Thanks for the contributions: lil smoke (logo), perryfarrell (nutrition advice), maharg (super mod hack skills)
The old thread: Official Fitness Thread of Whipping Your Butt into Shape
Choosing a Program: The Novice
In my opinion, all novices should choose a proven program used by folks similar to them--untrained, unfamiliar, and with bodies "adapted to inactivity" as Mark Rippetoe has said. It has to be a PROVEN program--one that has worked for other drug-free beginners. I like routines that have been time tested as being effective.
The most IMPORTANT part of choosing a program is to figure out what you want. You need a goal. For some, this is specific: "I want to increase my bench by 50 lbs. this year" "I want to gain an 1" on my biceps in 9 months" "I want to lower my bodyfat 5% in a year" "I want to increase my 400 in 3 months".
In my opinion, the more specific the goal, the better. However, as a beginner, you may not really know what you want. Therefore, make it easy, and try to focus your goal on something simple at first:
- Fat Loss
- Specific Skill/Sport Application
Requesting GAF's Help
READ THE ENTIRE OP FIRST BEFORE REQUESTING HELP
If you are going to request a routine or advice on a routine, please READ THE ENTIRE OP and then use this template:
- Current Training Schedule:
- Current Training Equipment Available:
DID YOU READ THE OP YET
Q: I don't want to get big bulky muscles, I want lean muscles. I should do light weight and high reps, right?
A: Do not be afraid of lifting weights. You will not magically sprout muscles overnight. You will not get huge overnight. Muscle does not grow "leaner" or "bulkier": it just grows (not completely true, but the difference between sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar growth is NOT what beginners are concerned with). It is HARD to get HUGE. It does not happen by accident, except a very select few genetic freaks or hormonally enhanced freaks. Lifting weights will aid you in ANY goal: losing weight (raises resting metabolic rate and you don't look like a heap of skin after you lose major weight), gaining weight (combined with proper diet, lifting heavy compound lifts frequently will make you grow), or maintaining weight (weight lifting can be tailored to those not wishing to gain any weight, but still wishing to maintain or increase strength).
Q: I want to tone my muscles. I should do light weight and high reps, right?
A: Tone is the product of low bodyfat, aka DIET. The less bodyfat on your body, the more definition your muscles will have. The way you train a muscle will not influence the surrounding fat; high repetitions will increase muscular endurance and lactic resistance, but does not equal more "tone". Oddly enough, high-intensity (intensity is measured in % of your 1RM) weight training has more of an effect on a muscle's feel and appearance than low-intensity weight training:
From the book Practical Programming:
Practical Programming said:The modern fitness industry's concept of "toning" muscles is specious--it might sound cool, but it lacks any tangible and definable meaning. The term "muscle tone" or tonus describes an electrophysiological phenomenon, a measure of ionic flow across muscle cell membranes. It can be thought of as the muscle's readiness to do anaerobic work. The more fit the muscle, the more electrophysiological activity it exhibits at rest. Lack of exercise leads to poor tone, aerobic exercise improves tone a little bit, low-intensity weight training improves tone more, and high-intensity training improves tone the fastest. As a test, go poke the traps or quads of an elite weightlifter at rest, if she'll let you. They'll be hard as rock. The same muscles of an elite road cyclist as rest will be firm, but not hard. Then compare the athletes' muscle tone to that of a sedentary person. The results will be quite enlightening. Most exercise programs that claim to improve muscle tone are actually lower-intensity hypertrophy programs and are only moderately effective for improving muscle tone. If "tone" is the goal, strength is the method.
Q: My workout buddy says the new issue of Men's Health has the perfect routine. Why didn't you tell me about this?
A: A few things to go over here and the first that there is no perfect routine. It doesn't exist. Everyone has different goals, different bodies, and thus different needs. While many of us on GAF (and anyone else) are adamant about "the best" routines, they work for some, and not for others.
HOWEVER...there are a few rules:
- Specificity of routine increases as experience and recovery ability increase. Broad routines work well for beginners but not for the upper 1% of the weight training community. Therefore, there are a few key principles of routines that work for the beginner-intermediate, which makes up the majority (probably around 80%) of the weight training community:
- -Compound lifts. Squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, pullups, and olympic movements are best
- -Rep range of 3 to 8, depending on goals. 5 is the magic number for strength and size
- Rest. 8-10 hours of sleep per night; your body begins repairing 45-60 minutes after falling asleep and continues throughout deep sleep. This is why 8-10 hours of good sleep is better than 3 hours at a time
- Fuel your body. Your body needs water to complete ALL biological processes, and as far as good goes, if your body is in a state of disrepair from lifting and you do not have the resources to begin recovery, you will not get bigger or stronger. You must recover! This is just as important as lifting itself
Those are some basics. Beginners have the amazing divine ability to essentially grow on ANY routine--and this is where a large source of information comes from. You will get beginners who have just been doing pushups and crunches and say, "I look fucking jacked now! It's all you need to do!" or, "All I've been doing is curls and bench! You got your tickets?" And they stay like that. But they are more than willing to dispense this advice out to others as "working". Why? Because
A)They found something that works (even if it only worked for a few weeks)! They're smart!
B)They don't know any better and are probably too lazy or arrogant to try anything else.
That's the problem, is that because a beginner will grow on ANY routine (full body, split, isolation, calisthenics, etc.), they think it legitimizes that routine. The good routines are the ones that work year in and year out with only modifications within the program. After you stop being able to make workout to workout progress (and the day WILL come), you are an intermediate and need to reevaluate how you are training.
There are always ways to modify how you're training and nothing is perfect. I recommend 5 sets of 5 reps for size and strength, but if you only do 1-2 sets of 5 reps, you probably won't grow that much, though you may get stronger depending on the frequency of your workouts. Whereas some people use 1-3 rep range for pure strength, others may gain size AND strength if they do many sets of it. 8 reps is generally great for size, but hey, if you're getting stronger, fucking A! Good for you!
Once you reach an intermediate level, you've got to stop letting yourself be spoon fed information from the media and others--it's time to stand on your own two legs.
Q: So the latest issue of FLEX has this dude that is bigger and stronger than anyone on GAF doing a 1 bodypart-a-day weight training routine. What you got on this?
A: I have a problem with isolation routines. As I said before, anything will work with beginners and there are always exceptions; but isolation routines saw their rise in direct correlation to the usage of steroids. Modern day professional bodybuilding is a joke due to steroid use. Steroids have an incredible effect on the recovery and work capacity on a normal person--growth HAPPENS. This is not to say that steroid use is a fast ticket to getting huge--hard work is still necessary--but the spectrum of what you can do and use to grow widens. The truth is that many modern bodybuilders and the bodybuilding mags that endorse them are supported by the supplement industry (and yes, this includes steroids and other anabolic enhancers). When a source of information is influenced by the makers of a product, credibility goes down the shitter.
Isolation routines do not work nearly as well as full body and/or compound lifts for the majority of the lifting population (novice and intermediate levels). There is not enough cumulative stress on the body as a whole to induce strength and growth. In addition, isolation exercises do not encourage the body to work well as a whole--you'll function more as a "collection" of bodyparts moreso than one well put together being. Full body exercises and routines give greater hormonal release, teach your body coordination and mechanical awareness, strengthen the tendons and ligaments connecting your tissue and bones, and work many of the smaller supportive muscles. Isolation exercises do have their place and are not "useless"--but they should not be the foundation of a routine.
Q: The routine I am on right now never gives me a "burn" and I rarely get sore the next day. My pilates instructor told me that I must not be working the muscle right. What gives?
A:A "burn" (the result of lactic acid building up in the muscle) and getting sore (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which is still not fully understood) are never an indication of a good workout. Let's take these things one at a time:
- "Burn"-People love the burn and it is usually associated with high reps (USUALLY, though multiple sets of low reps can have the same cumulative effect). There are many reasons for this--it lets them know they are "working" the muscle, thus providing direct feedback into how they must be working out the right way, it gives them "the pump" afterwards, etc. But a burn is not necessary for a workout to be effective and you should NOT obsess over it. The burn is usually (and hopefully, as a burn related to muscle tearing is not a good burn) the result of lactic acid buildup. You CAN train your body to become more resistant to this (although "resistant" should be called "efficient", as "lactic acid" is actually a fuel). I believe I read somewhere that Lance Armstrong experiences VERY little lactic acid "buildup", as he able to utilize it more efficiently, and he is an elite level athlete. Lactic acid does NOT make you strong, make you look better, or decrease your bodyfat. As I stated before, lactic acid is a fuel and important to a muscle's production, but only when it's production is "maintained"; once its production goes over a threshold, it hinders a muscle's performance. This is different for every individual--you are probably going to hit your threshold before Lance Armstrong is.
- "Pump"-The pump is simply an increase of blood flow to a muscle do to muscular stimulation. Someone could bench 300 for a few reps and not experience ANY pump, and yet they may do 50 pushups and get a great pump. Which is a better indicator of strength? High intensity/low rep exercise does not provide an adequate time frame for blood to flow to the area and "swell" the muscle. Here, think about this: bodybuilders will pump weight behind stage in order to give their muscles a better look, fuller, more "body". That's about the extent of usefulness of a pump.
- DOMS-Muscle soreness occurs 1-3 days after a particular exercise and is still not fully understood. Regardless, some people spontaneously combust if they do not get sore after a workout. After all, they read that working out breaks down a muscle and it is repaired on the days they have off, so the muscle soreness must be their broken down muscle repairing itself...right? Now the running theory is that soreness is more related to the type of muscular contraction you are performing. Eccentric movements (the "negative") have been known to cause more DOMS. But wait...all you are doing is lowering the weight. If DOMS is an indicator of a good workout, shouldn't all we be doing is negatives? Doesn't make much sense, does it? You can train heavy, get stronger, and get bigger and experience only minor DOMS. There is nothing wrong with this. The fact of the matter is that DOMS is largely misunderstood. It was once thought to actually be related to lactic acid, which is now known as false. It could be related to the muscle tears/breakdown that exercise causes; it could be related to the actually recovery process, as the body floods the muscles and causes them to swell slightly, increasing pressure on the tissue and nerves in the area. Regardless, DOMS does not have a DIRECT effect on how good your workout is--more often than not, it is an indicator of adaptation or being untrained in a particular movement. It would be best to regard it as that and never be afraid to train through soreness--if anything, the blood flow to the muscle will help loosen it and aid in recovery. Just be sure to warm up and stretch out the tightness.