To improve your bodybuilding workouts, and your muscle-building progress, apply these 20 tips:
BEFORE THE WORKOUT
1. Find a reliable training partner who has a similar recovery ability to yours, and a high level of motivation for serious training.
2. Train at a time of day that suits you, and try to avoid the gym’s busiest periods so that there are fewer distractions and delays. Schedule at least one workout on a non-working day so that you have at least one session a week at the optimum time of the day for you.
3. If you feel physically beat and are due to train, rest another day. If you need to make this adjustment often, modify your training program and lifestyle so that you recover properly between bodybuilding workouts without having to take unscheduled rest days.
4. Don’t wait too long after a meal before training, and risk having your workout flag due to insufficient energy; but don’t work out too soon after a meal, and risk feeling nauseous while training. Have a simple meal that you can digest easily, and then train about two hours afterwards.
DURING THE WORKOUT
5. Before you use the weights, spend 5 to 10 minutes doing some general but low-intensity warming up such as stationary cycling, skiing or rowing, to break you into a sweat.
6. Spend this general warming-up time psyching yourself up. Switch off from the rest of your life. Move from non-training mode into training mode. Mentally go through some tough sets. Get fired up to train.
7. Do sufficient warm-up sets for each exercise. Better to do too much warm-up work than not enough. But don’t rush from your final warm-up set to the first work set of a given exercise—rest for a few minutes.
8. Keep a strong grip—use lifters’ chalk (magnesium carbonate). Properly used, this is a terrific aid for a secure grip, especially in back exercises and upper-body pressing movements.
9. Before each work set, check your training log to see what you did the last workout you performed that particular exercise. Determine what you need to do, in poundage and reps, to make today’s effort progressive—for example, an extra pound on the bar for the same reps.
10. When you get in position for a set, take care to take the right grip and stance or body position. Don’t charge into a set, grab the bar and then realize after the first rep that you took an imbalanced grip, wrong stance, or are lopsided while on a bench.
11. Your bodybuilding workouts must be sacred. Ignore all intrusions other than emergencies. Your focus should peak for each work set. For the duration of each work set you must “become” the set. Nothing else matters other than the perfect completion of that set.
12. You and your training partner should ensure that each other delivers perfect sets—intensive, progressive, and always with correct exercise technique.
13. Use small weight increases. To make small weight increments of no more than a pound at a time, use micro-weight plates of just quarter or half a pound each. Alternatively, you could use several large washers instead of each micro plate. Or you could use a pair of spring collars, for about one pound a pair; then gradually build up the pairs of spring collars until you have four pairs, then move to a pair of 2.5-pound plates instead of the spring collars, and start adding spring collars again.
14. Only add weight when you’ve earned it. An exaggerated focus on progressive weights is detrimental, because it leads to degradation of exercise form. Never should exercise technique or rep speed control be compromised to enable more weight to be added to an exercise.
15. Dehydration mars bodybuilding workouts. Sip water between sets. And the more you sweat, the more water you must drink.
16. After each work set, record your rep count and poundage used. As the weeks go by you need to see gradual improvements in weights lifted or reps performed.
17. Periodically get someone to video tape your entire workout.
AFTER THE WORKOUT
18. Within half an hour of your workout, have a liquid, easily digested, protein-rich and carbohydrate-rich feed. Consume about 30 to 50 grams of protein and 60 to 100 grams of carbs, depending on your size. Within the next two hours, have a meal of solid food.
19. Go to sleep earlier than usual on the evening following a workout, and get at least nine hours of quality sleep. Give your post-workout recovery machinery a boost. Get at least eight hours sleep each other night.
20. Study the video recording of your workout. Examine your exercise technique, rep control, concentration level during each set, effort level, and use of time between sets. Look for areas to improve, and then address them at your future bodybuilding workouts.