For people just starting out in the gym, there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid.
I made this list because I have clients who ask me the same questions over and over again.
When should I eat? How heavy should I lift? How much rest? Etc. etc. etc…
I’m not some kind of fitness god (or even guru), and this article is as much for my friends as it is for readers of this site.
Follow these rules and you’ll avoid injuries while getting ripped up in no time.
- 1) Warm up before lifting anything heavy
- 2) Do at least 3 sets of each exercise
- 3) Lift heavy weights
- 4) Rest for 1-2 minutes between exercises
- 5) Have a spotter for Bench Press and Squats
- 6) Eat before you lift
- 7) Consume more protein than you need
- 8) Rest your upper body muscles for 2+ days, and legs 3+ days
- 9) Choose mostly compound lifts
- 10) Take a day off each week, but no more than 2 in a row
1) Warm up before lifting anything heavy
Typically I will do 3 sets of 10 at a relatively light weight, for whichever exercise I plan to do first that day, before proceeding to the actual sets.
2) Do at least 3 sets of each exercise
I generally do between 4 and 10 sets of each exercise, depending on my workout regimen. You won’t break down muscle necessary for gaining strength if you do less than 3 sets.
3) Lift heavy weights
By “heavy,” I mean the 4-7 rep range. If done consistently, men can expect bigger muscles (due to higher testosterone levels) and women can expect a leaner frame with more “pop” – but not bulk (!).
4) Rest for 1-2 minutes between exercises
This is important if you’re lifting heavy weights, since it allows you to keep lifting heavy and increase workout volume. If your program calls for 10 or more reps, rest for 1 minute.
5) Have a spotter for Bench Press and Squats
These lifts will bring you incredible results, but you can get seriously injured if you don’t have a spotter. Don’t put your life in danger – ask someone who’s not a newbie to spot you.
6) Eat before you lift
Unless you’re intentionally fasting to cut fat, eating before you lift weights will allow you to lift more weight.
7) Consume more protein than you need
At least 1 gram per pound of lean body weight per day. Ideally, try to have a large meal with plenty of protein, carbs and good fats after lifting weights. At a minimum, opt for 20-50 grams of protein (depending on your body weight) from either a shake or a natural source of complete protein.
8) Rest your upper body muscles for 2+ days, and legs 3+ days
Never lift the same body part two days in a row. Research has shown that if you lift heavy weights for multiple sets, it could take up to 5 days to recover. Make sure you get enough sleep.
9) Choose mostly compound lifts
Compound lifts stimulate more muscle fibers, increasing your strength and burning more calories than isolation exercises. See this article for instructional videos.
10) Take a day off each week, but no more than 2 in a row
Studies have shown that your metabolism falls off a cliff after more than 2 days without exercise. Overtraining is next to impossible unless you’re a world class athlete. Keep this in mind before you skip your Tuesday evening workout.