8 Things I Wish I Knew when I Started Lifting

Spare yourself some pain and frustration with these eight tips I wish I knew when I started…

  1. You can’t out train a bad diet. As the saying goes, you are what you eat.  If you overeat junk food, you’ll look like junk and perform like junk no matter how hard you work out. If you want to lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit. If you want to gain muscle, you need to consume quality protein and sufficient calories. No amount of training will change that.
  2. Most supplements are scams. The vast majority of nutritional supplements will do nothing but empty your wallet.  The supplement industry thrives on misleading marketing and people’s desire for a magic pill. If you’re looking for an edge, stick with the time proven basics: A protein supplement to support muscle growth, creatine for a small boost in strength, a pre-workout stimulant if you absolutely need it, and a basic multivitamin and fish oil to fill in any holes in your diet.  Be wary of the rest.
  3. Building a great physique takes time. While it’s possible to make a noticeable change in 6-8 weeks, progress inevitably slows.  It takes years to build a great body, so think of the process as a marathon rather than a sprint.
  4. Vary the difficulty of your workouts. Training easy all the time won’t cut it, and training hard all the time leads to injury or mental burnout.  Learn to cycle your workout intensity (aka periodization) or, if training hard is the only way you know how, then schedule a break every 6-8 weeks to allow your body to recover.
  5. Include squats in your routine. A building is only as strong as its foundation. Whether your goal is strength, fitness, or physique related, squats will provide the foundation you need by building muscle throughout your entire lower body and core. Too many beginners neglect those areas and end up with a weak lopsided body. There are a million excuses for not squatting. If your technique stinks, ask for help. If you have knee issues, try widening your stance and sitting back more. If you have lower back issues, try front squats or belt squats. Just find a way to squat – you’ll thank me later.
  6. Avoid training ADD. Sometimes it’s tempting to switch to the latest greatest workout routine listed online, but routine hopping will do nothing but drive you in circles.  Give your body enough time to adapt to a routine, typically 6-8 weeks, and then make a change to keep things fresh and spur new adaptations.
  7. Don’t grind through injuries. Minor aches and pains are one thing, but if you have a real injury you need to back off and allow it to heal.  Being a tough guy/girl and grinding through it will only make things worse and require more time off, and in some cases result in permanent injury.  Work around injuries, not through them.
  8. Keep things fun! If you dread the thought of your next workout, something’s wrong.  While progress requires hard work and discomfort at times, they should be balanced by joy and satisfaction with your efforts.  There are endless exercise options, so find something that inspires you and get after it.  If you don’t know where to start, try a group fitness class or personal trainer.  Life is too short to slug through workouts that you hate.

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