One of the biggest goals here at Mind Pump is to sort through all the BS info out there and give you guys the tried and true methods that produce results. If it is your first time working out, and you are struggling with where to start, I’d like to help by giving you 3 basic tips so that you can go to the gym feeling more confident.
Free Weights Over Machines
My first tip is to focus on using the barbell and dumbbells. My reason for this is when you are first starting there are a lot of new patterns you need to groove down. Using free weights allows your stabilizing muscles to keep the weights steady and your form on point throughout the movement. While machines are an excellent tool, and one you should incorporate later, right now your focus is teaching your central nervous system how to properly perform exercises.
The issue with a machine is they were designed for a specific height in mind, and don’t teach you good form other than keeping your path fixed. With free weights, we want to learn the motor control and allow your bodies to get used to moving weights in an open space. When we get injured outside the gym, it is because of our lack of ability to own a full range of motion when an external load is applied.
Choose Compound Exercises
Along the same lines as the first tip, the best way to go about using free weights is by choosing compound exercise. A compound exercise is a movement that hits multiple muscles within that exercise. A bench press for example hits our shoulders, chest, and triceps. If instead you did machine flies, it would only really be focusing on the chest. Again, this is GREAT down the line, if you find you need to get your chest more growth and thus, need to add more volume to get there. When you are first starting out though, this isn’t necessary and may often be overkill.
Compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, overhead press, rows, and bench press have stood the test of time. No matter what other exercises or fad workouts you come across throughout the years, you’ll never hear anyone saying these lifts aren’t beneficial. One of our best shots at maximizing muscle growth, but also being more efficient in the gym, is performing all of these exercises so we are stimulating the most muscle gain. Not everyone wants to be in the gym for over an hour and this will help optimize your schedule.
Check out my article on Why Compounds are Essential for Hardgainers.
Full Body vs Body Part Split
Pro bodybuilders and influencers have made body part splits seem like the go-to workouts to get the most growth. What these influencers either don’t tell you or don’t realize is they are either on anabolics, to where their body will respond better to a body part split, or they just don’t have the experience. They think whatever got them their physique will work for everyone.
All lifters need to send a signal to the body to get it to grow. An enhanced lifter will get that through using anabolics. A natural lifter can only get that by doing a workout. When we put a muscle through an appropriate exercise regimen, it maximizes the muscle building signal for 24-48 hours. After that, the signal comes back down, and would need to be stimulated again if you were looking to optimize progress. If we know this to be true, then why would you only hit each muscle once a week and leave 6 other days at baseline? On top of that, if you are performing 4-5 exercises all for ONE body part on a single day, how much weight and progress do you think you’ll end up with on those final lifts after being exhausted from the first 3?
If we know progression is ultimately doing more reps and/or weight in the gym, wouldn’t it be better to take those same 4-5 exercises and split them up over 2 or 3 days? That way not only are you allowing more instances of resparking the muscle building signal, but now you are more fresh to push even heavier weight on those later exercises.
Check out my article on Weight Training for Beginners – Start with Full Body.
Slow and Steady
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it should be one that clears up a lot of the confusion that people like to place when it comes to getting started. Focus on compound lifts that allow you to stimulate the most growth in a given session. Use free weights which will help groove better central nervous system patterns so that you can really own the movement when resistance is added on, and split your work up over 2-3 days to maximize the muscle building signal and ability to attack the weights when you are most recovered.