This article is all about the newbies among us. The neophytes, the beginning lifters, the novices. When it comes to fitness and wellness, you only get better with time. I have a list of ten tips that all beginning lifters should know. I think you all will get a lot out of these if you follow them.
1) Patience is Indeed a Virtue
Every lifter out there can remember the first time he/she picked up a weight. It wasn’t easy, was it? Over time, the exercises got boring, you picked up a industry mag at the behest of some “expert” with a bit of an attitude. You tried the somewhat more complicated exercises. You loved it and everyday was a proving for you. Your coordination, balance was getting recalibrated. You were tight and everything (including your gains) were new and revolutionary. After 3-6 months, you may have started getting bored and motivation waned a bit. Patience is a virtue. Why? After that first bit of training, you started to get to know your body and the exercises you indulged in, got smarter. You got smarter in return.
2) Stick with the Basics
As we all have on our lifting journey, we have toyed with different exercises, rep counts and so on. The beginner may feel inner pressure to lift crazy weight, crazy fast. That is a great way to get injured. The novice lifter may also try to do things that his body is not suited for. The only solution (if you want to call it that) is to simply stick with the basics. What are the basics? They are: 1) BE PATIENT- only with time will you have the gains (or weight loss you seek). You must be willing to be patient and have an attitude of understanding your body (not Schwarzenegger’s, or the big guy benching 450 in your gym). Your body is unique. It is a temple. Treat it as such. Take care of your body. It will take care of you. 2) STAY HUNGRY- Only with introspection and revision will you continue to evolve as a lifter and as a person. Constant rethinking of your regimen will get things accomplished. 3) KEEP IT SIMPLE- Please don’t try to overtrain, or copy anyone else. Do what you know works best for you.
3) Consistency is the Name of the Game
I know you’re gung-ho. You want to fast-forward your results and do everything possible to expedite your progress. However, more isn’t better. Training four hours a day, seven days per week won’t help you reach your goals more quickly, quite the opposite. It could easily lead to overuse injury, which would stop your progress dead in its tracks. You don’t need to combine every method under the sun. Trust me, we all read about new exercises and new regimens. We see the headlines just like you… sprinting for fat loss, plyos for power, grueling conditioning workouts to get you shredded, and various stretching movements for “long, lean muscles.” The temptation to train for hours on end is there for all of us, but it didn’t work for us, and it won’t work for you.
What you need is not endless exercise or crash diets, but consistency in the gym. It takes time to create adaptation. Strength training will create a denser body. If mass stays the same, this means less volume or overall size, which explains why clothes typically start hanging off people even though bodyweight on the scale might not change. Bones will become denser, tendons and ligaments will become stronger, and muscles will start to reveal their shape. Fat will be shed and body composition will markedly improve over time, as will functional strength.
However, the rate at which these adaptations occur is rather slow. You will not get the body of your dreams overnight. In fact, you won’t get the body of your dreams in 30-days. In a year, you’ll be very pleased with your progress, but it is very likely that you still will not be completely satisfied. Building your best body is a work in progress that takes years to achieve. Consistency is the name of the game. The tortoise always beats the hare in the iron game, and there’s no better way to improve your physique than plain, old resistance training. Your goal should be to lift weights 3-5 days per week for 50 weeks out of the year for five straight years. If you do this, I guarantee that you will see impressive results.
4) Stay Out of the Gym and Grow!
In case you didn’t already know, the word hypertrophy refers to muscle growth. If you’re a male, then chances are you don’t need any convincing about the merits of strength training for hypertrophy. However, if you’re a woman, then you might be on the fence. Perhaps you just want to get skinny and don’t want any appreciable gains in muscle mass. This is all well and good, but just know that your diet largely determines whether you gain weight, maintain weight, or lose weight. Exercise certainly helps, but not as much as most people assume (at least not in the amounts that most people perform).
At any rate, in a caloric surplus, strength training will cause the weight that you gain to consist of a higher proportion of muscle and a lower proportion of fat. At a caloric maintenance, strength training will cause your body to recompose so that you gain more muscle, lose fat, and improve your bodyfat percentage. At a caloric deficit, strength training will cause the weight that you lose to consist of a higher proportion of fat and a lower proportion of muscle.
5) Neural Improvements Precede Hypertrophic Improvements
During your first couple of months of strength training, you’ll likely be asking yourself, “What in the heck is going on – I’m gaining tons of strength, but my body isn’t changing much?” This is normal. During your first six weeks of training, your strength will rapidly increase, but these improvements will be brought upon largely by the nervous system. Your brain will figure out what you want it to do and will begin to coordinate the muscle actions and activate the proper muscles in the proper timing sequence more effectively. After a month or two, the primary cause of strength gains begins to be brought upon by hypertrophy. Your muscles will now begin to grow, and your shape will start improving. Make sure you stick it out during these initial times so you can reap the rewards of your arduous work.
6) Strength is Underrated
It’s not just about going to the gym and doing the exercises. Showing up and simply “going through the motions,” will not yield fantastic results. You should push yourself on many levels… push yourself to maintain sound technical form when the going gets tough… push yourself to squeeze out another rep… push yourself to add 5-10 more pounds to the bar… push yourself to master new exercises and variations.
There will be times when your strength gains stagnate. You’ll have to analyze your form, analyze your training program, and consider everything else outside of the gym (diet, sleep, stress, etc.). But if you’re dialed in on gaining strength, you will prevail. Every year, your body will be stronger than it was the year before, and your physique will continue to improve. Strength creates curves and shapes the body. The same cannot be said for cardio and stretching.
7) Be About the Business of You
Study anatomy. Study the greats of bodybuilding and fitness. Take what they have done- adapt it. Make some things your own. As always, do what works for you. Listen to your body.
8) Diet Does Matter
Yes, bodies are made in the kitchen. But it does not have to mean that you must do anything that leaves you deprived. If you feel that, you will not stick with the diet.
9) HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE!!
Yes, most people DO know about proper hydration. But, to reiterate, you need at least 150 oz of water daily (working out or not) to maintain a healthy hydration balance.
10) Do Not Neglect Cardio
It does not have to be a major commitment, but cardio is essential to getting leaner, and it’s good for your overall health.
In conclusion, add all these up and you will have a strong foundation that will serve you well for as long as you lift (hopefully this will help turn this gym thing into a LIFESTYLE).
To recap: 1) Commitment 2) Hunger 3) Studiousness (studying, refining and perfecting your regimen/routines) 4) Cultivating yourself
These things are exactly what I describe as ‘the basics’. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!