I wrote this when I was younger for a Men’s Health article. It’s a little dated, meaning a few of my beliefs have changed somewhat, but still it’s some good advice.
Day 1: back, triceps, abs
Day 2: legs, quads, hamstrings, gluteus maximus
Day 3: off
Day 4: chest, shoulders, abs
Day 5: biceps, traps, calves, abs
Day 6: off
Day 7: repeat
I followed this routine for about three years. It’s a good routine to try to follow. Depending on how lean I want to be, I will add 40 minutes of cardio, four to five times per week, and increase my abdominal workouts to four or five times per week also. As I matured as a body builder both physically and mentally, subsequently so did my workouts. I learned from my personal experience in the gym what my body needed and responded to best.
Any workout routine in a gym, done repeatedly becomes extremely mundane, believe me. I roughly follow this routine, but on day one of every week I think of a way to rejuvenate my workout by either increasing or decreasing my repetition and the poundage that I am lifting. Or sometimes I change the configuration of my routine, for instance, doing back and shoulders on the same day instead of on separate days. I like to always keep my body completely confused. By doing this my body is always forced to adapt or simply put, add more muscle. Other types of workouts that I love doing are super sets; either same muscle super sets, or different muscle super sets. An example would be super setting chest and biceps. If I have an exceptional amount of energy, or lack of time, and really want to subject my muscles to an extreme amount of mayhem I will do drop sets or even quadruple drop sets. Be careful though, because doing these types of workouts too often can over train your body very quickly.
I strongly believe that you need goals, specifically, short and long term goals. Without them there is no self-motivation nor a reason to push yourself to the next level of fitness. When I was younger, my goals were my body building shows. As I got older my goals changed. I went to the gym and busted my behind everyday for the same reason I suspect 80% of the male population does, what else, women! Now that I’ve grown and learned that women are really only attracted to the inner beauty (ha, ha), my goal is just to stay in shape for my self, and to live a long healthy life.
Most of all make it fun, or at least as fun as possible. If something, and in this case working out and staying in shape, does not bring you some kind of pleasure, it’s doubtful that you will continue for any length of time. Second, as I mentioned earlier, set goals and make them obtainable; if not you’re very likely to give up and go home, or at least in spirit you will. This brings me to an important point. I strongly believe that your brain has a very strong impact on your body. If you believe, over the next few months, that you’re going to become a lean, mean muscle machine, then you will. Not to say that you can possess the powers of a genie, but along with a strict diet and workout regiment you can very easily be on the path to the physique you have always wanted.
A lot of people in the gym believe, as I did at one time, that all muscle building takes place in the gym. Which in large part does, but the other parts of the equation are just as important, arguably more. For instance, it’s very important to take days off from your workouts to give your muscles ample time to recover and repair themselves. Let me explain; when you work out you are actually causing thousands of little microscopic tears in your muscle tissue. If given ample time to recover your body and muscles adapt to these stresses you caused by becoming stronger and larger, therefore your muscles become bigger. If however, you do not give your body ample recovery time (e.g. days off), your muscles will never be given the time that they need to repair the torn muscle tissue, therefore your muscles will not adapt and grow to their full potential. However with that said, I am also a firm believer that you need to constantly push your body and mind to new levels if you want your muscles to consistently grow. Therefore, it’s OK to occasionally go crazy in the gym, as they would say; like two separate chest workouts in one day, or just biceps for two hours. Just don’t do it all the time or make it the staple of your routine. Sleep also plays a very significant role. In REM sleep is where your muscles repair themselves and grow larger; when your body’s natural growth hormone is released. When you have any extra time, educate yourself. After all, it’s interesting to learn how and why your body works. You will learn that diet and nutrition also play a very large role in your quest for that Zeus or Venus like body.
Diet is very important; however it is very easy to become a little obsessive with the foods and the diet that you are trying to maintain. I at one time did. I found myself always carrying an ice-chest full of rice, potatoes, chicken breasts, and broccoli. These foods are good for you, yes, but they are still calories. If you consume too many calories each day, you will gain fat. I felt that if I wasn’t getting enough food that I was going to go catabolic, or in other words, burn off my hard earned muscle. This may hold true in extreme circumstances, such as anorexia, or bulimia. But you must understand that the human body is much more resilient and self-regulated than that.
It’s important to understand that maintaining your ideal body weight is as simple as the amount of calories that are consumed on a daily basis. There are four calories per gram of protein and carbohydrate, and nine per gram of fat. Fat is not bad, it just has double the amount of calories. You can eat a double bacon cheeseburger at a leading fast food chain and get, say 700 calories, and the majority of it will be fat. Or you can eat a large plate of spaghetti and get roughly the same amount of calories. But the majority of the calories are going to come from carbohydrates. It’s true that the spaghetti is healthier for you and going to give you a longer sustained energy threshold. But when it comes down to it, neither are going to make you gain weight more than the other.
As I stated earlier, I try not to get too obsessive about my diet. Did I mention how much I love food? Taste is one of the best senses that we were given. I try to eat something and somewhere new everyday. After all, variety is the spice of life. I eat fast food, but in moderation. All I try to do is drink a gallon of water a day, supplement my vitamins and minerals, and be sure to get adequate amounts of protein and fiber in my diet. I don’t over do protein powder. After all, why drink it when you can have a juicy steak, or a delicious chicken sandwich? Protein is very important for muscle growth. Without enough protein in your diet you can not regenerate your broken down muscle, therefore you will not grow to your full potential. Good luck, and have fun!