Today's blog was inspired by reader Primo D'Agostino, who had the courage at the age of 60 to finally start weight training. This is living proof of the adage, 'Better late than never!' Here was his email that I wanted to respond to today:
"I know I face many obstacles in my quest. I have days when I want to throw in the towel. I also want to kick myself for waiting too late to start. I am overwhelmed and confused by all I read on diet, supplements and workouts. Why does it have to be convoluted and scientific?"
The answer is - it doesn't! Recently I wrote about the glut of information available to us online today, which can be both a good and a bad thing. The good aspect of it is that there is indeed a wealth of useful information at your fingertips. There is also a substantial amount of erroneous and dubious information, since anyone can post and declare him or herself an expert on any matters they wish. So right away, you are faced with somehow trying to sort through what is useful and effective and what's just a bunch of bull. The sad fact is, a 12-year-old who has never even seen a weight can claim to be an expert online and post anonymously on various message boards, dispensing advice!
Then, even among the actual solid information from those who genuinely possess the knowledge and experience, you still have wildly conflicting theories and modes of training and eating. The crazy thing about this is, not many of them are completely useless. Most of them work well for at least some people, and few styles of training and eating are going to be effective for the entire population.
Once we get into supplements, that's a whole other realm of confusion. The closest thing you will get to unbiased opinions are supplement reviews on various message boards, but even then you don't know who is an actual customer and who might be an employee of one of the companies posing as one. Obviously every supplement company is going to proclaim itself to be the best and their products to be vastly superior. This is business, after all. There is no such thing as a 'Consumer Reports' for you to rely on to provide objective comparisons. So you go by word of mouth, or you try various products and see how they work for you.
What I would like to do is break down some very simple guidelines to follow. They may seem overly rudimentary, but based on the emails and Facebook messages every day; there is still a great deal of confusion and frustration regarding what to do. The following is based on what any beginner should know if he or she is trying to build a base of size and strength.
Train hard with mostly basic movements. Routines should be simple and not overly long or complicated. Full-body routines done every other day are perfect to start on, doing only basics such as the bench press, chin-up, military press, barbell row, squat, and deadlift. Warm up as much as possible before doing 3 work sets of 8-12 reps to failure. Use good form and do your best to feel the muscle working instead of merely moving the weight from point A to point B.
After perhaps three months, you can break up the body into groupings, which is called a split routine. A very simple one is Push (chest, shoulders, triceps), Pull (Back and biceps), and legs. That can be broken up any number of ways. Younger trainers without stressful jobs might be able to do all three days, rest a day, and repeat. Others may need to inject rest days between one of more of those training days.
I can't emphasize enough how important good form is. There is a place for looser form, but only after strict reps have already been completed in the set and no more are possible. You should constantly be trying to use more weight, but never at the expense of form. If you have to use terrible form to move the additional weight, go back and simply focus on doing a few more reps with the same weight for a bit.
Rest and nutrition are just as important as your training. If you train hard yet fail to get enough rest and/or good food, you won't grow. Period. Aim for 8 hours of sleep a night. Take naps when needed, if you can. Don't stick to a rigid workout schedule if you are tired, overly stressed due to work/school/personal or family problems, or starting to get sick. In other words, if you need extra rest days, take them.
Nutrition really isn't that complicated. You need to feed your body quality nutrients every 2-3 hours. Every meal should have protein in it. How much? A good average intake is 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. So a 150-pound person should take in 225 grams of protein daily. Split that up into 6 meals, and you need roughly 38 grams per meal. Most of your protein should come from chicken, lean beef, fish, eggs, and turkey (dairy is okay in moderate amounts). You can also use protein shakes as 'meals' to meet those requirements. Your carbs will vary. Some people need a lot more than others. Start at 2 grams per pound a day and build from there. If you're gaining muscle, stay there. If not, add more. If you're gaining fat, cut back on them. Your carbohydrates should come from rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and fresh fruit. Eat plenty of raw vegetables too for the vitamins and minerals as well as the fiber. When you eat 6 times a day, you sure as heck better be regular in your waste elimination!
I wrote a book several years ago called 'Real Bodybuilding' that USA residents can order through my web site and all others can get through www.authorhouse.com, Amazon.com, or BarnesandNoble.com. I don't sell outside the USA due to the increased prices in international shipping. But this book is a great primer that packs a ton of very useful information about training, nutrition, supplements, and human growth hormones into a very concise and easy to read format.
So that's my message today. Bodybuilding isn't mindless, but it isn't rocket science either. Those who attempt to make it all seem overly complicated and scientific are usually trying to sell you on their own system. The fact that so many people were able to get bigger and stronger for many decades in the past with such relatively simple methods shows you that it can be done. Some good information is a wonderful thing. Too much information, where much of it is useless (coming from sources that are dubious at best) and often conflicting, can be a bad thing.