Thanks to Youtube, Instagram and the ever popularity of bikini and figure competitions women with muscle are now cooler than ever. But worry not, the trend isn’t moving anywhere near being the female Hulk – quite the opposite. In 2015 the most prestigious bodybuilding show in the world – Olympia dropped female bodybuilding as a category. The reason for this decision was that women have become too masculine and looked grotesque.
However, being a toned, lightly muscly gym bunny is definitely the trend for the coming months and even years. As much as you may think dieting and spending hours in the gym is not for you – a simple, thought through plan and a reasonable diet can transform you in as little as a few weeks.
Many people, especially novices will jump into a fitness regime head first and achieve little while possibly getting injured. More isn’t always better and fitness is a science in itself. The good news, once you learn about it – you’re set for success.
The main mistakes made by new fitness enthusiasts is that they don’t know their goals or they try to do all at once. Whether your aim is to lose fat or build muscle you have to understand a strategy that will get you there. It’s not a matter of ‘one size fits all’. The second most common issue with beginners is lack of patience. Athletes train for years and they remain consistent week in, week out. Don’t even try telling me that it’s been a week and you have ‘only’ lost a pound. Fad diets may be quick. Becoming athletic takes time and it’s for life.
For starters, whether you’re new to this or you’re restarting your quest for muscle, take a look at these 6 tips on how to make the best out of your fitness routine.
1. Don’t Leap Into An Advanced Body-part Split Routine
You may have heard about the specific body part splits bodybuilders use. If you’re new at the gym or returning after a break, this may not be your best bet. Instead, try a two part split and perform it twice a week each.
Workout 1: Legs, abs, biceps, triceps
Workout 2: Chest, back, shoulders
You should feel soreness the next day but you should also be able to move. In other words, please do not hurt yourself. Ease into it with a reasonable approach. Stick to moderate number of sets and reps for each exercise. 3-4 sets for 8-10 repetitions sounds about right. Adjust your weight so that you are able to perform just that.
2. Want To Get Big? Eat Big.
Obviously, as you know by now, we are neither talking ‘big’ as in morbidly obese not ‘Hulk big’. But when you work out your muscle fibers get torn and to rebuild them and make them grow you must feed them! This is where many lifters fail for fear of gaining fat. Also, if you are on a starvation diet, you will simply lack the strength and energy to work out as hard as you need to in order to build muscle. Eat whole, unprocessed foods. Consume lean protein sources such as fish and chicken, unprocessed carbs such as yams, brown rice and vegetables/fruit and good, omega rich fats found in nuts and oils. As much as you won’t be stuffing your face with donuts and soda, you can’t be hungry if you want to add lean muscle mass.
To get an estimate of your recommended calorie intake for muscle growth multiply your target weight by 20 and consume that many calories daily.
3. Don’t Target “problem areas” But Rather Embrace The Process As A Whole.
Since you are not a professional bodybuilder or competitor (at least not yet) you don’t need to focus on minor imbalances (again, at least not yet). Concentrate on overall body development and mastering compound exercises as well as improving your overall health and shape. Compound exercises are movements that engage your whole body. They will help you develop overall strength and muscularity as well as understand how your body works during lifting weights. Practice correct form and start with relatively low weight.
On the other hand, remember that the weight should be challenging or otherwise you will not see gains in strength or muscle mass. Don’t worry if this seems too simple. Start basic. Drop sets, super sets, carb cycling and split workouts will come in handy later down the line. For now, master that total body development. Especially in the first eight weeks, before you notice significant changes, stick to the two part split.
4. Make Time and Take Time
There’s a reason why not everyone is fit, muscular and athletic. It isn’t an easy ride and there are only 24 hours in the day. Why you need to make the time. Being fully committed to it will help. There will be times when you will have fun at the gym and times when you will probably hate every second of the workout. Getting through the thick and the thin – consistency is what will get you to your goals.
Take your time in terms of expecting results – it won’t happen overnight so be patient with yourself. I understand, it gets hard waiting for results and the frustration caused by that impatience can cause you to ditch your diet and exercise (say, every Friday night) and then you ‘start on Monday’ again. Please, once and for all forget about that sort of attitude. This is a lifestyle change.
5. Build Muscle Before You Get Ripped
Okay, I get it. You want to be ripped and muscular at the same time. But dieting in order to ‘shred’, ‘cut’ or whatever other name you use for losing fat will make you unable you to gain muscle. That’s why bodybuilders and competitors bulk in the offseason. First you build muscle, then you cut the fat. It’s understandable that for a fitness conscious person it’s hard to see the scale go up but believe me – you want that extra muscle before you start losing weight. Otherwise, after the cut you will be left with skin and bone. Muscle is what gives your body the round athletic look you want so if you don’t build enough you are setting yourself for disappointment.
Remember – the more muscle you have the more fat you burn! I bet you feel better already thinking about this!
Try to put on a few more pounds than you originally wanted to just in case you lose some during your cutting phase. You can’t predict how your body will respond. Track calories, macros and eat healthy. Get your workouts in and I promise you – you won’t get fat!
6. Change Things and Tweak Your Strategy According To Progress
To continue what we already said – fitness is a lifelong journey. Once you reach your initial goal (which may take a few slip ups and emotional break downs, by the way), you will probably already have a new one in mind. The point here is to constantly improve. Athletes who train their whole lives have goals and they strive to make progress day in, day out.
So how do they remain passionate? Wouldn’t you get fed up of the same workout routine or diet after a while? Not only that, but your body gets so accustomed to it that there is no challenge there anymore. No challenge equals no progress. That’s why you should strive to change things up a bit every now and then. Try changing something in your plan every 8-12 weeks. It doesn’t have to be a major change, for example switch exercise order or finish up with a drop set.
Let me give you a tip, after 8-12 weeks of following the routine outlined here you could switch things up a little. For instance, you could incorporate high intensity interval training (HIIT) into your weight training regimen (HIIT between lifting sets). You could drop your calories slightly (i.e. 20g/pound of goal weight down to 15g/pound). You could add or reduce number of sets, introduce a more single body part focused splits (i.e. arm day, leg day etc.). Whatever you do – do you research, consult a trainer and most of all – the change should be slow and gradual. Observe your body and how your actions affect it.
All in all, it may not be easy but it only takes 2 weeks to make a habit. If you stick with it through the initial hardships, you will not only get used to it but you will love it. Let’s talk again in a few weeks when you can’t be forced out of the gym and your favorite bar is made of iron!