Are you missing the extra degree of success?

October 19, 2013

I’ve spent more than 30 years in the gym and have trained hundreds of people, and one thing I’ve learned is that small changes in your routine can make huge differences in results. In fact, most people come dangerously close to achieving success but are missing one key ingredient that can make all the difference. The trick is to figure out what you are missing and fix it. Here are some suggestions to help you fine-tune your program.

Incorporate weight training

Muscle is the metabolic engine of fat burn, and the more muscle you have on your frame, the faster you can melt fat away and get in great shape. Too many people neglect weight training and opt for less threatening cardio. Don’t get me wrong; cardio is a big piece of the puzzle, but weight training will tighten your body, burn fat and create a stronger metabolism that will make it easier to stay in shape.

Try HIIT - interval cardio training

When doing cardio, it makes sense to optimize results by using methods that have been proven to work by scientists and fitness experts around the world. One thing they can all agree on is that high-intensity interval training or HIIT is an excellent way to burn fat and spare muscle. HIIT is doing cardio at two alternating levels, medium and high intensity. This basically means finding a level that’s challenging and then accelerating, going back and forth between the two levels, forcing your heart rate to work through a variety of different levels and leaving you feeling like a rag doll by the time the session is over. This can be done on cardio machines, sprints, jump rope and endless other modes of cardio. If you are not taking advantage of this valuable tool, it’s time to give it a try.

Supplement with quality proteins

Whey protein is an excellent source of protein, an abundant source of amino acids as well as being low in cholesterol, sugar, sodium and carbs. It is particularly valuable as a pre- and post-workout meal because of its ability to be quickly absorbed by the body and enter the bloodstream; it can most commonly be found in powders and premade shakes.

Casein is also a derivative of milk, but it's different from whey protein because of its unique ability to sit in the stomach and slowly release a steady stream of amino acids throughout the body, lasting up to seven hours after you eat it. This means it is a slow-digesting, muscle-sparing protein that can be used to slow muscle breakdown and spare lean tissue. Since the average person sleeps approximately eight hours a night, casein can be an excellent meal before you go to sleep to ensure your body preserves the muscle you work so hard for during the day.

Vary rep speed

Too much of anything is never good, and changing the speed of the weight bar can be a great way to confuse your body and freshen up your workout. Lifting slow and controlled is a great way to get results, because you can force your body to work through the entire range of motion of a specific exercise, keeping constant tension and pressure on the targeted muscles. Lifting heavier weights and moving the bar at a faster rate can help you build explosive strength and muscle size, because it stimulates the central nervous system and forces it to adapt to the workload. It also allows you to use larger weights you wouldn’t normally be able to handle to elicit an adaptive response in your body.

Time meals for optimal results

Timing meals correctly can provide the spark needed to ignite your metabolism and kick your program to the next level, but to do so, you must take advantage of three different windows of opportunity when your body is more receptive to absorbing nutrients - morning, post-workout and before going to bed. In the morning, your body needs fuel and energy, and can handle larger meals with more carbohydrates and a quality protein. After your workout, your body needs to replenish nutrients and glycogen to build and repair muscles. And at night before bed, drinking 40 grams of casein can provide up to eight hours of timed-release, muscle-repairing nutrients that can feed muscles and supercharge results.

Make lifestyle changes

Getting in shape isn’t easy; if it was everyone would do it. Therefore, if you want to sculpt your body, you will have to make lifestyle changes and be prepared to give up what you want now for what you would like accomplish tomorrow. This means there will be times when you close down the gym on a Friday night to get the week's workouts done; you don’t drink on weekends when everyone else is having a good time, or you pass on your favorite dessert because you have a couple more pounds to lose before reaching your goals.

As the old saying goes, water is hot at 211 degrees, but at 212 degrees it begins to boil, and with boiling water comes steam. And steam can power a locomotive, so turn up the heat, because you could be one degree from achieving the results of a lifetime.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out