You’re young, you’re full of energy and you want to hit the gym to workout and start lifting weights. So how do you make the most of your gym time, get stronger and build bigger muscles in the shortest period of time?
If you’re in your teens or twenties, to truly maximize your results you need to control your ego first. It’s not easy – especially since the number one reason young people start lifting weights is insecurity. Arnold Schwarzenegger went on to be the biggest bodybuilding star in history – but he began because his brother was always beating him up and his Dad referred to him as his ‘daughter’. Nimrod was a common name in Africa, but when Nimrod King moved to Canada the kids teased him mercilessly – and he went on to be the Canadian bodybuilding champion. There are plenty of other examples, but suffice it to say that there can be a lot of emotion, and ego, wrapped up in your decision to hit the gym.
Many others start lifting weights because they want to improve in sports – at school, after school or on the weekends. While that’s an admirable and appropriate decision, ego often enters the picture once they get into the gym and see others there, or have teammates or competitors working out there too. It’s easy to get caught up in it all, especially if your local gym has a number of immature, insecure older lifters working out there – the kind that egg you on or tease less experienced or less strong athletes like yourself.
Here’s the scoop – you will never be able to build strength, build muscles or burn off bodyfat as easily as you can in your teens and twenties. You are in the ‘sweet spot’ for hormones right now, especially testosterone. Bodybuilding for teens is like a snowball rolling downhill – every year you get bigger and stronger, and every year your efforts get you further as your testosterone increases. Bodybuilding for people in their twenties is like cruising at high speed – your testosterone levels continue to rise til about the age of 24 and then levels off, with not nearly as much downgrade as you’ll experience in your thirties and beyond. With adrenaline, testosterone, growth hormone and the like creating a ‘growth cocktail’ in your bloodstream, your teens and twenties are definitely the best time to lay the groundwork for a fantastic body for life…
This is GREAT news for boys in their teens and men in their twenties – it means you can put on more muscle and build strength faster, so off to the gym you go regularly. It’s also great news for girls in their teens and women in their twenties… You won’t need to worry about building huge muscles, as your levels of testosterone are much, much lower. But you’ll still get strong quickly, and your muscles will be noticeable by their shape and density as opposed to their size. And teens and twenties of both sexes will love the way their bodyfat levels drop as they burn of their remaining ‘babyfat’.
But this is where ego usually takes over… Gyms are full of guys working their chests and arms like crazy, with only a bit of work for their backs and legs. You see the results on beaches everywhere – young men with a stunning upper body and chicken legs (maybe that’s why board shorts have replaced Speedo-style bathing suits). For the ladies, they’ll spend hours on a treadmill, running at a steady pace the whole time, and maybe – just maybe – do a bit of light work with the smaller dumbbells. He’s chasing bigger arms, she’s chasing lower fat levels and a fit-looking body.
Not only are both on the wrong course, but both are wasting the best anabolic window of their lives!
Since your body chemistry is making this the best time of your life physically, this is the time to use the most powerful lifts to multiply your results. Forget doing a lot of isolation exercises for your chest and arms, men – in fact, at your age training arms directly is unnecessary. They’ll get more than enough growth and strength gains from the big compound moves you use to build your biggest muscles. And ladies – nothing will burn more fat and make you stronger than doing the exact same exercises as the men.
What you need to focus on is squats, deadlifts, bent rows, pullups (eventually weighted pullups), bench press and upright rows. Period. Those 6 exercises, done correctly with the right amount of weight, will build you all over – your biceps, triceps and forearms will get stronger and bigger just from being the assistants during your big lifts. For the boys and men, decide whether your main goal is size or strength – while the two go hand-in-hand to a large degree, different workouts favour one over the other. For strength, keep your reps low – keep to just 5 reps per set, using the heaviest weight you can move while keeping perfect form and completing 5 to 10 sets of each exercise. To shift the focus to size, lift weights that just allow you to get in 8 – 12 reps, taking about 4 to 6 seconds per rep, for 4 or five sets.
Most girls and women, on the other hand, aren’t training for muscle size but for strength and speed for other sports or simply to be stronger, plus reducing and maintaining lower bodyfat levels. For this, use the same sets and reps scheme as above for building strength. Start off with whatever weights you can properly handle at the start, no matter how light, and add more weight as your body strengthens. Don’t let anyone in the gym give you a hard time or tell you what you should be lifting – go by the strength you currently have and raise the amount of weight you lift as your body allows. Forget all the little ‘toning’ and ‘shaping’ exercises you hear about or read about – nothing will burn more calories than the big compound lifts like squats and deadlifts.
Sticking to those ‘Big-6’ exercises for at least your first couple of years in the gym will put you well on the path to the best physique your genetics will allow. Mixing in a lot of cardio or isolation exercises will just rob you of energy you could be putting into your compound lifts, and slow down the time your body takes to recover from each workout – obviously the greater your energy output, the longer the recovery time. If you still feel like you have a lot of energy after your workout, next time add one more set to each exercise or simply slow down each rep – either will move you further ahead.
On the subject of steroids and other injectables, it’s simple: you don’t need them and you don’t want them, no matter what your coach, buddies or local gym rats tell you. Male or female, if you work out consistently lifting heavy weights it’s still going to take you YEARS to even get close to your genetic potential, so why waste your money on enhancements now while your body’s got that powerful NATURAL mix going on to help you in your quest?
One other benefit you derive from your hormonal cocktail is faster recovery between workouts, assuming you make sure you get your 8 hours of sleep a night or more – remember your body only repairs and rebuilds while you’re asleep. For most people in their teens and twenties the best results in the gym will come from a full-body workout done on three non-consecutive days per week – Monday, Wednesday Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, for example. Be sure to learn about and follow healthy nutrition guidelines and stay hydrated, get enough sleep and you’ll be shooting towards your best body at a rapid pace – just try your best not to let your ego become a series of speedbumps along the way or, worse yet, lead you down a dead-end street. If you’re going to be lifting weights and expending all that energy in the gym it would be foolish to settle for anything less than the best possible results!