The first thing you need to do is make sure you have a good base of basic fitness. If not, then it’s time to start training again!
If you are new to weightlifting, or just starting out with the sport, I would recommend that you begin by doing some light weights (around 5 lbs) for a few sets of five reps at least three times per week. You might want to try a different exercise each time. Try a front squat, back squat, lunges, step ups, etc…
Once you feel comfortable with these exercises, you can move up in weight slowly over several weeks until you are able to perform 10-12 repetitions at a set weight. Then gradually work your way down from there.
As far as programming goes, you will want to follow the same routine that you followed when you were lifting for size. For example, if you started off with 5 lb dumbbells, then add 5 lbs every two weeks until you reach 15 lb dumbbells. Keep adding weight and decreasing rest periods between sets until your goal is reached.
For those of us who have been lifting for years now, we may have forgotten what our “goal” was originally. If you’re like me, it probably wasn’t to squat 400lbs! Most of us picked up weights as a means of physical therapy, or as an afterthought while pursuing another passion.
If this is the case, then you need to re-discover your passion for the sport, or drop it altogether and try something new (which might be difficult if you’re already deep into it).
Another great way to add pounds to your squat is to perform more than one set per exercise. Many of us tend to follow the “more is better” mentality, so this may seem counter-intuitive at first.
This certainly isn’t true for ALL exercises, however. You might be able to bench press 225lbs for 10 reps, but that doesn’t mean you should try to bring that up to 250 lbs. What it DOES mean is that you could try to bench 225lbs for 20 reps.
Either way your goal is still being accomplished; you’re just changing your focus.
Try going for more volume instead of more intensity (higher weight, lower reps). By doing this, you can still train each muscle group 3-4 times a week without over-training, and your joints should also appreciate the decrease in poundage.
I mentioned “re-discovering your passion” a moment ago. This can be done in a number of ways. One of the best (and easiest) things that I have done in this regard is to change the order that I perform my exercises.
We tend to get stuck in a rut, doing the same routine over and over again, while hoping to see different results. Just like any other aspect of life, we need to mix it up on occasion!
If you are a powerlifter, then you probably don’t want to experiment with this too much, as your main concern is to lift the maximum weight, not pump up your physique.
However, if you’re like me, and you just want to look good without placing too much emphasis on how much weight you can lift, then I would recommend changing the order in which you perform the exercises. You may find that your body responds better to this variation. If this is the case, then you’ve just saved yourself from spending countless hours at the gym with no appreciable results.
There are numerous resources available to help you learn which exercises work best for which body part. If you’re like me, however, and you prefer to find out things for yourself, then I would recommend two books: “The Muscle Gaining Secrets” and “The Bodybuilding Truth”. The first one explains which exercises target which muscle groups and why.
The second one gives specific instructions on how to perform the exercises, and the order in which you should perform them.
There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a workout, only to discover that you’re doing everything completely wrong!
These two books will help you from making this very common mistake. They also give you a good idea on what the exercises entail, so you can avoid any of those embarrassing moments when the instructor tells you to start by bending over and picking up the bar!
Your main goal should be to increase the size of your muscles. This means that you want to eat more food than you’re currently eating. Add a few calories here and there, and before long, you’ll find that you’re eating enough food to feed a small nation!
Judging by your e-mail, you seem to have a lot of misinformation on this topic. Let’s set the record straight. You DO NOT need to eat everything in sight in order to gain weight.
I’ve never eaten more than 10000 calories a day, and I’ve gained over a pound a week for as long as I can remember.
Obviously, if you’re an ectomorph (natural hard-gainer), then you’ll have to put away more food than the average person. However, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to eat everything in sight in order to gain weight. Just eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full.
It’s really that simple!
There are plenty of nutritious, high-calorie foods out there if you know where to look. Some of my favorites include: peanut butter (check the nutrition label: peanuts are very high in calories!); peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; big macs, whoppers, or anything from Mc.
Donalds (crazy, I know, but their sandwiches contain over 1000 calories each! Avoid the fries though); 5-lb. bags of sugar (yes, you read that right. A 5-lb. bag of sugar contains over 5000 calories!); etc.
The important thing is, if you’re hungry, eat! Your main concern right now is to eat as much food as possible in order to gain weight. Once you’ve reached your desired weight, you can worry about eating healthy food.
You might feel a little puffy at first, but that feeling should go away after a few weeks. Don’t worry, it’s normal. It’ll go away.
I know this is a lot of food, but I assure you, you can afford to eat this much. You probably don’t exercise enough for all of it to be turned into fat. However, if you still feel skeptical, buy a pair of “fat calipers”.
These things measure how much fat you have on your body. If you buy a quality pair, they’re pretty accurate. If you’re like me, and you’ve got little to no fat on your body, then it’ll confirm that you can indeed eat a lot more than most people without gaining fat.
Warning: avoid “weight gain” products. These things are packed with sugars and starches that turn to fat very easily. They’re full of things like corn oil, maltodextrin, et cetera.
Gaining weight is easy. Putting on lean muscle mass is much harder. If you’re serious about weight training, then eat as I’ve described, and you should have no problems in that area.
UPDATE: I just found this excellent article that explains the calorie issue far better than I ever could. Here’s the link:
Weight Gain for Teenagers
Also, I wrote an article for teenagers that are having a hard time gaining weight. Here’s the link:
A Guide to Eating for Teenage Weight Gain
3. The importance of rest
This is just as important as exercise. Your muscles grow while you rest, not when you’re working out. When you’re working out, you’re just tearing the muscles down so that they may be built back up again.
It’s during the rest period that the real “growing” happens.
Give your muscles at least 1 day of rest, preferably 2 days, between weight training sessions. I prefer to divide my body into 3 sections (as described in #1), and work each section once a week. Although I must remind you, I’ve been training for nearly 20 years, so if you’re just starting out, you may want to start with a 2-day split, then move to a 3-day split as you get more experienced.
Also, another misconception about weight training is that one should “rest” between sets. That is, if you’re doing chest today, you should wait 1-2 minutes before doing your first set. This is FALSE.
You want to rest ONLY until you’re ready to perform another set with proper form. Don’t wait until you’re fully “recovered”, because that’ll just make for a longer training session, and there’s no point in that.
Also, as I mentioned before, eat a good meal 1-2 hours before beginning your weight training session. This’ll provide you with the energy you need, and it’ll also spike your hormones such as testosterone to aid your gains.
4. The importance of supplements
You don’t NEED supplements to gain muscle and lose fat, but they certainly help. They can cut down the time it takes to achieve your goals, and in some cases, they can enable you to achieve goals that would’ve been impossible otherwise.
Here’s a list of the most important supplements for your goal, with a brief description of each.
Protein Powder: Used to provide your body with protein. You can also consume protein through regular food, but drinking it is much more convenient. I typically drink protein before and after my weight training sessions.
My favorite is Designer Protein’s “Chocolate Molten Cake”. Whey is another popular type of protein powder, but I find that it tastes like absolute crap, so I wouldn’t recommend it. Protein powder can also be used as a substitute for food, in case you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to make or buy a real meal.
Multi-Vitamin: Used to fill in the gaps in your nutrition if you’re having trouble eating healthfully. A multi-vitamin can also make up for a less than optimal diet. I wouldn’t recommend using a multi-vitamin as an excuse to eat like crap, but if you’re stuck eating junk food, then at least try to get a multivitamin.
Fish Oil: Used to combat inflammation and improve joint health, which will help you avoid pain in your knees and hips (both of which are very common among heavy weights). I also find it helps me keep my weight down. There’s really no excuse not to take it, as it has no side effects and it’s cheap.
Glutamine: Aids in muscle recovery, which is very important if you’re working out regularly. I notice a huge difference when I take it and when I don’t. It can also help prevent muscle catabolism (breakdown).
I notice the difference when I take 2 servings (4 capsules) per day, as opposed to 1 serving (2 capsules).
Cortisol Blocker: Used to combat cortisol, which is a stress hormone that breaks down muscle. Cortisol is released when you’re stressed, which is also a common problem among competitive athletes. There are many herbal solutions for this problem, such as rhodiola rosea, but I have no personal experience with them.
While weight training will improve your endurance in the long run, you still need to perform cardio in order to maximize endurance gains. The best option is to perform HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). This type of cardio consists of alternating between low and high intensity levels.
An example of this would be to sprint as fast as you can on a treadmill for 20 seconds, then walk at a slower pace for 40 seconds, and repeating this for roughly 30 minutes.
You can also perform traditional cardio, such as running or biking, for roughly 30 minutes.
While this guide is focused on strength training, I highly recommend adding in some HIIT or traditional cardio three times a week on non-lifting days. If you’re interested in adding in some cardio but you don’t have access to a gym or other equipment, then I recommend the App “7-Minute Workout.” The app offers a wide variety of beginner friendly workouts that only take 7 minutes, and it plays some music while you work out to keep you motivated.
Good luck! And most of all, have fun! Bodybuilding shouldn’t feel like a chore, it should be something that you look forward to every day.
Otherwise you’re just wasting your time.
While sleep isn’t an actual part of bodybuilding, it’s an important aspect that 99% of bodybuilders overlook. Sleep is just as important as your nutrition and training programs. Luckily, it’s something that’s very easy to fix and most of the time it’s just fixing your mindset.
You have to train yourself to fall asleep at a reasonable hour every night. Your body produces the most testosterone as a response to sleep, so getting enough of it is very important.
If you have trouble falling asleep I recommend taking a warm shower before bed or reading in bed. Both of these tricks relax your muscles and your mind, preparing you for sleep.
Goodluck! Thanks for reading!
Sources & references used in this article:
Getting Stronger: Weight Training for Sports by B Pearl – 2005 – books.google.com
How to make love to a negro without getting tired by D Laferrière – 2010 – books.google.com
Squat Every Day: Thoughts on overtraining and recovery in strength training by M Perryman – 2013 – books.google.com
Knee osteoarthritis: influence of work involving heavy lifting, kneeling, climbing stairs or ladders, or kneeling/squatting combined with heavy lifting by LK Jensen – Occupational and environmental medicine, 2008 – oem.bmj.com
Build Better Knees: The Ultimate Program For Runners Who Want, Stronger Pain-Free Knees Without Medications Or Surgery by M Kalia – 2015 – books.google.com
5/3/1: The Simplest and Most Effective Training System to Increase Raw Strength by J Wendler – 2011 – megawrzuta.pl
Acute effects of elastic bands during the free-weight barbell back squat exercise on velocity, power, and force production by MW Stevenson, JM Warpeha, CC Dietz… – The Journal of …, 2010 – journals.lww.com