Are Muscle Magazine Workouts Your Best Choice?

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You just got done reading the latest feature in Huge Muscle Magazine and you are amped. It called for a number of hardcore, growth-inducing exercises that you can’t wait to try.

Now it’s time to hit the gym and test out this workout your tore from the magazine. You’re an experienced lifter and know your way around the gym, and now you feel like you’ve finally got “the program”. This one is going to get you to Phil Heath size and Brian Shaw strength, right?

We’ve all been there and have done that.

Somewhere along the line you may have been told that this program is too “intense” for you. However, why listen to that guy? That guy isn’t that much bigger than you. You want to be a monster, not slightly better than average.

The truth of the matter is this: “that guy” is giving you good advice. The word “intensity” gets thrown around as often as the term “love”, and this is just plain annoying. But what does intensity really mean?

Intensity is how close you are to your 1 rep max. The closer you are to your 1RM, the higher the intensity of the workout. Sorry to kill your #intensityville hashtag on Instagram, but it’s true.

Semantics aside, some workouts are too much for the average lifter. Far too often I see someone at the gym staring at a mangled magazine clipping, ready to tear it up. He may be going “HAM” in the gym, but he’ll soon be going home (and by home, I mean the hospital).

Man Reading a Muscle Magazine

Magazine and Internet workouts aren’t a perfect solution because a training approach needs to be based upon the individual.

Pick Your Workouts Wisely

It is a great feeling to leave the gym thoroughly drained. There are so many memes related to the brutality of leg day, it’s unreal. However, it’s important that you slowly build up your workout efforts rather than making dramatic changes.

If you were planning to run a marathon, you would not start your first training day at 26.2 miles. Why would it then make sense to start with the most intense weightlifting program then? Think of all of the gains and progress that occur well before that peak.

People fear being a beginner because it’s often synonymous with “that dude knows nothing about anything.” Know that your best gains, and I’m talking weekly increases in weight, occur during your beginner phase. Why try to skip over that?

If you can progress each workout using 6 sets per body part, then why push and use more? If it’s because you see other people doing more, or your friends are doing more, you need to take a step back.

You are in the gym today to beat what you accomplished yesterday. You risk dramatically slowing your progress by jumping into a workout design for advanced trainees.

Take a Step Back – Train Based on Your Goals

fitness-couple-2

If your current program is working, why change it? Don’t mess with success.

What should you do? Take a step back. Determine what you want to be as you enter the sanctuary of the iron palace.

If I could go back and talk to my cocky, younger self I’d have a lot to tell him. The key point I would stress is that strength should be the ultimate goal. I am by no means huge. I’ve tried to play that game and failed miserably. I would tell myself to start powerlifting (and stop making excuses to not deadlift).

You have the opportunity to make some serious beginner gains. How substantial those gains are will be determined by the path you choose.

If you want to be a bodybuilder, that’s great. Your goal should be lifting maximum weight through varied rep ranges and working the muscle through various angles. A powerlifter is going to focus on the big three lifts and keeping assistance work to a minimum (at first). A physique competitor should train like a bodybuilder (maybe a topic for another article on why that is a must).

No matter what your chosen path is, you must allow your body time to adapt to different movement patterns. So, you SHOULD NOT attempt anywhere near a maximum lift during your first session. Ideally, you shouldn’t attempt a one rep max during your first 6 months of training.

Allow your body time to adapt to the stresses of using progressively heavier weights. Do not attempt to take a given weight to failure during your first few weeks of training. Again, the body needs to adapt to various movement patterns before you have the proper fiber recruitment to lift maximum weight.

Magazine and Internet workouts aren’t a perfect solution because a training approach needs to be based upon the individual.

You should use barbells and dumbbells as the base of your training. Machines of any sort can be added later. Some exercises will work for you, whereas others will need to be swapped out of your program. You may need to adjust your squat stance and bar position based on ankle and hip mobility.

You should be incorporating the squat, bench, and deadlift into your program. These exercises will be your base, regardless of a trainee’s chosen path.

It is a vital necessity to improve your lift form early on. Video can be an aid in this process. It’s you versus you, so do not worry if it’s just you and the barbell on film. Remember, this is about YOU!

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Name: Brandon Hahn

Bio: I have been in the fitness industry for nearly 10 years. During that time I've trained hundreds of clients, managed a gym, became a bodybuilder, then a physique competitor, and am currently a powerlifter. I also am operations manager for Athletic Xtreme. I've seen plenty and my goal is to right my wrongs and to steer others on the right path. Lesson one, find a path and stick to it.