When I was 18 years old, the Internet was already here, but it had not penetrated every aspect of life. The online realm was empty compared to the obese data centers we have today. Unsurprisingly, most sites were politically correct and suited the mainstream agenda.
Due to the lack of alternative information, we had no choice but to ride the wave of infatuation and learn the hard way – through experience. There was nobody to tell us who is natty or not. The leaders and their followers were too busy discussing the best time to take your daily dose of glutamine.
Nevertheless, there is no need to get sad and experience regret. I had an opportunity – to feel the coldness of the universe and lose my innocence. This was my path, and I am grateful. It could have been much worse. I was lucky and learned a lot at a decent price.
Today, I will share some of that knowledge and wisdom with you. This article goes to the young souls, but men with experience can also benefit from a return to the basics.
Below are 18 things that every 18-year-old should know before entering the muscle factory.
1. They will try to recruit you. They will lie. A lot.
The muscle industry wants your fresh blood. The magicians, the gurus, the gym owners, the supplement companies, the media…they are all after your resources.
The money in the muscle sector comes from the new recruits, for they have coins to spend and enough motivation to make a world tour by foot if this is what it takes to build large muscles and lift bending barbells.
All the experts are fighting for an opportunity to fill the noob’s cranium with “revolutionary ideas”. They want you in their camp. They want you to subscribe and stay under their wing for as long as possible. They want to recruit you in their army.
They will promise you the sky and the mountains. They will tell you that you can have it all if you follow their path. Some will rely on science; others will hit the right part of your brain – the emotional zone.
They will keep pushing and guiding you during your journey to ascension. Once they have your trust, they will make you work for them. You are their soldier.
Do you want that? To be a soldier? To follow orders? To do as they tell you? Yes, there are times when kids should shut up and obey, for they lack wisdom, but never forget that this world is not designed to render the flight easy for you. Quite the opposite. You are here to be tested. To get provoked. To get hit. And when it’s all said and done, you may find yourself on the losing side of the battlefield, for you have embraced a false doctrine.
Don’t sign the contract. Don’t let them get to you. Learn from them but don’t become their property. Be friends with those who deserve your friendship but never base someone’s worth on his or hers verbal production. In this life, the strongest words are silence and action. The only friends that you have are those next to you when the bank is closed, and the music is not playing.
Remember that every guru wants you to believe that his way is the best way. To achieve this goal, he will undermine all other methods while paraphrasing the flaws of his own strategy.
2. There are no special routines or tactics.
Going to bed at two in the morning with red eyes is common when you are a beginner looking for the perfect routine – the one that is going to produce the amazing gains you have always wanted.
Let me tell you the truth loud and clear – that routine does not exist. Don’t spend time overthinking. Select a handful of exercises and get good at them over time. Change things that have to change along the way but don’t think that there is a routine designed just for you.
Don’t you understand? This is how they get you hooked.
“This program didn’t work…but the next one…”
This is the so-called routine infatuation – the belief that by playing with the training variable you can create miracles. Yes, the way you train is very important, but as long as a blueprint has a progression mechanism, it will take you where you need to go eventually.
The routine infatuation has been infesting the mind of the beginner for far too long. It is time to shred it in a turbine engine.
Just get the basics right and move on. Invest the saved time in something that will actually make a difference in your life.
Forget about special soviet tactics or other voodoo. Just follow a simple basic routine and tailor it to your body’s feedback and results.
3. You probably need direct arm work like a fat girl needs a diet.
The 5×5 zealots love to shame direct arm work. After all, the leaders of their crews often say that squats “make your whole system grow” and therefore should be the backbone of every routine.
Someone with a working brain and some experience shouldn’t have a hard time realizing that this is not the case.
Ultimately, it’s really simple.
Squats build your legs, hips and to some extent your back.
Deadlifts build your hamstrings, hips and back.
Neither squats nor deadlifts are an arm exercise.
If you want to maximize the size of your arms, direct work is in order.
If there was a gun to your head, what would you do to make your arms grow? Rack pulls? Squats? Deadlifts? Obviously none of that.
Direct arm work has a bad reputation thanks to the imbeciles who do nothing else, but in themselves, arm exercises are very useful and functional.
If you aren’t blessed with good arm genetics, biceps and triceps isolation is part of the menu. This is the case for torso dominant individuals with gorilla arms. Chin-ups and regular benches won’t cut it. You need to attack your weaknesses DIRECTLY. Don’t listen to the wannabe saints. Become the motherfucker who does 20 sets for biceps and triceps to the point where you can’t touch your nose due to the boiling blood in your arms.
Having said that, don’t make arms your focus right away if you are a total beginner. Learn the fundamental exercises first and then add the ornaments.
4. You don’t need any supplements.
Let me save you some trouble – ignore all supplements. All of them. Forget about protein powder, creatine, glutamine…everything. You don’t need amino dust to reach your maximum potential.
Supplements are processed food in powder form. Therefore, they are as effective as food at best. The sole reason for their existence is to monetize muscle building. The industry has to sell you something to make money. Since steroids are expensive, come with harsh side effects and are not politically correct, powders in various forms were synthesized save the day.
Supplements are extremely overrated. Most studies supporting the anabolic effects of powders favor the magic powders sold to you for lucrative reasons. Regular food is better, and you are buying it anyway. Contrary to popular belief, you are not at a disadvantage if you go without supplements because they aren’t essential.
By the way, the producer is irrelevant. Even if I launch a supplement company and call it NattyNutrition, my supplements would still be…supplements.
Nobody cares about you, boy. It’s all about the money. Your favorite YouTubers who are seemingly against the industry know how ineffective supplements are and yet many of them are still selling nonsense like pre-workouts. The fans are supposed to believe that the alternative goods are more potent just because they don’t come from the mainstream pit, but there is absolutely no logic behind this belief because the production force and the incentive behind the product are the same in both cases.
5. Bulking is a scam.
Once the organism’s energy needs are satisfied, the extra calories are stored as fat regardless of the source. It does not matter whether the excess comes from grass-fed Argentinian beef or Doritos. All surplus goes to the adipose tissue department.
Even if you eat all the protein in the universe, the pre-determined muscle protein synthesis of your body will not change. Food does not have the capacity to alter this process whereas steroids do.
Yet the experts advise the noobs to bulk up to extraterrestrial levels. Consequently, many young warriors acquire big bellies while deluding themselves that they are just a few pounds away from visible abs. Most of the time those few pounds are closer to 20 or 30.
Do yourself a favor and do not overeat unless you are training for a sumo championship.
6. You have to get stronger through consistency.
Exercises alone do not result in strength and growth. Getting good at them is what makes the difference. Anyone can perform a movement. It’s not the exercise itself, but the improvement that produces results.
To benefit from this law, you need two things – consistency and patience. Don’t change your main focus too often. Stick to the basics and expect progress only when you have paid for it.
Don’t think that you are missing out by not doing the sexy stuff. You are not.
How do you get stronger?
By forcing the body to adapt to specific stress – in this case lifting weights.
How does the body respond to that stimulus?
1. By building bigger muscles.
2. By forging thicker muscles.
3. By increasing the strength of the connective tissues.
4. By developing a strong nervous system capable of triggering high-intensity effort.
Hence, strength training always results in growth or at least muscle thickening – the diameter of the muscle may not change, but the density of the tissue increases and gives you the tough string look.
7. Don’t do low bar squats.
Low bar squats are a powerlifting invention that does not offer benefits to a noob. This modification of the original exercise allows you to lift more weight by increasing the stress on the hips at the expense of the quadriceps, but the shift isn’t beneficial to the average novice.
The high bar back squat is a better leg builder, arguably easier to learn and far more shoulder friendly.
Mark Rippetoe and his army have been doing their best to justify the implementation of the low bar squat through all kinds of maneuvers. One of them would be the assessment that the low bar squat is better than the high bar because it hits the almighty posterior chain harder. This is indeed true – one of the fastest ways to grow a big booty is to do low bar squats a.k.a. cheated good mornings. But as I already told you, this comes at the expense of leg development.
The fans of low bar squats will tell you that the movement gets you stronger faster by allowing you to lift more weight, but that isn’t true. You are not getting stronger faster, you are simply doing a squat version that gives you an opportunity to lift more. More weight on the bar does not always equal more strength. If this was the case, doing rack pulls would make deadlifts obsolete.
8. The best exercises are:
Chest: bench press, dips, push-ups
Back: deadlifts, pull-ups, rows, strict shrugs
Biceps & brachialis: dumbbell curls, barbell curls, incline DB curls, hammer curls
Triceps: lying triceps extensions, dips, close grip bench, close grip push-ups
Shoulders: bench press, dips, rows, overhead press, side laterals, pull-ups
Hamstrings: deadlifts, leg curls
Quads: high bar squats, front squats, leg presses
Calves: Standing calf raises, seated calf raises
Forearms: wrist curls, wrist rolling
Performing an exercise at the expense of joint pain is not worth it. If something is not working for you, find the reasons and eliminate the problem. If you can’t, you have no choice but to replace the movement.
9. You don’t need a weightlifting belt unless you’re injured.
The belt is a crutch that helps you lift heavier weights by making your core more rigid. The wizards will try to justify the implementation of a belt by saying that it makes your abs stronger faster by giving them something to push against, but that’s only partially true. A belt may do that, but it also takes stress off the ligaments just like wrist wraps do.
You need a belt only if you are injured. Otherwise, it makes more sense to train without one. As long as you progress methodically and preserve a reasonable form, your core will adapt.
10. Nobody cares about your efforts in the gym unless there is money on the table or insane results.
A long time ago, I had a chance to communicate extensively with a woman working at the reception of a commercial gym. She told me that most of the visitors look like they don’t even lift. Yet I knew that some people were training hard (2-hour long sessions full of pain). I was one of them, of course.
She was dismissive of our effort because our physiques didn’t live up to the illusion in her mind created by steroid users and the media. The same destiny awaits many of you, young warriors. You can lift weights to death, but all your struggles will remain invisible until the materialistic expectations manifest.
Your family will be no different. It wouldn’t care about your PRs when the activity does not result in money on the table or a body that drags everyone into a stupor. If neither of those conditions is met, your fight will remain misunderstood.
That is the nature of the game. The sooner you understand it, the less it will hurt in the future.
11. Don’t develop OCDs
The industry wants you to feel guilty. They want you to behave like a cult follower – only in contact with other members of the sect; only listening to the leader; doing as they tell you; feeling guilty and inadequate when you fail to satisfy the requirements of the doctrine.
Many beginners develop OCDs because of this brainwashing.
“I didn’t get my protein at the right time! What am I going to do? I will lose all my gains. It’s over.”
Sounds familiar? There is no need to obsess. You are not going to deconstruct upon missing a meal or a workout. We are not that fragile. Don’t overthink and move on. Besides, doing everything by the book is not nearly as effective as you may think. The difference between good enough and perfect is slim to none when it comes to the final outcome. Ironically, they don’t want you to know that because they control you through your self-criticism.
12. Don’t spend too much time reading and watching YouTube.
In big enough quantities, everything becomes poison. Information is not any different. You can find trucks of info about any subject online, but do you actually need all of it? Do you have to know? Do you really benefit from hearing everyone’s opinion? From seeing everyone’s photos on social media? From listening to all the wisdom? Do you? I know I don’t. Past a certain threshold, the data loses its value. It becomes spam flooding your head with info that results in self-hatred (social media induced depression), overthinking (looking for the perfect solution), dopamine receptor burnout (you don’t feel pleasure from previously joyful activities), confusion, envy, unrealistic expectations…etc.
The human mind has a hard time consuming so much information. In order for that to happen, a major brain rewiring is in order. That process is not healthy in the long term. Sooner or later, you will have to log off or the digital ocean will eat your soul.
You will get further when you stop looking for the cutting edge and just do by feel. To hell with being perfect and Internet approved.
13. You will never be happy and that’s ok.
“When I deadlift 2 plates I will be happy…”
“When I deadlift 3 plates I will be happy…”
“When I deadlift 4..5..6…plates I will be happy…”
No, you won’t.
This is not how things work, my friend. We are never satisfied. You can’t have what you want without a sacrifice, but even if you pay the price and acquire the dream, something else will start torturing your soul soon enough. We are never at rest. Never in true peace. Tormented by desires until the end.
Some people have everything you have ever wanted and yet they still suffer from extreme depression. Why? What is their problem? Are they spoiled? Are they ungrateful?
Maybe they are…up to a point. But before all, they are alive and therefore slaves to the mechanisms. As long as you live and breathe, you are subject to life’s laws, which say that pain is the major theme of our existence.
When you hit a PR, you will be happy for a day or two. The next week things will return to normal. That’s the way it is supposed to be according to the big books. Don’t worry. You will get used to it…maybe.
14. When you are sad, go get a pump, son.
It is that night again. The night when you are alone with the demons. The video games are not exciting anymore. The TV series and songs are empty. You see through them as the mind sees through life before dying. You are alone with your loneliness. Bathing in envy and “what-could-have-beens” if you’d done the right thing. What do you do? Look for motivational quotes on Facebook? Go ahead. More fuel for suffering is what you will find there. The perfect people living the perfect lives. Traveling. Smiling in the hug of their loved ones. Happy dogs with open mouths on a spring day.
The sun is shining for everyone else, but what about you? Has the sun forgotten your soul? Will your turn to be in the shadows ever end?
For what is worth, all people have those moments. Remember? The main motif is pain.
Are we born to learn how to suffer with a smile? Maybe. We’ll learn soon enough.
How do you kill the demons? You don’t. You let them be. You can’t beat them any more than you can beat the harsh sun. The only thing you can do is coexist and protect yourself. Get that Vitamin D without letting them burn you.
To accomplish that, you have to clear your mind for a second. You have to exhaust your being. You have to infect yourself on purpose to push the fog away. Lifting is a good method to achieve this goal.
When depression starts climbing and climbing, exhaustion is one of the ways to re-acquire a more balanced mindset. Thinking clearly and more positively after a workout is one of lifting’s hidden benefits. Use it to your advantage.
15. If you have to ask, they are probably not natural.
When you first go to the gym, you are inclined to believe that Olympia men like Ronnie Coleman are not natural.
When you spend a year in the gym, you are inclined to believe that even the fitness models are not natural.
When you spend one more year in the gym, you are inclined to assume that most of the bigger guys in your gym and on YouTube are not natural.
If somebody’s musculature is truly standing out and looks otherworldly, chances are he isn’t natural.
16. Record your PRs, but don’t become a form fanatic.
Form is important because it allows you to lift heavy weights safely, but people obsess unnecessarily over it. How many times do you have to hear the same cues over and over again?
You can go to as many seminars as you want, but you will quickly reach the point of diminishing returns.
Talking about form is easy and fancy when the weight is light, but once the barbell gets heavy, the sexy voodoo becomes impossible.
The most important part is to get the basics down and never break them. All else is overthinking.
Record your PRs. If there’s a significant form breakdown, fix the issue, but don’t spend your nights looking at videos of experts repeating the same speeches.
17. Don’t do odd lifting. Stick to the basics.
1-inch rack pulls and deadlifts between the balls may be fashionable these days thanks to YouTubers like Eric Bugenhagen and Alpha Destiny, but that type of training is not that beneficial for the average person. The awkwardness does not offer a worthy return on your investment as far as gains are concerned. Odd training may be entertaining, but it sure as hell isn’t neat or rational.
Do yourself a favor and stick to the very basic exercises. Those men are big not because they are training in this fashion but despite of it.
18. Understand the limitations in front of you.
You can’t avoid the crash. You can only postpone it. One day you will learn that what you want is not possible naturally. You will realize that the dream has been a lie all along. And nobody would apologize. It’s all on you. As I told you already, the world wants to break you and extract whatever you have to offer. It’s as simple as that.
You can lie to yourself for as long as you want. You can seek support online or offline, but eventually, the results will wake you up.
Ignorance is a bliss, but also a source of never-ending frustration and lack of progress. Not knowing forces you to try harder, but what happens when you hit the wall for real? You suffer even more because you have spent extra time fantasizing.