How Much Push Ups Should A 15 Year Old Do Critical Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Training to Help You Maximize Muscle and Fat Loss

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Critical Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Training to Help You Maximize Muscle and Fat Loss

As a longtime trainer, I’ve learned a LOT of lessons about building muscle and losing fat. But nothing beats the learning curve of my first year of training. I haven’t always progressed well. In my first year of coaching, I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot the hard way. I also did some things quite correctly by accident! Read some of the most important lessons I learned in the very first year of my coaching career.

AT FIRST…

I wanted nothing more than to grow big and strong. I had been an endurance athlete all through high school (cross-country running, speed skating, skiing) but I wanted to change things up. I was 17 and skinny and jumped into bodybuilding with both feet. I saved some money, bought the Cybergenics supplement program (Mistake #1! – Basically, it was just an expensive multivitamin) and started working out. It was in June 1991, just before summer. I had a good program and started getting stronger right away, but I wasn’t really gaining much muscle. However, I was absolutely torn to the bone! At the end of the summer, I was still about 150 pounds all wet (where I started 4 months earlier), but I swear I was about 4-5% body fat. When you can see the dividing line between your upper pecs and lower pecs without flexing your chest, you know you have low body fat!

LESSON 1

I wasn’t eating ALMOST enough or often enough and wasn’t getting enough protein. I would roller skate or bike to the gym first thing in the morning and do my workout, not eating anything immediately after workout. I was going home on rollerblades and then I was eating a bowl of cereal. Then I would work as a lifeguard the rest of the day, eating maybe once or twice more that day, my biggest meal being dinner.

Then it was off to college…

Fresh out of high school, I enrolled in college that fall. I had learned my lesson about not eating enough and was determined to make up for it. And I made up for it…with cafeteria food! Some people drink too much in their first year of college – I ate too much. Not wanting to knock the food service there, but I’m just sure they fried the salad. To show you my knowledge of nutrition at the time, I would order (in the interest of trying to reduce fat levels in my diet) fried eggs and cut out the yolks, eating only the whites (which were brilliant with overused cooking oil) . All this without realizing that I would have been better off cutting out the whites and eating the yolks (that’s where the fat emulsifying lecithin and most of the good nutrients in the egg are!). Eight months later, at the end of my first year of school, I was 70 pounds heavier, about half of which was actually muscle mass. At one point I sat down and calculated my calorie intake on some of my “big meal” days and found it to be almost 9,000 calories per day!

LESSON 2

When I learned my lesson about eating more to gain muscle, I didn’t learn the lesson that you can eat WAY too much and you can easily eat the wrong kinds of foods. Sure, I got big and strong, but I probably went from 5% body fat to 15-20% body fat at the same time. NOT the results I was looking for! What I had to do was eat more, yes, but also eat better quality food. That, on top of that, I’m pretty sure all the “Weight Gain 3000” type supplements I was taking didn’t help matters! Looking at the ingredients, it was mostly cheap milk protein and maltodextrin (a cheap high glycemic carb source).

University education…

As I ate more in college, I also intensified my training. I was trying to do more and more sets and use more and more weight. Because I was eating so much more, I was still making great progress! Also, being then 18 years old, I could beat the tar off myself in the gym and recover from it pretty much without a problem. I was seeing increases in strength and body weight almost daily. But then something happened… something that opened my eyes… a workout, I was in the gym for almost 2 and a half hours!

LESSON 3

I was training WAY too long and with too many sets. I was still making progress, but only because I ate a lot. Little did I know that I could actually make BETTER progress by drastically reducing my training time. From that day on I always stopped my workouts at 1 o’clock no matter where I was in the program. And it did wonders for my results. I think the week after I started cutting my strength went up and my weight went up 10 pounds. It opened my eyes. During the spring semester, I tried a program you might be familiar with, if you’ve been training for a while: Leo Costa’s Serious Growth. At that point, I started training twice a day, six days a week, but only 45 minutes per session, max. Still eating a ton of food every day, I made great progress with this system and learned the benefits of keeping my eyes on (and cycling) training volume.

But I totally neglected cardio training…

At the beginning of the eight months I was furiously trying to increase my body weight, I had read that when trying to gain muscle, you had to cut back on cardio training. Aerobic work could burn calories which could be used by the body for muscle building and could physiologically interfere with the muscle building process. Well, I took it a bit too far and cut cardio training altogether. My thought was that I was doing cardio in the summer (I was skating at the gym and back) and I hadn’t gained muscle. When I was training in endurance, I didn’t gain muscle. So maybe cutting it was necessary. So I didn’t even barely climb stairs unless I had to.

LESSON #4

Too much cardio training (especially long-duration cardio training) CAN interfere with muscle growth, of course, but as I’ve learned since then, SOME cardio training should always be part of any mass-building program. . The key is to do the RIGHT kind of cardio training (i.e. interval training, which can actually help the muscle building process). Let me put it this way, it’s good to be big and strong, but when you’re big and big and strong and you lose your breath walking up a flight of stairs, you’re not exactly at the peak of health. Plus, think of it like this…you NEED good cardiovascular function when you’re training for muscle mass. What pumps blood and nutrients to the muscles? What helps you recover faster between sets? Cardio and strength training are not mutually exclusive concepts. I now include it in ALL my muscle building programs.

What happened at the end of the school year?

Well, at that point, being big and strong but big and fat, I decided I had to burn off the excess (the old bulk and cut concept). But then I made a BIG mistake. I resumed similar habits that had made me lose weight the previous summer. I wasn’t eating enough to sustain the muscle mass I had built and I wasn’t eating enough protein.

I also started running again, which at this point, having not done cardio training for 8 months, was a HARD lesson to learn. Imagine going from a 150 pound long distance runner who can run 3 miles in about 15 minutes to a 220 pound weightlifter who can’t even run slowly for more than 3 minutes at a time! Now even though I was trying to do long duration cardio, it was more like interval training because I had to stop and walk every few minutes. As I got into better cardio shape, I started running longer distances (wish I had stuck to the intervals – I didn’t know that!). And I lost weight and I lost a little fat but I lost A LOT of muscle at the same time. Nothing is more depressing than losing what you have worked so hard to build. I didn’t lose all my muscle and strength, but it was enough to set me back.

LESSON #5

What you should eat and how you should train are actually quite similar when trying to build muscle or burn fat. The main differences are in the amount of food you eat and training variables such as rest periods and heart rate. You should always eat plenty of protein, no matter what your goals are, and you should always lift heavy weights, even when on a fat loss program (this is how you tell your body to maintain its muscles). Increasing cardio rate, eating fewer calories, and reducing rest periods between sets will move the fat burning process in the right direction. Don’t starve yourself and go crazy by dramatically increasing your training workload.

So what happened during my second year of training?

That’s a story for another day… it’s about going so far in reverse from my freshman year of training that I had my roommate throw a pot of water he was making boil for spaghetti because it had added a pinch of salt (never forget that the sauce we used already contained about 20 times more salt)!

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