The summer before I entered high school, I pretended to be interested in playing football so I could weight train with the team. I did not look like a football player at all. I was skinny and incredibly weak, and spent all my free time mountain biking and playing tennis. I started lifting 3 days a week, doing all compound lifts- one’s that involve multiple joints and multiple muscle groups. Basically the Big 3 (Squats, Bench Press and Deadlift). I also had the pleasure of being introduced to a little explosive exercise called the Power Cleans.
I spent that summer familiarizing myself with the barbell and the iron plates which made them so much more intimidating. I gained muscle fast, but after the summer finished and I revealed that I wouldn’t be trying out as a kicker for the team, I stopped working out. To this day I regret not trying out for wide receiver. Some people claim they live a life of no regrets and I could never understand that. I’m grateful for the life I had without football, but a part of me really wishes I had been a part of the team.
I spent my free time hanging out with a new crowd and became a Dead Head. Instead of playing sports, I listened to music. We swapped tapes, laughed, listened to music and jammed on guitar sometimes. My parent’s house became a hangout spot from the time school got out until around 5 PM when my parents would come home. It was pretty close to the high school too, making it a convenient gathering spot. Every day, I would have to clear almost everyone out around 4:30, but a few of us lingered and would play basketball in the driveway. I didn’t have any cool video game consoles at this time, we basically hung out on the back deck or played hacky sack and listened to some tunes.
I didn’t touch a barbell again until the age of 30. And I’m not lying when I tell you it was like meeting an old friend from the past. I joined an old school gym. It wasn’t a clean facility, and didn’t have much fancy equipment. Certainly there was no pool anywhere to be found. It was a place to lift. I joined with 5 guys from work. A few of them still workout but most are fat and lazy and are often sick. One continues to push himself with running and Orange Theory, but I’m the only one left lifting heavy. I saw this coming, and this is why I don’t advise looking for a gym buddy. They will slow your training down. If you could find a buddy that would be competitive, it might be worth looking into. However, I found my friends all dropping out.
I’m not one to preach about exercise, and nothing is worse than listening to someone talk about their gym routine (even worse, a crossfit routine), but I’m going to throw out a few tips that I learned in my experience.
1 Pick a program. Pick a goddamn program. It should make use of compound lifts. I like full body routines 3 days a week, or upperbody/lowerbody 4 days a week. I will sometimes do just arms on a weekend, giving them a nice pump which I can show off.
2 Testosterone is the only reason I workout. I don’t care if I’m small or big, it’s the hormone I’m after. I am not comfortable with injections or knowing that I am depending on an external source, so I’m natural. If you’re a natural lifter, you’re going to want to be doing the heavy compound lifts. Learn to mother fucking dead lift.
3 You can teach yourself power cleans. And you certainly don’t need bumper plates.
4 Work out alone. If you want to start with a friend that’s fine. Never be dependent on someone else to workout. Also, by working out you are more likely to meet new people. Learn to work-in with people. Tell them you are amazingly fast at swapping out plates and they will hardly notice you are there.
5 Bring a gym back with everything. You don’t want to have to quit your workout because you forgot a towel. Pansy.
6 Stay away from machines and learn to love the barbell and dumbbell.
7 You don’t need a trainer, youtube has everything you need. And people will often criticize your form but they don’t know shit themselves.
8 I’ve never been injured lifting. It seems that everyone else has, though. Maybe more people should listen to me.
9 Ask for a spot. Every single time you bench press heavy you should ask for a spot.
10 Log everything. Handwritten notebook style. You’ll lose or break your phone and besides, you look like a nerd logging your workout on a phone.
I’ve been working out consistently for 5 years now. If I knew then what I know now, I would have continued to lift in my 20’s. I had a lot of fun those years, but I am really interested about what my statistics would be now if I had been more consistent. After your newbie gains, you see how you hit a platue for a while, then go back down in weight and work back up slowly. Your personal records show up in waves so you have to look at the big picture for overall performance. Knowing this, you should continue to lift. I haven’t even mentioned the benefits of lifting, this is just a nitty gritty guide to get your ass in the gym.