Monday, April 8, 2013

First Thing First: Supplementing, Resting, And General Tips.

Okay we’re here in the final “Bodybuilding 101” post. You’ve learned how to get and keep yourself motivated, how to eat, how to train, and finally we’ll learn how to properly rest to keep growing, and my views on early supplementation. After this, the posts I write will be a bit less focused on basics, but hopefully just as helpful for newbies as well as for more advanced bodybuilders who might be in need of a first, second or nineteenth opinion.


Here’s what I think about supplements: they are fucking awesome. No, seriously, they are. I’m going to be putting up quick blurb reviews in this blog because naturally not all of them are awesome, but they are—in my opinion—almost completely necessary to optimize growth.

Just not when you start out. This is kind of important and a piece of advice I will disagree with most other bodybuilders on:

Don’t start on any supplement for the first six to eight weeks of your training.

After that, feel free to take the right supplements, but for the first two months, just don’t. Why? Not because they will harm you or anything (though they might), but at this juncture they are unnecessary. I would much, much rather you learn how to eat properly first.

Think of this first period of your bodybuilding life—which I’ve referred to as “Phase One” in this blog—as Bodybuilding Boot Camp (dang that’s what I should’ve called this section). Supplements are definitely a great help for continuous gains and growth, but they’re also not free, some can cause damage if you’re not careful, and most don’t do shit. You need to know what to take and when to take it, yes, and I will explain in time but for now, don’t touch them. Rely just on food for now. Learn what meals you like, learn how to cook, learn how to maintain an appetite.

We’ll get to protein shakes, energy drinks, and tasteless powders later.


Good news: if you work out hard and eat well, you not only deserve to rest: you pretty much fucking have to.
Dem Z's are a must.

People don’t realize this, but muscles don’t actually grow in the gym (except for the sweet-ass blood engorgement [that’s what she said] that happens when you exercise, which we call ‘the pump’), but when you’re asleep. When you’re asleep is when your body recovers from everything that happened during the day—physically and mentally. Naturally, this includes the assault you unleashed on your muscle cells in the gym. That means that the more you sleep, the faster and more efficiently your body recovers, becomes bigger/stronger, and allows you to lift again.

You have to sleep at least 8 hours every day. Nap whenever possible.

Lions get it right. For some of you this sounds like a dream come true because who doesn’t love sleep? It’s pretty much awesome. However, it’s also not the easiest thing in the world to have a life that allows an hour at the gym, eight-plus hours of sleep, time in the kitchen, a job, and a social life.

Tough shit, though; sleeping is almost as important as working out and eating right. Sit down one day and try to create a schedule around these three important things or your effort might be in vain. As a subsection here, I’d like to add a little thought on overtraining—a weightlifter newbie’s bane.


Overtraining is exactly what it sounds like. Remember how I said before that I couldn’t think of any reason why someone should spend four hours in the gym? It’s not as easy of lifting more to get more results. Again, if it was that easy I’d be folding bears with my monstrously muscular eyelids. The truth is that rest is too important for this to be a possibility.

The general rule for bulking is that you should always have at least one but hopefully two rest days a week, if possible consecutive. Rest days mean rest from lifting and cardio, but not from eating right (though, of course, a couple of cheat meals a week are encouraged). On the weekends, please don’t touch a dumbbell, but if possible still stick to your diet for optimal gains.

Your body will grow consistently for a good while, but there will eventually be plateaus—both for your whole body and for specific body parts. Again, every body is different; I had to work legs more and arms less because when I started my arms blew up but my thighs didn’t. It’s natural. It’s genetics; even Arnold had a massive chest and comparatively small legs. You will be tempted to train some muscle groups double or even triple but there is one thing you need to remember:

If working a split routine, give each muscle group at the very least 72 hours to recover before working it again.

You probably won’t have to do this for years, but it’s extremely important to keep it in mind, or else your desperate attempts to have a huge gorilla chest will only keep it from actually growing.

General Tips for Wellbeing.

  • Don’t let bodybuilding take over your life.
When people begin seeing results and feeling the changes they bring to their lives, it’s easy to become obsessed. It’s important that you don’t let this happen because it can have very shitty effects on your social life, your love life, and even bodybuilding itself. There are so many stories about guys that go to the extreme of asking how masturbating or having sex affects their bodybuilding. That is fucked. By the way: it doesn’t.
  • When in doubt, don’t; instead, ask.
Bodybuilding is about controlled injury; don’t let it get out of control because of misguided experimentation. For this, there’s always the gym coach, your muscular friend, or another experienced acquaintance. There are also many great sources online where you can directly ask very knowledgeable people, even pros, about bodybuilding. Reddit’s Bodybuilding sub can be very helpful, same for the forums, the Muscle&Strength forums (where I started), or this mindblowingly fantastic blog.
  • Research the shit out of everything you put in your body.
I know I said no supplements yet, but when the time comes, don’t buy anything off the stores because a GNC employee recommended it, or because it’s on sale, or because of the blurbs in the label that prey on the insecurities of people like you. Use online resources like SupplementReviews to get first-hand accounts of users, familiarize yourself with the chemistry of supplements, learn what does what and what it is you need. Not every supplement “that works” will really have an effect on you. There are many ‘quintessential’ supps I’ve never taken, and some 'snake oil' supps I can't live without. We'll get to it.
  • If you find something that works, stick with it.
Here comes the mantra again: every body is different. I guarantee if you follow the stuff I wrote in this blog you’ll begin to grow. However, the only way to really know what will make you keep growing is to identify what you’re doing right and to keep doing it. Yes, there will be diminishing returns, but that’s when you change what you’re doing—be it your diet, sleep schedule, workout routine, supplements, etc.
  • Don’t compare your body to others’.
This is something I guarantee you’ll do because it’s just in our nature and it’s almost impossible to avoid. Either to your delight because you’re bigger than someone else or your dismay because you’re smaller, you need to try and control the instinct to compare your body and strength to others. Nothing good ever comes out of it.

  • Don’t let the scale make you its bitch.
The scale will be either your best friend or your worst enemy. Standing on it will tell you how much you've grown or how much you haven't, right? Wrong. The truth is that while the scale obviously does give you your current weight, that number can often be a lie, mainly because there are a hundred different factors affecting it. You might be carrying a lot of water weight so it says you're 3 lbs heavier than you really are. You might have had a rough week when you couldn't stop shitting and it says you're 5 lbs lighter. You might have just eaten 2 lbs of Taco Bell. You might be standing on it while wearing 2 lb boots. Weight yourself every month at most, and consider that that number might not be completely accurate. If you ever want to know your exact body mass growth, have a check up. Just not too often.

Finally I’m adding one golden rule: Don’t be stupid. I know, this seems condescending but it’s not. It’s simple: don’t be stupid, and you’ll be fine. Don’t try to squat 250 pounds on your second week because that one guy in the gym could. Don’t stick a needle in your ass because your gym coach is selling. Don’t get cocky and try to get into a fight with some bully because you just gained 10 pounds and mistakenly feel very strong. Be and stay smart and you’ll be and stay strong.

That’s it for the basic part of bodybuilding which should be enough to give you your first several pounds. Stick around for more stuff, and feel free to contact me either through comments here or Twitter if you have any doubt.

In case you missed the rest of Bodybuilding 101:

First Things First: Supplementing, Resting, And General Tips.