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"Do the best you can with what you know. Then when you know better, do better." -- Maya Angelou
And when I say lean, I mean single digit body fat percentage.
It's not because they want to keep it a secret.
It's not because they are vain.
It's not because they want to keep the information for themselves in order to stay competitive.
It is because they've tried to explain it before, and people usually either don't understand, or don't believe them.
So they don't bother.
What we perceive is beautiful and healthy is beside the point; beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is not a debate about what looks good and what doesn't.
But what most people have told me is that they would still like to improve their physique in some shape or form, whether they wish to lose 50kg, or are already fairly lean and would like to lose the last 5kg.
Both are perfectly acceptable goals and neither person deserves any judgement from others. But the truth is, what you need to do to lose 50kg is very different to what you need to do if you are lean and want to lose that last 5kg.
For a person that has a significant amount of body fat to lose, all they really need to focus on are the small things, like being consistent. Getting into a regular exercise routine, eating good food more frequently and consuming less treats. The type of exercise and the type of food doesn't really matter so much as long as it is better quality and more consistent than whatever the person was doing before.
This alone will be enough to boost the metabolism, strengthen the immune system and kick-start the fat loss process. I call these small things only because they really should be a staple in everyone's life, regardless of goals, as they are essential for every day health.
What if you haven't got a significant amount of body fat to lose, and you just want to get a bit leaner?
There's nothing wrong with that, and nobody should judge you for it. It's irrelevant what other people think is "attractive" or "acceptable" because it's your body and you can do what you want with it.
So how do you take it to the next level?
This is the crucial point.
This is where most people think that in order to get to the next stage of leanness, they need to start focusing on the even smaller things, the niff naff. Stuff like counting calories, skimping on sauces and seasonings, removing the yolk from the whites, cooking with canola oil instead of olive oil, and all the itty bitty guff that APPARENTLY makes a big difference.
But here's the truth...
To get down to a single digit body fat percentage, you must RESIST the temptation to focus on the niff naff.
You must instead shift your focus on to the BIG stuff.
The things that you probably don't want to give up. The things that you might be pretending are not there. The things that WILL make a big difference to your results, but perhaps you're not quite ready to let go of just yet.
When it comes to weight-training, it doesn't actually matter whether you choose to do squats or split squats. It doesn't matter if you do bench press or flyes. If your form is poor and you are only putting in 80% effort, you will get the same result anyway.
Growing muscle is not so much about exercise selection as it is about consistency, execution and hard work. If you want your legs or your chest to grow, you just need to get in the gym and train them.
Any person that tells you that one exercise is better than the other is still focusing on niff naff. It doesn't matter if you use dumb bells or a barbell. It doesn't matter if your bench is flat or on a 30 degree incline. If your weight training program is functional, well-structured and perfectly balanced, and you are CONSISTENT day in and day out, you will build muscle.
The same can be said for things that don't have anything to do with food or training. It doesn't matter how much water you drink if you are skimping on sleep every night and skipping breakfast every morning. There is no point getting a massage/doing yoga once a week to relieve stress if you are not also willing to face whatever it is that is causing you stress in the first place.
It's true that all of these things in isolation will give you benefits. But it's a bit like robbing Peter to pay Paul. You can scrounge around for coins and hope to get rich, or you can fill your wallet with dollars and get more bang for your buck.
The choice is yours.
Every single person on this Earth has the power to get a little bit leaner if they want to do it, regardless of age, sex, hormone levels, chromosomes, DNA, illness or ailments. And it's nobody's else's business to judge you for what you are and aren't willing to do.
Most competitors won't tell you any of this because they understand that for most people, it is much more comfortable to focus on the niff naff than it is to focus on the big stuff. They already know that spending Saturday nights at home isn't as much fun as being out on the town with their friends, and that spending Sunday mornings grocery shopping and food prepping isn't as enjoyable as going out to lunch. They already know that eating ice cream is a much more comfortable way of getting over a breakup or dealing with loneliness than it is to go out for a run.
They don't want to get shot for being the messenger of bad news, so they say nothing.
Physique competitors are human beings too. They have just as many feelings as anyone else. In fact, they rarely seem interested in judging others or wanting to feel superior (despite the fact that they often feel judged by others themselves for not succumbing to peer pressure).
If anything, they appear more interested in taking ownership of their own decisions and accepting the consequences. Why whine about the choices we have made when no one has made us do it?
Might as well own it.
Happy lifting :)