I now know that was a mistake. An eight-week Australian study that found that doing one of four sets of bench presses to failure produced double the strength gains compared to lifters who didn't take any of their sets to failure.[1] But in a follow-up study, the researchers found that doing more than one set to failure on the bench offered no additional strength gains.[2]
Multiply your body-weight in pounds by 10 to get the minimum number of calories you need each day, advises champion female bodybuilder Jamie Eason. You then need to add 300 to this if you have a sedentary lifestyle, 500 if you're moderately active or 800 if you're highly active. Aim to get your calories from nutrient-dense foods such as lean meat and fish, low-fat dairy products, beans, fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, nuts and seeds. You may need to play around with your calorie intake slightly until you find the perfect balance.

Now that you've got the training part down, it's time to stretch it out. (Can you say ahhh?) Stretching while your muscles are warm can help improve your flexibility, says Davis, not to mention it just feels phenomenal after you've pushed yourself hard. A light cool-down is also great for calming the nervous system. While dynamic stretches should be your go-to during a warm-up, the cool-down is where static stretching comes in—this means holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds. These four passive stretches will do nicely.

Unless you do extreme sessions for considerably longer than an hour, include intense cardio or strength-endurance weights programs, or ate poorly in the hours leading up to the session, you probably don't need anything other than water during a workout. Don't let your blood and muscle glucose get too low, or cortisol and other hormones will start to break down your muscle. But you don't need expensive supplements to protect you from catabolic cortisol surges. All you need is carbohydrates from a sports drink, gel, or bar.

Focus on those exercises, trust me, you won't regret it. Also, don't be afraid to add weight to the bar as well, as long as your form is in check. Overloading the muscles is essential for growth because the body doesn't need to adapt if nothing's changing. Therefore, you must force your body to change by adding weight or another repetition on that exercise that next time it comes around.


In terms of actual gains, depending on the factors listed above, maybe 12-15 lbs. of muscle, 15 lbs. being on the high end. This assumes you are natural, by the way. Drugs are a personal choice, but my experience is as a natural bodybuilder, so I'm not going to pretend to know a lot about how steroids affect your gains. Having said that, it makes sense to at least be aware of what they are and what they do, purely from a knowledge standpoint. There are enough knowledge resources available on line that you can learn about them if you choose to pursue that option.
If you decide to join a gym, know that you're not expected to know how all of the equipment works right off the bat—or what to do with it. Be sure to take advantage of the free orientation so you can learn how to properly use everything that's offered and set up a basic strength-training program. At the gym, machines are preferred for beginners, because they're quite safe: Most require little coordination and offer more stability than free weights while performing the movements. 
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One of the basic tenets of weight lifting: you must either add weight, add sets, increase intensity or decrease rest time to encourage continued progress. At this stage, adding weight makes the most sense and will be recommended throughout the first 6 months or so. But by the very nature of acquiring experience, you'll also be adding sets. Decreasing rest time and the use of intensity techniques is used as you reach strength plateaus, when you are more advanced.
Here is a very good bodybuilding workout routine tip you can use to determine the exact number of rest days between training sessions. Track your weight, and reps. If your strength continues to increase, you are resting between training sessions in an optimal manner. If the weight plateaus, or decreases, add additional muscle building rest days between workouts.
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