So, I was given an amazing opportunity. I was contacted by a young gentleman who was looking to begin a workout program and needed my help.
I was honored and quite thoroughly impressed by his maturity. I spent the first few years of my lifting career as as a freshman in the high school weight room benching and curling myself into oblivion. I was lost and in my own world at his age and he obviously was much smarter than younger Sam.
So, he was very honest with me and told me that he did not have much knowledge in how to train or what to do when he was in the gym. He played around on the machines for a while and sort of followed everyone’s lead by mirroring their workouts whenever he would go. Not an ideal situation and not one that would produce much progress over time.
So, my “Cornerstones of Gym Success” were created.
These are the concepts that I believe are not only imperative to an effective strength training program, but should be the cornerstone of any program that involves a gym. That goes to you too “Everyone looking to just lose a few pounds for X occasion”. In fact, these principles are HIGHLY effective when it comes to fat loss as well and should be utilized fully.
Let us begin, then shall we?
Cornerstone 1: Start with Compound Movements (Deadlift, Squat, Bench, Overhead Press)
The first and what I believe to be the most important cornerstone to remember when starting a training program regardless of your goal should be to focus on compound movements. Not only make sure that your program contains compound movements every time you step into the gym, but they are in the BEGINNING of your workout.
For those who are unaware of what compound movements are we will take a very quick refresher for you.
Compound movements are exercises that include multiple joints of the body at the same time thus working more than one muscle group at a time as well. Examples of them are the squat in all its variants, the deadlift, the bench press, and the overhead press. These exercises work multiple muscle groups at the same time. Saving you time in the gym and making your workouts more efficient.
Why the beginning of your workout?
You are the freshest at the beginning of your workout and are less prone to hurting yourself in the process.
These movements require good technique and a fresh body and mind. If you are too tired going into them then there is a greater chance of you getting hurt. Think about it this way. If you are tired doing leg curls or tricep pushdowns, what is the worst that can happen? You may drop the weight and make a loud thud of the weight stack hitting the machine. Now think about if you are tired and starting on some heavy squats. Disaster could ensue and disaster is not what we want to have happen.
This leads me to corner stone 2
Cornerstone 2: You are never too strong for a spotter (or spotting device/ way out)
Now this one may give some of my more “hardcore” fans a little bit of heartburn but I am sticking to this point.
I do not care how strong you are or how much you could lift in the past, there always comes a time when you are starting to get into the higher range of what you can handle and need to have a spotter, safety arms, or at the very least a way out if things get hairy.
I understand that some people workout alone and do not feel comfortable asking for a spot, or they may workout alone in their basement. Regardless of the situation, the next best thing to do is to utilize the safety pins/arms in the squat rack if you are squatting or benching.
Not benching in a place that has the safety arms you can use while you bench press?
Not a problem.
When you are getting ready to do your heavy set on the bench press and you are not around any spotters or spotting devices, then the next best thing is to plan your way out.
How I would do this is to make sure I do not CLIP the weights onto the bar. What this does is that it makes it so in case the weight is sitting on your chest, you can simply roll to one side, the plates will fall off and you will be free to breathe another day.
The moral of the story is that mistakes happen, especially in a gym, so make sure you put yourself in the most advantageous situation that you can and make sure you are safe to lift another day.
Cornerstone 3: Results take time (After the Newbie Gains that is)
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are your 20 inch arms or your Beyoncé booty. We all want results and we want results now. That is not how this life choice goes. Though, as a new lifter or someone who just started at the gym, you will be able to experience the heavenly experience of “Newbie Gains”. I do miss my Newbie Gains.
These are the seemingly magical and ungodly increases in strength and ability for the first few weeks of training (possibly even months). Every single week you will come into the gym and just be better at everything. Not only a little bit better, but rather exponentially better. It is a phenomenon that happens to everyone and contributes to people getting addicted to working out.
Though the honeymoon phase will end and it will then take real work, with an intelligently constructed program that keeps you working hard week in and week out over the course of time to ultimately reach your goals. Yup. Back to reality which leads to cornerstone 4 of any workout, fat loss, or strength building program.
Cornerstone 4: Muscle and Abs are built in the kitchen and in bed. Not in the weight room.
This is a misconception that newer gym goers tend to not understand. They think that muscle is built from the working out portion, but in fact, muscle is built in the other 23 hours that you are NOT in the gym. To be even more specific, muscle is built from the food you eat and the amount of rest you give your body.
That is correct, you build muscle while you sleep.
See the gym is there to damage the muscle.
That damage is the signal our body needs to send nutrients to the area. These nutrients are delivered by the food we eat and are sent to rebuild and repair the tissue to make it bigger and stronger. So, the old saying that your mother or grandmother told you about you “only growing in your sleep” is pretty accurate. We need an adequate amount of rest to give our body the time it needs to heal and regenerate. This leads me into the final cornerstone nicely. It’s like I planned it or something…
Cornerstone 5: Deloading. Just shut up and do it.
Deloading in the world or working out is intentionally lowering the amount of work (total reps, weight used, duration of time) you perform in order for your body and mind to relax for a little bit. This point becomes more and more important the longer you are in the lifting and working out. After several weeks of beating up your body you need to give yourself ample time to just chill out and let your mind think about other things. It is very easy to get infatuated and even obsessed with getting to the gym and working out, and believe me, there are far worse hobbies and past times to have than going to the gym but you still need to step away sometimes and give yourself break.
I love working out like everyone else, but if you do not give yourself a few days here and there to get away from it, you will not only burnout physically, you will burnout mentally. You will destroy any sort of drive or enthusiasm you have for the gym, which could lead to you not coming back.
So how do you utilize a deload week?
I usually take a deload week every 6 or so weeks. That amount of time may change from person to person, but the rule of thumb is between every 4-8 weeks.
Before you ask, no you will not lose anything for taking it easy for a week. If anything, you will come back rearing to go and stronger than you were. Reread Cornerstone 4 if you do not believe me.
If you have any questions about anything I talk about in these blogs, want to ask me questions about your training, or want to work with me, shoot me an email at Sam@SamBrownStrength.com .
I look forward to hearing from you!