Everyone has to start somewhere: It’s cliché but it rings true in just about everything you do.
Bodybuilding is no different. As you admire bodybuilding legends such as Ronnie Coleman, Gunter Schlierkamp, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, it can be easy to forget that these same giants started out small. More importantly, they started out with the basics. Despite many bro-science blogs claiming isolation exercises are the key to growth, science says differently.
If your goal for the New Year is to add serious muscle mass, but you don’t have much experience in the weight room, then this one is for you. Let’s review the science behind the superiority of full body workouts for beginners in the quest for bodybuilding glory. I’ll even throw in a sample workout to get you started.
The Perks of the Full Body Workouts
- Greater muscle recruitment.
- Enhanced release of anabolic hormones (as shown in this study published in the American Journal of Physiology).
- Increased fat loss rate (as demonstrated in this study published in the American Journal of Physiology).
- Greater chance of full recovery as you have rest days in between workouts. Though sometimes the rest days are absolutely necessary!
- Builds a strong fitness foundation and improves all other areas of your workouts.
Breaking Down a Full Body Workout
There is a lot of misinformation floating around across fitness cyberspace. It is important to understand that modifying acute variables directly coincides with specific bodybuilding goals. Here is the breakdown of acute variables that have been proven through research and study to be the most effective.
Number of Exercises:
- 1 to 3 exercises per major muscle group.
- List of major muscle groups: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Chest, Back, Shoulders.
- 2 to 4 sets of each exercise.
- Begin at the lower end and gradually increase your sets.
- 8 to 12 repetitions for each set.
- A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that beginners who utilized an 8 to 12 repetition range showed the greatest response.
- During each repetition, perform the tempo as follows:
- 4 seconds should be spent lifting the weight (known as the concentric phase).
- 2 seconds pausing at the top of the movement (isometric phase).
- 1 second lowering the weight (eccentric phase).
- 60% to 85% of your one-repetition maximum.
- A study published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research demonstrated that the ideal resistance load falls between 60% to 85% of your one-repetition maximum.
As demonstrated in this study published in the American Journal of Physiology, these exercises have been proven to induce the greatest release of anabolic hormones in the body. They also activate the greatest numbers of muscle fibres.
- Bench Presses
- Overhead Presses
- As you can see in this study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, 60 to 90 seconds of rest between exercises are ideal.
- If you superset exercises, then take a break of no more than 120 seconds.
Tips and Tricks
Change it Up
Variety is the key to constant muscle growth. Falling into a pattern is easy when you begin getting comfortable with your routine. Be sure to alter the above acute variables every 4 to 8 weeks. Challenge yourself to increase the volume, shorten your rest break, or include additional sets. Little changes that challenge the body in new ways ensure muscular hypertrophy.
Don’t forget to Stretch
Trust me, I understand: Weights are priority. If you want to make sure you’re able to keep coming back week after week, then you need to stretch. Making 10 to 15 minutes of stretching a part of your routine helps to enhance recovery, avoid tight muscles, and prevents strain or injury. Be sure to perform a light cardio-based warm-up before stretching your muscles.
Eat to Grow
Give it your all in the gym, but just remember that a rule of thumb suggests that 70% of the results come from your time and effort in the kitchen. Yes, that’s right, nutrition is vital for muscle growth. After all, how do you expect to grow if your body cannot keep up with the nutritional demands.
The ideal way to eat is to focus on what is referred to as a clean bulk. This means consuming excess calories to compensate for the needed nutrition with a focus on clean and healthy foods. The following are general guidelines for the macronutrients you should be striving to consume each day ideally through clean foods.
- 0.8 to 1.5 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.
- 1 to 2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight per day.
- 0.4 to 0.5 grams of healthy fats per pound of bodyweight per day.
Bear in mind, the above nutritional intake are a rule of thumb! Everyone has a different body, thus you will need to work out for yourself through trial and error to find out what works best for you. Nevertheless, if you want to calculate your diet tailored to your lifestyle click here for a step to step guide (although this is the most conventional way to calculate calories, it is very outdated so adjust it according to your results overtime). Or else, you can freely follow more experienced diets such as carb backloading or carb cycling which manipulate your macronutrients to achieve muscle growth and fat loss simultaneously.
Drink Your Water!
This cannot be stressed enough! Water is absolutely crucial to overall health, but especially if you are trying to build muscle and lose weight. Water helps to get things moving along, ensuring nutrient delivery and waste removal. At the very least, you should be drinking 64 ounces (1.8 litres) per day. The more brutal your workout sessions, the more you will need.
Supplement Your Gains
The supplement industry has allowed the average fitness enthusiast to make leaps and bounds to reach new levels of strength and size. The top three supplements that I would highly recommend adding into your diet are:
- Whey protein (preferably natural)
- Multi-vitamin (preferably powder form)
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Squats, supersetted with Lying Leg Curls
- 4 sets of 10 repetitions on squats followed by Lying Leg Curls to failure!
Seated Leg Curl
- 2 x 12
- 2 x 10
- 2 x 10
Close Grip Bench Press
- 3 x 12 (30 second rest between each set)
Seated Barbell Bicep Curl
- 3 x 12 (30 second rest between each set)
- 3 x 15
- 3 x 12
- On the last set, superset with very light dumbbell side raises until you fail.
Train antagonistic muscles one after another to develop a mind-blowing pump!
It may be frustrating in the beginning as you learn proper form, discover best practice eating habits, and adjust to the soreness awaiting you each morning. Over time, you’ll master your technique, eat six meals without a second thought, and barely notice the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
The key is to keep at it. Remember why you started this journey. Remind yourself of what you want to look like in just one short year. Keep pushing day after day and week after week until a new you is staring back from the mirror.