We all want a toned body, hard with rippling muscles, glistening in beads of sweat. What most of us have to put up with, though, is something else altogether. Sadly, there are no shortcuts to achieving the body of your dreams; it will require hard work, dedication and some serious self-discipline. The toil may be tough, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow these simple guidelines and you will be well on your way.
You will focus on 5 basic compound lifts, all made with a barbell and weight. If your gym includes a whole bunch of features such as machines, swimming pools and relaxing areas, you may want to switch to a flexible gym membership where you only pay for what you will need: free weights.
A common misconception is that you need to become a gym rat and workout 6 days a week to build muscle. While this may be true if you are a professional bodybuilder, for the common man this is not the case. If you are just starting out going 3 days a week is plenty, especially as you will be focusing on strength, not only bulk.
Choose a simple 5×5 program, 5 sets of 5 reps.
Day 1 do the following:
- Parallel back squats
- Military Press (overhead press)
For the next workout switch to:
- Parallel back squats
- Overhead press (military press)
- Bench press
Alternate these exercises each workout session.
Start with the empty bar the first time you go to the gym, and add 5lbs of weight each session (on deadlift, add 10lbs). When the weight is light, the goal is not to lift the weight, it’s doing so with good form. Do some light stretching, and 5 minutes of warmup before the session if you feel stiff in your joints and muscles.
That’s it, simple and straightforward. For more in-depth information there are tons of information regarding these types of training schedules available on the web.
This is where it can get somewhat complicated, each person responds differently to diets, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Some advocate low carb / high fat, some high carb / low fat, what’s right for you only you can decide. However, there are some guidelines that can be followed:
- Eat 1.5 gram of protein for every kg of weight (about 0.6 / lbs). To find this number, estimate (or measure in a clinic) your body fat percentage, then subtract that from your weight. This will give you an approximation of your lean mass.
- Have a “clean” diet. Avoid processed food, sugar and additives. Keep the food simple, with protein, carbs, fat and fibre (for example: chicken breast(s), potatoes, a side of veggies drizzled with olive oil).
- Eat three good meals a day. Snack on a few nuts or something similar if needed in between.
- If you want to lose fat, only eat a moderate amount of carbohydrates after your workout, avoid it in the other two meals.
- If you want to go the more advanced route, meticulously track your macros and calories. I personally think this makes it more complicated than it’s worth, but keeping a food log is a good way of doing it simply.
- If you apply calorie tracking, consume less than you expend to lose fat, and more than you spend to build muscles. Please note that if you have never been to the gym before, start with eating slightly more than your resting calorie burn.
Strength training is great for anyone doing other sports, but note that heavy training will affect your other hobbies. On your days off, between workouts, avoid other training (such as cardio) to fully let your muscles recover. You will need all the energy you can get to max out each training.
Your muscles actually grow and become stronger, not at the gym, but at home when you are at rest. If you don’t allow adequate for resting time there is something called “overtraining” which can actually hinder your goals.
There you have it, it’s simple and you can focus on the lifting instead of trying to remember what the next exercise was about. And with a flexible gym membership you can even save some money (check example prices here: Clifton College Sports Centre) by not having to pay for stuff you don’t need.