So you’ve decided to build a better and buff body. Congratulations! People new to weight lifting may benefit from some simple, basic tips on how to maximize your muscular gains.
1. Warm Up
Stretching out your muscles before lifting weights or doing just about any other physical activity – including yard work – is a must to prevent strain and injury.
Most athletes would never dream of playing football, soccer or basketball without a proper warm-up. Fortunately, the solution is easy. Spend five to ten minutes on your preferred cardio machine (treadmill, stairs, rowing machine, etc.) to elevate the heart rate and warm the body. Then, begin with lighter weights to allow your muscles to get used to movement before picking up the heavier weights.
2. Have a Training Plan
Newcomers to the gym may be gung-ho, but failure to plan often means planning to fail. Without purpose, exercising is good for you but may not change your physique. After weeks and months of working out without specific results in mind, the novice may become discouraged when there is no apparent benefit to all that sweat and toil.
If you don’t know how to make a training plan or structured protocol, look around online or consult with a professional trainer at your gym. Include routines that will develop both strength and muscle bulk.
3. Target the Right Muscle Groups
Focus on the main muscle groups after your warm-up before working out smaller muscles. Starting a weight-lifting session with forearm curls robs your body of the energy it needs for the large muscles so reserve the last three or four sets for them.
You will gain overall mass by focusing on the legs up. For the fastest and best results, focus on compound movements to reach your full potential and avoid a lop-sided asymmetrical appearance. The big three exercises for building muscle mass are bench, squat, and deadlift.
The good news is that exercises which target the large muscle groups will also benefit smaller muscles. A wide-grip pulldown not only builds lats but biceps and forearms, too.
A complete body-building workout will include the big three exercises plus accessory exercises to work the other muscle groups in your plan.
4. Don’t Overdo It
Fitness buffs are probably familiar with the expression, “No pain, no gain.” While this is certainly true for weight lifting, there does come a point of diminishing returns.
To build muscles, you go to the gym and break the muscles down. Afterward, the fatigued muscles recover and become stronger and larger. But there is a limit to how much muscle strain can help rather than hinder your fitness goals. Working a muscle to complete exhaustion can be counter-productive because it increases recovery time.
Another common mistake made by newcomers to the gym is lifting too much weight. If your spotter is doing more work than you are, lighten up the load. Form tends to suffer when you overload the bar and risk of injury rises. To make matters worse, lifting too much weight is counter-productive because muscles associated with the movement will not activate.
Trade those impressive, heavier weights with a lighter set. Focus on form with the correct technique and range of motion. If you find yourself breaking good form, you need lighter weights. Gradually add weight without sacrificing good form and great results will follow.
5. Ease Up on the Supplements
We live in a culture of quick fixes and fast food. Why shouldn’t we be able to bulk up with a few shortcuts, too, right? Many gyms do a good business selling body-building supplements on the side, but proceed with caution. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a dose of pre-workout protein powder. Likewise, some BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) can also help build muscle tissue, decrease soreness, reduce exercise fatigue, and prevent muscle wasting.
All that said, there really is no substitute for a good training plan and a healthy diet. There is a reason why supplements have that name: they are designed to enhance the body’s natural abilities, not replace them. Don’t be fooled into thinking that merely popping some pills will make you buff.
Above all, never substitute a good, protein-rich breakfast with supplements and then go work out. Your body needs solid nourishment to ensure an effective workout.
6. Match Your Diet with Your Plan
Speaking of nutrition, track what you eat and drink. Make sure that the proportions of protein, fat, and carbohydrates that you consume mirror your fitness goals. Do you want to lose weight or develop muscle mass – which often results in weight gain?
All the exercise in the world can’t solve a poor diet full of junk food and empty carbs. If you are getting the desired results from your fitness program, perhaps a nutrition-poor diet is the cause.
7. Sleep More
Believe it or not, sleeping is essential for growing muscles which actually recover during the downtime. When you shorten your sleep cycles by staying up late before an early morning, you rob your body of the ability to continue developing muscles, no matter how many deadlifts you do the next day.
Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep every 24 hours. Use earplugs and an eye mask if you need to tune out rest-preventing distractions.