Fitness isn’t complicated. It might feel crushing, merciless, and soul-sucking at times, but it’s actually pretty basic. The fact that it is as straightforward as it seems could be why some people want to make it more complicated–by trying to find a life hack, some other way of approaching their health, that doesn’t involve the hard work of exercising and eating less.
However, I began to think that life hacks that break fitness down into simple steps can help us find the motivation to show up and stick with it. Here are a few underrated fitness hacks to help you on your fitness journey.
Important Compound Lifts: Deadlifts, Squats, Bench Press
These lifts work each muscle of your body, and over time, you’ll see different gains. When I began to workout around these lifts, starting my day with lifts and then zeroing in on squatting, rowing, and deadlifting more each week, I found that my whole body began to see significant progress. As my deadlifts became stronger, I found I could also do more pullups, run more quickly while playing sports, and do heavier bicep curls. As my deadlift got more grounded, I had the option to do far more pullups, run a lot quicker while playing sports, and bicep twist considerably more. Building strength is considered the most important building block of weightlifting.
While intermittent fasting has been popular lately, I believe it merits the attention. Throw out any of the magic benefits that some people talk about–for me, it’s all about a solid diet. Getting all my nutrition into one meal (or two) actually means I’m eating less calories while feeling more full. It’s actually easier not to eat for a larger portion of the day (other than maybe a banana and black coffee) and then to eat chicken and steamed vegetables and eggs later until I’m full. When you get used to eating this way, it doesn’t feel restrictive.
Make It Fun
After I quit playing sports in school, it took me a while to really focus on fitness.
Going to the gym for an hour to lift weights while sweating and grunting and then clinging to every single second of rest time between sets was garbage. I can’t tell you the exact “aha” moment when going to the gym became something I looked forward to doing. I think it was a combination of seeing improvement and also having friends at the gym to workout with, but over time, I began to discover something profounding relaxing in setting my playlist for 60 minutes to lift. Having a steady stream of music helps when you have several hundred pounds of steel hanging over your head. It’s even more fun when you time your lifts to the beat of the music. When it was fun, I rarely missed a session. Even for cardio, playing basketball or soccer or climbing was a lot easier than running on the treadmill and hating every minute of it.
When you combine weightlifting with intermittent fasting and make the workout fun, you’ll see considerably more progress. Without nailing down these three life hacks first, the next two won’t make much of a difference.
Weighted Pull-ups and Dips
Pull-ups and dips target the muscles that make up the “V” outline for men. They’ll make your back stronger, build up your shoulders, strengthen your core, and even tone your arms. When you’re able to increase the weight, they’re nearly as powerful as the essential compound lifts. When I was able to hit my target on pull ups and dips in an intense 5-8 rep range with heavier weights, I was happy with my progress. These are amazing exercises for arm days much like deadlifts are for the back.
Typically, I have a deadlift + back day, a pull up + shoulder day, a weighted pullup/dip + bicep/tricep day, and a squat + cry day.
Find a hill. Run 50 yards up. Walk back down. Repeat this 6-12 times. The most surprising part is when you check your watch and see that it only took you 15 minutes–it’ll feel like f*cking forever. I began doing them to increase my speed for sports. It was great for speed and for burning a crazy amount of calories.
Fitness is simple, but for some can be overwhelming. With these five life hacks, you just might find that you start to enjoy it, too.