By Andon Keller
I’m Andon: Coding geek. Introspective adventurer. Community builder. And ... intense advocate for leveling-up in life via weightlifting. After years of trying to gain muscle, I turned a corner, became comfortable in the gym, and have been refining my personal recipe to bring on the growth.
If you haven’t read my previous article Weightlifting 101, you may want to start with that one.
1. Designing Your Gym Weightlifting Workout Sessions
These are just weight training for beginners’ tips. For full programs to follow, I recommend reaching out to one of my favorite fitness gurus listed here.
- Incorporate barbell, dumbbells, cables, and machines into your routine.
- I generally start workouts with multi-joint barbell movements, then a mix of dumbbell and cable movements, ending with single-joint machine movements. By the end of a workout, I’ve exhausted my stabilizer muscles and can use machines to work specific muscles without risking injury to those little stabilizer muscles.
The first exercise for a body part, I usually do one to three warm-up sets (~40-60% of real capacity).
2. Squeeze … Way Harder than Reasonable
- When lifting light weights, pretend like the weight is really heavy, tricking your brain into recruiting more muscle fibers than needed.
- Constantly think about the primary muscle you are targeting and squeeze the living hell out of it. For me, this makes all the difference between a decent workout and an excellent workout. I shoot for at least a full second squeeze on most moves. And when I say squeeze … I mean squeeze that target muscle like your life depends on it. This squeeze is where the magic happens.
- If you can't mentally focus on squeezing the target muscle or if all you can think about is how to get the weight up, you are going too heavy. Mentally focusing on the muscle you are using is key to recruiting muscle fibers and pushing the muscle to eventually grow.
3. Technical Tips
- Take three deep breaths right before your first rep.
- Grunt your face off (if it is socially acceptable where you lift). I mean it. Exhaling during the concentric portion is everything. You want an intense, powerful lift, and exhaling helps. Why all the noise? Because it verifies I am exhaling my ass off.
Try a heavy weight. Lift once with a silent exhale. Lift again with a grunt, and I bet you'll feel the difference. When my workout partner gets quiet while weightlifting, that's when I know they aren't pushing with all their might.
4. Switch It Up
There are plenty of variables to play with, but you’ll want to incorporate these without sacrificing progressive overload:
- Time Under Tension: This is the amount of time your muscle is engaged. To keep your muscles under tension from the very beginning of the set to the end, go 95% of the way lowering, feel a stretch, but no rest. At the top of the movement make sure there is no rest instead of a big focused squeezing of the muscle. If you do this, your muscle will be under constant tension from the very first rep to the end of the last.
- Order of Exercises: I usually put complex movements at the front end and machine/isolation movements toward the end, but swapping a few movements or skipping a complex movement can sometimes yield some pretty fantastic results.
- Rest Time: Sometimes you want a 90-second break between sets, but pushing it to 45 seconds sometimes can shock your muscles in a whole new way.
- Set & Weight Scheme:
- 5, 5, 5, 5, 5
- 12, 8, 6 (increasing weight, decreasing reps)
- 6, 10, 12 (decreasing weight, increasing reps)
- 20, 10, 10, 15 (first and last light, middle sets heavy)
I try to use one of these advanced weight training techniques in each workout, usually toward the very end.
- Cheat/Perfection Sets: AMRAP with a heavy weight that requires a bit of cheating on the concentric portion of the rep; immediately drop weight by 50%, and then the same number of reps with perfect form.
- Drop Set (usually on last sets toward the end of a workout): AMRAP with a weight you choose; immediately drop 20% of the weight, another AMRAP, drop another 20%, and one more AMRAP.
Negatives: Once I can’t complete another rep without breaking form, I switch to just negatives. This is when my partner does the lifting and I just fight the weight on the eccentric motion, slowing the weight as slowly as I can while still lowering. Sometimes on my last set, when I break form, my partner will start doing the lifts for me and I'll do 2-4 negatives going just as slow as I can. Whew!
6. Nutrition & Rest
In the gym, you are breaking down and tearing apart your muscles. The actual growth happens by feeding them and by getting lots of zzzzs.
- Take in Enough Calories: I take in 3000-4000 calories daily, which can be a painful amount of food. To keep things simple, I down at least three scoops daily of Optimum Nutrition Pro Gainer (whey protein with a ton of yummy calories). Without this, it would be impossible or wildly uncomfortable for me to eat this much.
- Take in Enough Protein: Shoot for 2g protein per lb. of body weight (170lb Andon = 340g protein/day)
- Fats Are Super Helpful for Getting Calories In.
- Carbs Are Great: Try to load them up around workouts (the hour immediately before and after a workout are great times to get your cheat food in) and eat carbs that won’t spike your blood sugar (brown rice, whole-wheat pita, etc.).
- Just Say No to Sugar
- 8 Hours or More of Quality Sleep: Also try to squeeze in naps wherever you can. If you run your body hard without recovery time, it won’t build.
In terms of supplements, there is nothing fancy here. If the label makes big promises, my trust in the product vanishes.
- Pre-Workout: Straight up caffeine pills do the trick for me. A pre-workout like C4 hurts my stomach. Popping a caffeine pill five minutes before the lifting means I get a boost about 20 minutes in, which carries me to the 60-minute mark with energy to spare.
- Daily Multivitamins: Your body is a helluva lot more active than it used to be, which means it is going to need more of these goodies to keep everything supported.
When seeing your abs becomes a top priority, here is my advice:
- Operate on a slight calorie deficit so your body has to go at itself to fuel your day.
- Keep working out at your current weight training levels. Do not expect to keep progressing, but do keep reminding your body that it is expected to do the same amount of work as it has been. It reminds your body "I use that muscle! Don't eat it!"
- Add BCAAs into your daily routine. Imagine them as shields around your muscles so your body can't eat them. Whenever I have a calorie deficit, I am religious about getting BCAAs in, so I don't risk my body cannibalizing all my hard work.
- To turn up the fat burning, you want to add in some High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This general idea is back-to-back 60 seconds of all-out-everything-you’ve-got intensity, 60 seconds of recovery, and then immediately back to crazy intensity. A few sets of this with the right exercise can leave your body in calorie furnace mode for 24+ hours. That’s a kick-ass payoff: ~20 minutes of intense work in trade for 24 hours of bonus fat burn! For me personally, I sprint. It is straight to the point. Below, there’s the typical HIIT session I use. When I'm in a rush to see more abs, I sprint every three days. Each session, I try to improve one aspect: an additional set or increasing my speed on one of the sets—my own twist on progressive overload.
- 5 min walk
- 1 min sprint – 9 mph
- 1 min walk
- 1 min sprint – 10 mph
- 1 min walk
- 1 min sprint – 11 mph
- 1 min walk
- 1 min sprint – 10 mph
- 5 min walk
- Spot reduction: “I want to lose fat [here]” isn’t real. It doesn’t work that way. Where your body stores fat and which fat it goes to eat first when you are cutting isn’t up to you. Want to see your abs? Reduce overall body fat.
8. The Dress Code
If you read my previous article, you know that I'm a big fan of compression gear for its endless benefits. Getting oxygen to your muscles is critical for optimal performance during workouts. Compression meggings boost the amount of oxygen your muscles receive by increasing blood flow.
More oxygen means more energy and power. Compression meggings also act like a shock absorber, reducing vibrations in skeletal muscles when you run. This can help prevent muscle trauma. (And when your men’s sports meggings are stylish, they can help prevent other types of fashion trauma, too.)
To find the perfect workout and weightlifting meggings in the latest trends, styles, and designs, please feel free to visit Matador Meggings and browse our online store today! You may also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach us via Facebook Messenger for further assistance.