This is my very condensed guide on how to start your exercise journey. It isn’t going to be easy but if it was easy everyone would have chiselled 6 packs and could deadlift 500kg but that isn’t the case. This is going to push you out of your comfort zone but if you have the consistency I assure you that you will see amazing results.
Why I believe I have the right to talk about this: I had been overweight and near obese my entire life. By year 5 I was somewhere between 70–80kg and it had a really bad effect on my mental state as you can imagine. It had gotten so out of hand that the NHS had to put me on a weight loss scheme every Thursday for a year to try make me lose weight but even after that, I still gained about 5kg through the course. However, in Yr 10(yes 5 years later) I started getting motivated to make change again and since then I’ve lost all of that fat and started going to the gym consistently up to the point that people have called me ‘big’ before(yes as you can tell my ego has been boosted a lot).
This may seem very dull and boring but having something to work towards will give you the motivation and discipline to start working out even on the days that you wake up feeling like you’d do anything other than exercising. Example goals:
- Lose 1kg over the month
- Manage to finish a workout video without stopping
- Be able to do 10 press ups in one go by the end of the week
The important thing here isn’t making these targets as hard as possible, it’s giving yourself a goal that is possible to accomplish so that if you worked hard and did it, you’ll feel an increased sense of satisfaction with yourself. So for example, I am currently in a Tier 4 lockdown in the UK which means gyms are closed; moreover, I broke my ankle a month ago which meant I couldn’t do any physical activity, but I set myself the goal to complete this Conor Sloan 200 press ups challenge video without pausing the video. Although I probably shouldn’t have exercised with my ankle(although it does feel fine) I actually completed the challenge yesterday which I can tell you brings you a lot of satisfaction when you do.
It is easy to go and do some random movements but to actually target the correct muscles as you do so. You could do sit ups for years and never see ab development because you can just be using your leg drive and momentum of your upper body. Therefore, I would recommedn getting educated, reading this article will give you foundational knowledge else I would need to write for hours and hours but I will listen some good youtubers for information.
Note: All these Youtubers are male but the information they post still equally applies to woman. None of them post workouts but they teach about the importance of nutrition, intensity and also give stats which you may find useful:
- Dan the Hinh: if you want infinite lists of exercise for each muscle
- Athlean-X: the best source of information in my opinion, his slogan is to put the science back into fitness which is how you will see results
- Jeremy Ethier: Posts very good statistics about exercises so you can find out what exercises will make the most changes to your body
- ScottHermanFitness: Best for checking if your form is correct for any exercise
- Greg Doucette: A very entertaining source of information. He is the main reason I started pushing myself harder each workout and I believe a lot of my current physique wouldn’t have been possible without him.
There are no secret pills:
If your goal is weight loss, then there isn’t a magical pill. You’ve all probably got the ads from V-Shred talking about the magic pill that makes use of the ‘thermic effect’, the problem is, the thermic effect normally only burns about 9 calories but he doesn’t say that because he just wants to profit off your motivation to lose weight. In fact, the caffeine in your tea will actually cause a thermic effect so drink that instead if you want to feel it.
You’ve probably also seen Sally’s weight loss discovery all over social media. Again, those 1 month results they show are completely unrealistic, but they are advertised that way to lure you into buying their product.
Nutrition has so many misconception to it which makes it possibly unhealthy for some people desperate for losing weight. For example, so many people resort on starvation diets believing it is going to make you lose weight quick and as so many people discover it doesn’t work, It does work if you go on a extreme starvation diet which was what I did in Yr 10 because I was that desperate to lose weight but as i discovered, when you burn all he fat away, you are also burning away all of the muscle that you had underneath it turning me into a stick.
The main reason they don’t work is because of grehlin, the hormone that causes hunger, grehlin also has the function that it is responsible for putting on fat in your body. This means that when you do starve yourself, you’re letting your grehlin rise to very high amounts in your blood which then means when you eventually do eat, then your body is immediately going to put it into fat stores. Why? Because it’s a survival instinct, the response in your body that control fat stores isn’t connected to your conscious brain, it’s an unconscious activity that our brain does which means we have no control over it. The problem with this is, when you do starve yourself, your body doesn’t realise you’re doing it because you want to, instead it’s thinking you’re starving so whenever you eat food it’s going to put it into fat stores as a back up reserve of energy in case you actually start to starve. Of course, if you do reach proper starvation then those stores will be used but that is the unhealthiest way to lose weight.
There are a lot of sources to find good foods to eat, especially health-line. A lot of my diet has come from health-line and the recommendations that they give. However the food you eat should depend on your goals.
If your goal is weight loss then you need to place yourself in a caloric deficit, this doesn’t mean you starve yourself but it means you eat less calories than your body can function with in a day. It is usually recommended to have it about 250–500 calories below what you would usually have. You need to give your body a reason to lose weight and by not having the energy to function, it is going to have to go to your fat stores to get the energy and this will lose weight. I would recommend increasing protein macros in this time because you wouldn’t want your body going to your muscle tissue for energy so protein will preserve them.
Please note, that going past 500 calories may speed up the change but it also risks the grehlin issue I explained above. Moreover, once you go past 500 calories less a day, it becomes a loss harder for you to stay motivated to continue at the diet. When you create a workout/nutrition plan consistency should be one of the top priorities, a less intensive nutrition plan that you can maintain forever will give you more benefit that a very intense plan that you can only keep up for a week. A pound of fat usually has 3500 calories which means that you can lose about a kg of fat in about 2 weeks which I think is a good goals for most. I lost 15kg in a month when I was in Sri Lanka for reference and that is very unhealthy so have a goal like that and you’ll see the changes.
Although is is possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, you will be compromising one of them since the conditions for losing weight will reduce muscle growth and vice verse. To gain muscle, you need to be in a caloric surplus which means you are eating more calories than your body would need in a day. You’ve probably heard this as ‘bulking’, in this stage people do tend to gain some fat at the same time, but then you would go an a ‘cut’ where you try to lose all the fat while maintaining the muscle. But note that during bulking, you’re trying to minimise the amount of fat development.
The main think with bulking is protein. People recommend taking 1g/lb of bodyweight of protein but I think that’s unrealistic and will leave in a big hole in your wallet so I would aim for more 50g-80g per day. The best sources for protein are milk, eggs and beef but you have to consider the calories that come with it. If you’re vegan, I’ve heard pumpkin seeds are the highest concentration source of protein while any type of nut it also very good.
You might have heard of some supplements being used such as protein, creatine and BCAAs. These aren’t necessary but they can speeden up your muscle growth. It may also however increase the calories/day too much and you may gain weight too quickly(which has happened to me). Protein usually comes in the form of whey protein, whey is actually a component of milk. Casein is the other component which is another type of protein that you might have heard of. The problem with this is that some people, like myself, have their skin break out from eating too much dairy so I would recommend getting some form of vegan protein if you don’t want to have your skin break out. Creatine is a natural component that your body produces but it can help your body retain more muscle while BCAAs are a form of amino acid(what proteins are made of) and again make it easier to put on muscle. Although they aren’t necessary, they have been studied very well and proven to be safe to take.
Volume or Calories?
Grehlin is also controlled by the amount of your stomach that is filled. This means that a way of reducing your grehlin while also eating very little calories is to eat some very low calorie density foods which you can find all over health-line. This would be the diet I recommend to most people because there are loads of food out there that people love to eat that are also low calorie density which means that the chance of you staying consistent to a diet is so much higher. So I would definitely recommend eating higher volumes of low calorie dense food.
The message I want to get across which I’ve hoped you’ve realised is that a bad diet will undo any exercise/gym work that you do. You could lose all of your weight without doing any exercise if you perfect your diet.
Things to do at the Gym:
The first thing I would do is open up a notes file and start organising your week, your program(so what parts of the body you target in a day) shouldn’t be a bro split which is where you do 1 body part per day eg. Monday- triceps Tuesday- shoulders, Wednesday-legs etc. Instead you want to optimally be targeting all your body parts 2/3 times a week. This means there are 2 main forms of split I would recommend depending on the amounts of time you can go to gym/work out in a week. If you can go <5 days a week, I would recommend an upper/lower split which means on your upper day, you target your entire upper body and then lower would be lower body. If you can do ≥5 days at the gym, then I would recommend a push/pull/legs split(which is what I do personally). The way your muscles work can be split into push and pull eg. most of your back muscles are only activated when you pull something while others are used when you push eg. your chest.
You can steal a program off the internet which is what I did. After you’ve written this program onto a notes file, when you go to the gym, whenever you do finish all of your sets for that exercise, I want you to open the notes file and write down the weight you were using, number of reps and number of sets. Now, the next time you come to doing that exercise next week, you need to either bump up the weight, reps or sets. This is called progressive overload and is how you build muscle, you need to continue to challenge yourself and you’ll see changes fast as your body adapts, you’ll be able to do more weight. In my experience, I went from only being able to do about 20kg on a lat pulldown to doing 68kg lat pulldowns in just 2/3 months because I kept on challenging myself each time. This is something Greg Doucette talks about a lot and it’s all about pushing yourself harder than last time.
This is another supplement that I myself have had little experience with but all pre workout is, is a very large dose of caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant which means your muscles are going to be pumped with caffeine and makes them contract a lot harder and means you can exert more power so you’ll be stronger. This means your workouts will have more happening and so possible more muscle growth. I haven’t heard anything negative out them so I don’t see why you shouldn’t give it a shot if you have the money for it.
Having a Training Partner:
I don’t have any of my friends that go to the same gym as me but having a friend that can motivate you while you workout goes a very long way. Especially when you first start going to the gym where it might be very daunting and you don’t know where to go and what any of the machines do, then a friend can make the experience a little easier. Arnold Schwarzenegger even spoke about how the main reason he pushed so hard at the gym was because of his training partner Franco Columbu.
One of the best things you can do is take photos of yourself right when you first start working out and then take photos every month and monitor the changes. If you do everything on this list then you definitely will see results over a few weeks/months and when you see those changes, that will motivate you even more to work out more for more changes. Also, don’t get disheartened by me saying seeing change over weeks/months, people have newbie gains which is where your body tends to put a lot of muscle on in your first year of gym so you will see changes fast but I also want to be realistic and not lead you into believing you are going to be ripped in a week after listening to this article. Normally, the instagram physiques takes several years to build and I am trying to guide you into finding that routine that you can stay consistent to for years so you can get that physique like them.
Muscle Growth Actually Works:
I want to talk about how muscle growth works so you understand why you need to push yourself very hard and also eat more protein. Your muscle is made of amino acids and they are simply fibres that can contract(squeeze) and retract. When you exercise your body using respiration in those muscle cells to exert a force that is going to push the weight/bodyweight. However, when you put enough tension on your muscle, it is going to create these micro-tears in your muscle tissue(which you want), now when your body is going to fix these micro-tears in your muscle so they go with some amino acids to your muscle and build over that micro-tear, but now it is going to built some extra muscle tissue there to make sure that if you were put under that same amount of pressure, then your body will be able to cope with it. You feel the micro-tears as the soreness after you workout, you also feel the soreness from a build up of lactic acid in your muscles(a product of anaerobic respiration). This soreness is known as DOMS(delayed onset muscle soreness) and normally after a few months at gym you usually get used to it and you will stop feeling it unless you keep pushing yourself very very hard.
Sleep and water:
I finally want to talk about the importance of water and sleep. 79% of your muscle is water which means that protein may not be the thing stopping your gains but instead its the water intake, therefore I would check to make sure you’re staying hydrated, I have an app on my phone that reminds me to drink 150ml of water every hour which is very useful as it means I will stay consistent.
Sleep is also recommended but it isn’t totally vital(definitely not saying that so someone doesn’t use it against me). Most of your body’s recovery takes place while you sleep, although your body does recover while you’re awake, it is much slower since your immune system is less active while you’re awake compared to when you’re awake. Therefore, giving your body time to rest means you can go to the gym the rest day fully recovered so you can get the most out of the workout. You can still work out while sore though it wouldn’t be as efficient as working out fully recovered
This is my guide over but if you want an exercises list for each muscle group please do comment so and if there are a lot of requests then I’ll publish another article of exercises for each muscle group. However, as i showed above Dan the Hinh is already a very good source for exercises to do.
Thank you for reading!