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weightlifting Questions...

downtown

Crafternoon Delight
Joined
Jun 11, 2004
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Chicago
Ok, I'm kinda new at this, so bare with me here.

I started doing some light weight training after PT from my knee surgery, and enjoyed it, so I've been doing it more and more regularly now at OSU. I've been lifting for about 45 min 4-5 days a week now for around a month and a half...typically focusing on the chest, back and arms. I do leg press and squats sometimes, but my knees are still kinda fragile, and I don't want to hurt myself, since I don't typically have somebody to lift with.

Anyways, about a month into it, I started to notice a difference in the way that I looked, and felt, which was exciting. I was able to increase the weights and/or reps on most of the machines. However, over the last two weeks, I feel like I'm hitting a wall.

Right after starting to lift, I feel a lot weaker than I did a few weeks ago, and I'm not able to perform at the same level, in terms of weight, or reps. I don't really feel different when I'm not working out, but there seems to be a noticable drop in my strength and energy when exercising.

Why might this be? Do I need to change my diet? Is it possible that I'm over doing it, or not doing the right things? Would the cold weather have anything to do with it? Would I change the way I warm up or cool down?

Surely I'm making some newbie mistake. Any insight would be awesome.
 
I've been lifting for a little more than three years and I'll share some of the tips I've just kind of picked up along the way.

-Make sure you are not training the same body part in consecutive days, two days rest is even better, but at minimum one. That means if you are doing all upper body one day, make sure you switch to lower body the next. Or if you train muscle groups individually (ex. my split: chest/shoulder, bi's/tri's, legs, back) that you do each specific group only once or twice a week, as a highly focused exercise will break them down a lot.

- Make sure you up your caloric intake. If you google calorie calculator's you can get a good idea of the amount of calories you should be eating based on your size, age, and activity level. If your looking for muscle gain add 400-600 calories above what you need to maintain your body weight every day.

- Protein is absolutely crucial, you should try to consume at least one gram per pound of body weight. Before and after workout make sure you get fast absorbing protein like Whey.

- Right after a workout eat some fast absorbing carbs (white bread, pasta, etc.). The spike in insulin will help give your body the energy it needs and kick start the muscle recovery process. It will prevent your body from breaking down your muscles for energy and nutrients.

- Make sure you're getting enough rest. 4 - 5 times a week is pretty good. Make sure as you lengthen your workouts you have at least one or two days of rest a week. After a long period of working out allot yourself a week off to give your body some extra time to recover. Do this maybe once every two or three months.

- Try to get 8 hours of sleep a night, a lot of the muscle's recovery process takes place in your sleep.

- Try new exercises, variations of old exercises, change reps/weight, anything that makes the workout different. Your body adapts to exercise over time and loses the full effect. By constantly changing the way you train, you keep shocking your body's muscle to get the full effect of working out.

- Do multiple sets for every workout, the usual number is 3, but you can add and subtract from that number to change things up.

- Depending on your fitness goals, here's what you should be aiming to do rep/weight wise:

- Strength - Heavy / 3 - 5 reps
- Growth - Medium / 8 - 12 reps
- Endurance - Light / 15+ reps

- Don't get discouraged. It is understandable to have an off workout or off week, and then pick it up later. Some weeks I have the best workout of my life, followed by one that I can't wait until its over.

Hope that helps.
 
It's normal to make quick gains at the start and then hit a wall. Your body gets used to what you are doing and tries to slack off. You need to change up your workout and do it more intensely. Keeping a log book is helpful to make sure that you are pushing out more reps or more weight each time, even just a tiny increase. Eating and resting a lot is also extremely important. There is such a thing as overtraining. If you feel like you're putting in the hours yet not improving, eating (both calories and protein are important) and resting might be the two factors holding you back.

It's ok to take some time off but the really depressing thing is losing your focus for a few weeks and losing months of work. It happens, so don't get discouraged and keep putting in the time.
 
Thanks for the replies!
-Make sure you are not training the same body part in consecutive days, two days rest is even better, but at minimum one. That means if you are doing all upper body one day, make sure you switch to lower body the next. Or if you train muscle groups individually (ex. my split: chest/shoulder, bi's/tri's, legs, back) that you do each specific group only once or twice a week, as a highly focused exercise will break them down a lot.
Yeah, I've tried to be careful about this. I try to either go running, play basketball, or swim on the days I'm not lifting, and take sunday completely off.

Make sure you up your caloric intake. If you google calorie calculator's you can get a good idea of the amount of calories you should be eating based on your size, age, and activity level. If your looking for muscle gain add 400-600 calories above what you need to maintain your body weight every day.

- Protein is absolutely crucial, you should try to consume at least one gram per pound of body weight. Before and after workout make sure you get fast absorbing protein like Whey.

This may be my problem. Since i've been living on my own, I actually eat a lot less (food is expensive!), and meats and other items heavy in protein were cut the most. My diet consists of a lot of rice, sandwiches, fruit, pastas and tortillas. I might have a hamburger, or use ground beef, a few times a week, but thats about it. I guess I'll have to look for protein from other places, like beans or peanut butter.

- Do multiple sets for every workout, the usual number is 3, but you can add and subtract from that number to change things up.
Yeah, thats what I heard too. At first, I used to just do 3 sets of 10 at the same weight, but lately, I've been doing one set of a lighter weight to warm up, one of the "typical" weight, and then one a little bit heavier, if I can stand it.

Don't get discouraged. It is understandable to have an off workout or off week, and then pick it up later. Some weeks I have the best workout of my life, followed by one that I can't wait until its over.
Hope that helps.

Great, thanks. Since surgery wasn't that long ago, I've been really worried about causing further injury to myself...I guess I didn't really know that making quick gains and then stopping is normal.
 
Before and after workout make sure you get fast absorbing protein like Whey

From MANY certified nutritionists, Whey does not help.

Eat organic Peanut Butter (or at least unorganic real stuff, not Kraft/Skippy) for you need protein, which you do. Eat often. Drink lots. Make sure (if commonly on fast food or low quality food) to take vitamins. A simple multivitamin (centrum or any others, not sure about your brands) works well, that gives everything. I was anemic while trying to work out because of a few reasons. (also, overtraining can cause anemia, so be very careful about it) If you are missing something, your work productivity and quality goes straight down.

However, over the last two weeks, I feel like I'm hitting a wall.

It is common in many high intensity sports that when high training season comes around, third and/or fourth weeks are the 'wall'. I know this to be true for quite a few different things, both from personal experiences and friends. Don't get frustrated, keep working, but take breaks.

MAKE SURE TO STRETCH AFTER WORKOUTS. Strengthening muscles reduces flexibility if you dont work on it. Make sure to do stretching or your body will be more injury prone, and you will feel more sore.
 
I agree with what's been said. I remember when playing football that I had to impress upon the gym teacher what my workout schedule was for football so that I wouldn't be assigned to work lowers right when I'd be spending time that afternoon doing the same thing. So I ended up lightly working out the same area I did the previous day. Not the best solution, but better than nothing.

And get protein!
 
I've been lifting for about 45 min 4-5 days a week now for around a month and a half...typically focusing on the chest, back and arms. I do leg press and squats sometimes, but my knees are still kinda fragile, and I don't want to hurt myself, since I don't typically have somebody to lift with.

Anyways, about a month into it, I started to notice a difference in the way that I looked, and felt, which was exciting. I was able to increase the weights and/or reps on most of the machines. However, over the last two weeks, I feel like I'm hitting a wall.

Right after starting to lift, I feel a lot weaker than I did a few weeks ago, and I'm not able to perform at the same level, in terms of weight, or reps. I don't really feel different when I'm not working out, but there seems to be a noticable drop in my strength and energy when exercising.
Don't work out with heavy weights more than a couple of times a week, it's too much strain on your muscles, they need time off the hard work to develop. Do some work on your stamina and fitness instead - rowing, running etc.
 
Lots of good advice here; I'll ad my 2 cents:

If you are lifting 4-5 days a week, you should not be doing all your body parts every day. I like a push/pull split for my uppe rbody, which means I push one day, working the chest, shoulders, and triceps, and then pull the next day, working back and biceps. My body likes 2 days rest between workouts on any muscle group, even three sometimes if I go very heavy. I get my leg work on my bicycle. By all means go easy on your knees!

Light weights and low reps are good for everybody, especially beginners. Going below 6 reps on any lift is generally considered unnecesary. For a beginner I would stay at 8 minimum. By that I mean don't try to lift a weight you can't do 8 reps with. The usual method is to warm up very light for one set, do a light set of 12-15 reps a heavier set of 8-10 reps, then a third set with the light weight again. As you get to know how much you can lift, the heavy set will make you tired enough that the next lighter set is still a hard workout. When you get serious you'll be doing 5 sets per body part, say bench, for example:

Warm up with just the bar, 10-12 reps. Now put on your starting weight, assume 95 pounds, but the exact number isn't important. 12-15 reps, then add 20 pounds or whatever for your heavy set. You need a spotter because that last rep should be hard to do. The go down to your light weight and rep to exhaustion again. Last, a cool-down set.

Which brings me to my next point: free weights are so much better in terms of the quality of workout you get. If you are on the machines, move over to the fre weights. If your gym is all machines, change gyms! Find that cinder block building where the serious guys go. The people are nicer, the workout is better, and it's cheaper than the trendy place the soccer moms use. only drawback, you won't pick up chicks there :p

(Also learn to spot properly: two fingers on the bar just barely touching it to get it moving when you partner stalls. DON'T grab it and heave. It takes just a touch. That will earn you style points if you know that without being taught the embarrassing way. Bonus points for uttering the operative phrase as you spot: "it's all you!" :D )

Said above, worth repeating: Vary the excercises you do. Your muscles get used to the same excercise and you hit that plateau. Time for a new routine. Flies instead of presses, incline bench instead of flat (reduce your weights!) and don't scoff at the pushup. Anything that works the muscles in a slightly different way. This is where those old copies of Muscle and Fitness come in handy, among other things.

Nutrition: Cooking at home is cheaper than eating out. Duh, but you can eat well at home for less than you think. You need a piece of meat the size of your fingers (not your whole hand, just your fingers) to get enough protein for the day. If you're blasting the weights and building muscle quickly, you can increase that some, but most people way overdo it. And rem that beans and rice together yield a complete protein complex. If you cook them right, they are also delicious. One word: cumin. (That's a spice)

Randome thoughts: I've read articles that make a good case for arm excercises (biceps, triceps) being done with weights that allow 20+ reps.

Don't neglect your deltoids!

Good luck with it. :)
 
I

- Right after a workout eat some fast absorbing carbs (white bread, pasta, etc.). The spike in insulin will help give your body the energy it needs and kick start the muscle recovery process. It will prevent your body from breaking down your muscles for energy and nutrients.

I've read a research paper that found that sugar consumption right after exercise ablated the growth signal.
You should not eat anything that's quickly digestible immediately after training. You should save it for competitions, where it enhances recovery.
 
What if too many carbs gives you a "bad stomach" -- not utilizing them enough in your routine? I can't even drink a malt without being sick.
 
Your diet needs to shift. Your extra muscle has reached its peak unless you start eating more protein.
 
I'll be the voice in the wilderness: you're going to be under a LOT of implicit pressure to eat more. Don't fall for it. Gaining size becomes a need, when the goals should be strength or health.

Are you near midterm season right about now? You might be too stressed to make proper gains. I'd recommend backing off on the weights a bit, and focus more on cardio. Wait until the stress season is over before going back to lifting. Lifting is more neurologically draining than cardio (cardio actually being a good destressor)
 
I have some tips.

At 45 min you probably aren't over doing it.

Eating more could help. You don't have to follow any fancy diet or anything, but try to eat a small meal ~1 hour before your workout and ALWAYS eat after, the more the better. (even if you aren't trying to get heeee-yoooge, you still gotta refuel).

A good way to break out of a rut is to take some time off. Take a week reallly easy, or take it off entirely to rest. Come back and see how you feel. This helps me alot. Also, try switching up routines every 6-8 weeks or so. Your body adapts to the stress you put on it and it becomes harder to make gains the longer you stick to one program. Switching things up helps alot. Do different exercises, different set/rep schemes, etc. Lots general wieght lifting info can be found here: www.crossfit.com and www.t-nation.com. Just stick to the articles/instructional info. on the two sights, ignore the banter.
 
I used to be at T-Nation

I even won a Testosterone t-shirt.

You should look up El Mac's calf routine: I wonder if it's in their archives? It is solid science. I posted it back in the day, when they still audited all posts first
 
Its normal, usually when you begin, you become much stronger in a short period of time. But then after a while the curve kinda flattens out to a damn near straight line (I suppose if you keep training at some point you do reach your maximum potential so it does indeed become a straight line, at that point youre working to keep your strenght not to gain more).

My tips (Ive typed this so many times here... Ill just give you the short and sweet)

Do stretch before and after, a lot.

Warm up, this means 2 things, get your heart rate up and make sure before each set to do at least one set with a much lighter weight. Example if youre gonna do 10 X 90 KG, before hand, do 10 with only 20 KG or so. This helps all the joints and muscles to fall into their right place so you dont get hurt.

Dont ever bounce the weights, not in machines and specially not free weights.

Protein after work out.

Be careful (you can get hurt and will if youre not careful, I had 2 screwed up arms for a looooong goddamn time) and good luck.
 
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