Friday, March 15, 2013

First Things First: Working Out & The Gym

Hopefully you’ve read the two previous posts before reading this one. If you did, now you’re mentally prepared, you know exactly how much food you’re supposed to stuff your face with every day, and are ready to actually start doing the work. Not the hard work, mind you, as I think the actual gym is the easiest—not to mention most fun—part in bodybuilding. You might agree later.

Going to the gym is a daunting prospect for any skinny guy. You’ll always have the insecurity of looking goofy or stupid, having others make fun of you, feeling inadequate next to the larger or stronger guys, etc. Yes, this is a reality you’ll have to face but the good news is that those fears are largely unfounded. Are there assholes in some gyms? Definitely, but they’re the minority. The reality is that the biggest guys in there don’t want to make fun of you—they want you to admire them and tell them how huge their arms are.

Still, the fear will be there. You know what you have to do now? Well, here’s this bridge:

Get over it.
Yes, you can work out at home if you prefer, and I’ll give you some excellent tips for it (the first 2 months, I worked out exclusively at home because the gym was too far away) later. However, working out at a gym, where a coach can help you out, is optimal. So sack up, get in your workout clothes and get ready. The gym is going to be your temple from now on, and you’re going to be going there at least 3, but hopefully 4 times a week for the next eight weeks. Don’t worry; you won’t be there more than an hour a day.

What Machine Do I Use?

Pictured: The Labyrinth of Minos
Here’s where I’ll differ a bit with the general bodybuilding consensus. Most bodybuilders suggest a split (as in, split your week into muscle groups—e.g. Mondays: chest; Tuesday: legs) routine as opposed to a full body (work your entire body, with fewer sets focusing on each muscle group) routine when you want to grow. This is definitely true, but I think that when you start out, it’s better to do so with a full body routine. Only for the first eight weeks.

This will also help, even if a little, with the horrible soreness you’re going to feel the next days. And boy are you going to feel it. Get ready for some of that sweet pain.

I could actually sit down here and give you a full rundown of what machine you should use, for how many sets and how many reps, but there’s no need. There are a million websites you can visit that will give you that particular information. If you want my specific recommendation, I’d give you this one if you’re working out at a gym and this one if you’re working out at home.

Obviously, if you choose to work out at home, you'll need to drop some dough to buy dumbbells, barbells and one of those things you put on your doorframes to do pullups. They're not too expensive, but it's an expense you're gonna be looking at. Good news about buying it is that even if you prefer going to the gym, you'll be able to work out at home if for some reason you can't drive to the weightroom.

Now, naturally you can use other resources if you want, or even if possible ask the gym coach once you’re there to give you a routine (don’t be afraid to do this; they want you to—that job is boring as hell). The only parameters I’d give you are to make sure it’s a 3 or 4 day, and that it’s full body.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT skip any single exercise or muscle group for any goddamn reason.

Oh you don't care about having big legs? Think again, chicken man; legs are the single most important muscle group to work, and I'll get more into this later. Just remember that these workouts are designed the way they are for a reason. Eventually you'll see how your body reacts and you'll see which muscle groups need more work. For now, stick exactly to the program.

How Do I Perform Each Exercise?
Have you picked one you liked? Great, print it out. Now, before you go, make sure you study every single exercise you’ll have to do. Muscle & Strength has a great database of exercises with informative articles and videos to watch. Familiarize yourself and study the ones you'll be doing.

Doing correct form—“form” meaning the exact movement in which you perform an exercise—is extremely important. It’s much better to do 3 perfect squats than to do 15 with shitty form.

So again, study the exercises. If you have any doubts, ask the gym coach or the biggest guy you see there if he’s not too busy with his own workout (most like being asked to help smaller guys because Ego). Make sure you feel your muscles working the weight. It’s a very distinguishable and satisfying feeling.

How Much Weight Do I Use?
Ah this part. This part sucks because no matter how much of a newbie you are in the gym, no one wants to be that guy who’s using the small dumbbells. Sadly, it’s probable that you’ll be precisely that guy because, well, yeah—maybe you’re weak right now. You won’t be for long, but you gotta start somewhere. It’s important to remember that bodybuilding and fitness in general are about progression; you’ll start in one end of the dumbbell rack, but soon enough you’ll be reaching for the other end.
Reminder: these are not poisonous to the touch.

The formula I generally like to suggest is that you have to pick a weight with which you can perform your entire set (8 or 10 or 12 reps) with perfect form, and doing an effort. I don’t want you picking up a heavy DB to do your 10 curls if you’re gonna be using momentum and arm swings to get the weight up; likewise, I don’t want you picking up the 5’s to do 10 perfect dumbbell squats. It needs to be right in the middle. It needs to be difficult, but it needs to be doable. You’ll feel your way through.

I can’t stress this enough: don’t be embarrassed about picking the smaller plates and dumbbells for now. If you don't, all you're gonna achieve is getting hurt, and that's the last time you'll see the gym.

Sometime in the future, when you look back at how much weight used to feel heavy for you will make your strength feel so much sweeter.

How Long Do I Stay?
As little as you need. I never got why some guys stayed in the gym for four hours. What the fuck could you possibly have to do in the gym for that long? Yes, a lot of people use it to socialize, but you're not there to pick up chicks; you're there to shape your body so what I recommend is get in, do what you have to do, and get out.

I think it's best to do your entire routine as it is described, taking roughly 30 seconds between sets, and 2 minutes between exercises. No more. Doing this should, with a regular routine, take no more than 60 to 75 minutes. Hopefully it won't take longer than that because:

After one hour of workout your hormonal levels and basic Everythings you need for muscle growth drop. After about 75 minutes, any effort you do in the gym will be wasted.

So don't waste your time talking to that one friend you found or chatting up the gym coach about nonsense. You're a man on a mission when you're at the gym. Again, it's simple: go in, move some weight around, get out. 

For now, this is enough. I’ll be posting more about gym etiquette (important) and general workout tips in their own specific sections. Only one more “Bodybuilding 101” post to go.

In case you missed the rest of Bodybuilding 101:

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