The 80-20 Rule to Maximize Your Fitness

When you develop a passion and love for fitness, it becomes your healthy obsession. You want to know as much as you can to improve your physique and mental well-being through exercise and nutrition. However, sometimes you are thinking a little too hard and actually doing too much. You don’t want to get lost in the trivial details. It’s not about how much you do but what you are doing to maximize results. This begins and ends with the 80-20 rule.

The 80-20 Rule

Let’s examine the basis of the 80-20 rule. Dr. Joseph Juran, working on quality and management principles in the 1930’s and 1940’s, recognized a universal principle that he called the “vital few and trivial many”, in which 20 percent of something is responsible for 80 percent of the results. This became known as the Pareto Principle, or the 80-20 rule. In other words, focus on the 20% that matters. The other 80% is not going to get you nearly the results as focusing on the other 20%. For example, Juran observed that 20% of the people owned 80% of the wealth. Or that 20% of defects caused 80% of the problems. You can apply this rule to almost anything.

So let’s relate this 80-20 principle to bodybuilding. Let’s focus on the 20% that matters such as:


The easiest part about going to the gym is not going. There is no excuse to not exercise if you have 30 minutes in your day. If you can’t find the time to go to the gym, do a home workout. Put yourself in a routine, in which you exercise a minimum of 3 days a week. If you’re spending an hour or two a day watching TV and not going to the gym then you need to really look at yourself in the mirror. When you’re working out, do it with intensity. Make your time worth it. The harder you train your body and more frequently you workout, the better your results. Just make sure you aren’t overtraining (which we discuss below). You should mainly focus on doing compound exercises when training since they are the fastest way to build muscle and strength. However, your body may respond to doing more isolation-based exercises than usual. While it may be tougher to diet properly, you should at least try to clean up your diet if you haven’t already. You don’t have to do a complete overhaul (but the cleaner you eat, the better). For example, try to limit your carbohydrates late at night and stay away from junk food. Try to have protein in every meal and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Start with the smaller changes and work your way up.

Researching and seeing what works for you

Every person responds differently to exercise. For example, you may see better results doing lower reps than higher reps. Or you may notice that working with dumbbells builds up your strength and physique better than barbells. You need to see what works for you. Don’t just do exercises for the sake of doing them. See how your body responds to everything you do. Everybody has a different genetic makeup. This is what makes human being so unique. You need to take this into consideration whenever you are exercising. Don’t just do the same exercises as your friends. It may work for them better than it’s working for you.


Changing up your routine

The human body is amazing. No matter what we throw at it, it adapts, and it adapts quickly. You may frequently experience a plateau if you aren’t changing up your routine every month or so. Some things you can do are increasing your intensity, switching up your exercises, introducing drop sets, incorporating negative reps, changing the order of your exercises, etc. You don’t have to completely transform your routine but try switching up a few exercises here and there to really shock your body to new growth.

Following a plan of progression

Your body will adapt to heavier weight over time. This is how you become stronger. Over time you need to lift heavier weight. If you keep doing the same weight over and over again, you won’t see many results. We all want to become stronger. Strength also helps build lean muscle. While maintaining proper form, increase the weight every few weeks. Keep a log book with you to track your progress so you know you’ve really become stronger. Another alternative is doing more reps with the same weight or even doing more sets. Either way, you need to do more eventually.

Getting adequate recovery

Your body grows when you rest. You should give yourself 1-2 days off a week so your muscles can grow back bigger and stronger. When you workout, you are tearing and damaging the muscle fibers. Therefore, you need to adapt to the stress placed on it. If you are frequently training without resting then you will overtrain and never really see any true results. Your body will start producing cortisol, a stress hormone that contributes to muscle wasting and fat loss. There is just so much that your body can handle in a day so don’t train it to death or you’ll feel like death!


The other 80% concerns smaller details. For example, should you do 12 reps instead of 8 reps? What about the best angle for incline dumbbell press? Is 30 grams of protein the ideal protein? Yes, there is some importance to this kind of stuff. However, everything can’t take priority. Just go intense in the gym and give yourself proper rest. Focus on compound exercises. Eat clean. Be consistent! You’ll see great results. Doing a few less reps in each set or lifting the weight with a certain angle is not going to make a huge difference in your physique. There’s a difference between thinking and over-analyzing. Don’t let the 80% prevent you from focusing on the 20% that matters.

Get Excited About Fitness. Get Moving on Your Goals.

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