The 10 Most Important Lessons From the Weight Room

1) You Can’t Train All Your Muscles at Once

“You cannot train all your muscles at once.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

It is true that it is possible to train several muscle groups simultaneously. However, if you do so, you will have less energy for other exercises and may even injure yourself. Therefore, it is better to focus on only one or two of these groups during each training session.

2) Muscle Hypertrophy Is Not Just About Adding Size

“Muscle hypertrophy is not just about adding size; it’s about increasing strength, power, speed and endurance.” – Mark Rippetoe

There are many ways to increase muscle mass. One way is through resistance training. Another method involves dieting down and then bulking up again. A third method is using drugs such as steroids or growth hormones (GH).

3) Strength Training Is More Effective Than Cardio For Building Muscle Mass

“Strength training is more effective than cardio for building muscle mass.” – Mark Rippetoe

Cardio is great when you want to lose weight, but it isn’t very good for building muscle. When you perform cardio, your heart rate slows down and blood flow to your muscles decreases. This causes the amount of calories burned by your body to decrease.

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4) The Strongest Muscle Is the One You Don’t Train

“The strongest muscle is the one you don’t train.” – Mark Rippetoe

Work on your weakest muscles and you will notice a significant increase in strength and endurance in your other muscle groups as well. If you’re already reasonably fit, then this concept applies to your most under-trained muscles.

5) Muscle Mass Decreases With Age

“Muscle mass decreases with age.” – Mark Rippetoe

After the age of thirty, the body starts to decrease muscle mass and increase fat mass. This process begins much earlier in life for some people because of poor nutrition and a lack of exercise.

6) Some People Are Born With “Muscle Memory”

“Some people are born with “muscle memory.”” – Mark Rippetoe

Some people are naturally more gifted than others. This concept is known as “muscle memory” and refers to an innate ability to perform certain physical feats. Some people just seem to be able to pick up a sport and play it better than others. They can also master new physical skills faster than the average person.

7) Muscles Can Grow Even After Age Thirty

“Muscles can grow even after age thirty.” – Mark Rippetoe

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For most people, it is difficult to build muscle after age thirty. This makes perfect sense when one considers that the body starts to slowly break down after this age. However, if you eat right and exercise, it is possible to maintain or even build muscle mass after this important life milestone.

8) You Can Build Muscle Without Weights

“You can build muscle without weights.” – Mark Rippetoe

Muscle can be built by doing push-ups, pull-ups, and similar exercises.

The question is: are these exercises effective at building muscle when compared to lifts such as deadlifts, barbell rows, and bench presses?

The answer is no, not even close.

9) Negative Training Increases Strength & Muscle Mass

“Negative training increases strength and muscle mass.” – Mark Rippetoe

Negative training is the practice of lowering heavy weights rather than lifting them. For instance, if you were doing barbell rows, you would lower the weight rather than lift it. The lowering phase is known as the “negative” portion of the exercise.

10) When Doing Negative Training, Lower the Weight in 5-10 Secounds

“When doing negative training, lower the weight in 5-10 seconds.” – Mark Rippetoe

How long should you take to lower the weight?

Research suggests that lowering a weight in five to ten seconds results in greater strength gains than lowering it any slower or faster. Go too slow and you don’t challenge your muscles; go too fast and you risk injury.

11) Three Sets of Light, Medium, and Heavy Resistance Training Performed Twice Per Week Is Most Effective

“Three sets of light, medium, and heavy resistance training performed twice per week is most effective.” – Mark Rippetoe

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Research suggests that three sets of ten reps of light weight, ten reps of medium weight, and ten reps of heavy weight per workout provides the best return on investment in terms of strength gains. Many fitness “gurus” recommend lots of sets; however, this approach is inefficient.

12) Six Small Meals Are Better Than Three Large Meals

“Six small meals are better than three large meals.” – Mark Rippetoe

Eating six small meals a day helps you to stay energized and keep your metabolism running optimally. Many trainers recommend three large meals; however, this is bad advice for several reasons.

13) Three Full-Body Workouts Per Week Are Best at Igniting Muscle Growth

“Three full-body workouts per week are best at igniting muscle growth.” – Mark Rippetoe

The most effective workout program involves training all the major muscles in your body three times a week with just a few exercises per body part. This is far superior to the bro split of six workouts a week where you focus on just a few muscles at a time.

14) Rotate Your Exercises Every Two To Four Weeks

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“Rotate your exercises every two to four weeks.” – Mark Rippetoe

The body gets used to any routine if it is practiced too long. The solution is to switch up your exercises every twelve to sixteen days. For maximum gains, it is best to learn from experts and then modify their routines to suit your needs and goals.

15) Do Not Waste Time Stretching

“Do not waste time stretching.” – Mark Rippetoe

Stretching is often advocated by fitness “experts” as a way of preventing injury and increasing flexibility. It is true that doing some light warmup stretches can help prevent injury, however, any benefit gained is minimal at best.

16) Do Not Focus on Cardio

“Do not focus on cardio.” – Mark Rippetoe

Many people focus too much on cardio in their quest for strength and muscle gains. They jog, cycle or do the elliptical for an hour a day in addition to their regular workouts. This is completely unnecessary if your goal is to gain strength and muscle; in fact, it is counterproductive. Save your cardio for after your workouts or just shorten your workout if you need to burn off some extra energy.

17) Forget About Supplements

“Forget about supplements.” – Mark Rippetoe

Most supplements are a waste of money. They are labeled as being effective, yet they rarely deliver any significant results. Even worse, some supplements are downright dangerous. Creatine, for example, may cause renal damage in some people.

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Your best bet is to get your nutrition and supplements right through whole foods. If you are eating a well-balanced diet, then you do not need to supplement anything.

18) Take a Week Off Every Three To Four Months

“Take a week off every three to four months.” – Mark Rippetoe

The body responds to stress, either physical or mental, by adapting to that stressor. When you lift weights, your muscles grow in response to the overload placed on them. The same is true if you are doing physical work such as moving furniture.

If you do not provide your body with new stresses, it will not adapt and will eventually hit a plateau where it stops gaining strength and muscle. Taking a break every once in a while is good for your mental well-being as well because it prevents burnout.

A week off from serious training should be enough to prevent atrophy in your major muscle groups.

19) Avoid Lifting With a Crowd

“Avoid lifting with a crowd.” – Mark Rippetoe

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Most of the people you will find in a commercial gym are not there to actually get in shape or gain muscle. They are usually just trying to lose a few pounds or look good in a swimsuit.

You will never gain maximum strength and muscle gains if you are constantly surrounded by 95 lb. weaklings who have no business being in a gym. You need to be around other people who push you to greater lengths.

This does not mean you need to isolate yourself. Find a small group of reliable friends you can train with on a regular basis. Only then can you provide sufficient motivation for each other to achieve your maximum potential.

20) Rest and Recover

“Rest and recover.” – Mark Rippetoe

As important as it is to keep your body in tip-top shape, it is even more important to take care of your mind. Take time to rest and relax. Go out and enjoy your life. Do things that you enjoy and spend time with people you care about.

If you are constantly stressed out and worrying about things, then your workouts will suffer for it. If you are not in a good mental state, then you will not be able to take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way.

Your mind and body need to be in balance for you to achieve your maximum potential in strength training.

21) Be Realistic

“Be realistic.” – Mark Rippetoe

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Understand that you are not going to get huge by weightlifting. No matter how hard you work or how perfect your routine is, you will not look like the guys you see in the muscle magazines.

While it is certainly true that weightlifting can greatly enhance your overall attractiveness, you will never look like a professional bodybuilder. Those guys are on steroids. If you want to know what you will look like after weightlifting, then just look at professional weightlifters.

The average elite-level powerlifter can expect to bench press 550 lbs, squat 750 lbs, and deadlift 775 lbs in competition. If you can bench press more than 400 lbs, squat more than 600 lbs, and deadlift more than 600 lbs, then you are well on your way to being a monster. But you still won’t look like the guys in the magazines.

22) Form and Technique Are Paramount

“Form and technique are paramount.” – Mark Rippetoe

Your muscles are surprisingly resilient. You do not need to lift in a way that puts your joints and bones at risk of injury.

As long as you keep your form in check, you can lift far beyond what others think is possible for your age and experience. While your muscles will grow stronger and more muscular, your connective tissues will remain relatively weak if you do not also focus on technique.

You want your joints to be as strong as the muscles that move them if you want to continue to lift without injury for the rest of your life. This requires not only strength training, but also practicing proper form and technique.

23) Listen to Your Body

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“Listen to your body.” – Mark Rippetoe

Your body is your instrument in the gym. Just like a professional musician needs to keep their instrument tuned, you must do the same for your body or it will not perform well. If something is “out of tune”, then you need to adjust it before you play.

This means being able to feel the working muscles, joints, and tendons and knowing how they should feel during the performance. If something feels wrong, then you need to stop and figure out what is wrong. Common issues are poor form, insufficient warmup, bad diet the day before, or something more serious like aging, injury, or illness.

Keep a training log to help you figure out what the problem is. Keep notes on how each workout felt and how your body felt the day after. This will help you become more in tune with your body so you know how to keep it in tune.

24) Keep a Training Log

“Keep a training log.” – Mark Rippetoe

A training log is an essential tool for any lifter or athlete. It keeps track of your workouts, how you are progressing, what works for you, what doesn’t work, and most importantly it holds you accountable for your actions.

Without a training log, how will you know if you’re getting stronger?

At best, you’ll have a guess. By keeping records you’ll know what is and isn’t working for you.

It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just something where you can record what exercises you did, how much weight, how many reps, how many sets, and how you felt that day. There are plenty of free apps for mobile phones that will do this for you.

Or you can keep a notebook like I do.

25) Simplify

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“Simplify.” – Mark Rippetoe

As your training log gets more detailed, it will become more difficult to read. You’ll want to make things easier for yourself by abbreviating or using slang. This is fine as long as you know what you mean.

Eventually, it will just be a jumble of numbers and abbreviations.

What do all of these numbers even mean? How are you improving if you don’t even know what you’re trying to improve?

Eventually, you need to simplify things so that you actually understand what is going on. For most advanced lifters, this means daily maximumes.

Daily maximums are the most weight you can lift for one repetition in a given exercise at a given weight. For example, your daily maximum in the bench press could be 200 pounds. This doesn’t mean you can bench 200 pounds once. This means you can bench 200 pounds every day. If you need to add some weight, then you need to eat more food or cut back on the intensity until you’re ready.

By keeping track of your daily maximums, you’ll know if you’re getting stronger or if you need to back off.

Eventually, this will all change when you need to switch to less intensive exercises and eventually just bodyweight. Your lifting numbers won’t matter anymore because strength alone won’t keep you alive. You’ll need stamina, flexibility, endurance, and everything else.

But that’s for another day and another article.

I hope at least some of these tips help you on your path to a healthier, stronger you. Always remember that the human body is an amazing machine and we should do everything we can to keep it in the best condition possible. There are no excuses.

Always believe.

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Thank you all for the support over the years. I’m sad to see Go Furious close, but I’m very thankful for the good times we had together. I’ve met a lot of great people through this website and I would’ve never met some of you if it weren’t for this site.

Once again, thank you and always believe.

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– Derek

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