By Ryan “6 Pack” Lapadat (@6PackLapadat)
You have seen all of the latest YouTube videos on how to lift, read all of the online articles written by the experts (or self-proclaimed experts), and you feel more ready than ever to start your journey into gym life. But where do you begin?
One thing you should do immediately is set realistic goals; this will help you chart a path to follow. Once you do this, you can then work backward to where you are now and lay out how you will reach your goals. Along the way, set mini benchmarks (pun intended) to keep you on pace and motivated. This is actually sound advice for many of your goals in life; however, just like your life goals, unrealistic fitness goals can quickly go from encouraging to discouraging and leave you contemplating giving up all together. Be practical, know what to expect, and prepare yourself mentally that your original objective may not be possible and could potentially need honing or adjusting.
You won’t see visible results within a few weeks. This is particularly true if you are trying to add muscle mass. For example, a realistic goal for any male weightlifter weighing 175 pounds would be to add an additional 0.0055 per cent of your body weight in muscle a month. That would mean roughly 12 pounds of muscle mass in a year. Sound small? Well, gaining 24 pounds of pure muscle in two years is actually a pretty rapid pace, and you better have a great coach and an even better work ethic if you are going to achieve it. I would suggest a bodybuilding coach for assisting with this goal.
If you are focusing on strength gains, you can expect anywhere from a 20 per cent to 45 per cent increase in your main lifts after a year. Strength gains come faster than pure muscle mass because the central nervous system (CNS) can be conditioned faster than you can add on quality weight. This is also assuming that along with the strength-training program from your coach, you are also getting help on proper lifting techniques. To see the best gains possible for this type of goal, I would suggest hiring a powerlifting coach. (Warning: gaining muscle mass will also be a side effect of heavy lifting.)
Fat-loss goals can be attained much faster than the previous two goals. Getting a bodybuilding coach would work wonders for a person who seeks to gain lean muscle mass while trimming fat. Also remember that your diet will play a key role in this style of exercise program. In fact, roughly 70 per cent of your gains (or, in this instance, your losses) will come from your nutrition plan; the other 30 per cent will come from your hard work in the gym.
Whichever path you choose, I would suggest a minimum of three workouts a week. To see results, these workouts should be at least an hour long. Can you still see results with less gym time? Sure, but I would really hope you lower your expectations. When you gaze across the gym and see that bodybuilder or powerlifter (and, for this article, let’s assume they are natural) you should keep in mind they are likely in the gym five to six days a week, with one- to two-hour workouts each day. They are probably also incredibly meticulous with their diet and supplementation. And last, consider that they likely have already put in years and years of training with that type of dedication to reach their current state. If you are not willing to commit to that type of work over that many years, I would not suggest using these individuals as examples of your end goal. It would be completely unrealistic to think you can achieve what others have with half the effort, over a fraction of the time.
Myths and Misinformation
While this may seem like common sense, it is actually a popular misconception. How often do you hear people say they joined a gym but are hesitant to lift weights too often because they do not want to gain too much muscle mass and end up looking like a bodybuilder? They only want to lift enough weights to get “toned.” Quite frankly, it is insulting to even insinuate that with minimal effort you would quickly catch up to people with greater natural gifts, who were working much harder for many years.
With that understanding, if you know how much effort you need to put in and how long it will take to see results (and the pace at which you will continue to see them), you can make your fitness goals and get started. Feel a little discouraged? Don’t be. Everyone begins at the starting line. You have control over where your finish line will be. The journey in between is a quest for self-improvement that benefits you physically and mentally. Along the way you will experience many hard-fought victories — and the harder the victory is to attain, the sweeter it is to gain.
My biggest and final advice to stay motivated is to log your progress in a fitness journal. Whether you are looking to gain inches, lose inches, or increase lifts, this can help you keep track of your progress. Seeing how far you have come is always encouraging and will keep you moving forward. It also helps you continue to plot realistic goals based on your program’s development. Also, try to find a workout partner who will meet you at the gym consistently; he or she will be a major motivating factor to push through slumps in your enthusiasm. The gym is a place to draw inspiration from, and in it you are surrounded by like-minded individuals, all working on their particular journey. Use their drive and determination as inspiration. To stay positive, you should surround yourself with positive people. Stepping into the gym is your first step toward your fitness goals!