Daily examination of a training diary can be among the most motivational of all bodybuilding tools. Of particular importance is writing down all the sets, reps, exercises and poundages you use. Training diaries are crucial for giving you a frame of reference and for allowing you to look back to see the progress you’ve made. If you find yourself at a sticking point, reviewing your training diary can motivate you by reinforcing the fact that sticking points are eventually conquered.

As with anything in life, how you prepare affects how you perform. Bodybuilders who establish rituals to help them prepare for their workouts find that they are much more focused during their training sessions. Six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates is a strong advocate of preparation rituals. “A few hours before my workout, I review my diary and target the sets, reps and poundages I will use that day. I visualize myself doing the exercises.”

The purpose of your workout is to serve your body, not for your body to serve the workout. Many bodybuilders become impeded by blindly trying to follow a preset routine rather than focusing on the larger goal of improving their physiques. When you become a slave to individual workouts, you have lost sight of your true goals.

Part of the preparation ritual is to ascertain what your training protocol should be for that day. Dorian explains how he approaches this concept. “Before each workout, I’ll ask myself things like ‘Do I feel strong today, or am I a little tired?’ I’ll also assess whether I have fully recuperated from the previous workout, and I might make the decision not to train that day. Other times, I’ll actually be warming up in the gym before realizing No, today’s not my day. I’m not fresh enough to give 100%.”

The human body constantly sends signals to the brain, and often we override those signals because they are not compatible with the goals we’ve set for ourselves. Becoming the best bodybuilder you can possibly be entails learning when to listen and obey these signals, and when to override them. Strive to err on the side of listening to your body over ignoring its messages. Nothing derails progress faster than injury or overtraining, and nothing causes these more readily than ignoring what your body tells you.

Conversely, take advantage of days when you feel your best. Push yourself to achieve or exceed preset goals, but do so in the context of the power workout.

FLEX continues to stress the importance of a diet high in protein for muscle building and complex carbs for sustained energy. However, if you’re in a strength-building phase, you may want to include more fat in your diet. FLEX recommends taking in approximately 15% of your daily calories in the form of healthy fats while on a pure bodybuilding diet. While you’re in a strength-building phase, increase your fat consumption to 20-25%. This can be attained by including more red meat in place of skinless chicken breast and wholeeggs instead of egg whites. However, don’t go overboard — try to stick with unsaturated fats.

Consuming more fat during a strength-building phase provides you with many benefits. Fats help make you strong by providing your body with the necessary components to create an ideal hormonal environment for increasing strength and promoting recovery. Also, fats provide your body with a sense of well-being and satiety. In short, they make you happier, and a happy bodybuilder is a motivated bodybuilder.

Your body needs more fuel (and motivation) for training days than it does for the other days of the week. Adjust your diet to give your body what it needs. Try consuming a large breakfast of ham and eggs on your workout and see if you don’t notice an increased motivation to train then. In addition, eat 100-200 grams of complex carbs from a source such as oatmeal. Complex carbs will help provide your body with a steady release of slow-burning energy throughout the day. Even if you don’t train until evening, a fully satisfying breakfast followed by a sizable lunch of roasted chicken or red meat and more complex carbs will fuel your workout more effectively than a standard bodybuilding diet designed to help reduce bodyfat.