I've been training for 20 years and to commemorate that long training slog, I sat down and compiled my 10 best training tips. After I wrote them down, though, I realized that while they'd no doubt be valuable to the novice trainee, they're probably things that the advanced trainee already knows. So I also compiled a second list to augment the first. The second list gives my best advanced tips. The end result is, I hope, something that's valuable to both levels of trainees.
Starting in an upright position (without locking out your knees), contract your quadriceps muscles and slowly lower into a squat position. Once you reach the bottom movement (where your upper legs are just below parallel to the platform), press the sled back to the top without “locking out” and repeat the movement. Make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight and your lower back planted firmly against the rear padding to avoid a back injury.
Train to muscular fatigue. Many people approach an exercise with a preconceived notion of the exact number of repetitions they will do for each set. (Ten seems to be a popular choice.) These misguided souls are training inefficiently and will never reach their full potential. When performing an exercise, your goal is not a certain number of repetitions. Do not start your set saying, "I'm going to do X number of reps." Depending on the muscle group and your particular athletic objectives, you will probably want to stay within a certain range of repetitions. However, your goal is to fatigue the muscle by performing each exercise (with good form) until you no longer can.
Take your barbells out for a date for at least three days a week. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are ideal. Focus on power lifts- the deadlift, squat and bench to build muscle, and burn fat during the process. Have an hour’s warm up session by lifting light weights. You will need to train hard after a month of getting used to the weight lifting session. Push yourself as part of serious training designed to pack on 5 to 10 pounds of additional muscle.
Here's some simple math that many people still can’t seem to grasp. You’re in the gym for only an hour or so each day, leaving another 22–23 hours in which muscle growth depends solely on what goes in—or stays out of—your piehole. So why is the nutrition side of the mass-gaining equation often marginalized? It’s probably because a bench press is a lot sexier than a spinach salad.
"Wide-grip pull-ups coax the upper lats to come out," Arnold wrote. Understand that with wide-grip movements, the elbows stay out away from the sides, which engages the upper lats more effectively. With closer-grip and reverse-grip back exercises, the elbows stay in tighter to the sides, which reduces the emphasis on the upper lats and instead places more of the focus on the lower lats. So depending on elbow position relative to your torso, you can effectively focus on some areas of the back over others.
Of course, cardio is an important part of fitness too, but the benefits of strength training are major. Strength training helps build muscle, and lean muscle is better at burning calories when the body is at rest, which is important whether you're trying to lose weight or maintain it. It also helps strengthens joints and bones, avoid injury, improve your muscular endurance, and will help you give it your all during your other workouts, whether that means setting a new PR if you're a runner or pushing (and pulling) a little harder with your legs during your favorite indoor cycling class.
Start entering regional contests. Open regional bodybuilding contests are the way to crack into the world of competing. Everyone starts at the local level and gradually builds their way up to the national level. If you're in good shape and want to get experience, try competing and see if you've got what it takes to move on to the next level of competition, and maybe even go pro. For a list of amateur competitions in the United States, click here.
Splits. A term used to describe how you organize your workout. For instance, you might decide to work only your chest on day one and your back on day two. This is the type of lifting you do once you get stronger and more experienced. This is not necessary or recommended for beginners because it's too intense. It's not only unnecessary but it could lead to injury or overtraining (burnout).
Not every biceps movement was done for 6-8 reps. Arnold identified certain exercises that he called "definition-building movements," which he performed with relatively lighter weights for sets of 8-12 reps. Here, his focus was on squeezing and contracting the muscle, and holding the peak contraction for a long count. Concentration curls, preacher curls, and alternating dumbbell curls were among his favorites.
Most bodybuilders become familiar with their kitchens as a matter of necessity. Whether you can quickly master taste or not, cooking your own food means you know everything going into it. During a cut, where excess salt or sugar in ready meals and takeaways can hinder weight loss, bringing your own food to work will eliminate any risky meal choices.
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.
Instead, start with heavier weights for low-to-moderate reps. Done early in your workouts, when fatigue hasn't yet set in, this protocol can induce muscle growth via both mechanical tension and muscle damage. Those mechanisms are far less stimulated when using lighter weights than when training for a muscle pump. However, higher reps are superior for driving fluids into the muscle, which increases metabolic stress. All three mechanisms are believed to contribute to muscle growth.
Calorie load the right way. Nutrition is one of the biggest and most important facets of bodybuilding. You can lift seven days a week, train hard, and do all the cardio in the world, but if your nutrition is poor, you will not see rapid and mass gains in muscle size and strength. Learn to eat the right amount of the right kind of calories to gain muscle the way you want.
Weight: Beginners should start with weights that can be lifted 10-12 reps to fatigue with good form. Fatigue means that you cannot lift the weight one more time with good form. If you have to lean back or throw the weight up, then it's too heavy. Lifting 10-12 reps to fatigue will maximize your strength gains and minimize the risk of overtraining or injury.
So what is the best form of strength training? Realistically, it’s the one that you will actually do. Barbell training may be optimal in terms of strength, but if you don’t see yourself actually driving to the gym three days a week, choose a different plan. Likewise, bodyweight training might seem convenient, but if you don’t actually motivate yourself to workout at home, you might have been better off with a different option.
As you have hopefully passed beyond the need to throw obscene amounts of weight around, it's important to realize that not only will you get better results from training by feel, but you will also tend to put less pressure on your joints. Don't get me wrong, it's still crucial to train to failure in the six to eight rep range using compound lifts. Those types of lifts are important, but they are not the focal point of every routine. Use intensity-building techniques such as rest pauses or dropsets, to recruit more muscle fibers.
Dumbbells. I prefer solid dumbbells since the plate-loading type can be tedious to change repeatedly. Dumbbells cost anywhere from 50 cents to $1 per pound. Solid hex dumbbells are what I recommend because they are inexpensive, and they don't roll around like round dumbbells. You might also decide to purchase a bench. Look for an adjustable bench that is well constructed. It should not rock and should feel solid when you lie down on it. If you decide to purchase a bar for the bench press, then you will need uprights on your bench. I don't recommend this for beginners due to safety issues (unless you have a spotter); you can always do dumbbell presses to get you started. If you decide to go with a bar and plates, then look for a 35- to 45-pound bar with collars to lock the plates in place, and then you need to buy plates to load the bar. Figure to shoot for a bench press of up to 100 pounds, so you will need to purchase plates for at least that amount. You can start with two 25-pound plates, four 10-pound plates, and four 5-pound plates. That will get most beginners started.
The world of female bodybuilding can be daunting to enter. While the initial images you conjure up may be of bulky, masculine-looking women with ripped muscles, this isn't always the case. In the 1990s, figure and bikini classes were introduced into women's bodybuilding for those who wanted a smaller yet defined and aesthetically-pleasing physique, says trainer Matt Weik of Bodybuilding.com. Before you take the plunge into competing, there are several important factors you should consider.