BODYBUILDING BASICS: GETTING
LIFTING WEIGHTS TO ADD MASS
by Mr. Seth at email@example.com
First a brief introduction as to who I am to gain credibility. I am a 23-year-old male who has lifted weights since the age of 16. When I started I weighed merely 140 lbs. I now stand at a sculpted 188 lbs. Now I know what you may be thinking, that seven years is a long time. It did not happen over night for me. However, results also came over time though. It is not like one day I was skinny and seven years later I was big.
This article is for you if you are a beginner who wants to add muscle and do not know where to begin then. If you are an experienced pro you may learn a thing or two as well, by getting back to basics.
I promised John I would keep this short so I cannot deviate and talk long about mental focus and will concentrate on training only. However, I must speak briefly about setting reasonable goals and then sticking to them. No one is going to look like Arnold next month no matter what anyone tells you. This does not mean that you will not make progress, just be reasonable in what to expect.
I must take this brief moment to also explain that there is no secret magic formula to training that will produce unbelievable results. Often beginners like I mentioned above quit early because they do not see results. Have you ever heard the saying, "A watched pot never boils?" Chances are that by looking in the mirror every chance you get you will not even notice minor changes. Your best bet is to ask someone who would be honest with you and sees you infrequently. They can give you an honest answer.
More is not more, less is not always more either
Two questions are always asked of me. First, how much can you bench press? I am not going to answer either. Second, how many times a week do you lift and how many hours a day? The answer to this second question is often expected to be 7 days per week and 2-3 hours per day. This could not be further from the truth. I actually train 4 days per week for approximately 1 hour per session. This is not because I am experienced and can afford the time off. This is because if you overburden the body you will actually "over train" it.
Over Training vs. Growth
If you have not been told this before, a muscle is stimulated for growth as you lift weights. However, the muscle actually grows when it recovers from the workout. You actually break a muscle's fibers down while exercising it. Then when you give it the chance to recover it will heal and grow stronger.
Now what does this mean to you? Ok, I am assuming you want bigger arms. In the pursuit of big arms I am willing to bet that some of my readers may curl weights everyday or a few times per week. This may because this is all you know how to do or because you want bigger arms that badly. Well I am telling you, any other experienced bodybuilder will tell you, and any magazine will tell you TO STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!
When you curl a dumbbell you are working your biceps muscle. If you perform the proper amount of exercise for that muscle you will stimulate growth. The next day and most likely 2 days later you are going to be sore! In case you were wondering, yes it is normal to be the sorest 2 days later. It is called DOMS, delayed muscle onset soreness and it happens to everyone. So if your muscle is sore for the next few days, doesn't it make sense to let that muscle recover and not work it again until it is no longer sore?
Before I move on, I mentioned in the paragraph above to do the proper amount of exercise to stimulate growth. This will take time to learn what suits you best. Go by feel. If you have a deep "pump" in the muscle and any sets following that seem to be doing nothing else chances are you are finished. If you must considerably decrease the weight from what you are accustomed to using, chances are you should have already stopped.
The Split Program
So if you do your biceps and are still waiting for them to recover, what should you do? Work another muscle group! Successful bodybuilders divide the body into sections and pair muscle groups that work well together into different workouts. The possibilities are endless as it ranges from different styles and preferences.
I will recommend what is often considered the most efficient use of time. It pairs muscle groups with each other that feed off of each other's strength. For example, for those who have bench-pressed or even did pushups before you may have noticed that not only is your chest sore, but so is your triceps (muscle on back of arms). This is because your triceps assist your chest in pushing movements, thus acting as an assisting muscle.
For this reason, perform chest movements followed by triceps movements. Please note, always work the bigger muscle first as for example your chest needs the triceps assistance on pressing movements, but your triceps do not need the chest for isolated triceps movements.
Very Basic Workouts
A rep is the single execution of an exercise, for example one curl. A set consists of reps performed repeatedly without rest before stopping.
These workouts are very basic and assume minimal amounts of equipment and can generally be performed at home with just a bench (preferably one that will also incline on an angle), a straight bar, a pair of adjustable dumbbells, free weights, and a leg curl/leg extension attachment to the end of your bench, and most importantly someone to watch over you, or as we say, "Spot you."
Workout 1: Chest & Triceps
Bench Press: Laying flat on back, grip the bar
above you with your hands spread out so that when lowering it to your chest your
upper arms form a 90-degree angle with your forearms at the elbow. This is often
the most efficient way to recruit the most of your pectoral (chest) muscles.
Slowly lower the weight to your chest and then rise straight up. Repeat.
Sets/Reps: Start with 1-2 light sets of 10-15 reps to warm up. Then proceed to do 2-3 more challenging sets with a heavier weight(s) that will make you work hard to reach 8-10 reps.
NOTE: For those looking to brag about big bench presses, listen up. I am going to go against my word and tell you the most I ever bench-pressed. 315 pounds for 3 reps when I was 19 years old. Sounds good right? Just one thing, I had no chest! Nothing to show for it! Why, muscles are stimulated to grow by working within a rep range that will fully exhaust the muscle. This is why I recommend performing 8-10 reps. I work out with a lighter weight now at 23 years old and use more reps and my chest is much bigger.*
Incline Dumbbell Presses: If you do not have a
bench that inclines do this in the flat bench version. (Inclines are preferred
however, as it will more fully develop your entire chest.) This exercise is
similar to the bench press with the barbell. This time grab two dumbbells and
lower to your upper chest with elbows forming a 90-degree angle again. This time
when lifting upward bring the dumbbells together at the top. Do not bang the
weights together, but squeeze the pecs together for a nice burn. Then lower
under control and do again.
Sets/Reps: First set lighter and for 10-15 reps, 2nd and 3rd more challenging and about 10.
French/French Presses: This exercise has many
names and many variations, but is amongst the best way to develop triceps. Start
seated on your bench. With one dumbbell raise the weight above your head. Then
lower it to behind your head while keeping your elbow stationary and near your
head. Get a deep stretch at the bottom, then raise straight up, while keeping
your elbow near your head. Switch arms after a brief rest.
Sets/Reps: First set about 12-15 reps and lighter to warm up. Then do 3 sets of about 10 reps with a challenging weight. At this point do as many pushups as possible. If you cannot do many, do not get discouraged, this means you worked hard. If pushups are easy, then you need to work harder next time.
Workout 2: Back & Biceps
Back is a tricky body part to work because it
is complex and composed of many different muscles. To further complicate things
your goal in developing a quality back is to both widen and thicken the back.
Width: Good old-fashioned pull-ups are still the best way to go. Grip a bar or something sturdy to hold onto (I used to use the side of the steps heading down to my basement).
With an overhand grip preferred over an underhand (underhand recruits the help of the biceps more, and we are trying to concentrate on the back for now), arch your back by sticking your pelvis forward and pull up to raise your chin and hopefully your chest to the bar. Try to pull with the strength of your back and think of your arms as only hooks to the bar. Concentrate on getting a deep stretch while slowly lowering yourself during reps.
Sets/Reps: Do 5 sets and as many reps as possible. Try to increase the total number of reps each back workout while maintaining good form.
Thickness: Place one knee on the bench and the other leg on the floor. With the arm that is on the same side as the leg with the knee on the bench hold onto the bench with that hand. The other hand will hold a dumbbell. While bent over and your body forming approximately a 90 degree angle with your legs and your upper body, pull the dumbbell to your ribs, squeeze, and lower. Repeat.
Sets/Reps: do one light warm-up set of about 15 reps. Then do 3 sets of a challenging weight for 8-10 reps.
Biceps: Barbell curl-With hands about shoulder
width apart curl a barbell from your thighs to about eyelevel while keeping your
elbows near your ribs and without swaying your back to help move the weight.
Squeeze your biceps at the top and then lower under control.
Sets/Reps: 1 warm-up set of 15 reps, 3 sets of 10 reps with a challenging weight.
Dumbbell curl-with 2 dumbbells alternate
curling motions while maintaining good form (elbows at side, no swaying of
Sets/Reps: 3 sets of 10 challenging reps.
Workout 3: Legs
YES YOU MUST DO LEGS! If you do not, you will one day be top-heavy, and have chicken legs! Besides, if you want to gain muscle weight, why would you not work half of your body?
Squats: Toughest exercise? True! Most
A squat rack will be most useful for this exercise, especially when you begin to use heavy weights. For now you can either: 1) pick the weight out of the bench racks, 2) lift the weights from the ground and place on your upper back, or 3) the wisest choice, have two friends lift the weights from the ground and help place it across your shoulders, just below your neck.
Grip the bar with both hands in a comfortable position and by bending your knees and by leaning forward only slightly at the waist bend down to a position where your thighs are parallel with the floor. From this position forcefully push upward to a standing position. Repeat. When done rack the weight or have your friends grab the weight from you. When done, chip in together to buy a squat rack!
Sets/Reps: 3 sets total to learn the exercise, 10-15 reps.
Leg Extensions: Sitting on the bench place
your feet under the pads of the device and by bringing your shins up to form a
straight line with your thighs, squeeze to work your quadriceps muscles (front
Sets/Reps: 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Leg Curls: lying face down, hook feet under
pads and "curl" the weight up towards your butt by contracting your
hamstrings (back of thigh). Squeeze at top and lower under control.
Sets/Reps: 4 sets of 10-12 reps, first set a lighter weight to warm up.
Calf raises on a step: Holding onto a steady
surface, place the ball of your foot (right by your toes) on a step and keep
your other foot off the step. While sturdying yourself, raise from a lowered
position to a raised position (as if standing on your tippy-toes to see over a
crowd). Then lower to a deep stretch in the calf and repeat.
Do 3-4 sets of as many reps as you can do.
Workout 4: Shoulders
Military Barbell Presses: With the barbell
racked, sit on the bench facing the bar. Lift the bar with your hands about 2
shoulders' width apart and press overhead. Then slowly lower to your chin and
then press up again. You want your elbows to form that 90-degree angle we spoke
This exercise is great for building size.
Dumbbell lateral raise to the sides: Standing
or seated hold two dumbbells on either side. Without momentum helping, use the
strength of your shoulders to raise the dumbbells to a height that will form a T
with your perpendicular trunk of your body.
This exercise is tricky, so start light and work your way up to more weight.
For shoulders each exercise 4 sets, first one light and 15 reps, next 3 10 reps challenging.
Abs ought to be done at least once per week, but no more than 3 times per week. . Remember, abs are muscles too and need to recover from each workout. They can be performed at the end of weight training workouts or on non-weightlifting days
These are not your traditional abs exercises, but it will get you an extraordinary set of abs.
Roman chair sit-ups: Sit on the edge of a chair and hold the chair with both hands for support. Tuck your chin into your chest and with bent knees, raise your knees to your chest and hold and squeeze. Lower and repeat. Do not be alarmed if you cannot do many reps. Work up to 15 reps. If you can do more than 15 reps, simply squeeze longer to reduce the number of reps, yet increasing the tension on the muscles. I squeeze my abs on each rep about 5 seconds and only do about 10 reps per set.
Crunches: Lying on your back, raise your legs and bend your knees and bring near your chest. With your hands behind your head, simultaneously bring your knees to your elbows while concentrating on your squeeze (quality of reps over quantity counts!)
There you have your crash course in bodybuilding 101.
I will go over a few brief reminders and touch base on a few things I may not have mentioned.
1. A proper warm-up is absolutely crucial before beginning lifting weights, even light ones. It not only helps prevent injury, but will also allow you to lift heavier because it is better prepared for exercise. So job in place or ride a stationary bike for 5 minutes. Then lightly stretch the muscles to be exercised.
2. Stretching is often overlooked and rushed. Take your time stretching. Hold a stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat a few times. This helps believe me!
3. Rest time between sets. Something I did not mention above. While sitting around talking to people will not be productive, you do not have to rush between sets either. Keep a stopwatch handy and time your rest time between sets. Often 1-2 minutes is ideal as it still keeps you busy, but also allows you to catch your breath and lift heavy on your next set.
4. While I do intend to help all beginners, please remember I am 7 years experienced so it has been a long time since I was a beginner. If you feel my workouts I prepared for you are too in-depth, by all means please pace yourself to whatever you are ready for.
5. As for those who wish to proceed further, if you have a knowledgeable person who can advise you to other, more advanced exercises, by all means good luck.
6. One thing I do not condone is the abuse of sets. Remember, I mentioned a workout much longer than one hour is too long. If you are doing set after set after set, you could be doing more damage than good.
7. In order to make the most efficient use of your time, lift no more than 2 days in a row (to recover properly), yet take no more than 2 days off in a row. This will keep you on a constant schedule without over training your body.
Good luck, any questions email Seth: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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