Training the New generation of Bodybuilders: Millennials!
by Certified Fitness Trainer/Bodybuilding Coach Maxwell Alexander
I must assume that most of my bodybuilding clients will be Millennials, representatives of the new generation of consumers currently holding the most purchasing power in the United States, plus within the prime age for getting into a hobby like bodybuilding. Millennials are very different from the previous generations of athletes, bodybuilders specifically. There are several factors that distinguish them, especially when it comes to goals and motivation behind their decisionmaking. First of all, they are very environmentally and health-conscious. Fitness goals, including bodybuilding goals, must take into account their long term wellness goals, thus sustainability (and not a short term push at all costs) will be the key for them. Next is an external factor: communications and imaging technology plus social media that have fundamentally disrupted and democratized the entertainment and publishing industries (including all of the sports, and especially bodybuilding) by shifting the value and content production from institutionalized organizations to the masses.
Knowing all of the above about millennials and having them virtually introduced to my brand and approach via marketing, I know that my bodybuilding client is ready for a lifelong journey to happiness, wellness, health, vitality and a beautiful body that comes with it, without sacrificing their mental and physical health and in balance with their many other priorities. In fact, from my marketing research, I know that there is a 95% chance that the competition that they are getting ready for in 12 months isn’t the one that happens on the stage and the judges aren’t the professional bodybuilders judging a contest. It is the everyday competition and validation of one’s achievements in life that largely happens on Instagram and a few other less visual social networks with the entire Globe and humanity serving as a judge, a moral supporter and, which happens more and more often these days, a collective benefactor that sponsors one’s journey even financially.
To figure out the potential and the opportunity for my client, we’ll first asses their daily lives, bad and good habits, daily routines and work and life balance. Bodybuilding, general fitness, mental and physical wellbeing will become the highest priority of their day-to-day lives for a long period of time, or hopefully, for the rest of their life. At this point, in the conversation with my client, I will be using the positive psychology approach, which in fact helped me to ditch the smoking habit overnight by replacing it with a good habit of going to the gym every day. Some of the important daily habits we’ll cover will be the following:
Drinking more water in general and drinking water instead of alcohol, juices or soda every time. Chances are, my client is already holding a hydro flask in his/her hands knowing that proper hydration shouldn’t come at a cost of destroying the ocean on this planet. I would recommend at least 10 8oz glasses of water a day, for somebody who is actively training.
The habit of eating clean comes naturally to millennials and many of them are already cooking the main meal of the day with a meal kit delivery service – it’s a more efficient, healthier and environmentally friendlier alternative to the classic grocery store/home cooking experience. Being one of the millennials myself, I always point out the fact that cooking your own meals has not only nutritional but also psychological benefits, plus the meal kits make it fun, enjoyable and easy to get skills and a habit of cooking, which in return could even bring some social benefits. At this point, we’ll calculate the client’s BMI and body composition using a skinfold test, together we will decide if a low carb keto diet could be an option for a while or until the numbers get closer to the norm.
Bodybuilding on its own doesn’t pay bills and incorporating new and quite demanding routines in daily life comes at a cost. Millennials are busy paying their student loans on top of the newly acquired real estate mortgages, so the stakes are high when trying to make time for a hobby that doesn’t make money. We’ll discuss possible strategies to stretch the day and make room for bodybuilding training including going to sleep and starting the day earlier, replacing bar/restaurant outings with weekend hikes into the woods or playing tennis at a club nearby. looking for a job with a flexible schedule is a great approach too: I myself, back in my corporate days, worked in a wonderful company that allowed (and encouraged to use!) extra time for a gym workout during lunch break. In general, the workforce in the United States and around the world is moving in the independent contractor and freelancing direction, so that is a big heal for aspiring Instagram bodybuilders. As a world-class personal branding coach, I’ll advise my clients to start building the foundation of their personal brand, which could reduce the stress about the future and pave the way to eventually monetizing the non-paying hobby.
Bodybuilding and Personal Goals
If all of the above isn’t enough a goal on its own (happy, healthy and balanced life closer to nature) we’ll add the actual bodybuilding goals. Of course, first I will introduce my clients to the role of the visualization of the human body in the rich art history of the human civilization and will quickly take them through the evolution of the definition of beauty and the ideal human silhouette starting with ancient tribal art, ancient greek civilization (Olympic games), medieval art, and all the way to the end of the 19th century when bodybuilding was actually formed as a sport. This is particularly important for the Instagram generation since they are their own content producers, photographers, and videographers. Developing beautiful symmetrical muscles isn’t enough to reach their goals and they would need some art direction skills to get their body to come across as worthy for the Instagram judges. Setting Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely goals when it comes to muscle development and strength gains is also SMART and we’ll definitely set those goals based on the results from the initial assessment and limit strength test. We will also calculate the target heart rate zone based on the Karvonen formula. Before conducting any physical tests I will make sure that my client has been cleared by their physician to perform intense physical activity and made me aware of any injuries and medical conditions that might affect their training.
It doesn’t take much to motivate someone to live a happy and healthy life. But motivating someone to have a little bit more discipline is harder. We move towards what we see, so the power of visualization could be a great help here. Thankfully to social media, the platform where my client is participating in the contest, there is no shortage of visual inspiration. I recommend my clients to embrace the daily gym selfie routine not only to track their progress but also get the support of their peers and their coach, of course.
Dynamic Warm-up and Cool-down
I am a big fan of using warm-up and cool down as an opportunity for dynamic stretching: it is a great way to get the muscles and joints ready for the exercise by increasing blood flow and bringing more oxygen to the muscle fibers, it also might increase flexibility and make an athlete more aware of the state of his/her body while reducing a chance of injury. A fun dynamic warmup is also more effective in inducing dopamine production and getting the athlete into the zone mentally. We’ll start with the upper body and 20-30 arm circles in one direction, then in the opposite direction, while slowly increasing the tension and amplitude with each circle. Then we’ll drop down on the floor and get 10-15 t-pushups on each side while trying to reach the ceiling higher and higher every time. Next is 20-30 air squats, while trying to get closer to the floor with each squat. Then we’ll do 10 lunges with a twist on each side and finish up the warmup with 20 jumping squats while touching the floor and then swinging hands up to the ceiling with every jump. The same routine could be repeated in the opposite order for the cool down after the workout, this will help with recovery and increase the blood circulation yet again while flushing post-workout toxins and byproducts from the muscles.
Foundational Bodybuilding Training (3 months)
An increase in strength, endurance, flexibility, improvement of joints, tendons, and ligaments will be some of the goals for this phase achieved through high reps and methodical use of the core lifts with focus on the form and importance of pacing the workout load. The first few weeks will be the most challenging weeks from the mental perspective, with the new routine and habits disrupting an established schedule. My goal will be to support and encourage my clients while they transition to a new and healthier lifestyle. We will start working out at 20%-30% of the limit strength and gradually increase the load with each consecutive session to make sure that the athlete was able to develop a proper form/technique before they get to the heavier weights. I like to combine weight training with an aerobic activity using the HIIT-style principle, therefore I suggest to limit a workout session to 30-45 minutes and include 20-30 seconds of high-intensity exercise between every other set, to keep the heart rate up and maximize the fat-burning effect of each session.
Nutrition during the foundation training phase: The first two months are about learning the ropes and developing the good habits mentioned above. During this phase, I’d suggest a balanced nutrition program that will provide enough energy for the body that will start going through some dramatic changes in the weeks to come. Proper hydration will be necessary for the fat loss and flushing all the post-workout toxins. Additional supplements like multivitamins and protein will help to provide necessary building blocks to accommodate the changes as well.
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