Stepping into the gym for the first time is a weird, overwhelming experience for everyone. You have made the decision to change a big part of your life.
Get bigger, stronger, leaner and healthier.
You’ve probably seen one of the billion motivational gym videos online, or have decided to join your group of mates in the quest for a six-pack and a bicep peak. However, nearly every guy or girl in today’s society has tried or will try to start some type of fitness endeavor. The harsh reality is that only a small percentage of these people continue to pursue their goals over a long period or a lifetime, and bow out with a hundred excuses the following month.
“I got injured bro”,
“I just got too much work”,
“I haven’t got time”,
“I have terrible genetics”
The list is endless, trust me. I think the funniest part about this situation is that becoming more muscular, or improving your performance, is not a hard equation to solve, especially when you are first starting out. Don’t get me wrong though, it takes time, it takes effort, and it requires some habitual changes.
Most importantly, it is a learning experience and you need to have an open mind and be willing to educate yourself to ensure success. It is actually impossible to fail to reach your goals (provided they are realistic) if you obtain the knowledge, and then dedicate your time and effort into implementing this knowledge.
So what’s the problem?
The problem lies in two areas. The first is one’s ignorance to learn what is required to reach their goals. The amount of people that start their fitness journey, or continue to pursue it, whilst remaining uneducated and unwilling to learn the ways in which to actually reach their ambitions is frightening.
No one would try building a house without learning how to build a house.
No one would try driving a car without learning how to drive a car.
Yet somehow almost everyone tries gaining strength and muscle mass without learning how to gain strength and muscle mass. It is nonsensical to walk into the gym without any methodology or structure, and just hope and pray to any possible God that flinging some weights around will make you the Incredible Hulk by summer.
Don’t be this person, start your journey with the right mindset.
This brings me to the second area
The internet is full of misinformation, gimmicks and scams. It is hard to find an industry more overrun by these things than the fitness industry. Every website or magazine has the latest revolutionary training method or dietary supplement, and every casual gym goer claims to be the ‘know-it-all’ without ever having studied the topic. This can make it extremely hard to get useful, scientific information on weight training because you will constantly hear contradicting opinions from unreliable sources.
This is the reason for the creation of this guide. We want to teach you the ins and outs of the ways around the gym, and give you the knowledge to accomplish your goals. With scientific evaluation and reliable evidence, this guide will educate you on the major areas you need to focus on regarding weight training.
This guide will focus on the basic principles of training, which are responsible for 90%+ of the results a beginner will obtain. You must learn to walk before you can run, do not get ahead of yourself. The fundamental cores of training are the focus, not the minor details. The basics of training are –
This is the number of times you need to be in the gym per week. As muscle tissue and other training adaptations are built for up to 48 hours after training, you should aim to be in the gym every other day (~3-4 times per week). This frequency is ideal to stimulate strength and muscle growth at a maximal rate, without affecting recovery rates or damaging the nervous system. Learn more HERE.
The type of routine one follows is largely dictated by the number of times you wish to train an individual muscle per week. Directly training a muscle ~3 times a week is able to achieve a consistently heightened muscle protein synthesis rate, optimising hypertrophy. This training frequency also allows exercises to be performed on a regular basis, increasing the rate of improvements in strength by giving faster neural adaptations and motor unit recruitment. Based on this, full body training is essential for beginners. Learn more HERE.
This refers to the amount of work that needs to be done each training session. It is the product of the number of repetitions and sets performed, as well as the weight load used. Trainees should aim to work enough for adequate stimulation to force the body into physiological changes, but not have a volume high enough to interfere with recovery and progression. Learn more HERE.
Intensity is the percentage of maximum weight load used for an exercise. In laymen’s terms, it refers to the amount weight you need to be putting on the bar, in order to perform a certain number of repetitions. The number of repetitions per set to initiate muscle growth is variable, and largely personal preference, although going above ~15 repetitions is not advised for most exercises. If your focus is on strength, the majority of your sets with the major exercises should be 3-5 repetitions. Learn more HERE.
This is the time taken between sets of an exercise, where the trainee recuperates from previous work before starting the following set. Rest periods are key in elevating training performance, and maintaining a high effort level throughout the workout. 3-5 minute rest periods are advised for the major exercises to allow neural units to replenish, and for intracellular energy transfer to reach a stage that is ideal for further power output. Learn more HERE.
All exercises performed should have a purpose, and play a specific role in the improvement of total body development or strength. The goal should be to activate hypertrophic and strength responses in all muscle groups, with as few exercises as possible, therefore saving time and energy. The focus should therefore, be on compound exercises that provide significantly large amounts of tension across multiple muscles throughout the range of motion. Compound exercises are efficient at hitting the most amount of total muscle fibres, causing the most anabolic response. Learn more HERE.
Exertion is the amount of effort put into an individual set of an exercise, relative to one’s maximum effort level. Aiming to perform at your extreme limits every set is not ideal for muscle gain or hypertrophy as it can increase cortisol levels, increase acute and prolonged fatigue, as well as reduce total work achieved. Leaving 10-20% of your effort in the tank for later sets is advised for the best progression. Learn more HERE.
The goal of weight training should be to gradually increase the amount of work done, so adaptations can occur. You can be successful at doing so by using more weight or performing more sets or repetitions over time on any given exercise. Improvement in any of these factors leads to progressive tension overload, the fundamental principle of any trainee’s workout program. Learn more HERE.