I was once a thin man myself with very low self-esteem and poor athletic skills weighing in at about 150 pounds at 6’2″. I was very unhappy about my physique. I tried out for sports but sat on the bench 90% of the time. In grade school, I would be one of the last kids picked for sports in gym class. What a terrible feeling that was! I took up the sport of motocross and speedway racing for 7 years doing some weightlifting for upper body strength. After I walked away from motocross, I got more involved in wanting to change my physique. There was no direction on how to gain muscle and quality body weight because all I ever heard about was diets and weight loss.
Now after lifting the past 33 years and holding over 200 titles in drug free weightlifting events in Regional, National and World level, I am happy to share my knowledge with others. I have trained a team as well as myself to go the World Championships. The Illinois team I was on, won the World team trophy in 2006.
Before starting an exercise program, make sure to get a clean bill of health from your physician. Next, decide if you will train at a fitness center or setup camp at home with your own equipment. You will want to get a gym bag, lock, workout clothing, quality shoes, a water bottle, food and training journal along with an MP3 player to listen to music while training.
Now that you are ready, sit down and evaluate your physique. Figure out what you want to work on the most. Is it strength, overall size, balancing your physique, cardio conditioning, sport training or just general health. The training program options are endless, so if you don’t have the knowledge then you should hire a trainer to set up a program for your specific needs and goals. Make sure you tell them if you have little or no experience. If your goal is to get bigger and buff but stay lean, make sure to tell them. They will need all the information they can get to put together a quality training and nutrition program for you.
I started by sticking with basic exercises while working out 4 days a week. I always do my workouts within a one hour time period. Any longer then that and you are either overtraining or socializing too much. After stretching and warming up, I do my lifting using the pyramid system going from 12 reps per set down to 3 reps per set, while increasing the weight on each set. As far as sets per muscle group, I pick 3 exercises for large muscle groups being legs, back and chest and do 4 sets per exercise. For shoulders and arms, I choose 2 exercises and do 4 sets for each one. Always make sure to use good form on the exercises using a full range of motion. Depending on your level of experience, I prefer free weights for 90% of my training. Machines are more forgiving and quicker, so if you have not worked out in a while you may want to go with machines for the first few weeks to get your body ready for what’s coming.
Make sure to change your program once every 4-6 weeks using different exercises and change up the order of exercises. Don’t expect results in days, weeks or months. Fitness is truly a lifestyle and as a hard gainer, it will take time to get the gains you seek. After training a few months, if you’re not gaining then you are more than likely not consuming enough calories and protein in your diet on a regular basis. This is considering the fact that you are in fact training hard. Remember, you need to train big and eat big to get results!
I found that nutrition was the key that helped me pack on hard-earned muscle combined with smart training. I have kept a food and training journal all these years, which you should do also. Your journal is a blue print to your success. Make sure you write everything down like your sets, reps, weight lifted, energy level, sleep, stress, goals wanted, goals achieved, carbohydrates, calories, protein, fats, sodium and the length of your workouts. The more information you document, the better you or a trainer can look at to make positive changes that are needed.
I eat the same foods today as when I started. Those foods are cod, tilapia, orange roughy, shrimp, lean beef, eggs and low-fat dairy products for my protein sources. I also choose a quality protein supplement that has a blend of multiple proteins in it. I bake, broil, grill and rotisserie my meats. For carbohydrates, I eat rice, pasta, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, fresh fruits and vegetables. I try to make sure I eat about once every 3 hours to maintain a positive nitrogen balance and maintain good energy through the day. Personally I started with a daily calorie intake of 2,400 splitting up my food groups with a nutritional breakdown of 55% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 15% healthy fats.
Being consistent with training and eating will help you reach results. Make sure to set specific goals and specific dates you are looking to reach them. Write them down and make them visible.
We should all be thankful we have the ability to exercise and eat healthy. It’s a choice just as everything else is in our lives. There are many people who are unable to exercise due to illness or disease like people who live in countries that have limited resources. We should look at eating healthy and exercise as something we get to do, not something we have to do. I wish everyone the very best with their individual health and wellness!