Stop! You are an extremely busy person, but still manage to set aside a few precious hours in the week to work out, usually at the expense
of an angry wife, or neglected home or business work. Are you maximizing this time, or are you spending twice as many hours as you should
on ineffectual routines? If you are serious about maximizing your efforts, then the five minutes you invest in reading this article will be
the best time you'll ever spend.
Whether you're working out for the first time, you've been away from training for a while, or you learned the ropes yourself, there are 10
basic concepts you must know before you begin (or continue).
Always rest a minimum of 48 hours before reworking a bodypart
Whenever somebody asks me for advice on his routine, my first question
is, How much time do you leave before reworking a bodypart? Amazingly, 90 percent of the people tell me that they train the same bodyparts
three times a week - usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
They are leaving themselves only 24 hours to rest, and this is not long enough for the scar tissue to recover and build itself. Even if you
don't feel sore two days later, that doesn't mean anything. Scar tissue is constantly working itself. You might not always feel it, although
two days after a workout you should feel sore. If you don't, you're probably not working as hard as you should, or you're training incorrectly.
The fact is, working the same bodypart with less than 48 hours' rest is actually counterproductive.
I learned this the hard way. Back in the early stages of my lifting career a friend and I did chest every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We
followed this program for almost six months, and experienced only nominal strength and muscle gain. We were forced, because of the
inconvenience of our schedules, to switch to two days a week - Monday/Thursday or Monday/Friday. In the period of only one month, our bench
press maximum rose 40 pounds, and we each gained two pounds of muscle mass. All this resulted from working out one less day a week!
Always increase weight
I often hear from people that they've been training for six months or a year but have gained very little strength.
I go through a workout with them, and watch in disbelief as they do three, four and even five sets with the same amount of weight.
I tell them to increase the weight as they do more sets. They invariably reply that they are "not looking to get big:' or that they "just
want to be toned," or some such nonsense. It doesn't matter what you want: If you're not growing, you're dying -just like a plant. If you're
not forcing yourself to consistently lift greater amounts of weight, you're wasting your time. Oh, you won't lose anything, but you won't gain
anything either. You'll simply stagnate like murky pond water. Who, after all, is going to the gym just for "maintenance"? Who doesn't have -
somewhere in the hack of his mind - a hope for gain?
The more you do, the more you can do. The old adage certainly holds true in this case. The fact is that a great part of weight- lifting is
psychological, and often it is necessary - even crucial - to force yourself to lift more and more weight, amounts that might at first seem
out of your reach.
Get under the bar, swallow hard, and then do your next set with five or 10 pounds more than you usually handle. You won't do as many reps,
that's for sure, but your body will soon become acclimated to handling the heavier weight. Even if you go home feeling shaky, when you come
back three days later, you'll be shocked to see that your first set - with the weight you've always used - was too easy. You won't feel satisfied
with it. You'll need to do more.
Need is the crucial word here. Once you start raising the weights, your body will need to keep doing more and more in order for you to feel
satisfied. This is called getting stronger. Get used to it.
Decrease your resting time between sets
Every minute spent talking after your allotted rest time is a wasted minute, and wasted minutes
can add up very quickly. On average half the time people spend in gyms is completely wasted.
It's understandable, oftentimes you're so happy just to be away from work or school or the wife, so happy to be in a room with 50 guys who
could care less about that stuff and are worse meatheads than you are, that you can't help letting your good spirits get the best of you and
socializing between sets. You'll talk about the Super Bowl, or beer, or... It's like writing a paper You'll talk about damn near anything to
keep from doing that next set - especially if you have a partner.
Don't. Be mean, reclusive, nasty if you have to. Look down at the floor. Don't say a word to anyone. Most people are looking to talk, and
will just distract you. Stay focused in between your sets. Think of the next set. Think of your next routine. Think of how far you've come.
Think of how far you have to go. Arnold Schwarzenegger used to be so focused between sets that they said if a bomb went off in the gym he
wouldn't have blinked.
So, now that you're quiet and focused and counting time, don't rest more than a minute - or two at the very, very most - between sets. Arnold
says not to wait more than 30 seconds, but I think this is a little severe. Not only is resting a big time-waster, but if you wait too long,
your pump will start to come down and you won't be able to take advantage of it at its highest point.
Speaking of partners, you should get one
Not a loquacious one. Not someone who's going to socialize, or who's 'just looking to tone
up" or "trim down." These are key phrases which often hint that your would-be partner isn't as serious about bodybuilding as he should be.
The main criterion in your choosing a partner should be the seriousness and devotion with which he will take his lifting - and, subsequently,
Now, most of us are not playing Nebraska football or competing for Mr. Olympia, and won't be able to find partners who are willing and able to
put lifting first before anything in the world. But you'd be surprised. There are some very serious, devoted lifters out there, even in the real
So here it is: Do not choose a friend as a lifting partner. Do not even choose an acquaintance. Choose, if possible, a person you scarcely
know. A work or school mate is ideal. This way the two of you 1. will have very little to talk about; 2. will relate to each other in terms
of lifting and talk about virtually nothing else; 3. won't say "to hell with it, let's get a beer," and won't break lifting plans without
feeling awfully guilty.
When you get a serious partner, the first thing you learn is that the two of you are completely dependent upon each other. And here lies the
main advantage: You will drag yourself to the gym for his sake, even on the coldest winter days.
Frequently test your maximum strength
On the surface this seems similar to pushing yourself to lift more, but there is actually a big
"Maxing out," as it is often called, is a ritual in its own right. It is not something you do every day, with every set, but something you do
only once, preferably every other week.
Most people are afraid to really max out, and what they'll end up doing is increase the weight a lot on their last set and do two reps. Close.
But that's not maxing out.
If you want an honest test of your strength, it has to be on your first set (after a warmup, of course), not on your last when you're already
near failure. (After you max, then do your sets for the day) And you don't test yourself with weight you know you can handle twice, you attempt
to lift weight that you're not sure you can do once. That is maxing out. You'll know it when you really do it. Lie down on the bench. Is the
blood pounding in your ears? Is your throat dry? Are your palms growing sweatier by the second? Try it without a spotter, and it's about the
closest thing to a near-death sensation you can get (although this I do not particularly recommend). That's maxing out.
The fact is, if you can bench, let's say, 200 pounds twice at the end of your workout, you'll probably put up 220 to 230 once at the beginning.
Quite a difference. That's your maximum strength.
Why max? For the same reason you constantly increase the poundage: to get your body used to working with heavier weights. Also for another very
important reason which is found in the next two tips.
Set concrete, realistic goals for yourself on a regular basis
Weightlifting is, by definition, an aspiration. You do not pick up weights
and put them down because you have nothing else to do. You do it to improve your body and mind. Weightlifting is nothing if not a means to an
end, and you should have the end in mind before you begin.
Have you ever walked into a college or high school gym - or even some professional gyms - and seen half the "lifters" wandering around? They do
a few reps on one machine, a few on another, step out for air, go for water... These people want to work out, or else they wouldn't be there to
begin with, but they have no goals in mind, no plans to think of, and thus quickly get bored, lose motivation and end up not coming back for
another six months.
This is an extreme example, but it can quickly happen to you, too, if you don't constantly stay focused and have a clear end in mind. How strong
do you want to be by the end of the month? By the end of the week? Don't just be satisfied with "very strong." Break it down to specific,
realistic numbers on each and every exercise, from curling to benching. Break it down to number of reps and amount of weight.
How much muscle mass do you want to gain? How much fat do you want to lose? Is your upper chest smaller than your lower chest? Do your forearms
need work? What specific steps are you taking to focus on and improve these bodyparts? Sometimes you have to stray from your routine, emphasizing
one bodypart more than another, if you want to make up for a deficiency or highlight a strength in your physique. Every set, every rep you do -
and especially between sets, in that dangerous, seductive "talking" time - keep in mind your concrete goals and focus on working towards them.
Don't be discouraged if the end of the week or month comes and you haven't met your goals. Just change them. Make them more in reach. Every one
of us, even the most conservative, sets outlandish goals in the beginning. Only through trial and error will you eventually learn to see exactly
what goals are realistic for yourself, and, ultimately, come that much closer to them.
Along these lines you should constantly picture yourself 10 pounds bigger, 50 pounds strongest Picture that weak upper chest
bulging, those small forearms coming to life as you crush a tennis ball single handedly.
Don't allow negativity. Don't allow negative people around you. The second most important factor in choosing a partner is how positive his outlook
is. Is he constantly moping and whining that he'll never reach his goal? Is he dragging you down so that at the end of it all you flee from the
gym? Get the hell rid of him! That's the last thing you need.
Bodybuilding, like football, is 80 to 90 percent psychological. You must always think big, announce your goals out loud, and encourage yourself
and others. Why can some people lift a car in an emergency when at other times they can't lift a grocery bag? Adrenaline. What stimulates
adrenaline? The mind.
Tune into your body
It sounds like a hackneyed phrase - and it is - but after enough time of serious lifting you'll come to understand it
for yourself: Tune into your body. You have to learn when your body best reacts to lifting - during the morning, afternoon or evening, before or
after meals. Just as some people are early risers and some are night owls, the same holds true with the body. So tap in, discover your optimum
time of day, and try to train then. Generally for most working people this will be either early morning or late night. Choosing between the two
should be easy enough.
Similarly, your body "peaks" at least once, sometimes twice a month. This means that every so often it naturally rises to optimum strength and
power, and then declines again, just like the moon, waxing and waning. You can usually feel the peak coming and leaving, and it is always good
to take advantage of it.
Coordinate your meals around your workouts
Use the bathroom - You should not eat a lot right before a workout. Your body needs a hell of a
lot of energy to break down and digest the food sitting in your stomach, and you want this energy for lifting. Ideally you will eat at least
three to four hours earlier and have alight, healthful, energy-giving snack - like a banana, yogurt or cup of orange juice - immediately prior
Don't ever work out while having to relieve yourself. Storing waste also saps a tremendous amount of your body's energy that should be used for
Take a week off
After every six or eight weeks of hard lifting, take a week off. Do only pushups, sit-ups, pullups, dips - only natural
exercises. This practice gives your body a thorough rest, helps to naturally proportion it, and allows enough of a gap to shock your body when
you finally start lifting again. After all, the body is strikingly similar to the mind: Only through shock and surprise does it grow at all.