1. TRAIN HARD!
This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, Train Hard! Yes there will be your days when you work light, but the majority of the time you should be giving it your all. Try to squeeze everything you can out of your muscles in a safe manner. Also your workout should revolve around compound lifts (sometimes called your “Big lifts“), using isolation exercises only as supplementary.
One effective method would be to use a bodyweight exercise to finish off a weight lifting routine, one that would wring out whatever your muscles have left.
Bench Press 3setsX10reps
Incline Bench Press 3setsX10reps
Finish off: Push ups till failure
When your walk out of your training area, you want to feel satisfied and that you really gave it your all. Focus is the name of the game!
2. TRAIN SMART!
Weightlifting is a science, not an art, treat it as one. Know your principles and exactly what you are doing and why, don’t just walk in a gym and do random exercises because you’re ‘feeling it’. Construct a program based on science and with a sound theory, not on myth and taste. You’re going to have to adjust everything to suit you and there must be reason for each and everything that you do.
Training today isn’t training 30 years ago (or even 20 years ago, probably not even 10 years ago…as a matter of fact just recently suspension training has gained popularity and has merit to it, so yeah…), and now we have an abundance of studies and resources available. Sometimes however it is best to go with the old school, but don’t ignore new developments in weightlifting and sports studies. As I said before, have reason for everything you do, and evidence to back it up.
3. TRAIN SAFE!
Get the equipment that you need (I.e gloves, lifting straps, belt, etc), and set your safely pins, especially if your going heavy. You are mad if you are accustom to doing heavy deadlifts or free-weight barbell squats without a belt, and you wont be able to reach your total limit with barbell shrugs without some straps. When in the power cage or on a platform, set your pins incase the weight is too much and you just need to let it go. Better to make a loud ‘CLANG’ than to injure yourself.
Overtraining will cause more harm than good. If you have over trained you will know, strain and muscle burn during recovery are different feelings. Have no fear, once u haven’t injured yourself, proper nutrition and rest would fix you up in no time. The real problem with overtraining is that it could hamper your workout routine on a whole.
The perfect example of this would be when I over trained myself on a chest workout. My chest isn’t nearly as strong as I think it should be, and I work a lot of endurance with it. So I get this idea in my head one day that I need to push my chest that day with a lower rep range and increase my weight drastically. Now while this is a method of strength gain, I overdid it a little. A heavy bench and incline bench press that day (plus me spotting a guy who was trying to press a weight he shouldn’t have gone near) ensured that I ended up overtraining, but it wasn’t my chest , it was my anterior deltoids that felt the strain. This ensured that I wasn’t able to hit my shoulders (and I love doing shoulders -_-) later that week. Don’t let your mind push you further than your muscles can physically handle, if overtraining is a norm for you, you are looking for an injury.
Eat a lot, Eat often. For all of those guys who think that eating healthy consists of eating 2 salads a day and drinking a glass of water, news flash: muscle doesn’t grow out of thin air! How can you expect your muscles to grow if your not feeding them? Also, as much as products out there claim to be “meal replacements” there is no substitute for a whole solid meal.
You should follow some sort of diet program tailored to your goals, but at the end of the day if your hungry, then simply put, EAT MORE. Just be sure to eat healthy, and eat very often if you can. A little junk food, or a beer every now and then wont kill you if you’re working out properly (I don’t however mean to go and drink down a beer after every hard training session or to take 2 days out of the week to eat a whole tub of ice cream). Carbs, protein and essential fats must be consumed on a daily basis (also, hydrate, lost of water daily). Most times, it isn’t about how many calories you consume, what matters is that are they good calories, or are you going to super-size that?
You don’t grow in the gym, you grow at home. Once the proper nutrition in place, you grow when you sleep. Your mind and body is being recharged when you sleep and your body will use the rest time that you give it to repair itself. The average man should get in 7-8 hrs of sleep a night, and 6-7 is recommended for a woman. It is sometimes suggested that you sneak in a 30-45min nap at some point during the day if you are feeling fatigued that day. Increasing rest time is also a method of recovering from over-training.
In addition to this, it is also advisable to take one week off every 8-12 weeks as a complete ‘rest week.’ This should allow your body to recuperate fully from the stress that it has been undergoing from long intense programs. Going back the next week with your muscles fresh could actually prepare you for even heavier weights, or higher reps, resulting in more gains.
Whether you’re taking multi-vitamins and a good peanut punch, or you go the whole 9 yards stacking multiple protein shakes, nitric oxide, thermogetics, creatine monohydrate, etc (the list of different types of products goes on and on), you’re going to need something extra for your system. Supplement are anything supplemental to your diet, and can make a world of different in your performance and results when used properly with a sound workout program. Stack what you need to based on your goals. You’re a hard gainer looking for muscle? Mass gainer protein shakes. You have a serious weight problem that is effecting your health and because of genetics (endomorphic usually), diet and exercise just not cutting it? Thermogetic fat burners. Make sure you are using products that have been proven to work and that have yielded results, they’re are a lot of placebos out there.
Know what you are doing, know what you are taking, and remember 3 golden rules about supplementing –
(1): Supplements can do wonders but NOT on their own, the onus is on you to put in the work in the gym and on the floor.
(2):Supplements are an addition to your daily diet, not a replacement for it (even meal replacements cant truly substitute for a solid meal).
(3): Know what you’re putting into your body. Try new things, but don’t just go and take anything that looks pretty and promises instant miracles. In most cases good marketing defeats quality in terms of sales. Know the facts, consult your doctor, trainer, or hell, send me an e-mail and I‘ll tell u what I can.
Personally I don’t believe in using any products that aren’t natural. Whey and Casein protein is great, vitamins (from vitamin C all the way to sports multi-vitamins) are needed many times to keep from and deal with getting sick. Personally in not a fan of creatine monohydrate and not particularly willing to try it (yes I know of the benefits, but I don’t like the idea of the loading phase and potential health risks). The point is, know the pros and cons of what you’re taking.
Example of a decent stack (somewhat similar to what I would use during heavy workout periods)
Whey Protein shake (post-workout)
Timed released (e.g. Casein) protein shake (bedtime)
Nitric Oxide product (pre-workout)
Vitamin C (boost immune system)
Vitamin B50complex (boost immune system)
Bonus: Pre-workout punch recipe
1 scoop whey protein shake (optional for additional protein)
2tbls Peanut butter
2tbls Wheat germ
1 glass tube ginseng extract
Blend together and enjoy J.
7. USE VARIETY!
There is no end all, holy grail, or golden workout routine. Variety is the key to keep your muscles growing. Some call it muscle confusion and claim that you are ‘tricking’ your body into grow, and ‘keep is guessing’. Did anyone ever hear what was SAID? Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. Your body is going to attempt to adapt to whatever conditions you introduce it to, so if you exercise in a different way from time to time, your body is going to try to grow in different ways (plateau busting!). There are endless combinations for workout routines. For variety you can change the Exercises, Sets, Reps, Order of exercises, Rest time between sets, etc, or if you have some experience under your belt, use advanced techniques such as; supersets, giant sets, forced reps, dropsets, etc. For good variety, I’m a firm believer in throwing in body weight exercises (as both incorporating them as part of a weight lifting routine or having a ‘bodyweight week’ every now and then).
Stretch lightly before and after any and all resistance training exercises. This is important to keep you from being muscle bound, and helps to keep your muscles supple, and ultimately prevents many injuries. This rule is especially important for martial artists and sportsmen who lift weights. Some put aside one day a week to do serious stretching, and while this is excellent, it must be coupled with light stretching on actual workout days for the corresponding body parts.
9. BE CONSISTENT!
Being consistent doesn’t mean working out every day (in fact that would probably be overdoing it and could be a dangerous addiction rather than a beneficial activity). You should have a plan and stick to it. Many people synchronize their work week with their workout split, e.g. Monday-chest+triceps, Tueday-Legs, etc. A tactic I prefer to use is organizing a ‘workout week’ in which I would complete a full cycle of a workout split covering my entire body, which could run anywhere from seven days to ten days. Another good way to regulate yourself would be to choose a number of days to complete your routine in. It is best to go with a number of days each week and stick too it, e.g. 2-3 (full body workouts), 3-5 (split routines). Take a week off every now and then, and if u need additional rest, take it, but training a week on, a week off isn’t being consistent. Set a realistic quotas based on your body, type of training, time available and mobility , and meet them
10. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
Your body is smart, listen to what it tells you. Yes you have to push yourself. Yes muscles burn and tell you to quit or stay down and you have to fight it, but be smart about it and what you push yourself through. You don’t want to pull a muscle, far less tear one, nor do you want to damage a joint or even your spine. If you feel a certain amount, or type of pain that you know isn’t good, stop immediately, let down the weight or position you’re holding. That being said, pain inhibitors and muscle relaxants shouldn’t be taken prior to a workout (and even taking it post-workout could inhibit muscle growth). Pain is your body telling you something is wrong. Your body has limits and you should realize them and work with your body to surpass them one day, rather than in one day.
Everyone is guilty of breaking at least one of their workout rules at one time or another, and sometimes have to learn the hard way. I’ve myself broken every single one of my own rules at one point or another, and multiple ones at once already. Needless to say I’ve learn my lesson each time and try to uphold those rules as best as I can. Without proper rules and guidelines, your workouts to some extent will be in vain. Hard Work and Dedication Produces Results.