An Introduction to Training and Exercises for Bodybuilders
If you want to build a fantastic body, you need to understand how to create bodybuilding workout routines that achieve optimal muscle-building results. You can find all the information and more right here.
The Key To Muscle-Building Workouts
Weight training is all about using workout routines to build muscle. That sounds pretty simple in essence, but in practice there is a lot to learn if you want to build a body to be proud of. There are many thousands of people who turn up at the gym every week, strain away at the weights for hours at a time and achieve little or nothing. This is not due to lack of effort – it is simply due to not understanding how to use weight training to advantage.
If you want to get the maximum benefit from all the hours you put into heaving barbells and doing chin-ups, then you need to understand the basics. We need to act like Mr Olympia winners. So let’s get give ourselves a solid foundation on what good strength and training and conditioning is all about.
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Weight Training is Good For You
There are many very good reasons for taking up weight training. For most people, the desire is to build a toned and muscular body that looks good on the beach…or anywhere. But science is now telling us that weight training is good for our health in a whole host of ways.
As well as making our muscles bigger, it builds stronger bones, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, and can even cut the chances of getting cancer. On top of that, it is good for your brain, too, and may well decrease the chance of getting debilitating illness such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
So if you have made the decision to become a bodybuilder, you have made a great choice. But before you start, you should make an appointment to see your doctor and get a health check. This is especially important if you have pre-existing conditions, but everyone should be sure of their health status before starting a program of lifting heavy weights.
The Mechanics of Muscle
In order to get the best from your workouts, you need to understand a little about how muscle works. Each of the 650 or so muscles in your body is comprised of fibers that do nothing except contract or relax. If you want to flex your forearm, for example, your body orders fibers in your biceps to contract. This results in your lower arm being pulled towards your shoulder. If you want to straighten your arm out, your biceps relax and your triceps contract instead – forcing your arm to extend.
The Principle of Progressive Resistance
Progressive resistance training (in other words, weight training) is based on the fact that the harder you work a muscle, the bigger it grows. If you regularly work muscles to the limit of their ability to contract, your body starts building additional muscle fibers to help do the job better next time around. If you progressively increase the amount of weight you are lifting, then your muscles will continue to grow and develop. Managing this process correctly to get optimal results is what progressive resistance training is all about.
However, it is important to understand that your muscles do not grow while you are in the gym lifting weights. The muscle building process happens later, especially within the following 24 hours. That is why allowing enough time for recovery between workouts is essential to building maximum muscle.
The Basics of Muscle-Building Workouts
OK, so you’ve found a gym that you are happy with, and you are reading to start bench pressing like a pro. But before you start, let’s look at the options you have. There are two main types of weights you will be working with – free weights and resistance machines.
Free weights are the barbells and dumbbells we are all familiar with from the images we see of weightlifting macho men. Dumbbells are simply pairs of single weights, each of which can be held in one hand. A barbell is a long bar with weights attached at either end. Resistance machines are more complex devices that allow you to train specific muscle groups by lifting stacks of weight plates.
You might think that modern resistance machines would be a better bet for bodybuilding that old-school dumbbells and barbells. After all, all that technology must make them the best, right? Actually, this is not the case. While resistance machines have their place, free weights are still the No.1 choice when it comes to building a muscular body.
One reason for this is that free weights must be balanced and stabilized as well as lifted. This means that more of your body’s resources have to be deployed to get the job done. In addition to the main muscles you are working, other stabilizer muscles come into play to help balance the weight, and your nervous system has to work furiously to co-ordinate all of these complex movements. The result is that you not only build more muscle, you develop much greater control…which allows you to step up to higher weights in the future.
The Basics of Gym Workout Routines
Unlike powerlifting, weight training for bodybuilders is not about trying to lift the maximum amount of weight. Instead, it is about lifting weights a repeated number of times in order to fatigue the muscle and encourage muscle growth when your workout session is over.
Each time you lift a particular weight is a repetition – a ‘rep’ for short. If you do, say, ten reps of a certain exercise before resting, that is one set. Every rep should be performed using the full range of motion. So if you are doing a bench press, for example, you must lift the barbell from your chest to the point where your arms are full extended each time. Anything less than this and you are not using the full range of motion, and therefore not working your muscles out correctly. Each rep must also be done with good form. This means using the proper technique for each exercise, including using the full range of motion.
The secret of creating a good workout is planning the right number of reps and sets for each muscle group you want to work out. The important thing to remember is that in every set, you should be aiming to train your target muscle group to failure. However, training to failure doesn’t mean you should keep going until you collapse! But you should continue until you can’t do any more reps with good form.
This point is very important! If you don’t train to failure, your body will have no incentive to build additional muscle. This is why many people train hard for months without seeming to build much extra mass. They are not pushing themselves hard enough. If you can squeeze out just one more rep with good form, go ahead and do it.
Breathing and Resting
Some bodybuilders are so focused on pushing heavy weights that they pay little attention to breathing. However, breathing correctly can help you accomplish each rep more efficiently, as well as reducing the risk of injury. Standard practice is to breathe out when pushing against resistance (lifting the weight), and breathe in when returning to the rest position.
When you have completed a set, take a short rest break to allow your body to recover. The effort of undertaking the set will have depleted the glycogen stores in your muscles, as well as causing the build-up of lactic acid. Your body needs a short time to deal with these issues. Within 60 seconds, your body will have recovered about 70% of its glycogen levels, and within three minutes they are almost fully restored. So a break of between one and three minutes is good for most situations, but you can vary this in more advanced training.
Planning Your Workout Routine
In this article, it will not be possible to go into the specific details of the routines for each muscle group. There are simply too many possibilities to consider, so we will cover these in further articles. But there are several important principles to remember.
First of all, it is generally better to work the large muscle groups at the start of your workout, and move on to isolation exercises for smaller muscles towards the end. This is because you have more energy when you begin your workout, so you should use this to work the big muscle groups where you can build the most muscle. So start with exercises for the back, chest and large leg muscles first– then move on to biceps, shoulders, calves and other specific muscle workouts.
When you have been doing an exercise with a certain weight for a while, it is probably time to step up the weight a little. Like training to failure, progressively increasing the resistance you are working against is vital to continued muscle growth. But don’t go crazy – and just a small amount of weight each time. If you keep stepping up just one notch every few weeks, you will be amazed at how your strength and muscle mass grow month by month. This is what makes all the hard work worthwhile!
You should also vary the structure of your workouts in order to get continued results. The human body is amazingly adaptable, and will soon get used to coping easily with an established workout routine. To get continued results, you need to shock your body every few months by mixing things up. This could mean training at a different time of day, doing a different number of sets or reps, or mixing up the order in which you train your muscles.
Creating an Optimal Training Schedule
One big mistake beginner’s often make is believing that the way to build muscle is to train their whole body for hours a day, every day. But this is not good training – it is overtraining. As we have already discussed, muscle is not built in the gym – it is built during the recovery phase between workouts. Therefore it is essential to allow enough time between workouts for our body to recover. So you don’t need to train seven days a week. In fact, you should take at least one day off a week as a rest day, and three or four workouts a week will produce fantastic results for most people.
If you want to train hard and hit the gym, say, six days a week, you need to deploy a split training schedule. This means that you train different muscle groups on different days, allowing each group a 48-hour recovery window before you train them again.
Back in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Olympia days, training for three or four hours a day was normal. But since then, newer generations of champions have shown that this is simply not necessary, and can be counter-productive. Dorian Yates trained for just one hour a day four days a week, yet still built a body that made him Mr. Olympia no less than six times. So it is not about working harder, it is about working smarter
Warming Up and Stretching
Many bodybuilders are keen to get into the gym and start bench pressing, so they skip the warm-up phase. However, this is a big mistake. Your muscles and tendons need to be warmed up so that they can stretch and deal with the stresses you are putting them under without damage. All it takes is ten minutes of cardio, jumping jacks or running on the spot to work up a sweat. Then you are ready to go, and will get much more from your workout.
Keep Showing Up To Get Results
Many bodybuilders are obsessed with finding the magical workout that will get the amazing results they are looking for. To this end, they often work out too often, do too many exercises and create an unrealistic schedule.
Remember that the best workout schedule is one that you will stick to. It is much better to plan to workout twice a week and actually do it, than to plan to train six days a week and give up after a week.
The bodybuilders who get the best results are not necessarily the ones who put in the most hours, but the ones who show up week in, week out and get the job done. If you can do that, then it is amazing what you can achieve with the right muscle-building workout routines.
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