You've decided to join a gym, but you're not sure the best way to work out, and don't want to pay for a personal trainer who may not really know what he's talking about? Already an experienced weight lifter, but aren't getting the results you want? Read on for the best tips for working out if you have a full gym facility, and the secret to extreme muscle growth.
Before and After
You should always warm up before lifting any weights. This means a light jog or other low-impact activity that will raise your heart rate and raise your core temperature by a few degrees. This should last at least 5 minutes, preferably 10 or more. After this, you should do joint rotations. This is not a stretch, it is preparing the joint for work by encouraging blood flow. Then, do the resistance training. At the end, stretch all of the joints you have worked that day. Studies have shown that stretching before weight training actually reduces the muscle's capacity, and does not prevent injury as was previously thought. Stretching after the work out will protect the joint and prevent cramping.
After working out you will also need an increased intake of protein because that is what muscles are made of.
Length of Time
The resistance training part of your workout should not last longer than one hour. After a warm up, your body is in an anabolic state, meaning that it is ready to "build up" or repair any damage you do to it by running hard or doing other hard work. However, after 45 minutes or so (again, this varies by individual), your body goes into a catabolic state, meaning that your body is ready to "break down" or eliminate anything that may threaten your survival. Entering a catabolic state is good for breaking down body fat and eliminating lactic acid from your muscles, but other tissues are equally damaged by being in a catabolic state. You should be mostly concerned about your kidneys and your muscle fibers that will be compromised if you continue to push yourself. I repeat: working out for more than one hour will hurt your muscles, not help them.
The Isotonic Workout
Isotonics is a fancy word for what traditional bodybuilders do: contract the muscle in order to move a load. In other words, lifting and lowering weights.
As for the weight training itself, free weights are excellent because they make your body balance while lifting them. However, many people prefer nautilus machines for exactly the same reason: they feel safer not having to balance the weight. I will not give you weights, sets and reps to do, because there are a myriad of sources of routines written by all sorts of experts. I recommend you experiment with various programs, because although all muscles fundamentally work the same, everyone has different levels of hormones, different metabolism, and different levels of comfort. Pick up the latest fitness magazine of your choice for current work outs.
The key to remember when following a routine is this: If you are told to do 10 reps for 3 sets, this means that you should select a weight that allows you to do only 10 in a row, but not 11. You will feel tired at around 6, maybe shake a little at 8, and just pump out the 10th rep with no energy left to do even one more. If you can do 11, then you shouldn't stop just because your routine says 10. Do the 11th and 12th if you can, knowing that you should be using slightly more weight the next time. At the end of each set, rest for about 2 minutes (unless your workout specifies something else) and then do your next set.
The Eccentric Contraction
Most people who write workout routines emphasize that you lower the weight slower than you raised it. This is partly for safety. But there is a big secret! But before getting to that, let's back-up a little. Concentric motion is flexing the muscle to SHORTEN it under load, and Eccentric motion is flexing the muscle while LENGTHENING it under load. As your arm moves up in a bicep curl, that is concentric, as your arm moves down, eccentric. Here is the secret: Your muscle can create more power in eccentric motions than in concentric ones. So always lower weights very slowly, to keep the maximum tension while lowering weights!
But we can take that discovery one step further for ultimate results. Skip the concentric motion because it's holding you back! If you're only working out with weights that you can lift concentrically, you're not using the maximum power possible in your muscles.
Warning: the majority of muscle injuries happen during the eccentric phase of motion, and by trying this exercise, you are exposing yourself to risk of injury. So be careful.
You absolutely need a spotter for this, because you will need help to raise the weight. Load a bar with a bit more than you can lift. (If you can do 3 curls with 100 lbs, load the bar with 120 lbs.) With the help of your spotter, raise the bar to the top position of a bicep curl. Both of you will likely have to work a bit at this. Then, as slowly as you can, lower the weight to the normal starting position of the curl, with your bicep at full extension. This should take about 3-5 seconds. If your muscle goes slack or you drop the weight, you've put on too much weight. But if you've got the right amount, you should feel a burn like never before. After recovering for 2 minutes, you may want to do a second rep/set... aim for 3 if you can, but if your muscle is still burning and feels weak after two minutes, go on to a different muscle group.
And that's it. One rep per set, 1-3 sets. One controlled eccentric rep will stimulate your muscle to grow more than 3 sets of 10 reps because you're using the maximum overload possible.
Why? Muscle overload is key to adaptation. When you're using the absolute peak muscular output, it doesn't have to last long. And since the peak is only possible during eccentric contractions, only do eccentric contractions.
I feel obliged to repeat the warning: always use a spotter, and only use weights that you can manage. If you are working out for the first time, get used to good form by doing traditional isotonics, and learn how much you can usually lift to determine your baseline. Also, some exercises are more dangerous to do eccentrically because the bar will fall on you if you go slack: bench-press, squats, military press, etc. For those exercises, use a "Smith Machine" where the bar travels on vertical tracks, and you can set safety measures to keep the bar from falling below a certain height.
Always remember while doing resistance training that water is your best friend. Drinking water will keep you from dehydrating, will keep your energy high, will encourage your body to cycle water and fluids throughout your body, and keep your joints healthy while exercising. The main cause of muscle cramps is insufficient hydration. For more information on the importance of Water, read the article all about it on my site.
For the beginner: start easy. Start at your core and move outwards. Work big muscles before small muscles. Fat burning happens most in the largest muscles (legs and back), so encouraging them to grow will give you the fastest fat-loss results. After your first workout, you will be sore. It would be best to avoid going to your full overload potential the first week, to allow your joints time to adjust to your new activity. However, soon you will see growth, and best of all, you'll see the fat start to melt.
The second-best resistance training (after eccentric contractions) does not even require weights, so you can do it at home without a gym membership. Read my article on the Weightless Workout on my site.
David "Mr. Weightless" McCormick is the founder of Weightless Products, where you can learn to sculpt your body to look like a superhero. In his series of articles, he covers everything every man needs to know to lose weight fast and keep burning fat. There are no banners, no pop-up ads, no need to sign up, all articles are available in full for FREE. Wait Less for Weight Loss, visit the best weight loss program for men today!