For the majority of gym-goers and aspiring bodybuilders, the main focus and centre of attention is the transformation in physique, whether it is toning, or bulking. After training regularly for five years, however, it is interesting to also note the transformation in knowledge surrounding all aspects of the gym; workouts, nutrition, supplements – the lot. About five years ago, a friend and I stepped into our first gym with the hopes and dreams of looking like the great Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbo, but with little, to no idea on how to do it properly – I was the one hoping to be Franco Columbo, being 5’5 myself, on a good day… Met with an array of what seemed confusing machinery, slightly worn set of iron dumbbells and intimidated by the wrongly stereotyped ‘aggressive roid-heads’ it appeared the dream wasn’t going to accomplished in just a few weeks of training.
Seeing beginners at the gym regularly, and their routines, I think to myself, ‘what are they doing?’, shaking my head in disbelief, but looking back at some memories of my first years of training, I still cringe at some of the mistakes we made; training all muscle groups (we didn’t class legs as a muscle group until about the third year of training…) in a single session lasting about 90 minutes, 5 days a week – I still cannot work out why I thought that was a good training routine – more cringe worthy though was the thought that 1 exercise, 3 sets of 12 reps, on chest, bicep, back, shoulder and triceps would be enough to win bodybuilding competitions. This one exercise didn’t vary either, although occasionally we dared to do both flat bench and incline bench. A staunch belief that diet didn’t matter as long as we both had that one protein shake, which I took during a session, was enough to see muscles pop out like Popeye is another highlight.
The funniest, and if not, most embarrassing moment of the beginning of our gym careers came when my friend approached a well-built lad in the gym, and in asking him for assistance, confused his terminology and asked, ‘hi mate, could you squat me?’ pointing to a spare bench – the look on his face cemented the realisation of us being ‘gym newbies’. One of the problems in starting a specific training routine is that there are so many to choose from, with a huge variation in the number of reps and sets that people suggest, the intensity, and the number of exercises.
The most important thing to realise though is that what works for some people, doesn’t work for others; there is no single routine that is the ‘perfect’ routine. Fast forward 5 years and now with a regularly changing training routing for whether we are cutting or bulking, with an array of exercises and rep ranges to cover each muscle group being trained on specific days, and probably most importantly a vastly improved diet, it is fascinating to look back and see this transformation, and by no means believe that we’ve finished learning.