Great - you’ve decided to try bodybuilding. Perhaps you want to build mass, tighten up your midsection or slim down; those are all possible with strength training. Whatever your reason (and you should definitely write down your goals for starting and your realistic expectations of what you hope to achieve in the short and long term),m you should follow a clearly defined program.
Don’t expect us to provide you with any so-called success; let’s state for the record right now that some training methods are smarter and better than others, but nothing resembles a secret. Our role here is to teach and guide you through your first three months so that you can take your training to the next level and design a personal routine that meets your needs.
Is there one program that’s right for everyone? No. Did you really expect that one routine would serve the needs of the female college basketball player who wants to make a more dominating presence on the court, the 45 year old businessman looking to firm his body and improve his health, and the young man interested in competitive bodybuilding? Every person who trains has different motivations, desires and genetic potential, and each must make his or her own adjustments in putting together a particular program. It’s really not so difficult. But before you get started, here are some points you’ll want to consider.
Get a physician’s release if you are over 40 or have had any sort of previous injury or impairment.
Be realistic but positive. Assess your current condition and where you want to be in three months, one year and five years. Keep focused on your goals and know you’ll achieve them.
Commit yourself to three months before making any judgements about whether it’s working or not. The truth is, you’re probably a bit impatient, and sculpting your physique takes time. Changes take place incrementally, but three months is long enough to notice some significant changes in strength and size. Persistence and dedication are characteristics that all successful bodybuilders have in common. Do you?
Designing Your Exercise Program
Before getting into your program, you need to develop an understanding of how and why you’re building your exercise routine. Although we’ve gone ahead and designed a program for you, just about everything in ti can be changed depending on your particular circumstances. Your primary objective here, as a beginner, is to build a solid foundation - and not just any training program will take you there in an efficient manner. Study the following points to better understand your bodybuilding program.
Bodybuilders group exercises by bodypart and train one muscle group at a time. Working one are with 1-3 exercises ensures that you train it thoroughly. Experience says that this type of training is the most efficient for bodybuilding. (Circuit training, on the other hand, allows you to do movements for different bodyparts back to back with no rest in between).
Every major muscle group should be developed to prevent muscle imbalance and the risk of injury. The major muscle groups include legs (quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes), chest, shoulders, back (Trapezius, lats, erectors), abdominals and arms (biceps, triceps).
You can choose from any number of movements that target a particular muscle group, but beginners should stick with the basics to develop a solid foundation. The first exercise you do for a given bodypart should be a compound movement. (A compound or multijoint movement, unlike an isolation exercise, has movement at two or more joints and thus brings in a greater number of assisting muscle groups. Note: Some bodyparts like biceps, triceps and calves can be worked with pre-dominatantly isolation exercises.)
Some basic movements can be done in a number of ways; for example, you can do a bench press with a barbell, with dumbbells or on a machine. Eventually, you’ll learn how to do them all and use the in your training arsenal.
Two similar exercises can target a muscle differently. For example, the bench press is a good exercise for most of the chest, but the incline press (essentially a bench press done on an incline bench) works the upper pectorals more effectively. When you put exercises together to form a routine, you’ll want to include those movements that hit the same muscle in different ways. That’s why you normally include 2-3 exercises when you work each bodypart.
During the first couple of training sessions, you’ll want to go pretty light just to get a feel for how to do the movement correctly. After you feel comfortable with the form, begin adding weight.
Even an experienced lifted should always do his first set as a warm-up with practically no weight to flush to target muscle and connective tissue with blood. On the second set, add a couple of small plates and do the exercise again. Was it still east? If so, and assuming you used good form, add more weight. If you struggled to reach 12 repetitions, add just a little bit of weight. (Adding weight on successive sets is called pyramid training and is one of the safest ways to train.)
Continue adding weight until it becomes tough to complete 8-12 reps. Your goal is to train in the range where you reach muscular failure at 8-12 reps. Once you find a challenging weight, stick with it. So you’ll become stronger and be able to increase the number of reps. Once you can do 12, it’s time to increase your training poundage by about 10%. At this heavier weight, you won’t be able to do 12 reps, but with time you’ll once again be able to. Keep working in this fashion.
The principle behind this type of training is known as overload. It states that for improvements to occur, you must impose a demand on your muscles greater than what they’re accustomed to (for bodybuilding purposes, about two-thirds of your maximal strength). Your muscles compensate for this strain on the cellular level by adding protein to grow thicker and stronger. At that point, the same load is no longer sufficient to induce further changes, more load must be added. That is, you must progressively add training stimulus to make continued improvements.
Keep track of your training poundage by recording your weights, sets and reps in a training log alongside a list of your exercises.
Some bodybuilders swing and heave, cheating for the sake of pushing heavier weights. Remember, the name of the game here is not weightlifting, but rather bodybuilding.