Are you interested in hitting the gym? Getting muscles, losing fat, getting bigger? Or even becoming a bodybuilder?
(Update: This page is being heavily revamped during December 2022, so please bare with me during these crazy changes- I’m trying to add like 20,000 words to this over the next few weeks!!)
Look no further. This whole page is your COMPLETE guide (free!) on How to Start Lifting. There are no products I’m selling, nothing- this is all free and legitimate advice. From the beginning all the way to the end.
I will be constantly updating this, so check back frequently. The last time this page was updated was: 8/14/2021
There is no other complete guide like this. This is not some random ‘theory’ on how to put on muscle, it’s the only true and real way to put on muscle.
That’s what all those YouTube stars pushing their ‘hollywood body’ workout programs won’t tell you- their programs don’t work. They just want to make money off of you.
All of this content is free and true. If you are serious about bodybuilding, this is your page. If you aren’t serious about it, I’d recommend you turn back.
Let’s get started!
Step 1 – Making a Commitment
Lifting is not an easy commitment. You won’t go to the gym for one month then look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I’m sorry to say it, but this stuff takes months to years. In fact, you’ll probably have to weight lift for 9 months consecutively before people even look at you and think you’ve ever stepped foot in the gym.
Sure, you’ll get some muscle, but you’ll really just look ‘toned’.
The point is, you need to make this a long-term commitment.
No, you don’t need to go 7 days a week, 4 hours a day. You could even choose to just go 3 days a week.
My point is- bodybuilding is a process that takes time. Your body can only build so much muscle every month, there is a genetic limit. This means that it doesn’t matter if you go 7 days a week, twice a day, for 5 hours- you have a limit on the muscle that can be built. This again, means you have to keep going to the gym over a long period of time.
I understand, a ton of Instagram people post these revolutionary ‘7 week transformations’- they aren’t true.
The truth is, you ultimately may be in this for the long haul.
The real results- where people will start saying you lift- is around the 2 year mark.
Are you ready to make that commitment? To do something constantly for years before really seeing any progress?
If you’re able to understand that, then proceed forward. If not, the sport probably isn’t for you. I’m not trying to be mean, but it takes serious hard work.
Step 2 – Pick a Gym
Now you need to pick a gym.
This isn’t always easy. But, let’s keep it simple: try and find one that’s somewhat cheap and has a power rack and dumbbells.
Again- this is the MOST important thing. The gym should have reliable dumbbells, a power rack, and free weights. Here is a picture of what you should be looking for*
Why is this important? These are the bread and butter of becoming a bodybuilder or lifting. Machines are great supplemental tools, but you aren’t going to become a bodybuilder by just using machines. On the other hand, you can become a bodybuilder purely by using free weights.
Free weights have the advantage of you being able to change the weight and virtually workout every muscle on your body with one piece of equipment. One barbell (the longer free weight that you add weights too) will let you do the 5 “BIG” exercises to put on muscle: The bench press, the squat, barbell rows, deadlifts, and the overhead press. These are the fundamentals for putting on muscle on the body.
Without the free weights- your goals will be almost impossible to reach.
Also, don’t make it complicated by picking a gym with crazy huge space or huge posters on the wall- pick a simple gym that has the stuff you need and is close to you.
For instance, my gym is literally a 2-minute drive for me, or better yet, a 15-minute walk.
All gyms will have a free tour thing, so you can always go there during their business hours and they will show you around. Plus they often give you like a free 7-day trial or something so you can workout there and see if you like it or not.
This is super important, I’ve seen so many people that never workout again because they hate the people at their gym, the environment, or worse. So…just pick a gym that you like and enjoy. And again, make sure it has dumbbells and a power rack.
Again, this is why it is so important you check out the gym before you get a membership there. The local Planet Fitness next to me has multiple power racks and tons of dumbbells- but a vast majority of them don’t! It depends location to location.
Check out what insurance company you have, often times they have a program called ‘Active & Fit Direct’ or a different version of it that will give you a super cheap or free gym membership. Plus, you’ll have access to most gyms in the United States.
Step 3 – Pick a Program
It’s time to pick a program.
There are tons of programs, in fact, I outlined the most famous bodybuilding ones here:
Simply put, your program will depend on your goals.
For MOST people trying to get into bodybuilding, I recommend ‘The Arnold Blueprint To Mass’. This program is made by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the famous bodybuilder himself. It is the workout routine he used to get so big.
I think I like his program the most out of any bodybuilding program in the world because it basically ‘forces’ you to put on muscle. Once you do one day of his program, you’ll feel so sore. Oftentimes I did other workout programs and just didn’t feel sore at all! I felt like Arnold’s program made it impossible to NOT Be sore after a workout- which always reminded me that I was growing muscle.
Personally, if I don’t feel sore after a workout, I feel like I didn’t even workout. Plus, the amount of muscle Arnold’s Blueprint put on me said it all.
There Are Different Goals For Different People
So, not all weight lifting is the same.
Some people are going to the gym to put on muscle and look ‘shredded’. Some people just want to be like the hulk and put on a ton of muscle- not caring about the fat.
Your program choice will depend on your goals. For me, I like to stay relatively lean, keep a low bodyfat, but also have a lot of muscle. Essentially, I wanted to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger- and ultimately I think that’s why his program worked so well for me.
But, not everyone is like that, again. If you want to put on a ton of strength and muscle, you may want to look at Powerlifting programs instead!
Or, if you’re someone looking for more functional strength and muscle- for instance, let’s say you work in construction or farming- strongman programs may be better suited for you as well.
You need to think of your goals and go from there. Regardless of your goals, basically everything else on this page stays true. Having a gym with dumbbells and free weights will allow you to basically do any workout program you’d like.
Step 4 Diet – This is Where It Gets Confusing, To Build Muscle You Have To Get Fat
Right, so- when I first started by bodybuilding journey I was under the impression that essentially you workout really hard and eat ‘really healthy’ and muscle will just slam itself on.
Well, I did that for 3 months and saw about ZERO results. I mean sure, I lost a lot of fat (and muscle), and I looked leaner. But… I wasn’t actually gaining muscle…?
And I’m sure this section is about to surprise you to. Because it doesn’t make sense.
To build muscle, you HAVE to get fat.
And I don’t mean you just have to eat fat, like you genuinely have to put on body weight and fat.
People get REALLY confused about this- myself included.
All of the bodybuilders we know and love have no fat, ripped abs, ripped muscles- so why am I now telling YOU that you have to get fat?
In order to build any muscle at all, you have to gain weight. Muscle cannot pop out of thin air. This is where that science class back in middle school kicks in- Mass cannot be created or destroyed- only changed. It’s the same thing here, you need to convert food into muscle. But, in order to actually “grow muscle”, you need to actually GAIN WEIGHT that gets converted into muscle.
This means you will have to eat in what we call a, ‘caloric surplus’- essentially, you are eating enough food everyday to gain weight every single day, and our goal is converting most of that gained weight into muscle. That’s the issue, however, is that not all of that weight gained will turn into muscle, some will be fat.
So- how are the bodybuilders we know and love so ripped and lean then- if they get fat?
Well, this is how we are going to set up our new diet phases. We have one cycle called a ‘bulk’- where you gain weight. And after that cycle you do what’s called a ‘cut’- where you lose weight.
On a bulk, you eat in a caloric surplus and you gain weight. Some of that will be muscle, some will be fat.
On a ‘cut’, you eat in a caloric deficit (you are eating lower calories so you lose weight), you will lose weight, most of that weight you lose will be fat, and a very small percentage will be muscle. This is how those ripped bodybuilders lose all of that fat and look so shredded. Yes, they spend literal months doing this, getting fat, then losing all that fat to become shredded. This is a long process- but that’s why every person you see doesn’t have all of this muscle and shred, it’s hard work.
So What Does My First Day of Lifting Look Like? Show me.
I think many guides on lifting miss the mark because they don’t show someone who is new to lifting what their first day looks like- from the gym, to diet, to recovery.
Sure, most do a great job of explaining the information- but they rarely put it all together to understand.
So, what I’ve done here in this section is written up exactly what your first day of this journey will look like. That way you don’t have to piece everything together and get confused with all the information we’re bombing with you with. Just follow this below and this is a really good set-up.