I’ve only been lifting for about 3 years and although I can say that I’ve made a pretty successful transformation, I still believe that I would do some things a little differently if I had the chance to go back in time.
When people ask me how long I’ve been working out, they seem surprised when I tell them that it’s only been about a couple years because of the muscle that I put on. The first time I ever lifted a single weight was back in my senior year of high school. I’ve been hooked ever since then.
But looking back at it now, I’m pretty damn sure that I wastedmy first year after getting my gym membership. I only started to see results later on in time when I had learned more about training and nutrition. Before that, I stepped into the gym every single day just to bench and do bicep curls for hours straight. If I didn’t bench or curl, I’d look around the gym to see what cool exercises other guys were doing just so I can switch up my “routine”.
The list below isn’t a universal guideline that everyone should follow, but merely a list of things that I wish I knew when I first started lifting. If I knew these things from the very start, I don’t think I would have wasted so much time of my life just to get to where I am today. So for you beginner lifters out there, save yourself some time and money and read my list below so you don’t make the same n00b mistakes I did.
16 Things I Wish I Knew When I First Started Working Out
1. Big compound exercises build muscle more than isolation exercises. Other than the bench press, everything else I did at the gym were isolation exercises. Got me nowhere. Now a majority of my workouts consists of rows, chin-ups/pull-ups, deadlifts, squats, a variety of presses, etc.
2. Eating in a calorie surplus to gain weight. A calorie surp-what? Back then all I did was lift, lift, and lift. Eat a lot of food to gain muscle? Umm, ya I’m pretty sure my days consisted of 1,000 calorie, max.
3. Protein powder is NOT a miracle muscle builder. Like 90% of gym go-ers today, I looked at protein powder as a miracle powder that was supposed to help put on muscle after a workout. If I didn’t have a protein shake after my workout, I would convince myself that the workout was a waste. Little did I know that I could have gotten my protein from other foods or drinks as long as I hit my protein requirements.
4. Speaking of protein, drinking it 10 seconds after a workout doesn’t make it any better than drinking it a little later. As soon as I finished my workouts, I would rush to the locker room to drink my protein that I brought with me to the gym. And guess where I would go right after that? Yup, straight home. Why I couldn’t wait 20 to 25 minutes to drink my protein, I have no idea.
5. Form > Weight. A lot of people at the gym lifted heavy, and because of the naive teenager that I was, I tried to do the same without knowing anything about proper form.
6. Half-squatting 405 pounds on the smith machine wasn’t actually as cool and effective as I thought. Like I said in #5, it was all about the weight. I’ll be honest, I was one of those guys who would put 405 pounds of weight on the smith machine and perform a so-called squat. Douchebag much?
7. The deadlift is where it’s at. I never deadlifted once in my life until last December of 2011. Since then, my overall strength gains have skyrocketed and it has actually helped me break my weight-gaining plateau.
8. There’s no need to eat 6-8 meals a day. I put my meals in tupperwares just so I can bring my food with me everywhere I went! I once remember eating 10 different meals in one day because I thought it would be better than having 6 meals. Lame, I know. And it’s not like I was preparing for a competition, I was just an average guy trying to put on some weight! Silly me.
9. Working out for 2-3 hours is pointless. Today, my workouts generally last a little over an hour. Sometimes even just 45 minutes.
10. Know the differences between exercises and what muscles they target. Sadly, I didn’t even know what muscles certain exercises were even targeting in the body. Shit, I didn’t even know much about human anatomy.
11. Sleep and recovery time is more important than time spent in the gym. I was lucky if I got more than 5 hours of sleep. I had spent too much time on the computer and playing video games.
12. Working out is not just for aesthetics but also for overall performance. I had to learn this the hard way. When I found out that my conditioning and core strength was horrible, I realized that I had to start working out for other purposes too and not just for looks.
13. Bench pressing without a spotter is NEVER a good idea. This is pretty much self-explanatory, so I don’t think there’s a need for me to explain.
14. Mondays doesn’t always have to be Chest Days. For some reason, everyone seems to get this notion that every Monday is Chest Day. It’s no wonder why the bench presses are always taken on those days.
15. Legs are just as important as every other muscle in the body. Yes, working out your legs suck, but so do having chicken legs.
16. Free weights aren’t better than machines, and machines aren’t better than free weights. I stayed away from machines because I heard they didn’t do much for muscles and that free weights were better. Bullshit. There might be machines that are just plain stupid, but not all machines are pointless. Machines have their place and shouldn’t be avoided.
I’m sure I could have put more items in this list, but these are the ones that I thought off from the top of my head. The other ones will probably be posted in a future article. 🙂
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