If you’re new to lifting, those first few sessions in the gym can be rough. You won’t see much progress, you’ll doubt yourself and you’ll feel like giving up.
There will be absolute tanks of men surrounding you. Guys that have been at this for years and have developed massive muscle thanks to hundreds of hours of pumping iron. It’s going to intimidate you a bit, as it rightfully should. You won’t know how to use some of the machines and you’ll feel out of place for awhile until you learn the ropes. It’s normal.
The goal is to get as much positive force on your side as possible. You need more in your life that is pushing you toward your goal of getting big and becoming that beast you’re working toward.
#1 – Make it a Lifestyle
Lifting and being in great shape is a lifestyle. There’s no way you’ll achieve your goals unless you’re committed to the countless hours it will take to build your body. Once you’re comfortable with where you’re at, it takes continuous effort to keep your mass. If this is a body you want to have for years to come, you have to make it a lifestyle. Have confidence in yourself and be passionate about what you’re doing. Change doesn’t happen overnight and the more you embrace the process, the happier you’ll be and the more likely you are to be successful.
#2 – Make Others Depend on It
As a U.S. Marine, it’s an obligation of mine to stay in excellent shape. I signed a contract and I’m now responsible for a level of personal fitness that meets the Marine Corps standards. However, that’s not how I look at it. I’m not just lifting to pass a PFT (physical fitness test) or CFT (combat fitness test). I’m lifting because others depend on it. The man or woman who serves next to you on the battlefield could depend on it. Do I really want to get complacent and let my fitness slip when there are other Marines’ lives at stake? I don’t and I doubt that you would either.
Joining your nation’s military isn’t the only way to make others depend on your strength training. There are many other career choices you could make where the same level of physical fitness is necessary. Personal trainers, police officers and fire fighters are the first that come to mind.
Similarly, you could make a strong argument that your family depends on it. Setting an example for your children and being the family’s protector are arguably male dominant responsibilities. What better way to secure that role than by showing your wife and children how dedicated you are to building your body and developing yourself into someone who’s confident and capable? The more muscle you have, the more intimidating you look and that translates to a sense of security for everyone around you.
#3 – Load your Phone up with Audio Books
This was undoubtedly one of the best suggestions I ever received. Why not educate or entertain yourself while building your strength? I’ve found that self-development books work the best. It can be hard to follow an in-depth thriller, mystery or fictional story while you’re lifting. Instead, I recommend you play content that motivates and inspires you. These types of books typically don’t require that you hear every word, so if you lose your focus for a few seconds it won’t detract from the story. If you’re into improving yourself, there are books for everything. This includes entrepreneurship, fitness, habit forming or pretty much anything. While you’re in the gym is a great time to learn. You’re already in an environment where you’re improving yourself, so you you will feel as if you’re already working toward your goals and following what the author is teaching.
#4 – Download some Heartfelt Music
Sure you can head-bob to some rap and get angry at the weights a few times but can you sustain that shit? In all seriousness, do what works for you. Download some heartfelt music and load it up on your phone or whatever device you take with you to the gym. Music can be an extremely beneficial tool when it comes to motivating yourself. There have been times where I’ve wanted to leave, decided to stay and play something good instead and before long I’ve gotten one of my best workouts of the week in.
#5 – Take the Right Supplements
Protein, BCAA’s, glutamine, creatine, pre-workout… There’s a lot of this shit and if you want to build muscle mass you better get serious about your nutrition habits. Some of it may not be completely necessary but the majority will only benefit your gains and likely doesn’t deserve the bad rep it has gotten.
Starting with protein and BCAA’s, these are two supplements that should never be skipped. Protein provides your body with amino acids that serve as building blocks for muscle growth and BCAA supplements provide your body with only the 3 most essential amino acids. The differences between protein and BCAA’s are explained here. Most will take these two supplements together, using them for different purposes.
L-glutamine is another amino acid that can promote muscle growth. Found abundantly in most proteins, it also has numerous benefits for the body outside of helping you get big.
Next up is creatine and pre-workout. These are two supplements that often come with negative connotation. Creatine is a perfectly healthy and effective supplement. Many sources including BodyBuilding.com and Men’s Health have attempted to dispel the fallacy that creatine is somehow dangerous. In reality, creatine is naturally produced in the body from the amino acids arginine and glycine. Creatine helps provide energy to the cells in your body, including muscles. You can even naturally boost creatine levels by eating more meat.
Pre-workout however can vary greatly depending on the manufacturer. Some are great products, while others are filled with unnecessary ingredients that could do more harm than good. Regardless, it’s supplements like pre-workout that can really make your time at the gym more enjoyable. Most supplements are purely nutritional but pre-workout is a product that spikes energy levels and can be that extra boost that you need on a down day.
#6 – Use it as Stress Relief
Lifting can be very therapeutic but only if you allow it to be. One of the biggest mistakes I made in the beginning was to execute my reps too quickly. I’d pump out a set before I even had a chance to breathe. It’s a bad habit because not only does it detract from your ability to enjoy the workout but it encourages using bad form. Instead, slow it down and focus on your technique. Breath out as you lift and in as you lower. Keep a slow enough pace where your body’s natural respiratory pause falls at the point when you’re finishing each rep. This allows you to breathe on each sequence of lifting and lowering, which helps you stay focused on your breath and form simultaneously. It’s possible to reach a meditative state when you’re lifting and when you do, you’ll walk away from your sessions feeling refreshed with a sense of calm and clarity.
#7 – Go Outside
As human beings, we desire connection. Both to each other and to the planet we live on. Inside a gym isn’t the only way to gain strength and there are plenty of heavy things you can lift outdoors. Whether you’re lifting truck tires or logs, getting outside is a good way to connect with your surroundings and enjoy yourself.
#8 – No Excuses, Stay Motivated and Never Skip a Session
What happens when you allow yourself to simply “opt out” of a workout is that you are much more likely to continue the trend. If you decide to skip one day of lifting, odds are you’ll skip another in the near future. Instead, don’t allow yourself to make excuses and even on the days where you feel the least motivated, always show up. Sometimes the days where you feel the worst turn out to be your best days. Other times it won’t be so easy but if you stay consistent and motivate yourself to always put out, you will continue making progress.
#9 – Make Yourself Accountable
Get a lifting buddy or signup to Crossfit. By making yourself accountable, you’re responsible for more than just yourself. You’ll not only be more likely to succeed but you’ll enjoy your time at the gym more when you have good company surrounding you.