Here’s a short list of things you should be doing in your weight lifting program.
When to workout: Workout in the morning when growth hormone levels are at their highest. Keep workouts under 60 minutes. After 60 minutes the levels of muscle building and fat burning hormones (like growth hormone and testosterone) begin to drop.
What exercises? Concentrate on compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press and row. These compound exercises work multiple muscles all at once, therefore getting the most out of your exercise session in the least amount of time.
What to eat and drink? Exercise on an empty stomach for weight loss. When you first wake up, your carbohydrate stores will be depleted (your body prefers carbs for fuel), and your body goes straight to the fat stores for fuel to get through the workout. If you can’t workout in the a.m., wait at least three hours after a meal before exercising.
Upon waking, you are dehydrated, so drink 16 ounces of ice water. Why ice water? Ice water is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit and your system has to heat it to 98.6 degrees. This process requires almost one calorie to warm one ounce of ice water, so an 8 ounce glass burns eight calories. Drink 16 glasses (128 ounces) and burn 128 calories.
Talk about a negative calorie food! Once in a while I’ll add a lemon or bottled lemon juice and a little splenda to my water. Continue to drink ice cold water throughout your workout, and the rest of the day, staying hydrated.
Pre and post workout nutrition: I workout in the morning on an empty stomach, because it seems I’m always in a weight loss mode. If you are a so called hard gainer (guys who struggle more than most lifters to put on muscle) you should add a pre workout meal.
The easiest option is a whey protein shake, mixed with milk, and a fast acting carb 20-30 minutes before the workout. A fast acting carb leads to an insulin spike, something you normally don’t want before a workout, but hard gainers need the extra calorie boost. Hard gainers are often referred to as “under eaters”.
Immediately after a workout, your muscles are primed and ready for nutrients. This is one time where you want your insulin levels to spike. Insulin carries carbs and proteins into your muscles. Drink a protein shake (one scoop whey protein powder mixed with water) and eat a carb source such as an apple, banana, raisins, white bread, even sugar to make your insulin spike.
I’ve read where some lifters even eat gummy bears! I don’t recommend gummy bears because they contain HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). HFCS is bad because of the higher concentration of sugar (glucose and fructose) actually blunt the effect of insulin. Without insulin, your blood sugar remains elevated, and your liver converts all that glucose and fructose into fat! Get your post workout sugar boost from real fruit, the way nature intended.
When your diet is on track, supplement with these four supplements. Supplements are simply additions to a good nutrition and training program. Supplements DO NOT make up for a terrible diet.
Warm up before you workout: Do arm circles, leg and foot circles, body weight squats, walk or run on treadmill, etc. Get the blood flowing into your muscles.
When to stretch: Stretch after your workout, or in between sets. The best time to stretch is after your body temperature has increased and the blood has been circulating within the muscles.
How to breathe: The correct way to breathe during exercise is to exhale as you lift the weight and then inhale when lowering the weight. For example when doing the bench press, try to “blow” the weight up, then inhale as the bar returns to your chest.
Progression: You must progress in every workout. You progress by either adding weight, adding reps, or doing more work in less time. You must push yourself to improve your performance from workout to workout.
Rep speed: Beginners who need to learn the correct form should lift slower using a four second up, four second down rep speed. Once your form is spot on, increase your rep speed. Science reminds us that Force (muscle fiber stimulation) =Mass (heavy weights) x Acceleration (rep speed).
The best way to stimulate the most amounts of muscle fibers is to lift heavy weights as fast as you can, with total control of the weight and without relying on momentum. Some of the best bodybuilders in the world use questionable form, but to keep from getting injured, never sacrifice form for speed. Try to find the perfect balance between form and rep speed. But, the heavier the weight, the slower you’ll lift it no matter how fast you’re trying to lift it.
Sets: Sets are collections of repetitions. Should you do 1 set of 12 reps, or 3 sets of 10 reps, or 5 sets of 5 reps, or 8 sets of 3 reps, or 2 sets of 4 to 6 reps? These are just some of the rep schemes I’ve tried. I think the best advice I could give you is don’t stick with one rep scheme for too long. Your body is very good at adapting, so by constantly changing the amount of reps, sets, weight lifted and time between sets, your muscles will be confused and forced to adapt (get bigger).
Warming up for heavy sets: Say you want to bench press 250 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps. To warm up for this do the following: start with 135 pounds for 3-4 reps, then rest; continue with 185 pounds for 2-3 reps, rest; finally do 1-2 reps at 225 pounds. Don’t count warm up reps as part of your 3 sets of 10.
Rest days: During rest days, concentrate on fat burning aerobic exercise which helps in the recuperation process by removing lactic acid in the muscles built up by weight lifting. Lactic acid causes muscle soreness. Get enough rest in general. Muscle is built while you are sleeping and broken down in the gym, so get at least 6-7 hours of sleep a night. More is better. If you can, take naps during the day.
Straps, Weight Belts and Gloves: Wimp! Build some calluses and increase your grip strength! Macho enough for ya? This is the way some lifters feel about these accessories. Straps help you fatigue the muscle you are targeting.
One example is the deadlift. Your grip will fail before your back and legs. Straps allow you to “hang” the weight from your wrists, taking some of the load off your gripping, allowing you to continue an exercise when otherwise you would be finished. Straps allow you to concentrate on the muscle you are working, rather than focusing on grip strength.
Weight belts are an optional piece of equipment. There are many theories as to whether you should wear a belt or not. Some lifters believe weight belts give you support, both physically and mentally, while others believe belts take away from development of the lower back and core strength.
If a belt gives you a psychological edge allowing you to lift heavier weights, then by all means use one. Just don’t wear one while doing cardio!
Gloves help your grip especially when sweating. They will also keep calluses off of your hands.
Now you may think having calluses on your hands is macho, but if your wife or girlfriend won’t let you touch her because of your rough hands, maybe now you’ll wear gloves?
Skipping workouts: Why would you do this? Every workout is one step closer to your goals. Even if you have only 15 minutes a day for exercise, at least you did 15 minutes! If you do miss one, don’t beat yourself up….just make it up the next day, even if it means lifting weights in the morning and doing the aerobics at night.
Goals: You need to set these, because without them you have nowhere to aim and nowhere to go. There is a saying that goes, “You can’t hit the bull’s eye if you do not have a target.”
First, write down your goals. This will signal the brain that this is more than just a wish – it is an endeavor you are committed to. Secondly, the paper that it is written on will serve as a constant reminder of what you have set out to do. Review your goals often.
Basically bodybuilders have two goals: Gain weight or lose fat. Set short term and long term goals. Do you need to lose a lot of weight? A short term goal would be to lose 10 pounds this month; a long term goal is say, 100 pounds by next year.
Document your workouts: Record your performance after every workout. You won’t have to guess what weight or how many reps you lifted it for last time. By documenting every set and rep, it forces you to make and achieve goals by beating your last performance.
Making small progress in every workout will lead to big muscle gains over time. Want to learn more? Check out my website.