YOUR FIRST ROUTINE
The classic 3-days a week, full-body routine, training Monday-Wednesday-Friday, is of little use beyond getting a feel for the exercises and working on form. Why? Because this type of routine allows for next to no recovery, once you start training hard.
Right at the beginning, is when you want to understand how critical proper recovery is. Growth cannot occur if you are not recovering from your workouts, regardless of your level of experience. Recovery does not happen from hitting the gym 6 days a week for hours on end.
SETS AND REPS
The first month, after warm-ups, 2-3 sets per body part is good. Reps at this stage are 10-12 per set.
Your first month is more about learning how to perform the exercises correctly, so you should be using a weight that easily allows you to hit the prescribed 10-12 reps, with maybe 1-2 tough reps at the end. Trial and error with weights really is an easy and somewhat fast way to get started—expect your first session to be one of trying different weight to determine comfortable working poundage.
Pyramiding refers to starting with an easy warm-up set with light weight, hitting 15 easy reps. Add weight and decrease the reps over 1-2 more sets until you arrive at your first "working set," the first set where you are training with your required reps, in the example, 8 reps.
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.
REST BETWEEN SETS
At first, you may find you need 2-3 minutes between sets, working down to 1 minute is ideal. As you get in better shape, you may find you need even less. A good rule of thumb is to rest just long enough to catch your breath.
You want to take a few seconds (2-3) to raise the weight, and a few seconds to lower it, slow and controlled. You can pause at the top for 1 second and squeeze the muscle being worked.
This refers to the idea of being able to feel the muscle being worked. This requires being in touch with your body and the functions of your muscles. Take the time to look at anatomy, you should know what each muscle is called and what it does, and you should try to flex these muscles to get a feel for each one. As you work out, think about that muscle and it's function. Try to focus on the muscle as your going through your sets. In time, you will have no problem "connecting" with the muscle you are working.
Proper performance of every exercise is critical. Doing an exercise with poor form can easily lead to injuries, and can limit your progress. The point is to make the target muscles work hard, not just heave the weight around however you happen to do it. The time spent now will lead to much better long term results with a much smaller chance of injury.
From day 1, you should keep a log of your exercises, weight used, reps and sets performed, time the workout started and ended, and how it felt: was this set or that set hard, too easy, how did the exercise seem to feel. This is your guidebook that allows you to chart progress from workout to workout.
Don't hold your breath! To start, breathe in on the downward part of an exercise and breathe out on the upward part. As time goes on and you gain experience, breathing will take care of itself.
Most of the exercises that should make up your initial training are called compound, or basic, exercises. These are exercises that involve more than one muscle group, such as the squat, deadlift and bench press. This is in contrast to isolation exercises which only work one muscle at a time, such as dumbbell flyes (chest), concentration curls (biceps) and side laterals (side deltoid head).
It makes sense to stretch both before your workout and in between sets. This helps improve flexibility, helps keep your muscles warm and pliable, and can aid in recovery after your workouts.
VARIETY IN TRAINING
The idea of changing your routine after a certain time to prevent staleness. A good rule of thumb is that after 4 weeks, it's time to do something new, as you will have gotten all you can from your current routine. However, certain key exercises should always be there—squats, deadlifts, to name two.
Muscle soreness is a common side effect to working out. It subsides as part of the recovery process. Delayed-onset muscle soreness is the most common type of soreness and occurs 24-72 hours after training. This is why rest days are important, to allow soreness to disappear before training again.
If fat loss is your primary goal, you'll need to add some cardio to your program. To start, I would use a simple program of 20 minutes 3 times a week and gradually build up to longer sessions and perhaps one extra session a week. Use whatever cardio equipment you like, a treadmill is a great choice. You can help the time pass by listening to music or watching TV. Try to do cardio either after weights or first thing in the morning.
One of the most misunderstood areas for new bodybuilders is nutrition. I talk to guys all the time that have no idea of their daily calorie intake, their daily protein intake, their carbohydrate intake. They have no idea of what types of foods they should be eating, or when they should be eating them. They don't know what supplements do what and what they should using.
Your protein intake should be 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Take this total and divide by 6, this is the number of meals you need to eat every day. By meals, I don't mean 6 five-course feasts. I mean smaller meals. You should be eating every 3 hours, 2-3 meals can be a protein shake and a low fat, low sugar sports or granola bar. A meal like this works great if you're in a hurry.
SAMPLE FOOD LISTS
Protein: Lean beef, Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Low-fat dairy (such as skim milk, or eggs using 2-3 whites to 1 yolk)
Carbohydrate: Oatmeal, Brown rice, Sweet potatoes, Multi- or whole-grain breads (in moderation)
Fats: Cold water fish, Sunflower seeds, Almonds, Walnuts, Peanuts, Canola oil, Safflower oil
Pre- and post-work out, you want simple carbs, such as fruit or yogurt, these are usually combined with protein powder as part of a shake.
Serving sizes should be based on your appetite, you should never be over full when done eating but should be satisfied. Daily calorie intake should be based on the following formula: which takes into account your metabolism and activity level. Here's what you do:
Body weight x 10 (men) or 9 (women) x activity factor x metabolism level.
Activity factor is determined like this:
· Sedentary lifestyle (sitting a lot, no real exercise) = 1.1
· Mildly active - standing at work, 2-3 workouts a week = 1.2
· Very active = 1.3
Metabolism level is determined like this:
· Fast metabolism = 1.1
· Average = 1.0
· Slow = .9
Here's an example for a 170lb man:
170x10 = 1700 x 1.2 (mildly active) = 2040 x .9 (slow metabolism) = 1836 calories per day.
For this same man, let's assume he has a faster metabolism and is more active:
170 x 10 = 1700 x 1.3 = 2210 x 1.1 = 2431 calories per day.
This formula determines what you need to maintain your current weight. If you want to add muscle, take your base calorie intake and add 500 quality calories a day, divided over your 6 meals. When adding calories, monitor how the extra calories effect your physique. Pay attention to your midsection, you want to gain muscle, not fat.
If fat loss is your goal, decrease calories by about 500 per day. Be careful to reduce carb intake after dinner, and keep an eye on your sugar intake, really the only time you should have any type of sugary or fast carb is in the morning and around your workout.
On training days, you should make two additions to your eating plan: a pre/during workout drink and a post workout shake. One of the newer concepts in supplementation is the idea of a carb/protein drink that you can have leading up to and during the workout. After training, within about 20-30 minutes, have a protein shake with fruit mixed in as discussed in the "supplements" section. This further helps recovery and growth.
The cornerstone supplements are protein powder, a good multivitamin/mineral, and creatine. You can add a lot to this but these are the three most important.
Protein powder is important as a convenient and easy source of protein, if you can't make it to a meal or are unable to eat a sit down meal, say at work or school, a quick shake can be a life saver.
It's important to have a post-workout shake—30-40 grams of simple carbs with the same in protein, within 20-30 minutes of training. This jump starts the whole recovery/growth process. There are various types of protein out there, as well as several " formula" powders.
As far as protein, whey protein is the highest quality available and it's also digested quickly. Currently, milk, or casein protein is popular because it's slow digesting, this is good if you can't have a shake as often as you'd like or before going to bed. There are also protein blends out there that combine whey, milk, soy for the same reason—to be slow digesting.
A multivitamin is taken for insurance purposes, you will not make as much progress if you're lacking in key nutrients. Look for a natural vitamin product, nothing synthetic or artificial. Look for at least 50mg. Of the B vitamins and at least 300 mg. of vitamin C.
Creatine is a time tested product important for energy and volumizing—this means it can cause the muscles to swell in size. Many current products revolve around this concept. There are many different types of creatine out there, they all, of course, claim to be the best.