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Whether you are a dedicated expert or an eager beginner, the following 5 tips will help you optimize your results:
1. Nutrition is key
Even the best weight-lifting regimen can be sabotaged by poor nutrition. Fuel up your body properly both before and after your workout. The best before-workout meal consists of a mix of protein and complex carbohydrates. Ideally you would eat this small meal 30-60 minutes before working out. For maximum muscle-building, be sure to eat food within an hour or two of finishing your workout, as well, as your muscles will need fuel and nutrients to work with during recovery.
2. Lift more weight over time
If your goal is to gain muscle mass, the first rule of your workout should be consistently adding more weight to the bar. Don’t become discouraged if your lifting ability seems to “stall”–every lifter experiences these plateaus at different points in their growth. The key is to keep working out consistently and apply strategies such as drop sets and supersets. Eventually you will see your lifting ability grow by leaps and bounds.
3. Let your routine evolve
Serious bodybuilders never go two weeks without adding at least some weight to their bar. While you are sure to experience plateaus as a bodybuilder, you can also count on tried and true strategies to overcome these apparent pauses in your muscular development. Experienced bodybuilders know that when you are unable to increase weight, change up another facet of your workout. Change the order of your workout. Change the amount of time you rest. Change the time of day you work out. Soon you will discover that these small changes will result in big ones.
4. Work smarter, not harder
Never spend your energy on just one muscle group at a time. By using compound exercises, you can optimize your time in the gym and focus your energy efficiently. You should follow this rule for at least 80% of your workout time. Just a few common examples of compound exercises include the following:
- Shoulder press (works shoulders and triceps)
- Squats (works quads and hamstrings)
- Bench press (works shoulders, chest, and triceps)
For a more complete list of compound workouts, check out this article from Tiger Fitness.
5. Rest up
It may seem counterintuitive to the highly motivated bodybuilder, but rest is just as important as training. Beginners sometimes tend to train too long, too hard, and too frequently without giving their muscles time to recover and rebuild. If you make the mistake of depriving your body of recovery time, you will only be breaking down the muscle, not building it up. You will find that your muscles get weaker the more you lift, not stronger. For optimal muscle growth, take a day off in between workouts. However, you may choose to alternate upper and lower body workouts in order to give your muscles proper rest. Even if you follow this alternating schedule, you should take two days off a week at minimum. Don’t forget–rest means rest. If you choose to complete a cardio workout in between weight-lifting, the cardio day does not count as the rest/recovery day.