One exercise above others
There is simply no miracle exercise that will achieve your perfect physique alone and no one exercise should have priority over others. There are however, certain movements that should be incorporated to your workout which reach a maximum number of muscle groups in one movement. These are called ‘compound’ movements such as the bench press, dead lift, squat or pull up. These exercises are more effective than isolation movements as they hit more muscle groups, stimulating more motor unit activation. For the best workouts, incorporate several isolation movements in with compound movements such as those above and never prioritise a particular muscle group, remember, great arms can be built without focusing too much time on isolated movements like bicep curls.
Shaping your muscles
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people talk about shaping or defining their muscles, me included! In reality, a muscle shape is pre-determined by genetics and cannot be made to form a different shape or tone. One can work a muscle so it is more or less contracted, or lose fat to give e.g. your bicep, a more defined look. One can gain or lose muscle, or gain or lose fat, simple but true.
Do what I say, not what I do!
One huge mistake people make, especially when first starting out in bodybuilding is to copy fellow bodybuilders regimes, or worse, those of a professional bodybuilder.
Ok, lets not get carried away, everyone copies regimes and exercises and there is a lot of information out there to aid people in their pursuit of the perfect physique.
However, unless you plan on bodybuilding full-time, copying anywhere near what the pro’s do is a big mistake. The main reason professional bodybuilders have physiques we’ll never have in our wildest dreams is the fact that they take performance enhancing drugs. I’m not saying every athlete takes them but to get to the peaks of physical performance these guys are at, and to train as hard as they do for as long as they do, then drugs are essential to achieving this.
Just to clear this up, this site in no way promotes the abuse of drugs in the name of sport and all supplements on this site are from natural sources and act as an aid to a healthy diet and fitness regime. Research each area of bodybuilding carefully and be careful and critical of advice given, finding your own regime and increasing your knowledge and experience along the way.
The perfect workout
As discussed several times in these and many other articles, there is no single, perfect workout. There are great ways to train, great exercising to hit certain muscle groups and a wide variety of exercises one can use. However, it is these exercises that must be utilised in order to consistently progress in bodybuilding. As someone begins a certain workout regime, the bodies muscles react extremely well to the changes put in place. The longer you continue with a certain regime, the more your body adapts to the changes and begins ‘accommodation’, becoming more efficient at specific exercises and movements. By changing your regime several times a year, your body is kept on its toes and reaches its potential far faster and more efficiently.
The more calories the better
A balanced, healthy diet is an essential part of any workout regime. The common myth that, as long as you are putting the hours in at the gym, you can eat what you like, can be a costly one.
The most important fact to remember is that the body grows outside the gym, not in it. Therefore, everything you intake goes towards providing the body with all the essential vitamins and nutrients it needs to repair your muscle fibres and give you the energy for the next workout. If your diet is unbalanced i.e. by eating too many calories or the wrong type of foods, gains from the gym will be much harder to achieve, along with the inevitable weight gain!
Without going over old ground, a diet based on a balance of protein, good fats and carbohydrates at regular intervals with plenty of water is the best diet to follow.
How many times in the gym do you see people warm up with a quick 5-10 minutes on the bike or treadmill, or continuous stretching?
Firstly, running or cycling increases the body temperature and certainly gets the blood pumping but does it do much else? Mostly no. Secondly, static stretching has actually been shown to reduce your static power by up to 15% and as most of our gym routine consists of dynamic not static exercises, this form of warm-up also doesn’t give us the most effective warm-up we could have.
There is no right answer but dynamic flexibility drills are often used to warm up direct muscle groups and prepare them for the dynamic activity ahead, e.g. leg swings for the hamstrings or extremely light weights for specific muscle groups.
Ten by Three Rule
The ten by three rule has been used many times and it’s fair to say it’s not a bad way to start when taking up weightlifting as a hobby or sport. Lifting a weight ten times and completing three sets, while is not a bad starting point, is limiting your output while exercising and limiting your potential for growth and improvement. Finding the right regime and formula for you is important, while adhering to reasonable guidelines to begin with. Whatever the goals you wish to achieve, never set specific limits, they will only lead to mediocrity. Start at around 10-12 reps and follow the ‘train to fail’ rule. If you can reach 12 sets without too much difficulty, increase the weight slightly. At the third set, your muscles will be unable to match the first sets results so anywhere near 8 reps will be a good indication the weight is right for you.
The more you train, the better
This is said to be one of the biggest, most damaging bodybuilding myths around. Overtraining muscles or training muscles that haven’t quite healed can lead to a very limited growth or even loss of muscle from the damage that can be caused. If you train a muscle with the right technique and intensity, using every muscle fibre to its maximum output, it can take at least 5 days to heal properly. This doesn’t mean you can only train one body part once a weak, but it does mean without careful consideration, overtraining is a real possibility.
Remember, rest is as important to your muscles as training them is and accept it as a vital part of your workout.
The bigger you are, the stronger you are.
In relative terms, if you want to get bigger muscles, you have to lift heavy weights and to achieve that; you must become stronger, or at least stronger than you were. However, due to reasons attributed to factors such as genetics, training methods, the efficiency of nerve pathways or fast-twitch/slow-twitch muscle ratios, people ultimately vary in strength, even those with similar muscle masses.
You won’t grow by working each body part once a week
Another bodybuilding myth and subject causing huge debates on internet forums the world over, what’s the best way to train? Training each body part once a week is certainly a favourite for many professional bodybuilders and a proven effective way of increasing muscle mass. Working out intensely on a single body part properly means the muscle can take between 5-10 days to heal. Again, choose which workout works best for you before settling on a specific regime. Some people work the full body 3 times a week (popular with moderate weightlifters) while many other part-time bodybuilders split the body into sections to train on different days. Whichever you choose, be aware the pressure intense weightlifting can have on a single body part and always ease your body into changes you make.
You need at least 45 seconds rest between sets
A myth too many people you see in the gym being guilty of, only leaving around 45 seconds between sets of the same exercise. To build muscle, you must lift heavy weights and stretch your muscle fibres enough for them to cry out for rest. This means when lifting as heavy a weight as possible, rest can mean as long as 2 to 3 minutes between sets to enable the muscles to recuperate and the build up of lactic acid in your muscles to dissipate.
If you return to the exercise too quickly, the remaining lactic acid will limit the amount you can lift in the second set and your body will simply be testing itself in battling levels of lactic acid.
Doing 100’s of sit-ups a day will give you a washboard stomach.
In no way will sit-ups alone give you a washboard stomach unless you are blessed with great metabolism. Everyone has abdominal muscles, the way in which we can see these muscles depends on the amount of body fat we have covering them. Doing hundreds of sit-ups a day will tighten these muscles, as it would on any other part of your body. The only way you can rid yourself of mid-section fat and improve your waistline is through cardiovascular activity or a careful reduction in the amount of calories you intake i.e. intake less calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
Muscle turns to fat
The final and most ridiculous myth of them all. Muscle turning to fat is like water turning to wine. In fact, its like saying muscle can turn into bone.
Your muscles are complex living cells that undergo metabolic processes. Fat is simply stored packets of lipids. If you ease or stop training your muscles with the intense purpose you once did, the fibres simply relax and adapt to the new regime i.e. they shrink. This may cause additional fat due to the obvious lack of physical activity, or excess skin which once surrounded your muscles.