What Every Body Building Newbie Ever Needs To Know About Exercise, Fitness & Healthy Bodybuilding
Start by understanding that a bodybuilding program can be scary. At least in the beginning.
You might eagerly sign up for a gym membership. But once you reach there to find the place crowded with muscular men and women strutting around as if they owned the place, carelessly hefting heavy weights and effortlessly breezing through tough exercise routines, you may find your casual enthusiasm waning.
If the sight of complicated exercise equipment and confident bodybuilders is making you nervous, don’t let it happen.
Every bodybuilding veteran was once a newbie too. These people whom you stand in awe of today were once struggling to figure out the basics – just like you. Over time, they managed to master the lingo and understand what pyramid training was or where the brachioradialis muscle is located.
And so will you. Soon.
Let’s talk about getting started with bodybuilding.
How To Begin With Bodybuilding
People take up bodybuilding for a variety of reasons. Some want to build up muscle mass. Others are looking to become slim and trim, tightening up their mid section. And yet others want to become stronger.
Why are you interested in bodybuilding?
Think about it before you get started. Better still, write down your body building goals for both the short and long term. Be realistic. These goals and targets will help you structure a clear program to guide you towards them.
Don’t expect any bodybuilding program or trainer to work miracles on you. You can’t keep searching for the ‘perfect system’ to put on muscle. Some methods work better than others. There isn’t any secret or surefire system. The trick is to stick with a workout routine for long enough to see tangible results.
Much of your bodybuilding routine will depend upon you and your fitness goals. A teenager looking to make the college basketball team will follow a different workout routine than a middle-aged executive who wants to enjoy better health and firm up his physique. Your unique routine must be based upon your goals and motivations, your desire and genes. A tailored workout isn’t difficult to follow and will deliver impressive results.
First Things First When It Comes To Bodybuilding
1. Check with your doctor. This is critical if you’re older than 40, but important at any age. Let your medical practitioner know if you’ve had earlier injuries or suffer from any impairment or disease condition. Make sure that it is alright to go ahead with the routines and programs you have in mind.
2. Set achievable targets. Get a realistic assessment of where you are and what to expect after 3, 6 or 12 months of bodybuilding. There are no ‘overnight miracles’ in body building or fitness. It’s a slow grind to success.
3. Decide to stick with the program for at least 3 months. You won’t see remarkable changes in a shorter time frame. So make a commitment to do your workouts regularly for at least 12 weeks.
Bodybuilding is just as much about conditioning your mind. You’ll need discipline and focus to build your body. Change happens gradually. Every bodybuilder has made the hard decision to persist with their efforts until they achieve their ideal body. You should make a similar choice before you begin.
Will you do it?
Plan Your Bodybuilding Program
There are different routines and exercises for specific types of body building. Your early preparation should be to know your own goals and understand how to go about achieving them. Design a program uniquely suited to your needs. Your goal at the start is to lay a solid foundation to build upon over the years.
Planning your bodybuilding program involves learning about some elementary components of the process. We’ll discuss them next.
Training For Body Parts
Bodybuilding can be broken down into muscle training for specific groups, one at a time. Each exercise routine stresses a small group of muscles thoroughly. Another form of bodybuilding called circuit training works differently by rotating exercises across multiple muscle groups, but takes more effort and is a bit less effective for body building beginners.
Body part training must be sequential, though. You must work out all major muscle groups so that you develop a balanced physique. The groups of muscles to concentrate upon include
- legs (hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteals and legs),
- back (latissimus, trapezius and shoulder erectors),
- arms (biceps and triceps) and
- abs (or abdominals).
Routines and Exercises
Each muscle group has a range of movements. Exercises can target a few (or all) of these to build muscles.
When you’re starting out, remember that you are laying a foundation. So your exercises should be compound movements or multi-joint movements rather than specific isolated exercises that only train one muscle (or group).
Even among these exercise routines, there are different ways to execute them. You can bench press using barbells, dumbbells or on a machine. Each has some advantages and differences from the other.
Very similar exercises can affect a muscle group in different ways. That’s because your muscles are designed to carry out specific actions, and the exercises which stress those actions build your body differently. That is why exercise routines that include two or three exercises for each body part are so important. They include movements which train muscle groups in all ways.
When you start bodybuilding, go slow with weights. Get a feel for different weights and styles of exercise. Once you are fluent with the form of exercise, you can load up on more weight.
Even after you’re more experienced, it is important to begin with light warm ups. This is to get blood circulating through your muscles and to loosen them up for better function. Once you feel the lifting action flowing smoothly, add on plates gradually until you reach the target load. This system is called pyramid training and is safe even for beginners.
How much weight should you try to lift?
Your typical target weight will make it hard to complete 8 to 10 reps. When your muscles get tired at this level, stop adding more load. Doing this lets your muscles gain strength before you stress them further.
You’ll grow stronger and can then increase the reps at that level. Once you’re able to comfortably handle 12 reps, it’s time to add more weight. You can keep increasing this constantly over time. This is called overload training, and it places a demand on muscles which they must meet. For bodybuilding purposes, stressing muscles to two thirds of their maximum capacity works well.
Keep a Bodybuilding Record
It helps to document your bodybuilding progress. How many sets and reps are you doing at a specific weight on a certain date? Record it in a training log which lists your various exercises.
You’ll gain confidence and motivation as you view your progress. Some newbies to bodybuilding start giving up when they don’t notice their muscles bulking up, or when they see others at the gym heave heavier weights. You need to keep reminding yourself that this is about bodybuilding, not weight lifting – and as your record demonstrates your growing strength, you’ll be inspired to carry on.
Understanding Bodybuilding Lingo – Sets & Reps
A rep describes an execution of one exercise, one time. A set is used for a combination of reps of a single exercise.
For instance, a biceps curl is an exercise. When you carry out 10 curls in sequence, that is 10 reps. In the beginning, you’ll start with 1 or 2 warm up sets of 10 reps each, followed by another 1, 2 or 3 sets with heavier weights.
Gradually build up to 8 to 12 reps per set, adding weights until you feel you have reached the limit. When you notice that even 8 reps is difficult, you’re lifting too much weight – cut it down.
What’s special about 8 to 10 reps?
Exercise scientists and physiologists have run tests that prove that weights of 70% your muscle’s limit brings the best bodybuilding results. For most bodybuilders, this weight can only be comfortably lifted 8 to 12 times. It is not necessary to train your muscle to the point of break down for them to grow. But the closer you reach to this limit, the faster your muscles will adapt. It’s called the “intensity” of exercise.
Form Over Weights
As you grow more confident and experienced with bodybuilding, you’ll embrace more complicated routines. Some will alternate high rep periods (for muscle endurance) with medium rep phases for bulking up and some low rep routines that boost power and strength. Such cycling to progressively higher strength exercises is very effective in body building and gaining power.
But far more important is proper form. Use weights that let you do an exercise correctly than to lift a heavier load improperly. If you don’t, sooner or later you’ll get hurt. And the results you achieve by working out with weights beyond your natural limit are less impressive anyway.
Correctly planned and executed exercise routines have a smooth, controlled movement through the entire lift. From a body building standpoint, this brings you the fastest results. Jerky and irregular movements don’t train all muscle bundles equally. Too slow movements don’t provide the necessary stimulus for muscle to grow. A typical lift cycle will include a two second contraction, a brief pause near peak load, and a two second relaxation (to lower the weight).
Each exercise movement should let a target muscle go through its natural and full range of motion. This lets it develop fully and avoids injury.
Rest And Breathe
Equally important as exercising your muscles is resting them. How long to rest? It depends upon you. The right rest period is however long it takes to feel that you’ve fully recovered from the earlier exercise set. It’s usually 45 to 90 seconds, but can be longer or shorter.
Breathing is a crucial part of the process, as it brings your tiring muscles fresh oxygen and washes away lactic acid to restore pH to normal. Many bodybuilders don’t think about this until they lift heavier weights. It’s best to train yourself to breathe right from the start.
Begin an exercise set with a deep breath. As you push through the hard part of the exercise, breathe out. At the easiest point, breathe in next. If you notice your breathing becoming too labored or noisy, you’re overdoing it. Take a break.
Duration and Frequency
The ideal workout frequency is often controversial. Muscle groups typically take 48 hours to recover fully. If your body is sore, it isn’t ready for another workout. Advanced bodybuilders establish routines that train different body parts in each session. They can train daily, by rotating exercises across upper body, lower body, abs and other groups.
Leaving very long gaps between exercise sessions is bad for bodybuilding. 4 days (96 hours) should be your outer limit. Otherwise your muscle gain will not be maximal.
Each session should last around an hour. This includes doing your sets and resting in between them. Longer is not always better. You’re in this for the long run. Unless you can sustain high levels of effort and concentration over months and years, you’re better off with shorter and more intense sessions.
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