#1 Focus on progressing in compound lifts
Compound lifts are ones that work multiple joints and multiple muscles. For example, squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, chins, pulldowns.
These exercises should form the foundation of your program. In fact, as a beginner your entire program can be made up of compound exercises. These big basic movements will build most of the muscle you will ever build. They have built most of the muscle that any top bodybuilder has built too.
Note. This does not mean I’m anti-isolation exercises. They can be invaluable later in your lifting career to put the finishing touches on your physique. But to build the most muscle possible you must…
…Do the basics exceptionally well.
When it comes to lifting weights, the basics are compound lifts.
They have some advantages over isolation exercises. You can load them heavier. They have a greater scope for continual progression. You can micro load them – because you can add 1.25kg to the barbell you can keep progressing at a manageable pace for a long time. That 1.25kg increment isn’t that big of a percentage change for most people on squats or deadlifts. However, isolation exercises using dumbbells (DB) for example often mean you have to jump 2kg or 2.5kg per DB because that’s the fixed increment available in most gyms. On isolation lifts, jumping up 2kg per hand is not sustainable.
Compound lifts are also more efficient than isolation exercises. They work multiple muscle groups at the same time so you can get an effective growth stimulus much quicker by focusing on them rather than trying to do an isolation lift for every single muscle group.
Compound lifts work. They have been essential to building all the great physiques. There is no point trying to reinvent the wheel. You are not that different. Do what has been proven to work and enjoy the added strength and muscle that comes from doing the basics exceptionally well!
#2 Supplements – The clues in the name!
If you’re like I was when I began lifting then you spend hours searching for the perfect training program and the ultimate supplement stack.
Sadly, neither exist.
Supplements are supplements. They can supplement a good diet. They cannot paper of the cracks of a junk food diet and they certainly can’t pack on muscle overnight like the adverts claim.
They can, however, leave a pretty big hole in your wallet!
I learnt this the hard way. I genuinely spent about 25% of my wages on supplements when I first started out. None of them are worth that.
A few work, but even they aren’t that impressive. Sure, take some creatine monohydrate, vitamin D, fish oils, whey protein to top up your protein needs, or even some caffeine pre-workout, but don’t expect dramatic changes. They won’t happen!
#3 Understand the Basics of Nutrition
This another example of learning from my mistakes. When I started out I knew little to nothing about nutrition. I just thought I needed to eat loads of protein and I’d be huge. Sadly, this is not the case.
My lack of knowledge meant I could get swayed by whoever made the most persuasive argument when it came to nutrition. This mean that for way too long I followed a low-carb diet. Low-carb diets are fine and can work for some people, but for me and my goals it was a terrible approach.
Sadly, I didn’t have the understanding to apply context to my diet choices. I was thinking in black and white not shades of grey.
Long story short there is not one perfect diet everyone should follow (much like there isn’t a perfect program for everyone). But there is an approach that will best meet your needs, goals, tastebuds, and lifestyle. If you know the fundamentals of good nutrition you can piece together an eating plan that moves your towards your goals, keeps you healthy, and allows you the freedom to eat foods you enjoy.
The most important factor to understand is…
Google, it now and understand that this is critical to gaining, losing, or maintaining weight.
Next most important are macronutrients (protein, fats, carbs). Read up on them (I cover them in detail in my FREE Ultimate Skinny Guys Bible – Get Your Copy Here).
If you get you energy balance and macronutrients on point then 80+% of your nutrition for physique improvement is taken care of.
If you understand these two elements then you are well placed to make smart nutrition choices.
#4 Get Some Help
Fortunately, for me I had some good strength and conditioning coaches when I played rugby. Then when I qualified as a personal trainer I worked with some extremely knowledgeable PTs who mentored me and guided me to making smart training choices.
Despite this I still made a bunch of rookie errors.
And you will too.
FastTrack your progress by minimising the errors. Find experienced lifters who have had success to train with. If you can’ find someone in the gym who’s willing to show you the ropes consider hiring a PT or coach to get you going. This will save you making loads of mistakes and missing out on progress. Having a coach is an investment. You don’t have to work with them forever, just long enough to lay some solid foundations.
If you are a complete beginner, I’d suggest you work with someone in-person. They can adjust your technique on the spot and add real value.
If you are a bit more experienced and have solid technique, decent strength levels, and reasonable muscle mass then an online coach might be a good choice to hold you accountable, write your programs, and troubleshoot for you.
You don’t have to have a coach, but you should look to someone who has done what you want to achieve. Whether it be the local gym hero, a book, training course, personal trainer, or online coach, invest in yourself and your results. It will make a huge difference!
Want me as your coach? Go here to find out more about my coaching services.
#5 Training Should Improve Your Life Not Rule It
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Don’t give up your social life (trust me I did and it wasn’t worth it).
Enjoy training. Enjoy the results. Learn from the lessons the gym teaches you. Enhance your body and mind by training and pushing your limits but, don’t limit your life to the gym.