The Beginners Guide To Building Muscle Like A Boss (Part 1)

There are only 5 basic fears that we all share. It is out of these that all other fears are manufactured.

The first is extinction, or fear of death. Secondly, there is the fear of mutilation, which is the fear of losing any part of our bodily structure or having the boundaries of our bodies invaded. The third fear is the loss of autonomy, otherwise known as claustrophobia. The fourth fear is separation, or the fear of abandonment. Finally, the fifth fear is one that we seemingly try to avoid on a daily basis. It is ego-death, or the fear of humiliation. The fear of not looking cool enough or like we know it all in front of others.  

Earlier today, I experienced one of the most nerve wrecking yet exhilarating experiences of my life. I attended my first toastmasters meeting. If you aren't familiar with toastmasters, it is an organization that helps develop communication skills and leadership through public speaking. 

Basically, you get up in front of a bunch of people who you don't know and become subject to their piercing glares, while pouring out your heart & soul. To say that my palms were a little damp would be an understatement. At one point I think I almost forgot how to form a word.  The odd part is, after I was done it felt amazing and the more I went up to speak, the more comfortable I got at it. 

It's actually pretty similar to going to the gym as a newbie. You are navigating a completely new world full of grunting, yoga pants, & bro tanks. The journey could be both distracting and overwhelming, but I’m here to tell you it is also extremely rewarding. If you want to lose weight, gain muscle, and increase your level of bad-assery then you need to lift weights. Not just any weights, you need to get comfortable lifting heavy.

I'm proud of you for embarking upon this quest to build a body (i.e. ass, abs, insert other body parts here) that you love. Whether you are spanking new to lifting weights or the last time you lifted was during the Bush administration, this beginners guide will use some commonly asked questions to help get you acclimated to strength training. So buckle up your seat belts ladies and gentlemen because class is in session!


Why Should I Lift Weights?

Let’s get this out of the way before we go any further: being stronger kind of makes life much easier.

Need to haul groceries up your fifth floor walkup?

No problem.

Need to carry a damsel in distress out of a burning building?

Bring it on.

Want to kick start fat loss in a radical way?

Lifting will help you drop the last 10lbs.

Besides the perks in the strength department, weight lifting comes with a plethora of benefits.

First off, you will look outstanding in your birthday suit. People who lift weights lose more fat and burn more calories at rest than those who don't. As you strength train and increase the lean muscle on your frame, you build a bigger and more efficient engine that requires more energy to operate. This translate to a higher metabolism and a hotter infrastructure in a shorter period of time. Your clothes will fit you better and you will be happier/filled with more energy. You will also decrease your chances of developing diseases such as cancer & diabetes. A healthier you, makes for a more enjoyable life, wouldn't you agree? 

Will Lifting Weights Make Me Bulky?

Strength is empowering ladies. There's nothing cooler than seeing a women hold her own in the weight room, but most women suffer from "I Don't Want To Become A She Man-Phobia" or the fear of bulking up. I'm here to break some awesome news to you, lifting weights will not make you big and bulky (I covered it more in depth in this awesome article). 

On the other hand, tons of Cinnabuns and back alley hormone injections will!  If you are looking to get into the best shape of your life and develop some dynamite curves, you need to eat clean and lift heavy. Research shows that strength training is a more effective tool for fat loss than cardiovascular exercise. If your goal is to look hot as "eff" and to be stronger and confident in everything you do, then you need to step up your iron game.

What Exercises Should I Be Doing?

When it comes to training, I am a huge proponent of training movements. If you choose your exercises in this fashion, you will take a more functional approach to working out and will hit all of your muscle groups. Don't get me wrong I love demolition my biceps just as much as the next man, but when it comes to building muscle and burning fat- compound, multi-joint movements are key. After you complete these bang for your buck moves, you can dabble in isolated exercises to quench your thirst for a lactic high in those mirror muscles. It's Kind of like when you're mom used to force you to eat your dinner before you got dessert. You may despise hearing it, but you are going to grow into a lean machine if you take my advice.

The basic movement patterns you should include in every workout are a push, pull, squat, hinge, loaded carry, & a core variation. This is simplifying things a bit, but for the most part if you have included these movements in your workout you should be good to go. Let’s call this group the sinister 6. There's nothing bad about them at all. I just thought giving them a cool name would help you remember them more. I have listed the movements below with a couple of examples for each.

Squat- goblet squat, dumbbell lunge, barbell front squat

Hinge- Romanian deadlift, Glute Bridge, barbell hip thrust

Push- pushup, dumbbell shoulder press, dumbbell bench press

Pull- pullup, lat pulldown, dumbbell bent over row

Core- plank, medicine ball woodchop, mountain climber

Loaded carry- dumbbell farmers walk


How Many Reps Should I Do?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask when it comes to your workout. It's kind of like Frodo asking Gandalf how to destroy the one ring or Harry Potter asking Dumbledore how to defeat Voldemort. This one question sets you upon a quest and forces you to decide what your main goal is.

The low rep range (1-5) puts your muscles under the highest amounts of tension with the heaviest weights. This rep range improves your ability to generate force, thus why it is ideal for building strength. The higher rep range (15 or more) forces your muscles to contract for long periods of time. This increases the presence of mitochondria, an energy producing powerhouse that will improve your muscle endurance. When it comes to muscle growth though, high reps just aren't heavy enough to recruit fast twitch type-II muscle fibers which is where the potential for muscle growth exists. The moderate rep range (8-12) strikes a balance between the two. Think of it as a muscle building haven. With a challenging weight load, it puts your muscles under tension for long enough to rely on the glycolytic energy system. A byproduct of this system is lactic acid, which induces a surge in muscle building hormones when it pools in large amounts. All of these different training zones have their benefits and your best bet for long terms results will be to cycle through them all (also known as periodization). If you are just starting out, you want to begin with a preparatory phase (lower weight, higher reps) to get your body ready for the new challenges ahead. 12-15 reps should do the trick.

Whoa! That's Enough Info Soji. When Can I Start Lifting?

I will be going over more aspects of program design and commonly asked questions in a future post. I will also be including some sample workouts.  If you are eager to start out I would highly recommend heading here to access a simple written program until you get a better understanding of the movements and how to put them together into your own workout

Congrats On Making It Through Your First Class!

What specific questions do you have about strength training?

Send me a message or let me know in the comments below.

P.S- If any of this information was helpful, would you mind liking it, sharing it with the tools below, or even forwarding it to a friend?  I want to get this starter information into the hands of as many people as possible!