This is Part I of a three-part series on understanding the fundamentals of a successful workout program. My goal is to help you avoid the common pitfalls in a world of false information. I will break down concepts using scientific reasoning and evidence, so you know exactly what you need to do to maximize your time and effort in the gym.
I’m obsessed with lifting weights, going to the gym 5-6 times a week without fail.
When I suffered an unknown illness earlier this year, I missed almost a month. It was devastating for me. Aside from that, I’ve never gone longer than a week or two without working out.
I’ve cultivated the mindset that ensures the gym is one of my core values, and will remain so until I die. I was once a beginner however, lanky and weak, and struggled to make muscle and strength gains. This was because I followed bad fitness advice, always looking for a quick and easy way to get bigger.
I’d watch YouTube videos of bodybuilders on $500/month of steroids and think I could replicate their workouts and see similar “gains.” Lifting the most weight I could, I sacrificed form (and dignity). I was clueless and misled.
The Lies We’re Told
The fitness industry is a giant cesspool of outright lies. I could write 5,000 words on the bad fitness advice that exists in today’s technology drive world. In most cases, you only need a sliver of common sense to realize what is a scam. Shake weight anyone?
Magazines have one goal; sell subscriptions. Men’s Health doesn’t even bother writing new cover headlines anymore.
Supplement companies buy ads in these magazines and peddle products that are mostly junk; a scoop of filler powder and “proprietary blends.” Anyone can create and market a supplement with preposterous claims because the FDA doesn’t regulate the industry. In most cases, you are throwing your money away.
You might go to YouTube and follow the advice of some of the big names with 100,000+ followers. The problem? Most of these guys are on steroids or other performance enhancers. Thus, their advice will do little for your natural physique and goals. If you eat chicken and oatmeal 5 times a day, you still won’t bench press 200lb dumbbells.
It’s frustrating when every source is sketchy and untrustworthy. You can feel hopeless trying to find the right advice, routine, and plan that will work for you.
From Victor Pride’s book, Body of a Spartan (more on that below):
“Bodybuilding magazines and websites lie to you. Plain and simple. They give you part of their plan, the easiest part (diet and training) but they leave out the most important part: Steroids and Human Growth Hormone.
They will say bodybuilding is 90% diet and 10% training but they are lying. Bodybuilding is 90% drugs, 5% training and 5% diet.
This is why, if you follow their routines but not their drug intake, you will look like poop. Eat like a pro but don’t take the drugs and you will get fat. I’ve seen it a hundred times. Gullible kids will eat all the brown rice and dry Chicken they can choke down and then they will train one body part per day, thinking they will turn into a muscled up monster.
Following this plan without using drugs is a recipe for FAILURE.
A natural trainer must, MUST!, train for strength. Endlessly repping weight as a natural is a oneway ticket to nowhere.
The fitness industry uses information overload to make it seem difficult to see positive results.
There are no secrets to a great body. It takes hard work and discipline.
The science hasn’t changed. The methods are the same as they were decades ago. Want to lose weight? Eat fewer calories than you burn every day (calorie deficit). Want to get stronger and bigger? Life heavy weights through compound movements. Everything revolves around these concepts.
This isn’t exciting and it doesn’t make money. Pumping out nonsense content does, even if it’s misleading and often inaccurate. That is why you see articles like:
- The 300 Workout (look just like the Spartans!)
- How to look like the Rock in Hercules (the Rock ate his way to 260 lbs of muscle!)
We are also bombarded with catchy click-bate headlines.
A quick Google search produced these results.
- Why ‘Back Abs’ Are All the Rage Right Now
- The Genius New Exercise That Builds Your Back and Biceps
- Train Like a Mr. Olympia Champ
- The Awesome New Getup That Will Give You Gladiator Abs
An experienced gym-goer will laugh at these articles. But if you’re new to the gym, how do you differentiate between accurate and wrong information?
These types of articles are maddening if you don’t have the necessary knowledge base. You’ll spend weeks following a magazine routine, only to see minimal results.
Who Can You Trust?
Magazines and videos weren’t doing me any good, so I turned to books. I was skeptical of fitness books because I didn’t trust them to be any better than the bullshit advice and false claims made on websites, magazines, YouTube, etc.
I did my research and found two books that gave me the information I needed to get stronger and gain more muscle mass.
Bigger, Leaner, Stronger was written by fitness enthusiast and trainer Mike Matthews.
Mike doesn’t talk in generalities and opinions; everything he writes is backed by science and research. Mike dissects everything in painstaking detail – weight lifting, cardio, supplements, diet, nutrition and more. Even the most novice weight lifter will understand and be able to follow and learn. He is also a natural weight lifter, so his advice is catered towards those of us not on the juice.
Mike also runs the best fitness website on the internet. Each article covers the topic from all angles and usually includes multiple research studies as evidence. His YouTube channel is also a gold mine.
Body of a Spartan was written by Victor Pride, founder of Bold & Determined, the go-to resource for ass-kicking, self-discipline advice.
Victor gives you a no-nonsense approach to getting bigger and stronger; advocating heavy, compound lifts multiple times a week. Compound movements should be the basis for any worthwhile workout program and include exercises such as the bench press, deadlifts, squat, and shoulder press. Victor provides pictorial references that explain each exercise and provides routines for both beginners and experienced lifters. Body of a Spartan also goes into detail on nutrition, diet, supplements and training accessories and much more. You’ll breeze through this book and be able to refer back to the exercises and routines time and time again.
I highly recommend these books to everyone.
Mike and Victor both advocate the very similar methods: Compound exercises and HEAVY weights for low reps.
They differ in some of the finer details, such as reps, sets, and rest time, but the core of their routines involves staple compound movements.
In tandem, you will see many overlapping concepts, such as:
- Low rep, heavy weight workouts are most effective
- Most advice you hear is garbage
- Most supplements are garbage
- Long workouts are unnecessary
- Your diet need not consist of chicken and rice every night
Know Your Body
What works for me might not work for you. If you are naturally skinny, your needs will differ from someone who can easily gain fat. You will need to tweak to your body and needs.
Progress should be based off two things; how you look and how you feel.
First, avoid the scale.
Some people weigh themselves multiple times a day. It’s a waste of time and mental defeating.
The mirror should be your guide. If you notice positive changes, you are on the right track. If you don’t, you may need to tweak your training program.
Second, buy a food scale.
To appropriately track your calories, you need to weigh your food. I bought this scale a year back, and I love it.
The basis premise of weight control (both loss and gain) is through the calculation of BMR.
This determines how many calories you burn a day. You then eat below (calorie deficit – weight loss) or above (calorie surplus – weight gain) this number.
If you feel like crap every day, that’s a problem. You should not be energy deficient. Examine your diet, your sleeping routines, meal frequency, etc. Changes need to be made.
Both books will help you navigate the bad fitness advice shoved down your throats. The concepts and techniques to lose weight and gain muscle are simple. It takes hard work and consistency and this is where most people fail, looking for shortcuts.
By absorbing the necessary knowledge, you will have a clear idea of the effort you need to apply. Ignorance will no longer be an excuse.
Hope you enjoyed.
In Part II of the series, I will detail how you can tailor your workout using technique tweaks such as rest-pause and cadence changes.
Have you read these books? Any other recommendations?
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