If you’re a beginner, getting from point A to point Bodybuilding Pro is just as hard as learning to ride a bike blindfolded. Fortunately, there are many successful weightlifters willing to share the tricks of the trade.
Here are a few tips from the pros to get you started on creating your own envy-worthy body.
If You Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
“Lack of planning” is among the top 10 reasons beginner bodybuilders fail to achieve their goals. Planning daily workouts takes time, dedication, and some exercise research. It’s definitely not the most exciting part of training. But you won’t build bulging biceps and washboard abs by sporadically visiting the gym and dinking around on random equipment.
A good plan — like those experienced builders follow — doesn’t have to be elaborate.
Here are 4 basic elements to get you started:
- Decide how many days you’ll work out each week. Keep in mind that resting helps your muscles as much as lifting does, so don’t over-schedule yourself.
- Give each muscle group its own day. For example, Monday for arms and shoulders; Tuesday for legs; Wednesday for core; etc. Organizing your schedule this way simplifies daily workouts, improves workout efficiency, and gives muscles adequate recovery time.
- If you’re not an exercise expert, you probably won’t be able to design a great workout plan without help. Get ideas from knowledgeable lifters or a good workout book.
- Set short and long-term goals and give yourself rewards. Taking a before and after pictures is great motivation to maintain and follow your plan.
Keep Workouts Simple — Focus on Form and Weight
Doing bench presses, deadlifts, and squats can seem tame and tedious. But there’s a reason these simple exercises stick around — they work!
So, resist the urge to spice up your workout with the fancy techniques you saw in a magazine. There are 2 weightlifting principles that make more difference to strength and muscle mass than anything else:
- Good form
- Adding more weight
If you train without good form, you might as well not train at all. Training with bad form isn’t just dangerous, it’s also ineffective. Here’s an example you’ve probably seen if you’ve spent any time at a gym:
While doing bicep curls, novices throw their body against the weight and swing it up using their shoulders and back. Experts stand upright and do a controlled lift with their biceps.
If you train with bad form, chances are good your results will lag. Get ready to see major gains when you improve your form.
Once you’ve acquired good form, it’s time to focus on adding more weight. Lifting heavier weights over time is the key to taking results to the next level.
However, even outside the comfort zone, there are still limits. As you become more experienced, you’ll discover what your limits are. But in the meantime, here are some tips from seasoned weightlifters:
If something doesn’t feel right, stop lifting
- Pain is one way the body tells you when you’ve gone too far; don’t fight through pain
- Not all pain is bad. Learn to tell the difference between “something’s wrong” pain and “good workout” pain
- It’s better to take a day off than have to take weeks off for an injury
- You don’t need to kill yourself to have a good workout
Make the Best Use of Your Time — Do Compound Exercise
The human body has more than 600 muscles. The good news is you don’t have to exercise all these muscles to build a toned physique. The bad news is you probably don’t have hours to spend at the gym. So, don’t waste time on exercises that only work 1 muscle.
Compound exercises work 2 or more muscles. Here are a few examples:
- Shoulder presses (shoulders and triceps)
- Bench press (shoulders, chest, triceps, and biceps)
- Squats (hamstrings and quads)
Some popular “isolation” exercises are barbell curls (biceps only), leg curls (hamstrings only), and tricep pushdowns (triceps only).
Saving time and increasing exercise efficiency are just a few reasons to do more compound exercises than isolated ones. According to exercise physiologist Elizabeth Quinn, compound exercises allow you to lift more and build more strength, burn more calories, decrease injury risk, and allow you to exercise longer with less fatigue.
Lifting to Failure Can Set You Up for Failure
There’s a rumor that lifting to failure is the best way to optimize workouts. “If your muscles aren’t exhausted after every workout, they won’t grow,” people say.
Well, this idea is just not true. Pushing muscles beyond their limits — within reason of course — helps them grow. But lifting to failure during each set takes a major toll on the central nervous system.
After weeks of exhausting workouts, the CNS may become overly fatigued and you’ll find yourself lifting less weight and doing fewer reps; when you should actually be lifting more.
It’s all about knowing your limits, not overdoing it, and understanding what the best ways to build muscle really are. Take it from the pros: lifting to failure just might lead to failure.
Fuel Muscles Before and After a Workout
A common mistake beginning bodybuilders make is to neglect proper nutrition. After all, a good workout is what builds muscle, right? Right and wrong.
Lifting weight causes muscles to tear. When the muscle tissues repair, muscles become bigger and stronger. But muscle tissues don’t repair without proper nutrition.
Protein breaks down into amino acids, which increase muscle protein synthesis and facilitate muscle growth and repair. Carbohydrates provide energy, which is useful during workouts, but also enhances muscle repair.
Veteran lifters fuel up on protein and carbohydrates before and after a workout. They use protein shakes with hydrolyzed protein and carbs that absorb into muscles faster than a protein-rich steak.
You Don’t Have to Be Pro to Lift Like a Pro
You may have learned to ride a bike in one day. But becoming an experienced weightlifter will take a little longer. It’ll take time to identify your body’s signals, develop a good workout and diet plan, and build an enviable physique. But there’s no reason you can’t get a jumpstart by taking this advice from already-experienced lifters.
 Quinn, Elizabeth. “Which Is Better – Compound or Isolation Exercises?” About.com. 22 Feb 2013.
About the Author
Jake Gates is a freelance writer and advocate for HGH Supplements. He specializes in healthy living and nutrition. Jake is passionate about contributing to his community and coaches a local high school lacrosse team. Jake resides in Salt Lake City.