Weak men are not manly. If you are weak, it is time for you to become strong. The easiest way to do this is by lifting free weights. I’m going to teach you how to strengthen every major part of your body in the simplest and most efficient way. But before we talk about how to actually do the lifts, we need to first learn some principles about how the body builds its muscle.
Principle 1: the body thinks food is scarce, and it tries to conserve the calories it spends on maintaining itself in the most efficient way possible. This means that if a muscle isn’t used, the body will stop supporting its existence, and will instead shift calories to a more important body part. Essentially, use it or lose it. You’ll notice that if you gain muscle mass, and stop lifting weights, you will lose that muscle. The body breaks the muscle down and redistributes the calories elsewhere. If you want to gain and keep muscle, you need to make lifting heavy things a permanent part of your life. Because you are on this site and reading this post, I know you are ready to dedicate some of your time each day to becoming stronger and manlier.
Principle 2: building muscle requires building blood vessels. Muscle is tissue that requires ample blood supply. Your blood vessels will need to grow as your muscle grows. This is one of the rate limiting steps to new muscle mass creation. One nice thing about these new blood vessels: they stick around even if you stop lifting. So this means if you lose muscle mass (because you stopped lifting) it will come back faster, because you don’t have to rebuild those blood vessels.
Principle 3: building muscle requires that you slightly injure the area you want to build up. If you don’t injure the area (if it isn’t sore the next day), you aren’t going to build much muscle. If you over do it and really injure your muscles, it’s going to take longer to fix the damage. Building and repairing takes time and energy. If you force your body to spend a bunch of time and effort repairing, there will be less time and energy left to build after the repairs are complete. In no instance should you use poor form and harm yourself. There is an ideal amount of injury you want to do to your muscles – we’ll talk about specifics later.
Principle 4: don’t lift with a muscle group that is still sore from a previous workout. This soreness/pain is the only indication to you that your body is still repairing damage. Whenever your body repairs a muscle, it builds it up slightly to avoid injuring it in the future. This is how your muscles grow. I have found that it takes 2-3 days to repair a small amount of muscle damage from a reasonable lifting workout. So this means don’t lift with the same muscle group for 2-3 days. If you are unsure, try lifting a small amount of weight with the muscle group – if it’s sore, wait another day and try again then.
Principle 5: you only have a finite number potential growth cycles in a year. If it takes your muscles 3 days to recover, you can only train/build that muscle 121 times per year (365 divided by 3). Because each amount of growth is very small, you need to try to fit as many growth cycles in as possible. If you miss one, you can never have it back: it’s gone forever. Skipping workouts is what weak men do – don’t be a weak man.
Principle 6: your muscles need protein to grow after a workout. You need to have a protein rich meal within 30 minutes of completing your workout in order to optimize the repair/building process. If you wait longer to eat, you’ll still gain muscle, but it won’t be optimal. Given that you have only a limited number of opportunities for muscle growth throughout the year, optimizing this growth is important. Ensuring you eat at the optimal time gives your growth cycle a slight boost.
Principle 7: you are a creature of habit. You need to have a solid schedule that dictates what you work out and when. If you just show up to your gym each day, and then decide what to do, you are setting yourself up for failure. Make a plan and stick to it (improvising will rob you of strength and manliness).
So now that you know to slightly injure your muscles during each workout, and only work them out every 2-3 days, and each protein rich foods within 30 minutes of ending the workout you are ready to learn how to actually start the heavy lifting.
Whenever possible, stick to free weights – NOT machines. Free weights work more muscle groups, and result in better usable strength. Machines may look safer, but often can injure you – here’s why: machines can be used by people of all different sizes, but they are engineered to work with only certain body types. You can experience joint and connective tissue injury by using a machine that was not designed for the way your body moves. For this reason alone, you should avoid them. There are a few exceptions, and I’ll describe them when I talk about specific lifts.
I will not show you how to do each of the lifts, for that you should check out this guy’s site (it’s got perfect information on how to do each lift): https://stronglifts.com/5×5/
Bench Press: This exercise works your pectoral muscles (your chest), your triceps (the back of your upper arms), and your anterior deltoids (the front of your shoulders). You lie flat on a bench and push a bar with weights on it. Variations include dumbbell press, and the various inclined/declined versions of both.
Pull ups: This exercise works your biceps (front of your upper arms) and lats (your upper back muscles). Grab a bar and pull yourself up. Try to get your chin above the bar. Variation: Lat Pull Down: this is a MACHINE exercise, but is a good substitute for doing pull ups if you are unable to do that exercise.
Sit-ups: This exercise works your abdominal muscles. Lie on the ground, bend your knees, cross your arms across your chest, sit up until your elbows hit your knees. Variations: crunches, leg raises
Back extensions: This exercise works your lower back. You need to use a special bench to do these. Essentially the reverse of a sit up.
Squats: This is the ultimate lower body exercise, it works your glutes (butt), quads (front of your upper legs), hamstrings (back of your upper legs), and calves (back of your lower legs). You have a bar of weight on your back, and you lower it via squatting. Usually, you’ll go down until your knee forms a 90 degree angle, then stand back up. Variations: none worth mentioning.
Shoulder Press: This works your deltoids (shoulders), triceps, upper pectorals, and tapezius muscles (upper back muscles). Sit upright on a bench. Start with dumbbells touching the top of your shoulders. Push the weight above your head. Variation: Military Press (essentially bench press, but you are sitting upright).
Bicep curls: This works your biceps (duh). Use either dumbbells or a curved bar. Keeping your elbows stable, lift weight using a curling motion.
When I design lifting regimens, I make sure to “balance” the muscles being worked. This means if you work a muscle on one part of the body, make sure its “opposite” muscle is also worked. An example is the bicep: be sure if you work this muscle group, you work the tricep in between bicep workouts. If you don’t “balance” the muscles you are exercising, you will eventually hurt yourself.
Here’s a pretty basic workout that will have you looking manly in no time:
Monday: Bench Press, Sit-ups
Tuesday: Pull-ups, Back Extension
Thursday: Shoulder Press, Sit-ups
Friday: Curls, Back Extension
Notice that you only do 1 or 2 exercises per day, not bad huh? The nice thing about building muscle is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort each day to do the necessary work. It took me a long time to really understand this. As long as I do the right number of sets and reps, my strength and muscle continue to grow.
Question: How many sets should you do?
Question: How many reps should you do?
Answer: It depends.
Reps for Bench Press, Squats, Shoulder Press, Curls: Pick a weight you can do only 8 reps on your first set, 6 reps on your second set, and 4 reps on your third set. Increase the weight when you can do more than 8/6/4 reps in any of the sets.
Reps for Sit-ups, Pull-ups, and Back Extension: Do the same number of reps for each set. Increase the number of reps in all sets when you can.
Keeping everything organized is important. I used to write down the weights and reps from each exercise in a notebook. This way, I could look back to my previous work out and try to “beat it.” You can use a notebook, or a phone app, or anything else – just be sure to ACTUALLY keep track. Don’t just rely on your memory.
For more information on how to properly execute each of the lifts I mentioned above, check out www.stronglifts.com/5×5 – this is the best, no bullshit site I’ve ever seen that will teach you the PROPER way to lift and avoid injury.
If you have questions, feel free to email me or drop them in the comments section!