Guys: Want to Get More Out of Your Gym Session? Our Fitness Experts Weigh In!
Often, the health-related advice you come across on the internet seems to be geared towards females. But June is Men’s Health Month so guys, this post is for you!
Men hit the gym with all sorts of health goals, from losing weight, to lowering blood pressure or cholesterol. But let’s be real. For many guys, you’re lifting weights in order to build muscle, or at least maintain the muscle you currently have. How do you know if what you’re doing at the gym is going to get you the results you want?
#1) Know Your Body Type – There are three primary body types: Ectomorph , Endomorph and Mesomorph.
Ectomorphs, sometimes called “hard gainers,” tend to have a difficult time building muscle mass. Ectomorphs usually have a thin build, and seemingly can eat whatever they want without gaining weight. Ectomorphs should stick to light cardio, just enough to warm-up before lifting and maintain cardiovascular health. For strength-training, lower repetitions with heavier weights are likely to provide better results. Think 3-5 sets of 4-8 reps for each muscle group, where the last rep is a struggle. For this body type, it’s especially important to refuel with carbs and protein after lifting.
Endomorphs are the exact opposite, usually bigger guys who can easily put on muscle, but can just as easily put on fat. Diet must be carefully monitored to avoid gaining too much fat in the process of putting on muscle. Regular cardio (both steady state and HIIT) is recommended for this body type, as burning additional calories will help offset fat gain. For lifting, endomorphs want to stick to higher reps with somewhat lighter weights. Try sets of 8-12 reps with moderate weights, or even sets of 15-20 reps with light weights. Compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once (think squat to overhead press, or lunges with bicep curls) are recommended over isolated, single-muscle movements (recruiting more muscle fibers means burning more calories.) Supersets with opposite or unrelated muscle groups (i.e. alternating chest press and row, or chest press and leg press) are also beneficial to cut down on the amount of rest time needed and keep heart-rate elevated.
Mesomorphs are the in-between body type, usually with an athletic build, who can put on muscle but won’t necessarily add large amounts of fat. This is usually the easiest body type to manage, because the body responds well to a variety of training types. Workouts can thus be customized based on the kinds of workouts you enjoy and if desired, you have the flexibility to focus on a particular muscle group. General lifting guidelines are 8-10 reps for building muscle and 10-12 reps for maintaining muscle, always maxing out on the final rep. Feel free to add cardio before, during or after lifting, or even have a dedicated cardio day.
#2) Don’t Progress Too Fast – This is especially true if you are a beginner! Progressing too fast is a sure-fire way to get injured, and side-line your muscle building goals. After a brief cardio-warm up and some active stretching or foam rolling, ease into the lifting portion of your workout by doing your first set with a lighter weight. This preps your muscles and ensures proper form once you increase weight. You may need 5-6 sets of your first exercise to reach peak weight. After that, you should be pretty warm and can progress faster in subsequent exercises.
#3) Rest Right – Measure your rest so that it’s consistent and you aren’t underdoing or overdoing it. Muscles recover quickly, and waiting too long just means you can do less work in the time you have to dedicate to the gym. On the flipside, not giving yourself enough rest means incomplete recovery. You may reach failure more quickly on the next set and won’t get as much out of it. The exact amount of time you should wait depends on how much you’re lifting and the muscle group you’re working. Smaller muscles (like biceps, triceps) and lighter weights require less rest than bigger muscle groups (like glutes, hamstrings) and higher weights. Try 45 seconds to two minutes for lower weight/high reps of exercises that work smaller muscle groups (like bicep curls or tricep extension) and up to four minutes for heavy sets/low reps of exercises that work major muscle groups (like squats and deadlifts.)
#4) Make a Plan– Don’t wait until you get to the gym to figure out what you’re going to do there. Making a plan maximizes your time AND your results. Write it down on a piece of paper or the notes section of your phone, especially when you’re starting out. This not only keeps you on track during your workout, but also ensure you’re lifting in a way designed to get results, rather than haphazardly. When building muscle is the goal, it’s important to record the amount of weight you lifted, the reps you’ve completed, and even the amount of rest time you took. Once you can complete the last rep of a set comfortably, you probably need to increase the weight, cut down the rest, or both if you want to keep making progress. Keeping track and planning ahead for your next workout are key factors in reaching your goals.
#5) Fuel for Your Fitness Goals- What you do in the gym is just part of the equation when it comes to building muscle. What you eat before and after lifting is essential for providing needed energy (pre) and promoting recovery (post). If you hit the gym after work and haven’t eaten since lunch, your workout will undoubtedly suffer, and eating an afternoon or pre-workout snack is key. Post-workout, aim to refuel with carbs (yes, carbs!) AND protein within an hour of lifting to optimize your results. Hydration is also paramount. No matter what time of day you hit the gym, you should be sipping on water throughout the day as well as during your workout. Outside of exercise, a well-balanced nutrition plan is key to reaching your goals, as excess calories are stored as fat (not muscle). Furthermore, any type of intense exercise regimen taxes the body, increasing the need for antioxidants and other plant-based compounds found in fruits and vegetables.
Want to learn more about fueling for your workout? Check back next week for Registered Dietitian Alissa’s tips on what to eat before and after exercise to optimize your results. Want answers NOW? Chat with Alissa for FREE or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post was contributed by Personal Trainer & Former NFL Player Dez White and GMM Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Personal Trainer, Alissa Palladino.