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  • Ask the Personal Trainer

Ask the Personal Trainer

Ask the Certified Personal Trainer

I just began lifting and I wanna get big. How should I start?

Fast Twitch’s top 4 things to keep in mind when beginning any training program:

  1. Learn to lift correctly first, then start to progressivley lift heavier
  2. Eat proactively, not reactively
  3. Target all large muscle groups (especially legs)
  4. Prioritize recovery and avoid overtraining

First things first, learn how to train. The main mistake we see every day all day is people training incorrectly. Lifting with anything but the best form you can muster is the best way to halt all progress and put you back even further than you were when you started.

Also, if you’re gonna take the time and effort to lift, don’t waste your time with small weight. Lift heavy. There’s no point in going to the gym if all you’re gonna do is curl 10 lbs weights. Get in there, hit it HARD and get out – fast. Don’t converse between lifts, don’t flirt with the pretty girls (or guys) and don’t take your attention away from the weights. You’re there for one purpose and one purpose only. Get in, get it done and get out.

Next, eat with your last and next lifts in mind.

You need a minimum amount of protein (~.8 grams per lbs of lean body mass) to support the growth (aka – hypertrophy) you are working for so make sure you’re targeting complete protein sources (poultry, beef, fish, eggs and dairy) in your diet at all times.

You also need carbs (> 1 gram per lbs of lean body mass) to replenish your depleted muscle (glycogen) and blood (glucose) energy stores, encourage fat burning (fat burns in a carbohydrate flame) and support muscle growth throughout the entirety of every day.

Fats usually take care of themselves but if you really want to go the extra mile, target foods high in good (unsaturated) fats such as fish, nuts/seeds, avocado, olive oils, etc.

Water intake is VITAL to muscle growth. If you’re dehydrated, you’re wasting your time and gym space. If your urine isn’t clear all the time, drink more – but don’t overdo it. A good rule of thumb is to drink your body weight divided by two in fl oz (Ex: BW = 200 lbs, water intake = 100 fl oz throughout the entire day).]]>

Lifting for size means lifting with the body’s large muscle groups - period. To do things any other way would be absolutely pointless. The body’s large muscle groups are, from largest (and most important) to smallest, the legs, the back and the chest. Most people train the smallest muscle groups such as the chest, arms and abs, almost never train legs and back (if ever) and wonder why they aren’t growing.

Sound familiar? . . . Well, now you know.

Next, try to keep in mind that recovery isn’t only about protein (though protein is very important). Proper muscle building, fat burning, energy supporting recovery is the juggling of proper nutrition, adequate sleep and down time, sufficient water intake and appropriate training frequency.

If any of these is out of whack, they must be put back in line if you are to maximize your gains in the gym. Each large muscle group needs somewhere between 5 and 7 days to recover completely. The nervous system, or the muscles’ controls, needs even longer. At Fast Twitch, we typically train each muscle group once a week and never train more than 3x per week.

Finally, try to keep your workouts no longer than 45-60 minutes in duration. Training longer will leave you with a less than desirable chemistry (catabolic rather than anabolic) inside those muscles you are trying to grow (hypertrophy) that will actually cause them to shrink (atrophy) if things get too out of hand.

Should I work the entire body at every workout?

That depends. Each trainer will have a slightly different approach and answer to this question. If you’re goal is fat loss, full body training is a good way to go. If your goal is strength gains, full body training is probably not the best route to take due to the amount of time it takes the nervous system to recover. For more info on this subject, see out fitness blogs – each written by one of Fast Twitch Fitness Performance’s certified trainers.

How many exercises should I do per muscle group?

The body is made up of three large muscle groups, namely the legs, back and chest. Each and every workout should address one or two if not all of these specific muscle groups. These muscles are usually pretty strong, relatively speaking, and need more than just one exercise to wear them down. Depending on which trainer you speak to, sets per muscle group can/might range from 2 to 4 per muscle group. If it takes more than that, you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough during each set.

How many repetitions should I perform?

During the working sets, unless muscular endurance is your goal, you should probably keep your reps down to somewhere between 6 and 12. Doing more than that will not allow any kind of heavy weight to get moved but will certainly tax the heart and lungs should that be your goal. If increases in muscle mass is your primary goal, reps are infinitely less important than recovery and nutrition so keep your focus on that and systematically play with all of the rep ranges to see which your body responds best to.

Should I be concerned about the amount of weight I lift?

Initially, how much you are lifting should be the least of your concerns. Your primary concern should be to learn how to lift correctly, not how much. Eventually, once you’ve gained experience and are following a specific program, how much you lift will become more important. This specific issue is probably the one that most people get wrong. Hiring a certified trainer will help to avoid this common mistake and decrease chances of injuring yourself.

What are the best exercises for a beginner?

At Fast Twitch Fitness Performance, we strongly believe that the three big lifts, namely the squat, barbell bench press and deadlift, are a great place to start. Other excellent exercises are the multi-joint, structural exercises such as the rows (bent and seated), presses (overhead and incline) and lunges (reverse, walking and Bulgarian). Above all else, avoid machines. Free weights are, and always will be, the way to go whether your goals are weight gain, fat loss, strength gains, joint health, bone density gains, athletic performance, etc.

Should I train at a gym or can I train at home?

Though this is highly dependent on preference and how comfortable you are around others while training, keep the following in mind. Your home is where you relax, and having a separate place (a place where relaxing is not why youre there) to do your training might be a good idea not only because thats where all the equipment is but also because when you get there, its "go time" as they say. Youre not there to fart around, youre there to work - and thats a good thing. As my colleague and mentor John Crowther says, "Get in, do something and get out." Dont waste time. Do your workout, try to keep it under 60 minutes and go home. Dont give the gym a chance to become a place you hate and/or associate with wasting time. 

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