Beginning Body Building: Body Building and Weight Lifting for Beginners
I’ve wanted to discuss body building and weight lifting for beginners for some time now—simply because it’s important that beginning body builders receive an accurate “picture” of what they can expect once they participate in this great sport. There are, after all, plenty of discussions for more experienced body builders on the Net.
As a body building beginner, your success will ultimately depend on 5 factors…
1. Genetics: Yes, your genetic make up will contribute a lot to your body building success. There are multiple factors at work here; natural levels of important hormones like testosterone and growth hormone, your ratio of slow to fast twitch muscle fibers, as well as a billion other factors. Alas, not everyone can be the next Jay Cutler or Lisa Aukland. No biggie, right? After all, this law is true everywhere in life — not everyone can golf like Tiger Woods, or play tennis like Serena Williams.
While this might seem disheartening, I’ve personally never seen anybody (including myself), who has yet truly reached the limits of his or her genetic limitations. While “genetic limitation” is often used as an excuse for poor performance or zero gains (and occasionally to justify steroid use), poor performance can more likely be attributed to one of the following four factors…
2. Training: This is hardly a brain-buster. Obviously, poor or unfocused training will not get the beginning body builder to where he/she wants to be as soon as possible. Unfortunately the most common mistakes for beginners are…
a. Overtraining: Heck, if 1 hour in the gym is good, then 3 hours in the gym is 3 times as good, right? Wrong! (don’t worry — I remember thinking this myself when I first started lifting weights). The most beneficial workouts take place in less than one hour. After that, you start going backwards. This is a common mistake of most beginning body builders.
Levels of testosterone and growth hormone, which begin to rise shortly after the onset of the workout, begin to decline.
Levels of cortisol, a powerful anti-catabolic (muscle depleting), stress hormone begins to rise.
For extended workouts, the body may even begin to catabolize its own muscle tissue in order to provide the necessary energy to continue.
In other words, instead of getting bigger, you may end up getting smaller.
Hardly an ideal scenario. Overtraining can also lead to injuries, soreness, and general malaise. You’d be surprised how little you have to do to accomplish great results (as long as you are performing at full intensity).
By implementing the strategies recommended in Bryan Haycock’s Hypertrophy-Specific Training, I dropped my chest routine from 9-12 work sets once a week to 3 work sets 3 times a week, and built my max bench to 370 lbs. I’m also able to roll over at night without it feeling like someone poured concrete into my shoulder joints.
b. Unfocused Training: What do I mean by “unfocused training”? Well, it’s common for beginning body builders to work numerous different body parts through numerous different “rep” ranges throughout the course of a workout. When I see someone do a set of 15 leg presses, followed by 8 arm curls, 5 reps of bench press, a set of 20 reps on the lower cable row, a set of 10 flyes, followed by 15 leg extensions, I’m convinced they are doing what they know, but they do not know what they are doing!
For proper training, there are two things I recommend.
The first, of course, is a plan (I recommend Hugo Rivera’s Body Re-Engineering Program or Will Brink’s Body Building Revealed). You should know exactly what it is you’ll be doing (i.e., which body part(s) you’ll be training, which exercises, which rep ranges 3-5 reps, 8-12 reps, or 12-15 reps, etc., etc.), before you get to the gym. You should also invest in a cheap digital watch, so you can time both your workout, and the rest intervals between sets. I guarantee this will cut your workouts WAY down — hopefully to an hour or less!
Second, consider hiring a good trainer for a session or two. Ask around and find out who has a good reputation, and who has interests that are similar to yours. If you’re serious about this, a good trainer can help you put together an efficient routine, and cut ages off the “body building learning curve.”
3. Nutrition: For the beginning body builder or the dedicated pro, proper nutrition, as well as adequate calories, is essential for growth. Without adequate caloric and nutritional resources, even the best and most carefully formulated training program will leave you spinning your wheels. The key is, of course, to get just enough calories but not too many (or you’ll end up getting fat).
My recommendation is to aim for 15 times your bodyweight in calories, divided up into 5-6 meals per day. You’ll want to aim for a minimum 1gram/lb bodyweight of quality protein. Carbs should come from low G.I., high fiber sources (except for post workout recovery nutrition), and it’s a good idea to supplement with a high quality polyunsaturated oil (like flax seed) and monunsaturated oils (like olive oil).
To ensure you are taking in enough calories to encourage growth without getting fat, I recommend all beginning body builders invest in the Accumeasure Digital Body Fat Calipers. Use these, along with your scale, to accurately monitor your progress.
4. Rest: Contrary to popular belief, you do not grow when you are in the gym, but when you are away from the gym. By overworking your body, you are actually slowing your progress. Personally, I’ve found that 3 very intense workouts a week bring much better results than 5 “so-so” workouts.
The thing is, a properly intense workout is quite a drain on the CNS (central nervous system), and without proper rest and recuperation, it’s very hard to maintain that intensity through the course of additional workouts. That, and you’re much more prone to overuse injuries. So…
Get plenty of sleep. Eat well, and grab a nap during the day if possible. Spend some time away from the gym (the horror… the horror… ). Let that body grow!
5. Supplementation: For the beginning body builder, supplements should be the very last things you concern yourself with.
Trust me, you’ll make much, much bigger gains by eating properly (and enough), and training smart. In my opinion, the most important supplements for the beginning body builder are ones that facilitate proper nutrition and adequate calories, and make it easier to consume those 5-6 smaller daily meals. These sort of supplements include meal replacements, whey and milk proteins, and the better quality protein bars.
After all other aspects of a good training program are implemented, only then is it time to investigate supplements that truly enhance performance (beware… there are plenty that don’t!). I’ve included a brief list of products worth investigating in the table just below.
In the meantime, be sure to implement these basics into your program for best results!