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01-03-2016 05:02 PM
The Basics of Health & Fitness
I wrote this up a good few years back for another forum I used where a lot of people were asking for tips on health and fitness, the gym and working out etc. It still stands the test of time, could probably use a few tweaks but I will come back and edit when I get chance. For now the below is a decent guide of where to start if you're looking to improve your physique.
I'm not a PT, nor a professional in the industry but I've been in and out of gyms for years and feel I have quite a good knowledge on training and nutrition and for what it's worth I prefer to follow a more science led approach rather than a 'it worked for me bro' one.
Whatever your goals are, the basic principles apply:
1. The psychological factor - Your motivation.
By far the most significant factor in making the step to train. To be successful you NEED be motivated by a long-term goal. Too many beginners fail because they see it as a short term goal to improve their physique. Get it out of your head that you need to get ripped for your summer holiday, bodybuilding is a lifestyle choice that will demand years of your life, not weeks. You should see it as a daily way-of-life. Accept the current way your body looks in the mirror and make the decision to change your life to achieve your objectives. Totally re-structuring your daily diet and training is often necessary to make good progress. Accept it is a long term plan and you won't be discouraged at the first hurdle.
If it was easy to achieve and impressive body then it would no longer be impressive. Always remember this. Be realistic about your short term goals. Commit yourself to hard work and, with any luck, you will see it as something you enjoy. You will see it as something that distinguishes you from everyone else who simply can't be bothered. You'll be rewarded with progress and praise once you get everything nailed.
2. Short term / long term aims.
First of all assess your body. Within the coming months what do you want to do? Lose fat or build muscle? Your short term actions will have a significant impact on your long term results so think carefully. You need to realise that even though your physique may not be impressive at the moment, you may not need to lose fat in the early stages. A well structured and muscular physique is attained through years of training, you will not have huge pecs and abs of steel if you're only just starting out. (With the exception of the genetically gifted of course) Granted, if you are massively overweight then I would definately recommend aiming to lose the fat first.
To keep things simple; for fat loss, the more muscle you have the more calories your body burns at rest and while exercising a lb of muscle burns roughly 10x as many calories as a Ib of fat (approx 70 cals per hour compared to 7 cals per hour for fat).
Set some sensible targets e.g. to lose 10Ibs of fat in 5 weeks or gain 5 Ibs of lean muscle mass. Despite what we think, it is physically more difficult to build muscle than to lose fat. It is possible to lose 5 lbs of fat in a week but this will, more than likely, result in loss of muscle mass. Similarly, you cannot build 5lbs of lean muscle in a week....
Long term goals should be more ambitious but remain realistic. Come up with a goal physique that you want to achieve in 5 years. Gear your short term goals towards this and let your key motivation be yourself and no-body else. This is vital as you are unique and only you knows what you want to achieve.
3. Weight training
Your weights routine will form the foundations for progress. To make consistant and long term gains you should make of point of having a structured weight routine from the start. Freestyle routines often result in beginners overtraining and having no aims or purpose in the gym. They usually end up just throwing weights around with no weekly targets and real structure to their week. My first tip is to join a decent gym. Members of staff are often more than happy to offer advice and guide you in your first steps of training. A good gym will have a comprehensive selection of free-weights and machines. Make sure there are plenty of spare weights to put to use and ensure there is a good collection of dumbells. You may now be thinking that you don't need lots of weights at the moment but it's good to know that the equipment is there once you progress. And YOU WILL MAKE PROGRESS, there's no doubt about it.
Despite common misconceptions the majority of people at the gym are helpful, normal minded people who won't bite your head off at the first chance they get. They will not be looking down at you because you are new to the gym. Swallow your pride and get training!
Now on to lifting some weights!: For any unknown exercises take a look at this directory:
Exercise & Muscle Directory
This provides a very good / comprehensive database of all the exercises and associated muscle groups.
Also, a very good guide to weight training can be found at: How To Build Muscle: The Definitive Guide to Building Muscle where I have lifted some of the information in this post from.
Use Free Weights. You can lift the heaviest weights using barbells. More weight is more stress, thus more muscle. Dumbbells are great for assistance exercises, but not for your main lifts. Stay away from machines.
Do Compound Exercises. Donít imitate Pro Bodybuilders. Isolation exercises are ok once youíve built base strength & muscle mass. But if youíre starting to build muscle, exercises that hit several muscles at the same time are better.Squats work your whole body, theyíre the most important exercise. Youíll look totally different once you can Squat 1.5x your body-weight. Thatís a free weight Squat with hips coming lower than knees. All your muscles tense when doing Squats & Deadlifts. They work your body as 1 piece and let you lift heavy weights. Donít lose time with Biceps Curls. When you can Squat & Deadlift heavy weights, youíll have bigger arms.
- Safe. Machines force you into fixed, unnatural movement patterns which can cause injuries. Free weights replicate natural motions.
- Efficient. Free weights force you to control and balance the weight. This builds more muscle than machines, which balance the weight for you.
- Functional. Strength built on machines doesnít transfer to free weights or real life. No machine balances the weight for you in real life.
- Versatile. You can do hundreds of exercises with just 1 barbell.
I highly recommend you go with a proven routine when starting such as Starting Strength or Stronglifts 5x5 (both on google) there are other variations but these will give you a solid base to move on from in 3/6/12 months time and are the key for gaining size or losing weight by using those full body exercises.
4. Cardio work
Can be a help for fat loss & Cardiovascular fitness. If you want to incorporate cardio you should aim to do it on separate sessions from weights so that your muscle glycogen is used while weight training to fuel the muscles. It can be done following weights training. Cardio can be utilised with diet to help lower bodyfat but if you're bulking you will want to limit the amount of cardio you're doing or up your daily calorie intake.
01-03-2016 05:07 PM
5. Rest & Recovery
I cannot stress how important proper rest and recovery is for weight training. It is widely acknowledged that diet and rest are just as important as the training itself. Put simply, muscles repair and grow while you rest. It is very easy to overtrain and when you do your body goes into Catabolysis (Eating away at muscle tissue to utilise stored protein). As you can imaine, this is not good. Many beginners overtrain and can't figure out why their biceps haven't grown in the last 12 months.
You should get try to get a minimum of 7-8hrs sleep every night. The majority of growth and recovery happens while you sleep.
6. Diet. Eat whole foods 80-90% of the time.
* Proteins. Meat, poultry, fish, whey, eggs, milk, Ö
* Carbs. Brown rice, oats, whole grain pasta, quinoa, Ö
* Veggies: Spinach, broccoli, tomato, salad, carrot, Ö
* Fruits. Banana, orange, apple, pineapple, peers, Ö
* Fats. eggs, real butter, nuts, flax seeds, Ö
Eat More. You need food for energy and for muscle growth & recovery. More frequent meals also boosts your metabolism, helping fat loss.
* Eat Breakfast. Your body has been starved since you went to bed, eat protein.
* Eat Post Workout. Get proteins & carbs post workout to help muscle recovery & replenish energy stores.
Get Protein. You need 1g protein per pound of body-weight daily to build & maintain muscle. Thatís 160g of daily protein if you weigh 160lbs/72kg. Eat whole proteins with each meal.
* Red Meat. Ground round, steaks, deer, buffalo, Ö
* Poultry. Chicken breast, whole chicken, turkey, duck, Ö
* Fish. Tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, Ö
* Eggs. Eat the yolk, itíís full of vitamins.
* Dairy. Milk, cottage cheese, yoghurt, whey.
Get Fats. Essential Fatty acids are vital for good health. Essential Fatty Acids are necessary fats that humans cannot make, and must be obtained through diet. EFAs are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from linolenic, linoleic, and oleic acids. Try and include the following into your diet:
Olive oil, fish oil, real butter, nuts, flax seeds.
1)Determine your base line calorie requirements Ė Use the harris benedict formula and the activity level multiplication factor, make it honest; under or over estimating your weight or activity levels will make it harder.
2)For Skinny guys looking to put on weight add 500 calories to the number, this is your target requirement to hit per day. Bear in mind it may need to go higher quite quickly
3)For skinny fat or slightly overweight guys we are looking to recomp your body and improve health, stick to the number that is given by the formula. YOU DO NOT NEED TO GO ON A DIET.
4)For really overweight people we are going to take 500-1000 off this number.
5)DONíT GO SILLY Ė the more you cut calories the harder it is to stick to and the more your training will potentially suffer. If you get weaker or your training performance suffers, youíre going to far. Always strive to improve or at minimum maintain.
7. Track Progress - Start a journal here on the forum. Many people will guide you, offer advice and offer lots of motivation.
-YOU ARE NOT SMARTER THAN A HIGHLY PAID COACH. There are people who write programs for a living that have determined whatís best for beginners, chances are whatever you have made up is rubbish.
-NO SERIOUSLY YOUíRE NOT. However, thereís a good chance youíll ignore this but if you insist on writing your own program it should include, Squats, Deadlifts, a dip or Bench press, an overhead press, a pull up and a row. These are all fundamental movements that everyone should learn.
-LEGS ARE 50% OF YOUR BODY YOU WILL GIVE THEM EQUAL ATTENTION. I donít care how big you think your legs are, if they are untrained they are skinny.
-YOU DO NOT HAVE LAGGING BICEPS. I still donít care what you think, youíre a beginner you lag everywhere.
-BODY PART SPLITS ARE NOT A GOOD CHOICE TO START WITH. You need to learn the basic movements and as youíll be handling light weights (to start with) you can do them more often.
-YOUR BACK IS 50% OF YOUR UPPER BODY. Just because you cant see it in the mirror doesnít mean it isnít there, for every pushing movement you will do at least one pulling movement.
-CURLS CAN GIVE YOU BIG ARMS BUT ONLY IF YOUíRE CURLING BIG WEIGHTS. Until you can do 10-12 chin ups with good form ignore curls and do more chins, youíll be far better off.
-LAT PULLDOWNS ARE NOT AS GOOD AS PULL UPS OR FAT MAN PULL UPS. Seriously, do more pull ups.
-LEG PRESS, LEG EXTENSIONS AND LEG CURLS ARE NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR SQUATS. Do your squats, if your back or knees ache doing them, youíre doing it wrong.
-DO NOT INCREASE THE WEIGHT AT THE EXPENSE OF FORM. If you cant do it properly keep it light till you can. However striving for perfect form will hold you back so just make sure youíre doing is not dangerous and not going to cause injury. Video your work sets if need be and have someone analyse them, they will be able to help.
-IF A MUSCLE IS SMALL ITS BECAUSE IT IS WEAK NOT BECAUSE YOU HAVENT HIT IT WITH EVERY VARIATION UNDER THE SUN. Donít expect to have a big chest if you cant bench an appreciable weight. Yes there are better chest builders than benching but youíll never see a big chest on someone who cant bench well over their body weight.
-WORRY ABOUT GETTING TRAINING IN, NOT WHEN YOU DO IT. Morning or evening or lunch it doesnít matter so long as you do it.
-YOU WILL NOT BE RONNIE COLEMAN IN A WEEK. It really does not happen, but whatever your level, muscle building is the same principle, progressive overload of the target muscle coupled with adequate rest.
-YOU HAVE LESS MASS THAN YOU THINK Ė you really arenít that big, by the time you diet down there will be less under there than youíd like to admit.
-HARD WORK PAYS OFF MORE OFTEN THAN NOT- weight training should be a challenge, donít rush to up the weight but donít go take it easy forever. Even the best programming will be out shone by hard work and dedication.
-IF YOU NEED HELP DONíT BE AFRAID TO ASK Ė but please ask someone who knows what they are doing. Just because they are a personal trainer doesnít necessarily mean they know how to squat, the person who squats big weight with good form knows how. More often than not they are willing to help (just donít ask when they are in the middle of a set)
-IF YOU CANT GET TO THE GYM Ė look into kettle bell training and get yourself a pull up bar. Then move closer to a gym or buy your own gear. Getting into good shape is not easy, often not cheap. But donít forget to be creative, underground strength training is vastly under rated. Sandbags, Slosh pipes, home made sleds and loads more can all be built.
01-03-2016 05:21 PM
Thanks for this Naboo - looks great.
Compound lifts, progressive overload, simple programmes, squats, deadlifts, bench presses, over head presses, pull/chin ups, rows...
2 things - I can't recommend enough is www.exrx.net as mentioned; and also the wise words of Shia - JUST DO IT
Last edited by ukalec; 01-03-2016 at 11:24 PM.
02-03-2016 09:12 AM
Cheers for posting this, Nab.
So, I've got a (theoretically) simple question... I'm headed to the gym after work for the first time in a while... What should I do?
Goal is primarily to lose a bit of fat, but also interested in a small amount of arms / chest gainz at the same time if that's possible.
02-03-2016 12:30 PM
Moving this thread to here so it actually gets looked at...
02-03-2016 02:25 PM
Nice one ICA.
I'd say definitely get a routine down that can work for your lifestyle. 3 days a week is all that's needed really as diet is where it's at. If you're a complete beginner to the gym your actually in a great position whereby you'll get n00b gains so you'll actually be able to lose some body fat whilst getting minimal gains (this becomes much harder the longer you've been training).
I'd say for a basic session you can't go wrong hitting something similar to a strong lifts workout such as: bench press 5x5, bent over barbell row 5x5, squats 5x5. You could always throw in a couple of accessory movements such as shoulder press and curls for 2 or 3 sets of 8-10. I know they're not in the strong lifts routine but it's always nice to get a little pump too.
Biggest thing will be your diet dictating whether your reach your goal or not.
02-03-2016 02:36 PM
Great post naboo. Can you clarify what you mean by assistance exercises when you talk about dumbbells? I do almost stick to free weight exercises exclusively but there certain exercises such as chest press where I pick dumbbells rather than barbell, mostly for safety reasons as I go solo most of the time. Should I just suck it up and go barbell?
It's also scary how much nutrition plays in terms of growth and even simply progress in the gym. I think we automatically associate nutrition with weight loss but it's equally important for growth, something which I took for granted as a beginner.
02-03-2016 02:52 PM
Dumbbells are a perfectly acceptable alternatively to the barbell for chest press. In fact, many would say you get better chest development from dumbbell chest press. Plus it will mitigate the possibility of developing imbalances, which many have, as it is a unilateral movement.
Originally Posted by King
In terms of assistance exercises, what I assuming was meant, were assistance exercises to your primary lift. So for example you do barbell/dumbbell press as your primary chest movement, you can do something like cable or dumbbell flies as a supplementary exercise if you are looking to increase the total volume worked on your chest.
Main principle in muscle building is progressive tension overload i.e, whatever you are doing you need to be periodically and consistently increasing either reps done or weight pushed or both.
02-03-2016 03:17 PM
That's awesome man, thanks. I'm familiar with all those moves which is good. Guessing I need to be using a weight that causes failure by the last rep?
Originally Posted by Naboo
Would you recommend doing the same routine each time I hit the gym rather than doing leg day, arm day, chest day etc?
Is it worth me throwing in some cardio too or will I be risking overdoing it?
Cheers man - really appreciate the knowledge! Want to take things to the next level after shedding the flab but there's so much confusing information out there.
02-03-2016 03:29 PM
No worries man - yeah the health and fitness industry is a minefield. There's so many differing opinions and a lot of guys spouting nonsense but have big followings so it's hard to know who to believe.
Originally Posted by ICA
I used to follow a Push, Pull, Legs routine which I preferred to Stronglifts IMHO as I got to throw in a few exercises I enjoyed more. I used to do the following and saw good results and it would be a good basic routine for anyone regardless of goal (again using diet to dictate whether you gain or lose weight).
Bench Press (Dumbbell or Barbell depending on confidence and strength) 5 x 5
Shoulder Press (same as above, though I prefer dumbbell for this) 2 x 8
Incline Flyes - go light with this and nail the form 3 x 10
Skull crushers with an ez bar 3 x 8
Tricep push down using cables 2 x 12
Deadlifts 5 x 5
Bent Over Barbell Row 5 x 5
Lat Pull Down 2 x 8
Barbell Curls 3 x 10
Hammer Curls 2 x 12
Squats 5 x 5
Front Squats 5 x 5
Lunges 3 x 8
Hamstring Curl 2 x 12
I personally don't feel the need to go to failure on my lifts but it should be challenging throughout, getting increasingly challenging towards the end, the last 2-3 reps should be difficult. I prefer to stick to a certain weight for all sets and reps and look to increase in my next session rather than throughout the session i.e. if you did 50kg on the bench today for 5x5 then I'd recommend doing 52.5kg next week for 5x5.
Nothing wrong with throwing in a little cardio if you enjoy it but I'd keep it light and probably say just hit a couple of 15-20 min slow jogs a week.
It's definitely worth working out how many calories you need to maintain your weight as then you can set a calorie target for your goal so for yourself I'd recommend something like a 5-10% deficit each week so nothing too heavy. Then keep an eye on your calorie intake and protein setting a rough goal for that also.