Those of us that have been lifting for a number of years have most likely thought “I wish I knew back then what I do now.” Though we have made admirable progress that we can look back on and be proud of, we can’t help but think where we could be had we known what to do from the beginning. Instead, much experimentation and bull-headed attitude took place. Here are some ways that will cut the corners on the typical mistakes encountered when going through the process of adopting and loving this new passion.
Begin with an emphasis and goal of building strength. Everyone wants to get big and shredded as fast as possible but to do so you will need to have little fat. Under that fat you will need muscle mass to show, and to have muscle mass, you will want to lift big weights. Research has shown that rep ranges are not as important as previously thought to build muscle as long as a minimum intensity threshold is surpassed. Specific lower ranges can however, lead to greater improvements in strength. Get strong first, the increased weight you can lift will lead to larger muscles. This is a long commitment, not a quick change. The body takes time to adapt and short stimuli will not produce the same results.
Look for ways that you will be able to consistently implement and build upon. Volume appears to be the most important indicator of growth and therefore should be paid attention to, especially for larger compound lifts. Keep in mind that you want to squeeze out as much progress as you can with as little increase in volume as possible though, if your workouts are lasting two hours now, imagine how they long will be in five years every day when you have added more and more to progress.
The most important guidelines to follow for supplementation are to focus on research backed, evidence-based, long term benefit displayed, products or ingredients. Reading descriptions on the label can just lead to starry eyes and unmet expectations. Research can be manipulated in order to suggest that what they wish their product enhanced, actually does so. Make your essentials tried and true, stick with quality. Food is the top priority by a long shot. If nutrition is 70% of the battle, supplements make up about 5 or 10. However, they can be the difference between getting to where you want to be, or falling short… but don’t put them before everything as the main focus. Protein, creatine, maybe bcaas. Then you can experiment with all the others if you find them worth it.
What to say when there is so much to know. Food judgment can almost be described as a feeling rather than knowing, you just understand once you have learned and experienced enough. I believe the best advice I can give is simple. Go slow and be consistent, don’t let your ambitions and willingness to do whatever it takes take you to the extremes of cutting and gaining. Track what you do and make small changes that can be assessed and continued down the line. Become informed about food and the composition of what you eat. The ability to estimate intake visually is an invaluable tool, but will take time to acquire and get right.
This will be the final category that I touch on, and is the most important. In itself it is not a necessity to be intelligent in order to achieve a better and stronger body. That would require that all the choices you make either magically coincide with the proper guidelines naturally, or someone else provides direction with every step for you. Since the likelihood of the first one is not in your favor and the second is dependent on money you would most likely not want to shell out you need to be educated on your planning. You can train relentlessly with more passion and effort than you thought you had within you, take every supplement on the line, and eat clean food until you feel like throwing up. All this will get you is injured, broke, and fat unfortunately. Our bodies are as mysterious as they are amazing, but humans have been hard at work for centuries in attempts to figure the inner complexities of why, what, and how they work.
I would recommend censoring whom you absorbed new information and tips from. Do you follow links from Facebook promising the next big thing? Do your friends like to talk about lifting weights and fitness? Are they bigger than you and offer advice? What makes them informed? How did they come across the information they are providing? Do they have any working understanding of the info in order to be able to apply it to you now? What about youtube videos, who do you watch and listen to? Who are they? Do they possess anything besides a large audience that makes them easy to find? Look for proven, official, high value education. It shows that the person took the time, effort, money, and sacrifice to learn from the basics in order to have an understanding of the material. Even when they do possess such documentation, think through what they provide and make sure it has shown proven, long-term, safe benefits. Do your homework, learn from the basics, and never have too big of an ego to take a step back and reassess what you think you know.
If I had a dime for every time someone was proven wrong on a well-established piece of nutritional advice…