I’ve decided to do a “Work Smarter Not Harder” series, and the first one will be about working out.
I started lifting weights when I was fourteen. My family got a membership to a local health club, and so I went with my dad occasionally. At that time, I only used resistance machines because, quite frankly, I was afraid of the free-weights section: there were men much bigger than I lifting much more weight than I could. I also surfed every single day and rode my bike three miles to school and three miles back, so I got a lot of exercise.
In the last fifteen years, I’ve tried every workout under the sun. I am a hard-gainer: my metabolism is super fast, I eat whatever I want without gaining a pound, and I actually lose weight if I stop lifting. I’ve also tried a number of weight-gaining techniques via diet. I’ll start with what I found works best for me in the gym, and then I will discuss my dietary choices. Let me say first that all my choices were based upon my fitness goal, which was to gain weight, mostly muscle.
When it comes to weights, I focus on low repetitions and high weight to build explosive strength rather than endurance. I try to add weight to my lifts each week to challenge my muscles and promote growth. Below is my day-by-day workout:
Barbell squats: 4 sets with 4-5 reps per set
Barbell bench press: 4 sets with 4-5 reps per set, one max. set if a spotter is available
Lat Pulldowns: 4 sets with 4-5 reps per set
Single-Arm Dumbbell Overhead Shoulder Press: 3 sets with 6-7 reps per set
Single-Arm Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets with 6-7 reps per set
Bench Jumps: 3 sets with 7 reps per set
Barbell Deadlifts: 3 sets with 3-4 reps per set
Bent-Over Barbell Rows: 3 sets with 3-4 reps per set
Weighted Bar-Dips: 3 sets with 3-4 reps per set
The days that I don’t lift, I swim twenty laps or run two and a half miles at as fast a pace as is comfortable.
None of these days takes me more than forty-five minutes. I’m not one to sit around and rest a bunch between sets or chat it up with my fellow patrons. I get in, do the work, and get on with the rest of my day.
I take two days off a week.
I don’t have a strict diet that I follow day after day, mostly because I need as many healthy calories as I can get to gain muscle. But I do focus on eating a diet rich in protein and complex carbohydrates. I eat a protein bar–Cliff Builder’s Bar–to supplement my protein intake.
I also take creatine on a daily basis: five grams a day in the morning (with chocolate milk).
It’s very important to eat a bit of protein before and especially after a workout: your muscles are starving and you need protein to help rebuild.
I’ve tried counting calories, but I got to the point where I was trying to eat until I felt lethargic and sick: not good.
So this is what works for me. I’ve gained twenty pounds of muscles in about three months, and I feel better than ever. You just have to stay committed to it. The mental game is the most important of all.