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To be a bodybuilder or even better, a good or successful bodybuilder you require certain things to have and do to get the best gains and carry on going right through your career and be successful. Below are 10 needs in Bodybuilding in order to be successful. These won't be saying you must do a certain exercise to do or a supplement to take. These 10 things everyone needs to be the best they possibly can.
"Dedication is the Key" a very true saying in bodybuilding. Dedication is like the backbone for bodybuilders. Without dedication you wont succeed and can't keep yourself going through each rep, set, show, diet or lifestyle. Dedication must be there u need to be dedicated to the game if you want to play it. If you not dedicated your as good as dead.
: Now this is hard. You train 5 long hard days one week and dont see much happening on your body but be patient and time will take its toll. Especially in a cutting period. If you want to be cut you need a low body fat. So first you need to get your body fat down then start the cutting phase. This will take time and you need the patience. Patience is also needed in most aspects of bodybuilding. Be Patient and be Perfect after all the hard work.
What's the point in playing soccer if you can't kick a ball or what's the point in playing tennis if you have no hand-eye co-ordination? The same type of question can be asked about bodybuilding. What's the point of bodybuilding if you don't lift properly or with bad form? Good Form is require to see any gains. Moderate weight, slow reps, 8-12 reps. Heavy weight, slow reps, 4-8 reps. This is good form working the muscle hard at all times. Slow and controlled reps = Good Form.
Goals are by you to aim at. Just like darts the goal is treble 20 and basketball the goal is the basket. See or set the goal/target, work your way towards it and score by hitting hit or reaching it. Simple. The goals you want to set are short term goals like getting to a certain weight or body fat within a month or 2. Set your goal and go get it !!
Every so often you get bored, go off form or just feel down. Motivation helps get over it. It's a booster, but you always want to be motivated so you are always boosted and always do your best. Motivation will push you that little extra. For motivation buy posters, listen to music, go to shows or read magazines. There are lots of options. Dedication + Motivation = a boost of confidence which makes you strive to be the best you can.
The weight training part of bodybuilding is like the engine of a car. As you get a bigger engine the better the car gets. However for the engine to run it needs petrol (gas as you call it in the states). Just the same as bodybuilding we need food for us to function and get energy. Our food needs to be healthy though. Our food intake plays an important factor in our bodybuilding lifestyle. A healthy balanced diet is required for maximum gains. Find out about nutrition around bodybuilding.com there's loads.
Although this isn't a must it is a healthier choice rather than using steroids. People bodybuild to be healthy. When you hear the term bodybuilder you think of muscles and health. Well I do anyway. However others think steroids, mass monsters and death. This refers to the pro's and those who 'juice'. This isn't natural, is dangerous and illegal. User's of steroids have no faith in themselves and don't think they have the potential to be successful without steroids. However they suffer from severe side effects and life threatening diseases. Be healthy, be NATURAL!!!
No matter how qualified you think you are you will never know everything about bodybuilding. There is so much to learn. So much you will learn al of your bodybuilding years. I am always learning. You will learn all the time too. You will find out what you are doing right and wrong. New supplements are always being introduced too. I have no idea about the stuff that's in all these supplements and everyone bangs on about them and to me it's all bullshit but they sound like they know what they are sayin'.
You need to enjoy bodybuilding if you want to be the best you can be. Enjoy it in the gym, enjoy the food and enjoy the contests if you choose to enter. If you don't enjoy this lifestyle you wont be dedicated, inspired or motivated. You will hold yourself back saying I can't be bothered. Look at all successful bodybuilders, they train hard, eat right and enjoy it. That's why they are the best at what they do. If you enjoy it then you can be the best you possibly can be too.
HAVE A PLAN
Why do most people fail? They do not set goals and write out detailed plans on how they will attain the goals that they set for themselves. You can go to the bookstore and pick up numerous books on how to train and they all say something different. So which one is correct? They all are! Everything works just not forever. This is where planning comes in. I set up a training cycle in 12 week blocks. I further break the blocks down into 2-3 week mini blocks. Each mini block changes so that different types of training are incorporated and the trainee gets exposed to the maximum amount of variation which will cause the most significant changes in their physique. Within the 12 week cycle we are always looking at bettering our own personal records for a given movement.
KEEP A JOURNAL
By keeping an accurate journal you will guarantee that you are making progress, and if you are not then the journal itself will have the answers to why you are not making progress. The journal is the " facts" of your training and it cannot lie to you unless you write down the information incorrectly! It is pretty simple... if last week you did 100lbs for 8 reps then this week you either need to do 9 reps or up the weight by 1-5 pounds. I know it sounds too simple, but if you do this long enough you will attain whatever goals you set for yourself. (Set realistic goals)
Concentrate on doing the big multi joint movements like: squats, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press, chin ups, dips, rows, curls, situps (yes I did say sit ups!), and calf raises. Single joint movements are great at isolating a specific muscle group, but I prefer my clients to do the harder multi joint exercises because they are more productive at stimulating the muscles!
PAY ATTENTION TO THE TEMPO
Tempo is the speed at which you lift the weight. If you go to most gyms around the globe the majority lift at a pretty fast tempo, say a 1 second eccentric (negative or lowering) and a 1 second concentric (positive or raising). You should vary the tempo at which you train and this can be worked into the "plan" in the mini blocks. A few examples of how to change the tempo are slowing down both the eccentric and concentric pausing in the top or the bottom of the movement. I personally like to do a 5 second eccentric and the pause in the bottom of the exercise for 2 seconds and then explode up for a total of 7 second rep. This is significantly different than the 2 seconds most people do. By changing the tempo you will increase the time under tension and thus force the muscles to adapt to a different stress. This is something that should be part of your plan and it should be recorded in each session.
REST BETWEEN SETS
The amount of time that you rest between sets is dependent upon the intensity at which you lift (how close to your maximum). If you are doing higher reps (12-15) then you rest periods will be shorter (45-75 seconds), but if you are doing only a few reps (1-5) then you will need longer periods (2-5minutes) between each set. I know it sounds backward, but it has to do with energy. The more reps you do the lighter the weight and the faster your body will bounce back for the next set. The heavier the weight lifted the longer it takes to recover the energy for another bout of the same movement. This again should be in the "plan".
Have you ever seen a guy that trains nothing but bench? His shoulders are pulled forward and rounded in. He will have trouble sooner or later because he has an imbalance between his horizontal pushing and pulling muscles. When designing a program make sure that the program trains both the agonist and antagonist muscle groups. A few examples would be bench press and rowing, shoulder press with pull downs, curls with tricep extensions. By giving the proper amount of work to all the muscles you will be able to prevent imbalances and the potential for self induced injuries from improper training!
PREWORKOUT CARDIO AND STRETCHING
I start every training session with 5-15 minutes of cardio. By doing the cardio before you train you will be able to increase your core temperature and thus be less likely to get injured while training. When I do the cardio I generally do it interval style, going easy for 1 minute and the hard for one minute. This will not only raise your core temperature, but it will burn a few calories. Before leg training I do 5 minutes (I don't want to do too much or it could effect my weights!) and before upper body training I do 10- 15 minutes. I follow my cardio with stretching the body part that I am going to train. Never stretch a cold muscle! The stretching should take 5-10 minutes and then you will be ready to train the weights.
GRIP WORK AND FINISHERS
Most people think why grip and what the heck are finishers? I focus all my clients on real world strength or functional strength. By training the grip you will have more wrist control (less injuries) and also you will be able to focus more and that will allow you to recruit more muscle fibers thus making you stronger. Finishers are stuff that is functional. After a hard leg session go out and push your car around the block. I have my clients do plate clean and press, carry sand bags either in front of them or on there shoulder, or do the dreaded Drill Instructor special (this consists of 5-10 minutes of push ups, situps, jumping jacks, deep knee bends, and running in place). These will be functional muscle and not just the pretty to look at kind.
POST WORKOUT NUTRITION
I know it is supposed to be about weight training. The most common mistake most people make is not eating after they train or not eating the right thing. This meal should contain a mixture of different types of carbohydrates such as a high glycemic carbohydrate like glucose, a medium gylcemic carb like maltodextrin and a limited amount of a low glycemic carbohydrate like fructose. The glucose will cause an insulin spike to drive the nutrients into the muscle. The maltodextrin will be used to fill up the muscles with glycogen. Fructose should be included to replenish liver glycogen that has been used during training. The post workout meal should have at least 20 % of the athletes daily protein needs and the best source of protein for the post workout meal is Whey.
To calculate your post workout protein needs take .20 times your body weight. (For example I would take 260 x .20 = 52 grams.) This meal could be further enhanced by containing BCAA'S , Glutamine and ribose. My post workout shake consists 1 serving of Pro Blend 55, 12 BCAA blend caps, 20 grams of Glutamine, 5 grams of ribose mixed with 8oz grape juice, 1/2 cup maltodextrin, and 1/8 cup fructose. I make this from ingredients that anyone could get at just about any health food store.
TAKE TIME OFF
Like I said before I set up programs that last 12 weeks and at the end of the 12 weeks (if not sooner) I put in a full week of rest. I know what you are thinking, but I will lose too much in a weeks time? No you will not and if you are like 99% of the rest of the population you will probably get stronger. Recover takes allot of energy and since most of us have real stress in our lives like jobs, family, etc. We give up a ton of energy to other things than training. This week will refresh you mentally as well as physically and set you up for great gains in the next 12 week cycle of training.
Engage your brain before putting body in gear.
The experienced athlete has been thinking about the impending workout all week. He's rehearsed the workout dozens of times in his mind, and is already aware of the possible problems he might encounter (such as dealing with rush hour in the gym or a nagging hamstring pull that might kick up during the workout).
A novice trainee, on the other hand, can be identified by the fact that he doesn't even know what he will do until he gets to the gym (and maybe not even then!). Since novices typically get novice-level results, I urge you to explore visualization and autogenic training, both of which are established methods of maximizing physical performance both in training and in competition. Some people learn these techniques on their own, others need instruction. Either way, USE them!
If you'll be training early in the morning, and/or if it's cold out, beef up the warm-up process commensurately.
Training in dry climates requires a more thorough warm-up than training in humid surrounds.
Older trainees generally profit from more extensive warm-ups.
If you are otherwise healthy but have "creaky" joints, error on the side of being too extensive with your warm-up. After all, the goal of being able to train takes precedence over the fact that you might fatigue yourself slightly with an extensive warm-up.
The closer you venture toward 1 REP MAX in your workout, the more extensive your warm-up should be. In other words, do a more thorough warm-up for 5x5 than you would for 3x12. You can calculate your 1RM's for your next workout HERE!
You can accelerate your warm-up through passive means such as a hot bath or shower. Although active means are superior to passive, often, a combination of the two leads to great results.
On exercises where your own bodyweight is the minimal load possible(chinups, dips, etc.), first warm up with similar exercises that allow lesser loads (e.g., lat pulldowns and decline bench presses), and then proceed to the target exercise, using multiple sets of 1 rep. As soon as the next set of 1 does not feel any easier than the set before it, you're ready to proceed to your work sets.
If you are executing exercises for antagonistic muscle groups "back to back" (such as training seated rows with triceps extensions), do your warm-up sets for these exercises in the same pattern that you'll use for the work sets.
If you've done it right, your middle work set(s) will feel the easiest. For example, when performing 5x8, the 3rd set should feel the best, and sets 4 and 5 should feel progressively more difficult. If your last sets feel the best, it indicates that your warm-up was not thorough enough. If your first work sets are easiest, you may have warmed-up too much.
Eat Like A Bear
The only way you're going to move up to the top of the food chain is to eat like the top dog. In other words, to gain muscle, you need to stay in a state of energy excess. Eat everything that's not bolted down. Make sure you get at least a gram or two of protein for every pound of bodyweight and at least three to four grams of carbs. Eat quality fats like those found in flaxseed oil, olive oil, and natural peanut butter. And finally, cut out the off-season cardio, as this will only increase your calorie requirements.
Rely On Basic Movements
They're considered classics for a reason: they've withstood the test of time. Basic movements have cranked out more champions than you can count. You've got the bench, the squat and the deadlift. These should be a part of your arsenal. To these big three, you can add your basic barbell curls, military presses, and the like.
Be Tough As Nails When It Comes To Training
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you got to train heavy to grow. That's right, but don't forget to train hard with high intensity. To make muscles explode, you got to annihilate them in the gym. You can train with poundages heavier than you can handle, but if you ignore proper form, you're going to miss the target muscles you're trying to hit. As a rule of thumb, train at 60-80% of your one rep max. Or, put on enough poundage where you can only crank out 6-10 reps per set at full intensity.
Stack More Than Just Plates
Probably the most overlooked aspect of bodybuilding is rest. Training in the gym tears down your muscles. Sleep is that time when your body rebuilds the damaged muscles. Without enough sleep, you'll never grow like you want. So make sure you stack enough Z's at night. You'll know what your body needs. As a guide, throw out your alarm clock. When you wake up on your own, you've slept enough.
Overtraining can set you back months, even years. In terms of bodyparts, stick to training each bodypart only once a week. Like sleep, you need to make sure you give your muscles plenty of rest between each training session. In terms of sets, there's a baker's dozen and then there's a bodybuilder's dozen. For each bodypart, you should stick to twelve total sets. Again, pick a couple of basic movements, about three or four for each bodypart, and do three to four sets for each exercise. You're probably thinking this is going to be easy, but trust me, if you do the sets right, you're going to be in for a world of hurt. And if you're not, your not lifting hard enough. Finally, don't spend more than 90 minutes per training session. Anything more, and you'll run the risk of overtraining.
Rest At Home, Not In The Gym
You should never rest for more than two minutes between sets. In 90-120 seconds, you have just enough time to catch your breath and hit that next set with maximum intensity. Rest beyond two minutes, and you run the risk of losing your pump. Once you lose the pump, forget about it. Your training is shot.
Consistency & Variation
Consistency means training when you're supposed to, not making lame excuses to watch TV or head to the bar. More than any other sport, bodybuilding requires a serious level of commitment and dedication. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. So when it's leg day, you do legs. Period. Take your training like a man. While you need to be consistent when it comes to training, you should also consider adding to variety to your routine when it becomes stagnant.
Teenage Bodybuilding's 10 Commandments
Thou Shall Lift Big
Give your muscles a reason to grow. Be intense do not do endless sets.. Go heavy, but don't remain at the gym doing reps with no intensity. Hit failure and make that last set count.
Thou Shall Eat Big
You must eat to grow. Get 30-40g protein per meal. Eat 6 meals a day. Don't be too scared of fats and counting at our young age just use good estimation. Cut junk food on all days per week except for one. You will crave chicken breasts, tuna shakes, pasta and chocolate milk. Not chips, McDonalds, lollies or even pizza (yes pizza).
Thou Shall Sleep
Recovery is key. You should try to average about 8 hours sleep a night, no less than 7. You sleep you grow remember this.
Thou Shall Drink Large Amounts of Water
Carry that drink bottle with you at all times. Drink 6 liters a day or their about. Keeps you well hydrated so you can train at your best.
Thou Shall Be Committed
If you're not sick or injured, you must train. You start skipping... you might as well forget those dreams. You must want to become that impressive physique before you can begin building it. Get yourself a reliable training partner. Make training a necessity not an obligation. Make it your number 1 priority.
Thou Shall Squat
If you have legs, a desire to grow and your back is OK, you will squat. Without the king of exercises, your growth is going to suffer. Squats develop more than just legs. Squats are an all-round body blaster squat and GROW!!
Thou Shall Not Be Afraid of Change
Change your routine around frequently. Every 3-6 weeks, vary the order that you do your routine, change your whole style altogether or even turn your workout on its ass and do it backwards (it works). Try high reps, low reps, high sets, 1 set you name it try it and see what works for you.
Thou Shall Not Overtrain
Do not train the same body parts within 3 days; leave 5 days for optimal recovery and growth. If your progress is slowing, you're getting injured or sick frequently, then it's time to take a break. Take 4-6 days off, and then go back at it. Don't be surprised if you're stronger after your layoff.
Thou Shall Not Neglect Injuries
Once you're injured, take a break. Lose 2 weeks training now, or prepare to keep those injuries forever. Don't be dumb your health is important.
Thou Shall Lift With True and Proper Form
Anyone can throw around the weights. Concentrate on good form and proper technique, and then let the poundage build up. Get a full range of motion and be proud that you're one of the few who actually trains properly.
High Calories = Anabolic State
One of the most overlooked factors in bodybuilding is consuming enough protein but not eating enough calories per day. You've always heard that your body needs protein to grow and this is true. However, adequate protein does not always entail growth. You need to consume adequate calories also. The truth is, if you don't consume enough calories, then you're not growing. A good rule of thumb is to take your bodyweight and multiply this by 10 or 12 depending on how in shape you are. Then depending on your level of exercise and how much you exercise, I would add on 1000-1500 calories per day. I once read that Jay Cutler got big by eating small meals every hour and half. Although he was eating smaller meals, his total caloric intake was above his daily caloric expenditure putting his body in an anabolic state.
Eat Plenty of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are needed to fuel exercise. The storage form of carbohydrates is glycogen. The idea here is to super saturate glycogen levels so that the body never has to dip into protein for energy production. The higher the level of carbs in the body, the more likely you are going to remain in an anabolic environment. Carbs also play a role in the release of insulin. As you know, insulin is the body's most potent anabolic hormone. It promotes gluconeogenesis, protein synthesis, and the formation of adipocytes. In short, the release of insulin is required to promote an anabolic environment and carbs help by releasing insulin.
Eat Plenty of Protein
Let's face it, muscle is protein and protein is composed of amino acids. You can't build big muscles without an adequate supply of protein. Think of building muscle as building a castle with lego blocks. If you don't have the pieces to start with then you cannot build the castle. Eating enough protein should be a no-brainer but for those who don't know, one should consume anywhere between one to two grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. So a bodybuilder who weighed 200 lbs would need about 200 grams of protein per day. The best way to do this is to break the supply of protein into smaller servings throughout the day for better absorption and assimilation. In short, eat your protein and eat good kinds such as beef, chicken, fish, whey, and egg whites.
Eat Multiple Meals
Since you're now eating 4000 calories per day, your next best bet would be to eat 6 meals a day. Although this may seem like a lot, it really isn't. Do the math. If you divide 4000 calories into 6 smaller meals a day, then each meal will consist of approximately 660 calories. Trust me when I say that 660 calories isn't a lot. Although it takes a lot of discipline, eating smaller and more frequent meals will pay off in the end. Another reason to eat smaller meals is for the release of insulin. When you consume food, your blood glucose levels will rise. To counteract this, your body will release insulin to lower blood glucose levels to help keep the body in a state of homeostasis. As you now know, insulin is the body's most anabolic hormone. The more, the better. So basically, you want as much insulin secretion by the pancreas as possible. After all, you want to be big, right?
Eat Enough Good Fats
One mistake wannabe lifters make is to not eat enough good fats. When I first began lifting and eating seriously, I would try my best to steer away from fats. Little did I know that fats were actually important in growth. One good thing to know about good fats is that there is a direct relationship between fat and testosterone levels. A perfect example of this is when bodybuilders diet down for a show, so to speak. They are limiting their caloric and fat intake to achieve that stage condition. However, when they are on this restrictive diet, it is impossible for them to grow. That is why bodybuilders "bulk up" and then "cut up" because it's either one or the other. Good sources of fat is salmon which contains omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids, flaxseed oil, and conjugated linoleic acid.
Eat a Good Preworkout Meal
The best thing to consume before a workout is a meal consisting of slow burning carbs such as pasta and rice. The reason is that slow burning carbs take longer to convert into glucose thus keeping blood sugar levels relatively consistent. This keeps your body from having an energy crashing allowing you to train longer and harder. Be sure to combine this meal with a healthy serving of good protein as well to maximize gains.
Consume a High Quality Postworkout Meal
The meal right after you train should be high in fast burning carbs and protein. The ideal candidate for this would be a protein shake coupled with some form of sugar. Personally, I prefer Gatorade mixed with creatine and strawberry Ny-Tro Pro 40. When you train, you put your body in a catabolic state. You destroy it so that it can build itself back bigger and stronger. However, if you don't supply the raw building blocks, then how can your body efficiently repair itself? For the average person, a 40 g protein shake and 75 g of carbs is plenty. Just make sure you don't waste any time and slam the drinks down as soon as you finish training. Leave the chatting for after you consume those drinks.
If you can afford to use supplements, then by all means do so. Why? Because they work! However, I would stuck with the basics such as protein powders, creatine, glutamine, joint formulas, and multi-vitamins. The bottom line concerning these supplements is that they work provided that you work.
The number one overlooked factor in building a better body is rest. If you don't rest, then how can your muscles grow? Our bodies need the stimulus to grow such as intense training. Once this happens, our bodies are essentially "broken down." Afterwards, it needs the proper nutrients and recovery time to grow bigger and stronger so that it can be broken down again. So if you're not resting any, then I would suggest you set aside a day or two of rest each week. And remember, rest days are rest days. Nothing more, nothing less.
Eat and I Mean Eat a lot
Eating high calorie meals is probably the most important step in gaining mass. If you don't get enough to eat, you won't gain weight. You can't lift like a horse and eat like a bird and expect to gain weight it just doesn't work that way. That is why most bodybuilders eat four to six times per day to increase calories, protein, carbs., etc., and to increase the absorption of nutrients. You may even want to try drinking a protein shake in the middle of the night to encourage additional muscle growth.
This underestimated mineral plays an important role in overall muscle growth and by slightly increasing your daily sodium intake it helps increase water retention. Plus sodium enhances carbohydrate storage and amino acid absorption also improving the muscle's responsiveness to insulin.
Water is the best way to supplement a diet. It's mother natures ultimate supplement and without it you will go no where. It gives you proper regulation of food, vitamins, and minerals. It also helps you get the most out of your protein and carbs, by helping your body absorb it.
Cycle Your Diet
For two weeks eat an extra 2000 calories then go back to your normal calorie diet for the next two weeks, on and off. I have heard good stories about doing this. You will only eat the extra 2000 calories for two weeks because that's about how long it takes your body to adapt to it, and if it does you will not get the same benefit as you would if it was not adapted to it.
Creatine will most likely help you gain mass. Plus with no side effects where can you go wrong. Be sure to drink plenty of water while your on it though, and just like any other supplement. Do your research. My last article on creatine is a good way to start :).
I love to sleep. You all need to if you want to put on some mass. Your body needs this time to re-cooperate. Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night.
Stop All Aerobics
In order to put on serious mass your gonna need to stop all of your aerobics. You need to keep as many calories and you can in your body and the aerobics will not help you do that. Remember every physical activity has a negative impact on building muscle.
Tuna, Beef, Steaks......mmmmmmmm
Your never gonna get that physique you want unless you lift and I mean lift hard. That doesn't mean to throw the weights around. Be sure to control your weight, control is very important. Be sure to use a weight that you can do 4 reps but no more then 6, heh this is the fun part, do 6 reps anyway. NOT CHEATING!
Well, this is my opinion but here goes.....I don't believe in using a spotter, gloves, straps, or anything that will help you get that weight up. I believe that you should be able to get that weight up on your own and not with the help with anyone or anything else.
Warm up prior to and stretch frequently during your workout. Before participating in any athletic activity, you should raise your peripheral body temperature. Get your heart beating and increase the blood flow to your extremities by participating in 5 minutes of a low intensity cardiovascular activity. Following your warm up, stretch your muscles gradually to a point of mild discomfort, not outright pain. Never bounce. Instead, hold stretched positions for about 20 seconds. Rather than limiting yourself to a pre-training stretch, continue to stretch during and after your workout to promote circulation. By increasing blood flow to your muscles, waste products like lactic acid are rapidly removed to help prevent soreness. In addition, more blood-borne nutrients are available for energy and growth.
Learn to isolate specific muscles. Steady, controlled movements are the key to learning what it "feels like" to work a specific muscle or muscle group. It takes about three weeks for the novice to maximize the neuromuscular coordination necessary to identify and fully recruit muscle fibers from individual muscle groups. At this stage, you will be able to efficiently target these groups and minimize cheating with sympathetic muscles. This will also enable you to use virtually any unfamiliar piece of gym equipment (and invent your own exercises) simply by duplicating the appropriate "feel" when trying a new exercises for the same body part.
Employ proper form. Movements should be accomplished with strict attention to form in order to achieve maximum benefit with minimum risk of injury. Always remember to avoid sharp, jerky repetitions and using momentum to lift a heavier weight. These cheating tactics will not make you grow faster or become stronger, but they will place harmful stresses on your joints. I suggest holding the full contraction for a short pause to accentuate the pump. Concentrate on both the concentric and eccentric phase of the contraction to maximize every repetition. Be certain to flex and extend fully to avoid muscle shortening and weakness at the extremes of the motion range.
Train to muscular fatigue. Many people approach an exercise with a preconceived notion of the exact number of repetitions they will do for each set. (Ten seems to be a popular choice.) These misguided souls are training inefficiently and will never reach their full potential. When performing an exercise, your goal is not a certain number of repetitions. Do not start your set saying, "I'm going to do X number of reps." Depending on the muscle group and your particular athletic objectives, you will probably want to stay within a certain range of repetitions. However, your goal is to fatigue the muscle by performing each exercise (with good form) until you no longer can.
Use a split system. If you have never trained with weights, or have taken a significant break from weights, I do not recommend training at maximum intensity right away. Training to failure during the first crucial work outs will result in tremendous muscle soreness and you may never return. Start slowly by doing a full-body work out consisting of three or four sets of lighter weights for every major muscle group. After the first couple weeks, you can increase your intensity and move onto a split system. An example of a three-day split might be:
Monday: Chest, Triceps, Shoulders, Abs
Wednesday: Legs (including calves, quads, hams, and glutes)
Friday: Back, Biceps, Abs
Train each body part once per week. With the exception of abs, directly training a body part with high intensity more than once a week is usually overtraining. If you are striving for maximum strength gains, power, and muscular growth, high intensity translates to low reps and heavy weight. Three to four sets of three to four different exercises per body part is optimal. Large muscle groups like chest, quads, and glutes do well in a rep range as low as 6 or 7. With smaller groups like biceps and triceps, and difficult to isolate groups like shoulders and back, stay within a more conservative rep range of at least 8 to 10 per set. View exercises for all the muscle groups here.
Design your training regimen to conform to your athletic objectives. Many athletes cycle their training according to their competition schedule. Three to four months out from a fight, a boxer might "train heavy" for strength and power. By eight weeks out, he/she has decreased the weight, increased his reps, and cut back on free weights to emphasize cables and machines. During the last four weeks, he/she eliminates weight-training altogether, concentrating entirely on speed drills and boxing. A power lifter will employ the opposite strategy. Three months out from a meet, he/she may incorporate many different exercises into his/her routine including machines, cables, and free weights. Two months out, the reps have dropped and so have the number of different exercises. The last weeks before the meet may include sets of only two or three reps of the most basic movements: bench press, squat, and dead lift.
Maximize your body's response with new challenges. Even the most brilliantly designed training program will gradually lose its efficiency. In simple terms, your body is too smart for its own good. As you become more and more adept at performing a particular movement, the results you get from that movement will reach a plateau. It's time to mix things up. Your entire work out should be modified every few weeks for best results. I urge you to constantly try new exercises to add to your repertoire. Look around the gym. Talk to people. Consult magazines. Experiment on your own: change bench angles; alter foot stances; switch the order of your exercises; try supersets; strip sets; etc. Be creative.
Avoid overtraining. Listen to your body. After bad form, overtraining is the most common mistake I see in the gym. If you find you are losing enthusiasm for your work outs, if you are constantly tired, if your progress has slowed or stopped, it's time for a break. If you have been training consistently, I recommend taking a week off every two to three months. You will return to the gym reinvigorated, renewed, and rested. You will not lose strength in one week. Even after a month off, chances are you will surprise yourself by returning to the gym stronger than when you left. Following a break is the ideal time to modify your training program.
Be patient. Rome wasn't built in a day and you won't be either. YOU WILL SEE PROGRESS IF YOU ARE PATIENT AND STICK WITH IT! No two physiques are exactly the same and you should not measure your progress against others. Many people are frustrated by the difficulty they encounter losing those last few pounds of fat. Lean people are discouraged by how long it takes them to put on weight. Bodybuilders are constantly balancing the task of building muscle mass and, at the same time, achieving maximal definition. You CAN have both if you stick to the basic principles outlined above, train consistently, and give yourself time. Why don't you take some photos now and compare them to a year from now? I guarantee you will be amazed by the progress you've made.
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