat.
It's just more realistic to me than cooking some gourmet meal on a daily basis. This is the extent of what I feel I can manage with work and a family, and even that seems difficult at times!
Do what's manageable
If there is a missing part of the formula for your physique goals, then my advice is to think about what's manageable in your life. I don't care if you work an 8 hour day or 12 hour day, whether you have 2 days a week to train or 6 days. I believe that if you want a good physique bad enough there are feasible ways to attain it!
If you know that working individual body parts a day 6 days a week is just not manageable, don't even attempt it. Simplify things.
Maybe you go to the gym only 3 times a week and do:
Day 1 – chest/back
Day 2 – off
Day 3 – legs
Day 4 – shoulders/arms/abs
Day 5, 6, 7 – OFF, REPEAT.
Doing things like this is the only way you're going to continue this lifestyle if you're trying to have a career, family, future, whatever. Look at professional bodybuilders for crying out loud. Don't you think with travel, guest appearances, seminars, etc., they may have a tough time managing things at different times of the year? I'm willing to bet they do, and those guys are still doing it!
This isn't about molding your life into bodybuilding, it's about molding bodybuilding into your life. You control bodybuilding, it shouldn't control you.