1. It takes a long time to get big. Years. I’m not talking Hulk big, maybe Aquaman or Flash, whoever, it still takes a long time. And when you reach 40 your testosterone levels drop and even with a lot of work, the average person will only put on about 5 lbs of lean muscle. SO, start young. I really don’t need more than 5 lbs of lean muscle added each year. In three years, that would be 15 lbs. That’s plenty big for me. It’s not a bad thing that it takes a long time, but if you are just starting out, don’t lose heart. Just keep at it. If you are in it for the long haul you’ll get less frustrated.
2. Six packs are mostly a nutrition thing. They show up when you have a low percentage of body fat. There are bathroom scales that measure body fat percentages (around 30 bucks). I have one, and it’s cool. Oh,and if you want valleys and ridges in your six pack (once you are lean–I’m not yet) you’ll need to work them the way you do other muscle groups, with weights once a week pretty hard. You can work them every day, too, but your muscles will develop differently. Someone who runs every day will have strong legs ready for endurance stress, but they probably aren’t as likely to get as big as the guy who does squats and dead lifts. From what I can tell, your abs work the same way.
3. Muscles aren’t built when you lift. That’s when they get beat up. They get bigger when they recover and come back stronger. When do they do that? While you sleep, so get a good night’s sleep or you won’t grow.
4. If someone looks crazy big they are probably using steroids. If you want to look like them, I wouldn’t bother asking them for advice because unless they really trust you, they’ll just make something up. Why? Because steroids are illegal. I don’t judge guys who juice though. In my opinion it’s just another supplement. I won’t be using them because with my hypotrophic cardiomyopathy, I can’t imagine it being a good idea. From what I hear, once you stop using 90% of what you gain fizzles anyway.
5. You have to be careful about the way you cut weight if you want to keep the muscle you’ve worked hard to gain. It’s not as easy as eating less and moving around more. In fact, at my current weight (195) I have to eat about 2200 calories to lose a pound of fat a week. Anymore weight than that is supposedly cutting into your storage of muscle. Having said that, I’m not sure you can really believe any thing you read about calories and nutrition. There are a bazillion theories about “what works” and some are contradictory. I do know I’ve lost weight while strength training in the past and did it pretty fast, and my muscle growth was lame during that time. I’ve decided this time around to focus on gaining mass, so that means I’ll focus on eating enough of the right kind of calories, doing cardio 30 minutes a day, keeping my workouts mixed up and getting plenty of rest (the hardest part for me, actually).
6. If you are not breathing hard and struggling to push out the last rep of each set that you do, you probably aren’t challenging your muscles enough for them to grow.
I seem to discover new things no one told me about strength training every week, so I’m sure i’ll add to this list as time goes by. If anyone has any of their own surprises, please share. A good dose of realism goes a long way in this hobby.