As many of you reading this know, hurricane Ian came through my town and put me, as well as everyone else, out of business temporarily, and many places, like my gym, were out of power. Because of this, I found myself working out at my friend John's community gym. The place was nothing special - probably 600 square feet, a cable crossover, smith machine, and a couple dumbbells. But it worked.
A young man asked me questions about developing bigger back muscles, and he very much reminded me of me when I was his age. He couldn't have been older than 14 or 15, which is just a little bit older than I was when I became really passionate about weightlifting, and desired knowledge. I was in the gym 5 days a week, constantly on YouTube University, and this kid seemed like he was going in that direction.
I thought about what I would have needed, not wanted, to hear when I was his age. And these three things I shared with him are extremely valuable, so I wanted to share them with you today! We get nerdy on the third tip, so for those of you who enjoy that part of these posts, stay tuned.
Firstly, you should only take advice from natural athletes. This goes for men, and women. All over Instagram and TikTok, I see the influencers these young men are following. Many of them are excellent looking athletes and offer good advice, however, I find it silly for a young man take advice from a bodybuilder bro who is taking illegal steroids, or a young woman to take advice from a female influencer who has clearly had a BBL (Brazilian butt lift).
Unless you plan to do these things, find someone who is naturally enhanced. For one thing, they will present to you an achievable goal to strive for. A good example of this is Noel Deyzel... The young kids LOVE this guy, and he is great, but without taking illegal steroids, you will NEVER look the way he does, which is setting you up for a life of body dysmorphia.
On top of that, natural athletes can recommend supplements to you (do your own research!!!) that will actually benefit natural athletes. If you see a juiced up gym bro recommending any over the counter testosterone booster, run the other way.
Most importantly, the recovery rate for guys on gear is WAY higher than natural athletes. Someone on gear could workout chest 3 times per week and recover just fine, while that's not the case for guys like me. Because of this, bodybuilders on steroids will unintentionally offer bad advice to natural athletes.
Next, I explained to him the "Rate of Perceived Exertion" (RPE) scale. This is something I suggest all of you to apply to your workouts. The RPE is an objective measure of how difficult the resistance your using is. To make it simple, the scale goes from 1-10 in which a 10 means you couldn't do a single more rep without help or breaking form, an 8 means you could do 2 or 3 without help or breaking form, a 6 means you could do 5 or 6 more without help or breaking form.
Let's say you're doing 10 reps on bench press with 135 pounds. You finished the set without help or breaking form, but you know without a doubt that you could not have done a single more rep. That would be 10 RPE's.
You would think working out at 10 RPE's for every set would be optimal, but it's not. The reason why is that it's too fatiguing. In the example above where you lifted 135 for 10 reps on bench press (good job!) at 10 RPE's, I can guarantee you that in your second set, you would not be able to do 135 for 10 again, simply because you'd be too fatigued.
So, in the first half of a workout, you work out at 7-8 RPE's, and towards the end you bump it up to a 9 or 10. Doing this helps you maintain your energy for the duration of the workout, allowing you to lift more weight before you get burnt out. If you got burnt out in the first 15 minutes of your workout, you would lift a lot less weight overall.
3. Lastly, and this goes hand in hand with tip #2, big lifts first, small lifts last. By big lift, I am referring to compound movements, and by small lifts, I am referring to isolated movements. For example, a bench press is a compound movement because it works out multiple areas. In compound movements, you can almost always lift much higher weight when compared to isolated movements. An isolated movement example is a dumbbell fly, which primarily uses one muscle group, the chest.
In the study we will be referring to, they call compound movements multi-joint (MJ) and isolated movements single-joint (SJ).
This study took two groups of 18. One group did exclusively SJ movements, while the other did exclusively MJ movements for 8 weeks. They looked at a wide variety of categories. I will list the categories they examined, then in parenthesis I will put the improvements they saw (SJ, MJ).
After 8 weeks, they improved in these categories:
VO2 Max (5.1%, 12.5%)
Bench Press 1RM (8.1%, 10.9%)
Knee Extension 1RM (12.4%, 18.9%)
Squat 1RM (8.3%, 13.8%)
As you can see from these results, the compound movements yielded significantly better results in all categories. So, from that, we should be prioritizing big lifts over small lifts. Why do I suggest doing them first? The answer is simply energy conservation.
Compound movements require much more energy than isolated movements. By starting with isolated movements, you're using energy that would be better used on your big lifts, which will result in you lifting lower amounts of weight during your big lifts.
Instead, start with the big movements, and do the smaller ones towards the end of the workout. I also found it important to mention this because at 15 years old I was doing tons of bicep curls and tricep push downs instead of chin ups and close grip bench press, which would have helped me grow my arms much faster.
I hope you all found this helpful, and please interact with me if you have questions. You can email me anytime with no strings attached. I promise I won't try to force you into some "used car salesman" type sales call.
Owner and Operator of Heroes Fitness, INC.
1528 Bloomingdale Ave., Valrico FL