NexxtLevelUp

Getting Started

Nate September 11, 2012 Fitness 10 Comments on Getting Started

So you’ve decided you want to start getting in shape- Good. You’re tired of being scrawny, overweight, weak, doughy, skinny-fat, whatever, and you want to get better.

But do you know where to start?

Maybe you used to lift back in the day, maybe you lift on and off, or maybe you’ve never lifted a weight in your life, but in all likelihood your head is swimming with lifting programs and advice and you just need somewhere to start. The internet is full of broscience, seemingly conflicting advice, fad workouts, and all around bullshit, and sifting through it all and deciding what to do and who to listen is pretty fucking tough.

Furthermore, it can often be very difficult for the uninitiated to understand the why behind a lot of different lifts and the why behind different arrangements of sets, reps, rest times and so on. I suppose the best way to put it is that when you are bombarded with stupid but flashy workouts (half-Swiss squats, anyone?) and when you have a hundred different people arguing over various rep volumes and intensities and everyone saying theirs works the best, it can be hard to create a solid lifting philosophy for yourself.

Luckily for you I’ve been lifting for at least 5 years, and it is retarded how much of that time I spent on worthless routines and bad lifting philosophy before I figured shit out. I wasted a good deal of time fucking around thinking I knew what I was doing- You don’t have to.

For starters, you need a simple framework for your philosophy. What to do, how much to do, when to do it. For those of you just getting started, let’s keep it simple with some general guidelines that should be common sense but aren’t-

  • Low reps (3-6 range), higher weight builds power and size
  • High reps (10+), lower weight builds endurance and tone
  • Compound lifts (primarily squats, deadlifts, and bench but also chin ups/pull ups, rows, overhead press, etc) are far superior than isolation lifts such as curls, skull crushers, and side raises. This isn’t to take anything away from isolation lifts, but you build your foundation upon the compounds.
  • Lifts that use free weights (barbells and dumbbells) are superior to machine lifts. Machines isolate and emphasize a certain movement, whereas free weights force you to balance, building core strength and recruiting secondary and tertiary muscles. Some machine lifts have their place, but free weights are generally better.
  • Building on the last two points, when you do compound lifts and use free weights your core gets a very good workout. Ab workouts are not very beneficial from a cost-benefit point of view- doing hundred of crunches or fucking around with Swiss balls will not make them much bigger or more defined. A strong core is built under the barbell, showing it off takes effort in the kitchen.
  • Cardio improves your vascular endurance but does not burn fat very well compared to heavy lifting and having a good diet (more on this in a separate article).
  • Rest is very important. You are going to have a tough time gaining if you aren’t getting 8 hours of sleep and taking off days.
  • Protein is very important. Recommendations vary, but as a good rule of thumb you need to be eating at least your body weight x1.5 in grams of protein every day. Without enough protein and rest you’re pissing a lot of your effort away. I try to shoot for body weight x 2.5.
  • Bring a notebook with you to track your progress. It is an impossibility that you can remember everything you did your last workout, making it incredibly difficult to move up. Seriously, this makes a huge difference.

I wanted to keep it basic, so you experienced lifters can feel free to chime in with some of your own insights. For me, I can only imagine where I would be at now if I had known most of these or had chosen to adhere to them consistently throughout these past years.

So now that you have a basic framework for your lifting philosophy, it’s time to get started on a program.

Strong Lifts is a program I recommend to every newbie emailing me for ideas. Mehdi’s program focuses on only 5 lifts- squats, bench, deadlift, rows, and overhead press, in an easy to execute 5×5 structure. It is a great way to get started the right way- doing compound lifts. I did it for a long time before moving on to more advanced stuff, and the results were very good. Something that really needs to be stressed: Start with the empty bar just like he says, it is a necessity. Those new to the big compound lifts will need to train their body in the movements, honing the form through repetition and experience. Yeah it will suck being that guy, but trust me no one actually gives a shit.

Starting Strength is also a great program (book and Wiki). While I can’t personally vouch for it, tons of other experienced lifters can and do. Rippetoe’s philosophy appears to be very similar to Mehdi’s in that there is a large emphasis on the big compound lifts from which beastliness is birthed.

Read up, get your mind right, and hit the fucking gym. You will love this journey you’re about to start on.

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About The Author

They call me Fly, Fresh, and Young. Gym rat by day, lecherous drunkass by night. Follow me on Twitter @nate_moneyh.

10 Comments

  1. Melville September 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    “Cardio improves your vascular endurance but does not burn fat very well compared to heavy lifting and having a good diet (more on this in a separate article).”

    Hmmmm. Will wait for the article before I really comment on this, but I dont think anything burns fat like high intensity interval training. I’ll be waiting on your article.

  2. Aleph September 13, 2012 at 12:18 am

    Going to have to disagree with some of the advice given here.

    1. Gaining strength is different from gaining size. Low-rep range workouts in the 1-5 rep range will increase your myofribular muscle fibers. The myo fibers are the ones that give your muscles explosive power and density.

    When you want to build for size (aesthetics), you’ll be lifting in high rep range at high volume of about 12-15 reps for however many sets you believe is appropriate. This will build your muscles sarcoplasmic capacity. Sarcoplasmic muscle fills up with sarcoplasm (a liquid), which is what gives your muscle about 30% of its size and makes you “swole.”

    2. If you are looking for that six-pack look, you need to be doing weighted ab exercises. There are a number of these online to choose from. After squatting heavy for three years, sure my abs were strong but they didn’t pop out even when I was down to 9% bodyfat. I had to start doing ab workouts.

    3. Your diet is what will burn the vast majority of your fat. On the subject of cardio, everybody is different. For me, I find incorporating cardio when I’m on a cut pays off more than exclusively lifting weights.

    That said, if you’re looking to build size, ignore cardio, especially if you’re an ectomorph.

    Everything else I agree with. Good article.

  3. flyfreshandyoung September 13, 2012 at 4:55 am

    @Aleph

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Good point on #1. I’ve always tried to focus more on function over form as I don’t believe there is much utility in sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (Although a 5×10 week every 3 months or so was common in some football position lift programs at my college as a way to work on the theory that you can increase the muscle cross section through sarcoplasmic hypertrophy then build into it with strength training). It didn’t occur to me to mention it, so thanks for the correction.

    For those interested here is a good description of the differences: http://www.defrancostraining.com/articles/38-articles/52-why-all-muscle-was-not-created-equal.html

    2. Another good tip, but I was trying to be basic and I hate seeing not-strong dudes wasting tons of time working abs when they should be working other stuff instead.

    3. Cardio returns definitely vary by person, but once again most newbs think they gotta spend hours on the treadmill or running or god forbid ellitpticals, and that is just not necessary or even beneficial at times.

  4. Pru September 13, 2012 at 6:18 am

    “Something that really needs to be stressed: Start with the empty bar just like he says, it is a necessity. Those new to the big compound lifts will need to train their body in the movements, honing the form through repetition and experience. Yeah it will suck being that guy, but trust me no one actually gives a shit.”

    I agree. I can rep 300 bench and 500 squat now, but this is after 6 years of work. When I started out I could barely get 100 lbs on the bench press. It takes patience, hard work, proper diet, and consistency to build your body.

  5. goy September 16, 2012 at 1:55 am

    1.5 grams of protein x your body weight? Is that in pounds, kilograms or stones?
    since they all add up to signicantly different numbers depending which unit

    • flyfreshandyoung September 17, 2012 at 5:38 am

      Pounds, hombre. My bad, should have clarified.

  6. derthal September 16, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    ” I hate seeing not-strong dudes wasting tons of time working abs when they should be working other stuff instead.”

    If someone claims doing hundred or more crunches than he’s doing something different from ab workout and definitely wasting his time. I was one of those “champions” nearly month after starting working out until I learnt how to do real ab workout. Properly done and heavy ab workout take five to ten minutes (depends on resting time between sets, beginners need longer rests) and can be really gruelling.
    After reaching 15 reps in set it’s time to find more difficult exercise (there are plenty of them, enough for the year of great diversity) or get weighted with iron.

  7. dude September 17, 2012 at 1:36 am

    “your body weight x1.5 in grams of protein every day”

    Is that 1.5g per kg of bodyweight? Or are you using some weird units like stone or pounds?

  8. goy September 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    how much do we consume on rest days? Is it the same amount on training day or do we ingest half?

    And by body weight is that supposed to be our current body weight then every 10 pounds and we just keep adding on to that equation? or automatically eat to our goal weight?

    im 5 ft 11 and weight 130lbs(with a belly lol) and want to put on a good 30-50lbs..ripped:)

    by the way is it true you can only digest only 40 grams of protein at a time and the rest gets pissed out?

    • flyfreshandyoung September 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm

      Eat the same amount of protein on rest days. Your muscle groups worked take at least two days to recover, so even on rest days your body is still building those muscles.

      “is it true you can only digest only 40 grams of protein at a time and the rest gets pissed out?”

      This is a common myth. If you drank straight protein on an empty stomach, then yes this can come into play. But lets say you eat 50g of protein from chicken, a protein shake, and some cottage cheese. Your body is not going to piss all of that out in an hour. You will digest it, and over the next 4-5+ hours will have a constant supply of protein.

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