As soon as you step into the gym, you can immediately tell who the “regulars” are. They seem to know the layout of the room better than the people who work there, and confidently approach each machine as if they’ve been on it a thousand times. Because, well, they probably have.
You know them: the ripped guys in muscle tees going crazy on the bench press or staring at themselves in the mirror, counting their reps as they lift dumbbells. And then you see the girls – the ones with the rock-hard abs who look like they’ve completed the squat challenge… at least twice. It takes more than just commitment to look like these people, and many have had to face a lot of challenges and pressure to look as fit as they do. So, what’s their secret?
The best way to start bodybuilding is to keep up a consistent schedule. Know what you’ll be doing each time and keep with it – how many sets and how many reps per set. Working out five days a week and eating the right foods is your best bet, but make sure to give yourself one to two days of rest (doesn’t have to be consecutive) in order for your muscles to heal.
Sophomore Alex Tepper works out five days a week, targeting a different muscle each day to give the muscles time to heal.
“I usually bench for chest, curls for triceps and forearms, and leg press. I run to the gym for more stamina. After I have finished my workout, I wait 10 to 15 minutes to cool down and I drink a protein shake, which really helps to get results,” Tepper said.
Keep in mind that building muscle mass can take time. Don’t expect to wake up after one workout with some mean quads or bulging biceps. Have patience when following your routine, and you’ll soon notice the results.
Finding the perfect balanced diet can be tough, but if you want to really want to build muscle, exercise alone won’t cut it. Having the right diet can make all the difference in your bodybuilding journey.
There are several high-protein options that are essential. Egg whites and lean meats are high in protein but low in fat – the perfect combination. Fish, beans and starches like brown rice and whole-wheat pasta are also great options to incorporate in your diet.
“I eat clean except for one cheat day, and I carb cycle, so I focus on eating a higher intake of carbs on leg days,” senior Katya Bachorz said.
Anabolic steroids, which are the ones that are usually injected by athletes, are actually synthetic versions of testosterone. People take ‘roids to improve their athletic performance, increase their muscle size and reduce their body fat, but the side effects are extreme. For men, there can be breast development, infertility, shrunken testicles, decreased sperm count and erectile dysfunction. For women, the side effects include excessive facial and body hair, deepened voices, reduced breast size and menstrual irregularities. That’s not all though – for both genders, there is a huge chance of acne, baldness, heart attacks, high levels of bad cholesterol, oily scalp and skin, mood swings, an enlarged heart and jaundice, the yellowing of the skin. Are the gains really worth this? We think not, and that there are plenty of natural, harmless alternatives that can be taken instead.
“Go big or go home” – that’s how pre-workout supplements like C4, N.O.-Xplode and Optimum Nutrition make you feel. About 15 minutes before working out, some people put pre-workout in their water and chug it. Pre-workout not only causes your energy to skyrocket, but it also increases your focus and endurance. So, where you would have otherwise felt like you couldn’t keep going after that last set, pre-workout makes you feel like you can do five more sets.
While it’s great to be able to go hard at the gym, there’s a dark side to taking these powerful supplements. Pre-workout is like taking eight espresso shots at once, except instead of just caffeine, it’s filled with other dangerous substances like creatine, which causes you to gain weight because it pulls water into your muscle cells and increases protein synthesis. It can also cause heart problems, tachycardia, kidney damage, diarrhea and muscle cramps. Additionally, pre-workouts often contain Arginine, which is an amino acid made by the body that, when taken moderately, has benefits such as improving blood flow, remedying heart problems and treating erectile dysfunction. If taken at large doses for too long, however, the long-term side effects are the opposite. The most physically obvious side effects come from Niacin (Vitamin B3). Increased doses of Niacin cause flushing (along with a case of the jitters), itching and an upset stomach, which explains why people look cracked out when they take pre-workout. An adult should be taking 35 grams of Niacin daily, but pre-workout can contain up to 60 grams. The worst part is that once you start gaining a pre-workout tolerance, you have to take higher dosages, which can damage your heart.
Regardless of these facts, many people still resort to pre-workout for that extra push. Others like Bachorz, however, are against it.
“I don’t take pre-workout,” Bachorz said. “I’m really sensitive to anything that increases my heart rate, so sometimes I’ll take coffee if I’m feeling too tired.”
On the other hand, pre-workout is an essential part of freshman Danny Gonzalez’s gym routine.
“I have to take pre-workout. I can’t work out without it. It gives me so much energy and when I’m lifting, I’m more concentrated on my muscles and completing the reps and sets all the way,” Gonzalez said. “The only thing that sucks is that if I take it at like 6 or 7 p.m., I have a lot of trouble falling asleep at night.”
It’s best to stay away from substances that have negative long-term effects, even if they seem to be helping in the short-term.
We all know the feeling: “Yeah, I want to work out, I want to look fit… but ugh, do I really want to get up from watching ‘Narcos’ to put in some work at the gym right now?” The only way to see results is to start working for them. Layout your schedule, especially with regards to reps and sets, and make sure you stick to it as much as possible, but also, go at your own pace if need be.
It’s important to find a balance in the gym and in the kitchen, and to make healthy decisions everyday in order to maintain your progress.
However, don’t forget to let yourself rest in between. The perfect physique won’t just happen over night. With patience, practice and a little bit of a push, you’ll get there.
words_gina fleites. photo_valentina escotet.