Body Building Resources

Body Building for Beginners: Your First
Steps to a Great Physique
By Jean Lam

Body building is a challenge-but it's also fun and rewarding. There's no magic bullet to body building success, however; it's a sport that demands a lot of hard work, precise training, and discipline both in and out of the gym. Everyone's body is different, and that means everyone's results and ideal training program are different, too. Still, if you're considering giving body building a try, here are a few guidelines to follow.

Give it time. First, it's important to realize that you won't see results immediately. Building a lean, healthy physique takes time. Many beginners get frustrated if they don't start seeing results in the first month or so, and this can cause new body builders to give up too early. Give yourself three months before you judge whether or not your body building routine is working for you.

Talk to a doctor. If you have any injuries, medical conditions, or any other problems that might affect your ability to lift, talk to a doctor. You may still be able to body build, but you may need to keep your body's limitations in mind and avoid certain exercises. Discuss your body building plans with your doctor and develop a training routine that won't cause injury.

Do compound movements first. Your first exercises should be compound movements-that is, movements that draw on large muscle groups and demand movement from two or more joints. These include bench presses, squats, dead lifts, military presses, barbell presses, and lunges. Compound movements are important because they send signals to your body to produce more hormones that encourage growth; in essence, these exercises are crucial to building a muscular foundation, which you can then shape using isolation exercises.

Target each muscle group. Maybe you really want to flatten your stomach or develop a bigger chest. But your body will look strange and unbalanced if you only target one muscle group over others-this is how some body builders develop large, bulging upper bodies and thin legs. Build a balanced physique by focusing equally on each muscle group in your body.

Learn your form. It's absolutely essential to learn the right form of an exercise early on. If you do, you'll be able to monitor your progress and decide when to go up or down in weight much more effectively. You'll also be able to exercise safely; if your form isn't correct, you run the risk of strain or injury. Even if you plan to exercise without a trainer, book at least one session or ask one of the experts at your gym to help you learn the proper form for lifting.

Go easy on the weight at first. You can't learn good form at the absolute limit of your lifting ability. During your first few trips to the gym, you should use light weights simply to learn how it feels to do each movement correctly. Once you've done all your reps at light and easy weights several times during different sessions, your body will learn how it feels to have good form-and you'll be more likely to maintain it under heavier weight.

Warm-ups are crucial. Every time you work out, start by performing 8 to 12 reps of an exercise under light weight. This will get blood into your muscles and help them prepare for heavy lifting. Then increase the weight slightly and do the exercise again. If you still can reach 8-12 reps easily, add a little more. Keep going until you cannot finish 8-12 reps. The weight you finish on is the weight at which you reach muscular failure. The goal with each of your exercises is to reach muscular failure in 8-12 reps; once you can reach 12 reps, it's time to increase your weight slightly.

Give time between workouts. Your body needs at least 48 hours to recover completely from a training session. Generally you're not ready to train again if you're even a little sore from the last workout. However, if you leave too much time between workout sessions, you could see some loss of progress in the meantime. Most trainers will recommend that beginners train two or three times a week-a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday training schedule is often ideal. Avoid leaving more than three days between workouts.

You don't need to spend all day at the gym. You should be able to do everything you need to make gains at the gym within about an hour. Some body builders spend hours at the gym, but this is not necessary. The intensity and focus required to body build correctly is almost impossible to maintain for two or more hours; if you're spending this much time at the gym, you're probably exercising inefficiently. Your goal is to gain muscle, lose weight, and increase your health-not spend all day at the gym.

Good diet is crucial. If you're serious about body building, what you do outside the gym could make more of a difference than what you do inside. Poor eating habits can undermine all your hard work during training. Some body builders recommend eating high-calorie food in great quantities to gain weight, but if you do this the weight you gain will be mostly fat. Design a nutritional plan that will help you meet your goals, and stick with it religiously during your first three months-otherwise you won't know whether the problem is your exercise routine or your diet.

Body building does take time to show results. But if you exercise smart and eat right, you will see them. Give a routine enough time to make a difference, and don't undermine your efforts with bad diet or poor workout habits-and you're sure to see the results you're looking for.

About the author

Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body Building Resource which provides articles on weight training, nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.

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