If you are a beginner in lifting weights, you might be wondering what training program you should use to build muscle. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried a few training methods, but he always trained with intensity, high volume and heavy weights.
While there are a lot of crappy programs out there, there are also excellent time-tested bodybuilding programs such as the 5×5, high intensity training, German volume training and others.
But Arnold Schwarzenegger will tell you that there is no perfect training program out there. Any program can yield progress if you train hard and intense. In fact, you will always make more progress training with a mediocre program at full focus and intensity than by half-assing your training on an excellent training program.
So, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to dedicate to train intense, smart and hard. The second best thing that you can do is to learn how to design your own training program.
Here are 5 tips to help you design your own training program:
1. Training is a long term pursuit.
When starting weight training, your focus should be to make it a lifestyle. Training should be a life-long pursuit. To build an incredible physique and strength takes years of sustained effort. So, set a strong foundation and train in way that will make you progressively better and stronger over the long term. There are no shortcuts in the pursuit to excellence.
2. Focus on the core lifts.
Forget the fancy exercises. While they will come into play later when you are at the intermediate or advanced level, they won’t help you build significant amounts of muscle. What will pack on muscle and strength on your frame are the core lifts.
These are compound exercises such as barbell squat, barbell deadlift, barbell bench press, barbell row, barbell shoulder press, pull up, etc. Perform these movements in their dumbbell variations as well. Generally, invest your time and effort into mastering these free weight movements and you will accelerate your muscle building journey.
While cables and machines are effective as secondary exercises, don’t make them the primary ways of training your muscles. Always stick to compound free weights.
3. Focus on progression.
You can do endless amounts of reps and sets of the same weight, but if your muscles are used to the weight and don’t find it a challenge anymore, then you will halt your muscle building progress. Progression or progressive overload means that as your muscles get stronger you must keep adding weights to keep challenging them to keep growing.
Increasing the weight that you lift is an important aspect of progression, but it is not the only way to progress. You can progress also by decreasing your rest time and increasing the volume of your training. However, increasing the weight your lift and getting stronger is the most important thing.
4. Keep your goals realistic.
It’s important to dream big, but you have to have a realistic timeline and game plan to achieve those goals. If you exert excessive amounts of effort to try to achieve your muscle building goals in an unrealistically short period of time, then you will either burn yourself out or cause an injury.
While you will see a lot of muscle building progress if you are a beginner, remember that eventually your “newbie gains” will slow down. At that point, it will be a slow and steady climb up to more muscle and strength. At that time point you will not only need to train hard, but also smart and add some creativity to the mix.
5. Stay in tune with your body.
Not only does your body need smart and hard training to build muscle, it also needs plenty of solid nutrition and sleep. Master proper nutrition, rest and recovery. And also remember, that even with excellent nutrition, rest and recovery your body will still feel fatigued at times for all of your efforts at the gym.
So, if you notice that your progress is slowing down or you’re feeling more tired recently, go ahead and take a week off or train light for a week. You will notice that you will come back fresh and strong and to make more muscle building progress.
Generally, part of training smart and hard is being in tune with your body and how you feel and making the proper adjustments in not only your training, but also your nutrition and rest.