If you want to know the 5 things I wish I knew before I started lifting so you can avoid the same mistakes that I’ve had, then read on.
The information I’m going to present to you here is guaranteed to help you succeed in the health and fitness game. Despite that, I am not claiming that my method is the be-all-end-all of everything. What I am going to share with you is what I see works best based on the following:
1. My personal results and over a decade of experience
2. My clients’ results
3. Thousands of hours of research
4. Common sense
These four factors combined have given me the confidence and belief that everything I’m going to teach you here will give you dramatic results.
The only possibility that this won’t work for you is if you don’t apply the principles properly, but we’ll get into that later on.
5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Lifting: My Story
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, let me first tell you about my story…
My name is Cho. As you will see on this page, I have below-average genetics. Like some of you, I wasn’t born with broad shoulders, square chest, wide back, and beefy arms.
I started out as very skinny. In this picture, at a height of 5’10”, I weighed a staggering 135lbs.
I still remember the day when that photo was taken; I thought I wasn’t skinny, but just lean. I thought I had enough muscle but just needed to workout for three straight months to look like those hunks on TV. Imagine that? I weighed 135lbs at that time, and did not have the slightest idea on how to lose fat and build muscle, but I was already thinking like a jacked 165-lb guy. I know some of you can relate to this, can’t you?
When I started at the age of 16, all my workouts were more of a mental battle than a physical one. I was hesitant to go to the gym because I was feeling embarrassed by how I looked. Every time I entered the gym, I thought everyone was mocking and judging me. There was a voice inside my head that was always whispering,
“Look at them. They’re laughing inside and thinking that you couldn’t even walk straight with your head up, let alone curl a dumbbell. Go home now. You will be a laughingstock.”
This went on for months, and it was really a struggle. I never made friends with anyone because most of them were already experienced lifters, and I thought being friends with them and asking for their advice would be stupid.
As the days passed, it was getting easier and easier. I was able to train my brain to crave the gym and the mental battle was reaching the final stages, but there was still something missing — my results. I had been working out for months but I still hadn’t seen any changes. What was I doing wrong?
I thought, “Maybe it’s normal. Building muscle takes time. I just need to work harder.” I committed myself to the physical battle and faced it with sheer determination. No results? Work harder! That was my motto. This continued for days, months, years, and going to the gym was more of a habit now than a process to achieve something — the goal of building a good-looking physique.
In spite of that, I never thought that working out would be this fun. Even though the results didn’t come as fast as I expected, I kept going because I found happiness in what I was doing. That was the best part of it–I fell in love with the process more than anything.
In my quest to finding out the answer to my sought-after question of, “How can I build muscle fast without using steroids?” I then turned to countless books and articles, bought lots of muscle building programs, and spent every penny on every supplement that promised to deliver results.
And to tell you honestly, most of the fitness products I purchased are crap. Though some of them are pretty decent, I realized that only a fraction of the many products offer real value. Most of them are created to primarily make money, not to really solve a problem. Well, that’s what I noticed.
After months of trying every program and diet that I could get, I noticed some changes. I got heavier, and I was very happy. Is it because of the sacks of weight gainers that I bought that were recommended by those fitness books and courses? I didn’t know and I didn’t care. Nothing seemed more important than seeing the weight scale go up — and that’s all I cared about.
After months of experiencing continuous weight gain progress, I found that I was just deluding myself that I was making muscle gains, when in fact, I was just getting fat. This is me after years of working out:
Compared to how I was, this was the opposite of it. I was fat without a decent amount of muscle. In short, I was a skinny fat.
My weight was going up, but my lifts weren’t getting any heavier. My shirt was getting fitter and tighter, but I couldn’t even pull my shirt up in front of my classmates because they would discover that I wasn’t the “macho” guy that I was portraying myself as. I know some of you can relate to this — you thought you were building muscle, but you noticed that your belly is growing much quicker.
Suddenly, a thought came to me that said, “I am fighting another battle. That’s right.” I said, with a confident tone inside my head saying that I would figure this out… that I would soon get ripped and shredded.
Around five years had passed at this point, and my knowledge had expanded from the materials that I read and from the tons of experiences of just throwing myself out there and trying everything, but my body did not. Funny to say, I did brain building instead of bodybuilding. I gained tons of experience, with very little results.
I told myself, “Maybe I’m just a hardgainer, a fat hardgainer,” meaning someone who’s cut from a different cloth and won’t make muscle gains that easy. It turned out that I just needed to make a lot of mistakes and learn more.
So, what did I do next?
The first thing I did was throw out all the fitness magazines that I was reading and following. I stopped eating like a pig and ditched my 6-days-a-week workout routine — which those bodybuilding magazines gave me. I did my best to forget everything that I’d learned and decided to start with a clean slate. I was at ground zero again.
From there, I began my quest to really find the solution to my problem, and guess what, what I thought was difficult was actually not. Building muscle and losing fat, as complicated as they might seem to be, are actually simple. I’m not saying that it’s easy, but it is simple. It’s not easy in a sense that it will take time, but it’s simple enough that if you learn everything that I’ve learned, you will literally just have to wait because you’re confident that everything is falling into place.
Fast forward to this day, where the fruits of my labor have shown up. Here I am — bigger, stronger, and leaner.
I can say that those years were well worth it. I’ve learned a lot from that long journey and what you’re reading now is a fraction of the wisdom I’ve collected and put into writing.
To cut your learning curve and avoid the same mistakes that I committed, I will tell you the exact things that I wish I knew before I started training. Whether your goal is to gain muscle or lose weight, it doesn’t matter. Just follow the things I am going to say here and you will experience the best gains of your life.
They say people learn from mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that you have to commit the mistakes yourself, right?
5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Lifting
1. You don’t have to kill yourself in the gym to get results. In fact, you may even get faster results doing less.
Well yes, if you’re on drugs/steroids, killing yourself in the gym might help. Or maybe if you have the gift of genetics, which most of us mortals don’t have.
But if you’re a natural(a person who doesn’t take steroids), or if your body can’t handle high volume and frequency workouts, training every single day would be one of the biggest mistakes that you can make. Not only is it ineffective and a waste of time and energy, but it’s counterproductive.
This is probably the biggest mistake that I had been doing like almost everyone I know. When it comes to training, it is unlike any other endeavors in life where more is always better — where working harder always yields a success.
Here’s what I found out:
Muscles don’t grow in the gym, they grow outside the gym — that is, when you’re resting and recovering. Your only job when working out is to stimulate the muscle fibers and get out of there as soon as you’re finished.
Many people apparently don’t understand that the big picture in this workout game involves two important elements: workout and recovery. These two should be given equal importance — not 70:30, 60:40, 20:80, but 50:50.
Training the muscles with enough intensity and with progressively increasing resistance is the key to muscle growth, but that’s only the first part of the equation. The second part of the equation is the recovery itself. Working out doesn’t produce the actual growth, but only triggers the body’s growth mechanism into motion. It is the body that produces the growth, but only if it’s left undisturbed during your recovery period. If you don’t give your body the rest that it needs, the muscles will not grow. It’s that simple.
“If you’re not getting stronger, you won’t get bigger.” This is the basic formula, right?
Now let’s add something to that statement:
“If you don’t recover, you won’t get stronger. If you don’t get stronger, you won’t get bigger.”
If you’re training nonstop, how do you think your body will recover and adapt if you’re not giving it a chance to accomplish those?
Muscles grow while you’re resting, not when you’re working out.
2. You don’t need to eat “healthy” foods to get abs. You can even eat a lot of unhealthy foods and achieve that
Yes, you read that right, you can eat your favorite foods and all the junk and still lose weight! Had I known about this when I first started, I would have gotten the results much faster because dieting would be much easier.
If you’ve been an Internet lurker for a while now, you’ve surely heard of people talking a lot about If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) or flexible dieting. And chances are, you will see conversations, photos, and statuses all talking about junk food and drinking alcohol while dieting. After all, this is what The Lazy Lifter has been doing all the time, right?
What is this concept exactly?
IIFYM, or flexible dieting, is just a method of eating that revolves around the saying, “How much you eat is way more important than what you eat.”
1 scoop of ice cream = 1 cup of rice. From a calorie standpoint, they are almost the same. Each contains around 206 calories (based on Google).
When it comes to dieting for the purpose of losing weight, it doesn’t matter where you get your calories because our body does not know the difference between the calories we consume in an ice cream or donut, versus the salads or oatmeal or any other healthy meal. What it understands is that these foods all contain the same calories and macronutrients.
In other words, regardless of whether the food is healthy or not, as long as it fits our calorie intake for the day, it’s okay. Hence, the term, “if it fits your macros.”
This is not an innovation. It is a science that has been proven and backed up for years. As long as you’re eating less calories than your maintenance, regardless of where you get those calories, you will still lose weight.
I’m not recommending you to eat unhealthy foods all the time. I’m just showing you that it is possible.
3. You don’t need cardio to lose weight or get abs or get ripped
I would like to point out that doing cardio isn’t necessary to lose fat. You can if you want, but it’s not necessary. In fact, I’ve rarely done any cardio exercises even when I was cutting out, and I’ve always succeeded.
Once you learn how to count calories and track your macros, you will realize that the role of cardio in the weight loss game is very little.
Let me give you an example:
One cup of rice is around 200 calories, and for you to burn 200 calories, you have to jog for around 20 minutes. That’s only a cup of rice, side dish, viands, and drinks are not included. Add a lot more rice and other stuff and you’ll get to 600 calories, which will require you to jog for more than an hour just to reach a point of breakeven — where gain and loss will not happen.
What if you just limit your food intake and avoid eating those 600 calories? Would you still need to do any cardio? The answer is no. You can do cardio of course, but you won’t be needing it to lose more weight because you’ve already taken care of that through your food intake.
The thing to remember here is that cardio burns calories, not fat. Sure, it can help manage your calories a little bit, but it won’t be as good as getting your calories handled from your diet. So if you can just avoid consuming calories, then you don’t need any cardio.
The only times that I would recommend doing cardio:
– When decreasing more calories is not an option anymore (calories way too low).
– When you’ve gone overboard with your cheat meal and you need to burn those extra calories.
– When you have a huge appetite and can’t calm yourself down to eat at/below your target calories.
– When you’re training for endurance, or you just want to be a healthier person.
That’s it. You don’t have to make the mistake of thinking that the only way you can lose weight is by doing cardio.
4. High reps are not for fat loss, nor doing them creates muscle definition.
A common error that I always notice at the gym is when people switch to lighter weights and higher reps during a “fat loss” program, or when they want more muscle “definition.” They think that doing high reps will help them achieve those…
First, muscle definition is 100% determined by the amount of body fat that it covers. A more “defined” muscle is a bigger muscle plus a lower body fat percentage, so it’s just obvious that you can give your muscles more definition by growing them and losing a bit of fat.
That’s the problem with doing high reps with light weights—it is not as optimal as lifting moderate-heavy weights with moderate-low reps when building muscle is the goal. Thus, it won’t give your muscles more definition.
Sure, you can burn an extra ounce of calories by doing more repetitions, but why not just do cardio instead if burning calories is your goal? That would be more effective.
If building a great physique is what we’re after, going from 10 reps to 20, 30, 40, or 50 reps thinking it would create muscle definition and burn fat is a complete waste of time.
The amount of resistance and repetition scheme that you use to build muscle when you are bulking up should also be the same as when you’re trying to lose weight. The ideal rep range is from 5-15 reps, depending on the muscle group.
5. Getting stronger is more important than the “pump” and the “soreness”
Is the pump necessary for muscle growth? The answer is no.
While the pump feels awesome, it has very little, if anything to do with stimulating the muscles to grow. It is simply the result of the increased blood flow to the muscles and should not be a basis for the workout’s effectiveness.
If you’re going to gauge the effectiveness of your workout, look at your strength progression. Are you stronger than your last workout? Did you add weight, reps, or both? Remember, a successful workout should be determined by the principle of progressive resistance or overload. If you’ve added weights or reps from your last workout, then you did a good job, and that’s what matters.
In addition, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness(DOMS), or just simply muscle soreness, the addictive pain we’re feeling the day after we exercise, is not an indication of muscle growth nor the effectiveness of a workout. It is just a side-effect from the lifting and especially the lowering of the weights which creates microtrauma to the muscle’s connective tissues.
Many bodybuilders and athletes train without any desire to experience such pain as it impedes their training performance, yet they grow like weeds.
So don’t treat DOMS as a badge of honor and a gateway leading to your gainzzz. Instead, focus on workout progression. That’s the best measurement of any workout’s effectiveness.
So after applying all the stuff above and fine-tuning everything that I’ve learned about fitness, I decided to conduct a 3-4 month test to see where this new knowledge goes. I did a transformation challenge for myself twice, and proud to say that I succeeded in both.
These challenges were also done in conjunction with my “party” lifestyle. Since I didn’t want to give up the fun things that have been going on with my life — alcohol, desserts, fast foods, etc. – I decided to do more research and throw in a mixture of both. A fitness guy who loves to train less, party, drink, and eat a ton of shitty foods?
After all, I’m not after the “bodybuilder” type of physique, let alone their lifestyle.
These were my transformations:
Not bad, huh?
I thought 2016 was already good but made a few changes and made 2018 a lot better.
So, how did I do it?
You’re going to learn everything in the next article.
See you there!
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