A lot of people have approached me since I started working out for advice on how to start out. This is both endearing and a little odd since I’m miles away from Arnold :muscle:. The demographic also tends to be people in STEM, so I’m glad we’re working on killing stereotypes. I still consider myself a beginner. Nonetheless, I wanted to record some of the things I’ve learned since starting my fitness journey and some of the common advice I dish out. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, fitness is a life long journey.

Last updated Feb. 20 2022

Note Dec. 24 2023: I didn’t fully stick with this when I started really focusing on research, but I wish I did, and you should!

Why is it important to you?

Fitness and working out has incredible benefits on your mental and physical health. It’s an avenue to increase your cognition, self-esteem, and strength (among other things) all in one place. Your reward for working out is proportional to the amount of effort you put in.

Once you get over the initial hump, exercise is addicting. It feels good to move your body, to abolish mental obstacles we place on ourselves, and to watch your body transform as you put the work in. The gym is a place I’ll always feel home in.

“It is a disgrace to grow old through sheer carelessness before seeing what manner of man you may become by developing your bodily strength and beauty to their highest limit.” -Socrates

What should I do?

The worst thing you can do is wait. A lot of common things you hear from those who never start is:

  • I’m too busy!
  • School’s taking up all of my time.
  • I need time to relax.

Everyone has free time to some degree. I’m guilty of cutting down gym time severely for studying technical interviews and exams. However busy times get, you always have some time to commit to the gym. Even 15-30 minutes messing around with machines helps form a habit.

Instead of:

  • Scrolling on social media
  • Watching youtube/tv/twitch
  • Chatting on discord

Go to the gym!

You probably have more free time than you think. Just showing up matters so, so, much. Without the discipline or drive to show up you won’t get far.

What routine do I follow?

This all depends on your goal. I only know about muscle building (focused on hypertrophy), some other goals include

I don’t do any strength or cardiovascular training on its own, but above are good links for both. I recommend doing extra research and planning a routine that best suits you (and if you’d like, reach out to me and I’ll help you)

For muscle building, you’ll typically want to run a PPL (push pull legs) split. You’re grouping the pushing and pulling muscles into either own day, and you do legs on another day

  s m t w t f s
6 day schedule push pull legs push pull legs rest
3 day schedule rest push rest pull rest legs rest

This will allow you to maximize the amount of workouts you can do, since your workouts generally won’t overlap with other days and your muscles will have adequate enough time to rest.

Here’s a link to a schedule that’s good for a PPL schedule.

The most important thing to understand while working out for muscle building is the concept of progressive overload. Progressive overload, in short, means you progressively add on more volume or weight to your workouts as time goes on. If one week you can curl 15lbs for 8 repetitions for 4 sets, try 9 repetitions the next week! This will place more stress on your muscles as time goes on. As you get stronger your exercises should get harder.

Your workouts should never be easy.

If you’re using a premade schedule and you don’t know what an exercise is, google a YouTube tutorial. Don’t be afraid to try and substitute exercises in that you think look cool!

What should I eat?

Building muscle or burning fat starts in the kitchen. Without a proper diet, all of your progress in the gym is nullified.

I like to follow a loose-ish diet. That doesn’t mean I eat everything I want, and it certainly doesn’t mean that don’t take nutrition seriously.

I approach dieting by starting with my caloric maintenance (calculate here). I eat 500 calories below for a cut (losing fat while trying to maintain muscle) and I eat 300-400 calories above for bulking (gaining minimal fat and gaining muscle). I have a set protein goal I want to hit (1 gram of protein per lb of bodyweight) and I do so with different foods.

I eat out often and I cook often, but my eating revolves around those two things:

  • My caloric goal
  • My protein goal

I log all of my meals in MyFitnessPal app to make sure I’m hitting all of my goals. This is probably the most important thing I do, since keeping track of everything mentally is nearly impossible. It’s possible to go over your goal on some days and under on others as long as your dieting is pretty constant, it’s important to maintain a good relationship with food throughout all of this. Your weekly average should be about the same in terms of calories and protein.

For most people dieting seems impossible, and I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t the hardest part to learn from my fitness journey after binge eating myself from 140lb :arrow_right: 180lb in one year. There were quite a few things I learned to make this more manageable:

  • Cooking for yourself makes everything 100 times easier
    • You’re able to weigh all of your ingredients and record it
    • You cut down on temptations from fast food places
    • It’s an opportunity to cut down on unhealthy temptations before they get in your house, don’t buy junk food while shopping
  • Record everything in an app
  • Weigh yourself frequently
    • On a lean bulk (maintenance calories + (300 to 400) calories) you should gain 1 lb a week
    • On a lean cut (maintenance calories - 500 calories) you should lose 1 lb a week
    • Weight should be averaged throughout a week, measure at the same time every day
    • Weight can often fluctuate for reasons outside of your control
      • Water intake, sodium intake, how big of a dinner you had last night, creatine cycles all effect your weight
      • Looking at yourself and taking muscle measurements tends to be a better way to track progress, but weight will give you concrete numbers
      • Don’t get too crazy about the number as long as you hit your goals
  • Drink water :droplet:
    • Most of the time when you’re feeling weird about eating (whether you’re trying to or trying not to) you’re just thirsty
    • Try to drink about 4-5L a day (especially when supplementing with creatine)

I personally tend to stick to lean meats like poultry, nuts, milk, fruits, rice, and vegetables. Reach out if you want a breakdown of what I eat.

What supplements should I use?

I personally take:

Supplements are pretty personalized and everyone will tell you different things, but I’d recommend:

Otherwise, experiment at your own discretion (and if you take preworkout don’t take too much caffeine pls, save your heart :heart:)

Whats next?

Go to the gym and eat right. I hope this surface level overview is enough to get you started, feel free to reach out if you need more advice.