I’ve learned a couple of things in my years of training myself and my personal training clients. I feel it’s best to pass on these little bits of wisdom so you don’t make the same mistakes so many people before you have committed. Take this tips and pass them down to someone else that is all full of steam but may be misguided on how to conduct themselves.
1. Don’t skip leg day
Working legs burns a lot of calories, raises your testosterone, and promotes muscle growth in the rest of the body. You never want your shoulders and chest to out grow your quads, hamstrings and calves. It talks a long time to catch them up if they fall behind. You want respect in the gym? Go to the squat rack (not the smith machine) and squat 135 lbs. Then eventually some day 185 lbs. Then move on to 225 lbs, 275 lbs, and eventually the coveted 315 lbs. The squat is the king of exercises, you get a great feeling of fulfillment when you move up to all those aforementioned weights. And it will show in your physique.
2. Don’t do curls in the squat rack
If you do, I can guarantee that if you are in a big commercial gym, there is a guy standing somewhere behind you glaring you down, burn a hole of hate through your back with his eyes. Many serious lifters plan their whole day or week around leg day, especially squats. There should be plenty of specialized racks around there for you to do your 60 and 80 lbs barbell curls. Leave the squat rack for guys that are doing front squats, back squats and deadlifts.
3. Always put back your weights and dumbbells
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen some trip over someone else’s dumbbells that they had carelessly left behind. Even worse, I’ve seen two people break fingers from setting down their dumbbells on top of another one that they were unaware off. I’ve nearly done it myself a couple times. My saying has always been, and I’ve said this to many peoples face, “If you’re strong enough to lift the weight, then you’re strong enough to put it back!”. People will secretly despise you if your leave all your plates on the leg press, incline bench press, flat bench, you name it. Don’t make someone pick up the weights that you were too weak to pick up yourself. This goes for girls too! No one wants to pull your 10’s, 25’s or 45’s off of the leg press machine. Just because the asshole before you did it, it doesn’t mean you have to do it too. If you do the same thing as him, what does that make you? Ahhhh you see know? Don’t be that guy or girl.
4.Always use the bathroom before squats and deadlifts
In all my years in the gym, I’ve witnessed a lot of crazy things. People shitting themselves, people getting major injuries, people passing out, girls crying in the middle of a set, guys farting in the middle of a bench press, and the list goes on.
Doing squats, leg press and deadlifts put a lot of pressure on your colon and rectum, and sometimes accidents happen. It’s pretty annoying when you’re spotting someone on squats and they just let one rip, believe me it’s no fun. Especially if it’s a girl!
5. Always keep track of your pre, intra, and post workout nutrition
If you’re going to be working out extremely hard in the gym, with 100 percent intensity (which is the way it should be), then your body should not be focusing on digesting at the time. Blood is focused around the stomach organ to process and digest food, it should all be flowing around the veins in yours arms while you are training them. Plus if you have a full stomach of solid food, acid reflux and heartburn really starts to act up. You are most likely to throw up during a heavy leg workout if you have a stomach full of steak and rice. It could come shooting out like a volcano during a difficult squat, leg press or deadlift.
An hour to 45 minutes before a workout, drink a protein shake. Whey protein isolate is the best. Add some healthy fats, like coconut oil or avocado to be used as energy and train your body to be a fat burning machine, not a carb burning machine. Train it to dig into your stored fat eventually, rather than relying on a lot of carbs for energy.
During your workout drink a fast absorbing BCAA drink. A good analogy is that you are digging a hole (going catabolic and raising cortisol levels) while you are working out, by drinking a branch chain amino acid drink, you are filling that hole back up during the workout ( preventing from muscle scavenging, going catabolic, a sky rocketing cortisol levels). So that when you are done with the workout, the hole is not so deep that you can not recover from the workout and the hole is now a hill once you get in your post workout meal. (growth, hypertrophy).
After your workout, immediately have another protein shake. Your body is a hungry sponge, and it’s a perfect time to have a fast absorbing and digesting protein flowing through you to repair the micro tears that you have caused in your muscle tissue. A quick insulin spike will help shuttle the protein into your muscle, so a little fruit would be helpful. While you’re drinking your protein shake, prepare your meal. A starchy carb would actually be good for this meal, like white rice or sweet potato. The extra carbs will help replace the glycogen for your muscles to be strong for the next workout. Along with a healthy amount of protein (steak, ground beef, chicken, salmon etc..). This can be the largest serving of calories for the whole day. You worked hard, you deserve it, and your body needs it to repair and grow lean muscle.
6. Don’t starve yourself when trying to lose fat
Your body does not want to burn too much fat. You have to trick it sometimes. It likes to hold on to those fat stores in case there is a famine or no dinner captured for days at a time. If your calories are cut too low for long enough, your metabolism with slow down. Your calories have to be high enough and frequent enough that your body does not go in starvation mode. Feed it often and feed it right, you will be a fat burning machine.
7. Women should not be afraid of getting big, it won’t happen.
In training dozens of women, I keep hearing the same statement over and over again. “I don’t want to look like a big muscle woman!” The testosterone level of women is about 10% of men’s, if that. It would take an incredible amount of food, time, powerlifting, and quite possibly performance enhancing drugs for most women to get any where near this “muscle woman” look. It does not happen overnight. But what will happen, if your lucky and you follow you nutrition and workout plans correctly, you will put on just enough muscle to look sculpted and “toned.” There really is no such thing as “toned”. It’s just a word used to not scare women away from building muscle. It’s really a process of gaining a little big of muscle while dropping fat at the same time, to give a more denser look because the layer of fat is melting away while the muscle is starting to show through. This would be an arm that takes up less space, because a pound of fat takes up a lot more room than a pound of muscle, and it looks a hell of a lot better
8. Make the weights heavy enough for you to go to failure.
I see many people just pumping through their pre-set rep range. Failure is very important. Your body needs to fail in order for it to grow stronger and bigger, to adapt to the stresses that you are putting on it. Progress needs to be made every single workout session. If your last set ends with you doing 6 reps, and you put every ounce of your soul into that last rep, like you could not have possibly done another rep, then it was a great workout.
In fact if your want to know what true intensity in your workout, read my article on what true intensity is. (Insert link to my Intensity article please.)
9. Don’t skip breakfast.
Given that you are sleeping 7 to 8 hours every night, that’s a long enough fasting period to go through, it’s time to replenish your body with protein and fats. You don’t need carbs at that time. You can get plenty of energy from fats, while training your body to use fat as an energy source. You must have protein in your system in order to stop your body from breaking down muscle to use it as an energy source.
10. Don’t say “I don’t want to get to big!”. It won’t happen overnight.
Many people think if they work out extremely hard to 2 months, they will start to look like Arnold. Like they have some kind of special gene that will surpass years of hard work and calculated eating, and they will be a big hulk. I hate to break it to you, but it’s not going to happen. You have to workout as hard as you think Arnold does, eat like Arnold does, and consistently take your supplements for at least 6 months, then you can decide if you are “getting too big”. Most likely at that point you will be getting closer to the physique that you have been hoping for, but no wheres near being a massive hulk.
Guys will say to me “I got it bro! I’m gonna do high rep, moderately heavy weight routine and it will make me all toned and shredded and won’t make me big and bulky.” Wrong, bro. You must work outside of your circle of comfort, be willing to fail and get uncomfortable sometimes.
Following a workout program that forces progress in the amount of weight you’re pushing every week is a much better route. I won’t get specific here, but 6-12 reps for 4 sets of each exercise would be best. Be willing to go so heavy that your last set of that exercise is a real struggle to complete 6 reps, with good form. And push for more next week. Even 5 lbs will work, as long as the weight is increasing week by week.