Here are some very common errors made by beginners who seem clueless when it comes to the proper way to gain strength and muscle mass: More is not necessarily better when it comes to weight training in the gym. Your body needs time to recover when it's put under the stress of heavy lifting. Remember, when you perform weight training exercises you are literally tearing down muscle fibers. This means that in order for your muscles to grow the muscle fibers must undergo a healing process. If you fail to allow adequate recovery by giving at least 48 hours rest before hitting the same muscle group, you will likely fail to gain any appreciable muscle mass. Weight training provides the stimulus for growth but rest and proper nutrition is what's needed for the growth process to occur. Bottom line: Train each bodypart hard 30 to 60 minutes per session once per week and do cardio 20 to 30 minutes per session 2 to 3 days per week. In order to gain strength and muscle mass, you must lift progressively heavier weights over time. In other words, patience and discipline is required to make quality gains. Piling on a ridiculous amount of weight to gain strength and muscle mass faster is foolhardy at best and injurious at worst. Using bad form, bouncing the weight, and performing very short range of motion while straining to lift enormous amounts of weight is a recipe for disaster (read: injury). Bottom line: Utilize small incremental increases in weight from workout to workout while performing lifts. Failure in weight training is a good thing. This means that you are lifting a weight as many repetitions as possible until you're not able to perform one more rep. Soreness is the name of the game when lifting to failure. Just going through the motions is not going to cut the mustard. The weight lifted must be challenging enough that if your goal is to perform 10 reps, you will need to utilize intestinal fortitude in order to perform 11 reps. Each and every set needs to be this challenging in order to warrant a rest period. Be sure to limit any intensity technique such as drop sets, forces reps, rest-pause, etc. for the last set of an exercise in order to lessen the risk of overtraining. Bottom line: Make each and every set count by lifting a weight that causes muscle fatigue. If you're not training legs as intensely as arms, you are making a big mistake when it comes to gaining overall strength and muscle mass. Legs consist of the largest muscles within the body. Why would you want to avoid training such large muscles unless you'd prefer to have an imbalanced physique (i.e., humongous arms sidelined by toothpick legs!). If you want to get big, you need to squat, period. Compound movements such as squats, leg presses, hack squats, and lunges is what's needed to build a respectable physique. The bonus is training legs spurs more growth hormone release than training the upper body. Not only this, but your metabolic rate will increase significantly as well due to the increase of quad, hamstring and gluteal muscle mass. This means more calories will be burned while resting. Not a bad tradeoff. Bottom line: You must train legs if you want to gain appreciable strength and muscle mass.
The diet industry makes billions of dollars by selling weight loss. Most people do lose weight but fail to keep the pounds from reappearing. Emphasis should be on how to maintain
one's body weight after the pounds have been dropped. Here are some tactics you should employ to keep from gaining the weight back:
- Eat plenty of low-fat protein foods (e.g., eggs, low-fat cheese, soy milk, nuts, seeds, etc.)
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables (extra fiber aids in reducing appetite)
- Control food portion sizes
- Make a shopping list before going to the store and stick to the list (this helps to avoid impulse buys)
- Read nutrition labels (knowledge is power!)
- Consistently follow an exercise program (e.g., 2-3 days/wk of weight training and 3-5 days/wk of cardio)
- Consistently follow your nutrition program (avoid eating more food on the weekends)
- Watch less TV (mindless eating may occur)
- Weigh yourself weekly to track weight maintenance
- Keep a food diary (seeing a food plan on paper is a real wake-up call in terms of the amount of food eaten)
- Reward yourself for sticking to your exercise and diet plan (i.e., go to the movies, indulge in a pizza, etc.)
- Remind yourself of the reason why you need to control your body weight (i.e., reduce high blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes, etc.)
Remember, if you can keep the weight off for at least two years, the chances are great that the pounds will stay off.
This comes down to incorporating the fundamental aspects of training smarter and safer. You should perform these five steps each and every time you weight train:
In addition, consider performing sets of relatively high repetitions (e.g., >20 reps) of the same exercises the following day of your heavy workout day to facilitate the recovery process. If you have an existing injury, perform high reps during weight training to lessen further injury while also maintaining your strength level. BOTTOM LINE: Having an injury should not preclude you from working out. Use common sense and "listen to your body" to guide you on workout intensity. Take time to warm-up prior to your work sets.
- Cardio warm-up (5-8 mins)--Systemic cardiovascular warm-up to holistically get your body ready for what's to come (e.g., bike, rower, treadmill, stairstepper, etc.)
- Joint rotations / dynamic stretching (1-2 sets)--Depending on whichever muscles you intend to work out for the day, be sure to warm-up the associated joint. For example, perform arm-and-shoulder rotations prior to working the chest and back muscles. Perform slow, careful bouncing single-leg deadlifts prior to working the hamstrings.
- Warm-up sets (1-2 sets)--These sets should be at about 50-65% of your working set load to ready your body for what's to come.
- Working sets--Be sure to perform each set using good posture.
- Static stretching (2-4 sets)--Hold each stretch for up to 30 seconds for the muscles that were worked during the workout to help enhance the recovery process.