Weight Training 101
This is solely for educational purposes and assumes a generally healthy individual. You should see a doctor before participating in any workout regimen.
"I'm just getting in the gym (first time, or over a year since) where do I start?"
Well, for most noobs a full body routine with moderate weight 3-4x a week. This will allow you to perfect form, and learn all the movements. A general full body workout should include:
• Quad/Glute Push Movement
• Ham Pull Exercise
• A Horizontal Press (Upper)
• A Horizontal Pull (Upper)
• Vertical Pull (Upper)
• Vertical Press (Upper)
• Abdominal/Forearm/Calf Movements
(Some movements have more choices than others, you should look into designing a program with these basics)
These compound movements could be done with a 3x10x70% (70% of your 1RM), if the most you can squat is 10lbs for one rep, then you'll be doing 7 lbs for 10reps. If you don't know this, you can just warm up with a light weight, slowly increase the weight until you feel tired on the 10th rep. You want to be able to complete every set without too much strain. This could be done on a M,W,F or M,T,Th,Sat schedule, or adjust for yourself. The key is to not jump right into an intense routine and become unmotivated, and/or possibly even injure yourself.
Diet is KEY
If you eat like crap, your results will be crap. Simple as that. You should be on a 5-8 meal per day (every 2-3 hours) plan, incorporating a complete lean protein and vegetable at every feeding. It may seem unreasonable to eat this many times per day, but your body will adapt and soon you will be hungry at these times. Now this does not mean you eat the way you eat three times per day, that is just not possible. Your portions will be smaller.
Eating an apple or banana does not count as a meal either. You can't gain or lose weight by not eating, and diet is at least 75% of your success or failure. You can have what is known as a "Cheat Meal" once or twice (max) per week. This helps confuse your body and prevent adaptation, plus it helps to keep you eating healthy. Like nutrition expert Dr. John Berardi, PhD. says, "The difference between 90% adherence and 100% adherence to your nutrition program is negligible." See Nutrtional Sticky
"How many reps/sets?"
This is debated.. If you want size you should go with more total volume, meaning more sets with your reps around 6-12. It is also thought that frequency can be very helpful**.. With a rest period of anywhere between 30 seconds to 90 seconds. For strength your reps should be under 6 with long rest periods. This doesn't mean that if you do heavy singles all day you won't get big, and if you do 10 reps you won't get strong. This is the nit picky type stuff.
**It should be noted that finding a perfect median between volume/frequency is very hard, and will be different person to person.
"I've hit a plateau, what should I do?"
Check your diet, 75% of the time that's the culprit. If you are in fact stuck, try something as simple as switching your set/rep scheme. If that doesn't work you can: flip flop some exercises, change exercises, change your split, or even take a week off. The latter is a bit more drastic. If your gains are slowing and your diet is in check, look at other things like amount of sleep, post workout nutrition, and other limiting factors (alcohol, etc).
Three Principles of Training
• Specificity, train the muscles you want to adapt. Doing a bicep curl will not help your squat, although most don't care.
• Overload: You must put strain on the muscle, you can't expect lifting weights suitable for a school girl will help you in any way. You need to tear down the muscle tissue to allow for the rebuilding/repairing phase.
• Detraining/Reversibility: If you stop, your gains will stop. You grow when you rest, this is too an extent though. If you've been lifting for 6 months, you're due for a week off. If you take 3 months off, don't expect to lift the same when you go back.
1. Nutrition! Always remember, if you are trying to add muscle mass, you need to be in a calorie surplus (unless you are a genetic freak). I find mostly men think the gym and the iron are the all mighty when it comes to adding size and packing on the muscle. These things are nothing without the proper nutrition! I see guys train their arses off day in and day out, yet never respond to anything. They are doing everything fundamentally right. Yet, they are not eating properly at all, and this will kill any progress you should/could be achieving. Don't waste your time in the gym by limiting your results through laziness in the kitchen.
2. Ruts! I see some individuals in my gym that are stuck in a rut so deep it is pathetic. They are so hooked on one way of training with weights that worked for them 5 years ago, that they are afraid to change their program. I say this often, but it bears repeating, our bodies are incredible. They will adapt to the stresses you place on it in the gym, and once it does adapt, your progress will slow or stop completely. Don't fall into this trap! Sometimes it is as easy as using the same split with different exercises than you have been using. Other times, you should do a complete overhaul of your program design. Be proactive, not reactive. Don't wait for the gains to come to you, go and get them. You must force your body to grow, and it takes some planning.
3. Over-training! Unless you are using the "juice," get your arse out of the gym within the hour, no yapping, no staring at the girlies (or guys), get in, lift hard and precise, get out and eat! Don't lift more than 3 days in a row.
4. Tracking! Track/measure everything. You can't just assume something is going to work because it worked for you a few months ago; or your buddy lifted this same routine and it worked wonders for him. We are all physiologically and metabolically different. Yes, we must experiment to find what is most effective for us personally.... however, you are never truly going to know what is working unless you track the numbers. Weigh yourself, buy some calipers and take some bodyfat readings, take pictures, track calories, write down your routines and records your sets, reps, and weights of each and every routine.
5. Rest goes hand in hand with overtraining. Your body needs sufficient time to recover. If doing the above mentioned full-body, there will be two days between the three workouts and 2 days after the last (for example doing a full body monday, wednesday, friday). The nutrition aspect is extremely important, especially on those rest days and post workout when your body is recovering and repairing.