What do you think of when you hear the word bodybuilder? Probably some monstrous looking human who must be pumped full of steroids? Well first of all, lets clear that up. Bodybuilding simply refers to the sport of lifting weights as a means of shaping the body. That’s it, no steroids or monsters involved. Bodybuilding has gotten a bad reputation over the years which is completely off. It is my belief that through bodybuilding principals every willing and able human has the ability to craft the body of their dreams in the most efficient way possible. Through a resistance training program, proper nutrition and a lot of motivation, I was able to change my body from the chubby kid, to a skinny avid runner, to one of the strongest lifters in my weight class (at school), to now where I currently am very satisfied with my compact, muscular size with more energy and power that I ever dreamed of. That is bodybuilding.
Women and bodybuilding
Hopefully we haven’t already scared our female viewers away with the first section titled bodybuilding. I really would like to elaborate that bodybuilding does not turn you into so monstrous looking human, I promise you that. It often deters women from ever trying out this amazing sport for fear of taking on a “manly” or masculine look. Let me be the first to tell you, muscle is very hard to build and takes a lot of time to put on substantial amount! Bodybuilding is really whatever you make of it, if you were to stick to a heavy resistance program for a long period of time and really put all you have into it then you could transform your body to get that huge classic bodybuilder look however, if your goal is simply to have a nice toned, slim, athletic or whatever word you might use to describe an attractive body then weights are your best friend! The most important piece of advice I can give you right now is stop running. You hate doing it and I hate seeing people run in hopes of shaping their body because it does not work! Running is very simply for heart and lungs health and dropping weight not shaping the body (read next article: weight v.s. body fat) I will summarise it here: running may drop your overall weight but not your fat levels which in turn means the best you should hope for is to turn out scrawny and weak! However, with a weight training program (bodybuilding) you will be toning your body in the right spots, adding or firming up muscle at the same time while dropping your fat levels! This is the only way to achieve that athletic “ideal” look! In no way does bodybuilding mean you have to become huge as that is very hard to do, used correctly and following a smart weight training plan, bodybuilding can be the key most people are missing to achieving their dream bodies!
Body weight V.S Body fat
Now, to expand on the term many people may have heard of but never really understood or applied: body fat. This is the measure of fat mass that makes up our bodies normally given as a percentage. For example: you have a man who looks slightly obese and weights 200 pounds however you have another 200 pound man beside him who looks quite athletic and well built. Now how is this possible? Well that’s where body fat comes in. Man A (obese) may have a body fat percentage around 30 while man B (athlete) weighs the exact same while having a low body fat percentage around 10. Body fat percentage literally means how much of ones body is made of of fat subsequently telling you the rest is made up of everything else in the body including predominantly muscle. Body fat can be changed from percentage to pounds with a simple calculation of overall weight x Body fat percentage. Therefore man A (obese) 200 x 0.30 = 60 pounds of fat while man B (athletic) 200 x 0.10 = 20 pounds of fat. That is 40 pounds more of fat in the obese man than the athletic man, what a huge difference! Hopefully you are realising that body fat percentage is so much more important than your weight and people can actually get discouraged when starting a training program because they step on the scale every morning and their weight may either stay the same or even go up due to the fact that fat is being burned and muscle is being built which is heavier than fat! Body fat is actually very easy to track / measure which can be done via scale, handheld device, fat calipers, and many more. To save the best for last, you may be wondering what a “good” Body fat percentage is, this number is of course subjective to different people but there are general guidelines. In men: 8% – 19% is considered a healthy range where abs may become visible 10% or lower and above 30% is considered obese. In women: 21% – 33% is considered a healthy range where abs may become visible around 20% or lower and above 33% is considered obese. Keep in mind, those numbers are just guidelines and body fat is very difficult to measure exactly without professional equipment however, if measured consistently (say every morning before breakfast) you should be able to see a change in the number even if it is not dead on. Now you know all about body fat it’s time to put the knowledge to use!
No matter where your starting point is, you have likely either done weight training yourself or seen other people doing it. There are a few different ways to weight train however they all originate from the same thing which is obviously the act of lifting weights. That being said, walking into the gym and randomly picking up a pair of weights and jumping into whatever exercises first comes to your mind is more likely to put you in the hospital then to leave you with the results you are going for. That means before you even enter the gym, you should have a soild plan of how much you are going to attempt lifting and which exercises you wish to preform. This is where exercises (movement), reps (how many times you lift the weight) , and sets (number of times you do the reps) comes into play. Keeping your goal in mind, whether it be endurance, strength, fat loss, adding muscle or whatever it may be, all can be achieved through weight lifting however with slightly different rep and set schemes. For example: if you are looking to add muscle you may wish to preform around 8-12 reps v.s if you were more looking to add strength you would only wish to complete 4-6 reps with a heavier weight. For endurance you should preform between 15-20 reps with a lighter weight. That leaves fat loss which is more so to do with diet, you could complete any rep scheme based on one of the goals above on top of fat loss. No matter what your goal is and the connected rep scheme you should always aim to hit failure by the end of the set. Failure is when you can no longer physically lift the weight, this concept will be further discussed in the next article (Principals). In general, my recommendation for any level of athlete starting a new weight training program is to start with very light weights in order to get a feel for each exercise some of which could be completely new. Also, I would recommend completing 3 different full body workouts on 3 alternating days such as Monday Wednesday and Friday in order to provide proper rest. Another recommendation, is to only complete 1 set of each exercise for the first month of training as more than that is going to push to body to hard. Now, that is a lot of information to take in so I would like to summarise: The first month of any new weight training program for me consists of 3 different full body workouts one on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with each workout built of between 12-16 different exercises, I preform 8 reps till failure with only one set of each exercise. Now you know that hitting the gym is a lot more than just running in and picking up some dumbbells you need to really plan and think about your workout before you start in order to achieve optimum results. Next thing you should do is start thinking about an exercise plan which can be a daunting task for a beginner so feel free to contact us and we would be more than happy to help!
So, you’ve made it this far and you have at least a basic understanding of weight training and the benefits it brings. You might even have a workout plan or routine underway and your just looking to optimize results. Whatever the case, you came to the right spot. Training all in itself is alot of work but anyone willing and able to do it likely wishes to get the most out of each session. That is made possible by putting into effect some very common training Principals some of which may already be used and others brand new. To begin, the most important training principal for anyone looking to make progress is called progressive overload. If you take one thing from this article let it be this: progressive overload is the act of pushing your body a little bit more each time your in the gym. This can be done in a few ways, most common practice is the add a few pounds to each lift as your strength progresses. Say you can bench press 100 pounds on your first week of training, next week you should try and add as little as 5 pounds to the bar. The addition does not by any means need to be large however in order for our muscles and bodies to keep growing we must constantly push them harder or they will adapt and progress will not be made. More ways to practice progressive overload are: taking less rest in between sets, doing more sets, more reps, basically doing anything harder than the last time you worked out should keep you progressing! Next, is the principal of controlled contractions: this means the deliberately lift the weight slowly and controlled as well as lower the weight equally as slow. The more time your muscles spend under tension (raising and lowering the weight) the more they will be worked. You are only cheating yourself to lift the weights fast so start light and lift slow! After that, I think it is important to talk about the principal of rest: not only is it important to rest about 60 seconds in between each set in the gym but is just as important to have certain days of the week with no lifting. Many beginners are so egar to get in shape that they don’t take days off to rest which is actually counter productive to making progress. Assuming you are giving it your all in the gym, the act of lifting weights actually causes micro tearing in the muscles which leaves a unique window after the workout where nutrition is critical in order to fill these muscle with the right foods to make the muscles heal bigger and stronger than before. However, these micro tears and our muscles if not given at least 48 hours between targeting the same group will not have a chance to repair and therefore the work will be going to waste (read more on this under article “over training”). Last but not least, I think it is very important to mention although not a principal, that consistency really is key. You need to put in a soild effort to stick to your gym schedule and diet and trust me you will see the results! Now start applying these key principals and get after it!
A large focus of this blog is placed on weight training and subsequently bodybuilding/body shaping however I want to broaden the scope here and look at different types of training for different goals, looks, sports and get into the details of what makes certain workouts hit differently than others. For simplicity sake, we are going to take a look at the best methods to build muscle, get stronger, raise endurance, and sport specific training. For now diet will be left out of the picture (read up on everything you need to know under “Nutrition”). First off, we need to look at how muscle is built. When weights are lifted and micro tearing takes place in the targeted muscle (the act of breaking to muscle fibre in order for it to grow back larger) is called hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is what anyone looking to put on muscle needs to achieve and this is done so by lifting weights till faliure for 8-12 repetitions usually incorporating exercises for each part of the body in order to provide symmetry and all around good looks. Next, for athletes looking to add strength it is so much about hypertrophy but more so about lifting the heaviest weight possible for only a few reps, more specifically 3-6 and the main focus should be on bench press, deadlifts and squats as these are by far the best for increaseimg full body strength. After that, we have endurance athletes which is anyone who has to do many reps or move a long distance and needs their bodies to hold up. The best way to train for this is to use light weights or even just bodyweight and crank out between 15-30 reps again trying to hit all parts of the body. Last but not least it would be impossibly lengthy to go into detail about how to best train for each and every sport so take this as an overview. Of the three goals above (muscle, strength, and endurance) at least one of those likely 2 maybe even all three apply to your sport and because of that certain training days should be put towards each type of training. For example, a football player will most certainly need strength, endurance, and probably wish to add some muscle so training could look like this: Monday- full body hypertrophy day to build muscle Wednesday- strength day (bench press, deadlifts, squats etc) Friday- bodyweight full body endurance day (lots of reps of push ups, air squats, burpees etc). Last but certainly not least one thing that probably has definitely not been given enough attention on this blog is cardio. Each type of training above comes with it’s own method of cardio best suited for results. For building muscle, I highly recommend looking into HIIT (high intensity interval training) as a means of stripping off fat to reveal the hard earned muscle as well as making the body powerful through sprits and other quick burst of energy. For athletes looking to pack on strength HIIT would be an option or enough the counter part LISS (low intensity steady state) which would be like going for a jog good for the heart but not as effective as producing power as HIIT. For endurance athletes is clearly makes sense to use endurance cardio such as a long run or row or bike as a means of cardio in order to build up the bodily systems needed for long events. All of the above types of cardio can again be transferred to specific sport training just apply the type that best suits the goal you are after! (Read more in depth about cardio under “Cardio” article). That was a huge chunk of information to take in but just read it over as many times as needed , do your research and start applying more specific training to take you to the next level!
Reaching the point of faliure and over training
As briefly mentioned in past articles, training to failure is a key concept in building muscle as well as just generally making progress in the gym. Training till failure does not mean that you must spend hours upon hours in the gym until you drop, that is very ineffective and not the point of training toll faliure. However what it does mean, is when you go into the gym with a plan say you are planning to partake in arm day and have a set plan of 10 different exercises to complete you need to push yourself to the max in each and every lift so much to the point that you cannot possibly move the weight. Say you have a goal of muscle building (hypertrophy) and therefore plan to do 10 reps of each exercise than an appropriate weight needs to be selected so that by the last rep or 2 you are under so much strain that it is impossible to get the weight to move anymore. It is hitting this point of failure that actually builds the muscle and helps you progress not the many reps before. That being said, you cannot skip the first reps and just hit failure on your first rep by lifting an extremely heavy weight, you must go through the first 8 or so reps and then push the last few out until you literally can’t anymore! If you can do that than I garuntee you will make progress and leave the gym after your session knowing your doing the best job possible! So, now you know the key to progressing as fast as possible why not just go and train your arms till failure every single day and get huge arms? Well, when you push yourself to this point of failure which I cannot stress enough is crucial, your body needs adiquite time to recover up to 48 hours infact. You may feel able to crank out some curls everyday but it is not physically possible for your body to keep growing if being trained everyday, remember your body actually grows while you rest not while you work! What this means is alternating work and rest days or training different muscle groups each day in order to rest certain areas depending on what your program looks like. If your one of those stubborn people who thinks they have what it takes to train hard day after day let me warn you of the serious effects of over training. Not only do you have the obvious effects of low energy training and as mentioned before you will actually cause yourself to platuo with over training. On top of that you will experience unnecessary soreness, headaches, weakened imunity, joint issues amount many others. That scary information out of the way, the goal was not to scare you out of training rather to inform you that you should give it your all in the gym and leave it all on the floor and then give yourself a well deserved rest after. This all comes with a good plan and practice so stayed informed and get it done!