By Brandon Curry, IFBB Pro
[Q] Brandon, when you’re first starting out or returning from a long layoff, what’s the right kind of split to follow?
[A] First-time lifters tend to respond to any kind of training initially as long as it’s not too advanced. They can get away with full-body splits done three times a week, or twice-a-week splits. But I wouldn’t say there’s necessarily a right kind of split; I like the basics. Make sure you ease back into your training, increasing the intensity each week, as well as the volume (number of exercises and sets) rather than trying to get back to where you were all at once.
[Q] Some people say that I need to do a limited amount of sets per bodypart as a beginner. Why? What’s the right number?
[A] I don’t think that a beginner has a right number of sets they need to do. I wish it were that linear and straightforward. Basically, start off where you can make improvements. Don’t just jump right in with five or six sets of an exercise. Two or three sets is a good gauge because you can improve on that, adding weight as you get stronger or additional exercises. This is more important than going right in with heavy volume.
[Q] Are there precautionary measures I should take to ensure that I stay healthy and strong?
[A] As a beginner, you’ve got to realize that you’re learning, and that you have plenty of time to invest in building a better physique. So, are you training smart? Does your nutrition support your training? Are you stretching after workouts to keep your flexibility up? Are you getting enough rest during the week? Are you using the right supplements? If you’re doing these basics, you’re on the right track. If you have to go back and re-learn the basics later because of an injury or early mistakes, that’s not good. Just make sure that you don’t ignore the basics and you’ll be fine.
[Q] Big guys have big pecs and big arms. What lifts should I build my routine around to gain the most size?
[A] Well, you can’t simply build a routine around bench presses and curls in order to get big like those guys. You have to build a foundation with other lifts in order to stabilize and counterbalance the musculature in your biceps and pecs. If you train just those beach muscles, it’s just going to lead to injuries because every muscle has an antagonist that works around particular joints. If you build up just one side (think bigger biceps) but neglect the triceps, the joint isn’t well stabilized and set up for eventual injury.
Every lifter should learn the deadlift. If you learn how to use the deadlift properly, it can help you structurally with developing your posterior chain (back, glutes, hams) and help you avoid some of those issues people develop when they focus on the mirror muscles. Quite frankly, it’s the hardest lift, so if you can do it properly you’re setting yourself up for success in arguably every other lift.
Brandon boils it down to four basic rules for beginners looking to get serious about their physique.
1) Form: Always use proper form — it’s probably the most important component because it allows you to recruit muscles properly, promotes greater strength and reduces the risk of injury.
2) Patience: Leave ego out of your training. Don’t focus on weight loads because you have plenty of time to get stronger.
3) Nutrition: Eating the right kinds of foods and supplements at the right times is very important and shouldn’t be underestimated. Too many beginners focus too heavily on the training aspect, but foods supply the raw materials for your muscles to grow.
4) Rest: Resist the urge to train too frequently or too intensely in the beginning. Rest and recovery are vitally important to helping you gain strength and size. You don’t grow while you train — you grow while you rest.