Joey Vaillancourt Fitness
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The Beginner’s Fast Track Guide To Building Muscle Part 1: Developing The Fitness Fundamentals

October 15, 2010 by Joey Vaillancourt · 17 Comments 

If you are a complete beginner or just getting started into fitness then this is going to be one of the most helpful articles you ever read to fast track your success and get you well on your way to seeing some great results.

I came up with this idea for an article after receiving countless questions from beginners and seeing a pattern in the questions being asked.

Although you will not find specific workout details within this article, you still need to read this to pickup tips, tricks and in-valuable information to developing the fitness lifestyle.

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As a ‘former fitness Googler’ myself, I know how hard it can be to get started in fitness what with all the overwhelming information out there being offered. Of course, after years of training, trial and error and going through the whole process as well as then winning fitness championships and becoming a certified trainer I now have a much better perspective that I can offer you that will save you from following the same slow timeline I once went through.

By applying these tactics I am about to share with you, you will quickly and easily adapt to making fitness and working out a lifestyle instead of just a hobby.
I have found these tips to be the most effective and sidestepping years of frustration

Defining Your Starting Level:

Alright, so let me be the first to say that some of this stuff I discuss today may be very basic to some of you, but just remember; this article is meant for beginners looking for faster ways, shortcuts if you will, to get on track to gaining muscle the right way by avoiding common mistakes.

If you are a complete beginner, then great! But, if you are a little more advanced, you can still benefit from this article by simply skimming to points you find interesting. Sound good?

Everyone will be at a different starting point so you can understand how it would be impossible to give advice to please everyone.

But I trust this article will help the people who truly need it.

The 5 Most Common Mistakes Of Beginners

Mistake #1 – Impatience

Yes, you read correctly, impatience is by far the biggest mistake most people make when first starting out in fitness and trying to accomplish goals and body transformations.

Nothing happens overnight and there are even people who have been doing this thing for over 20 years who are still learning today so just know it will be a long road ahead.

Instead of being impatient, just be sure to enjoy the experience and know that you will get to where you want to be in time so long as you stay committed, open minded and focused.

Mistake #2 – Being Naïve

Alright, so I think everyone has been fooled at one time or another and in muscle building, it won’t be any different. You see the majority of people you see in magazines, in competitions or being exposed on every miracle supplement out there did not build their physiques over night.

Sometimes you might hear a claim that you can build 10lbs of muscle in 7 days and although you might be excited at first, realize that the likelihood of this happening is slim to none.

It’s easy to fall prey to these advertisements but try to avoid this false logic as it will only lead you to disappointment.

Mistake #3 – Overtraining

Overtraining is a topic often covered but people continue to do it. This side effect can be apparent no matter what your training level is but as a beginner it is important that you understand that training less is the most beneficial to gain muscle and size.

In the beginning stages, a person can achieve above average results by training with less volume simply because our bodies are not accustomed to weight training and the stress it puts on our muscles.

Take advantage and enjoy the ‘newbie’ gains you will make but understand, that rate of growth you experience will not last forever.

Mistake #4 – The Wrong Program Selection

So if you want to look like someone in particular, you have to workout like them right? Wrong!

It couldn’t be further from the truth.

Say you see a guy on a magazine cover advocating that he performs a certain workout to get the results you see in the photo. Your initial reaction may be to start using that workout to get the same results.

The problem is that it’s not that workout itself that built his body but rather the accumulation of years of training and more than likely several different phases and programs.

Be warned, you can perform the workout and you could potentially see good results, but in the end you will need to put in constant effort over time to see noticeable results.

Mistake #5 – Missing The Basics

Everyone wants to increase their bench, squat and deadlift or be able to shoulder press the 100lb dumbbells and look like they belong on a magazine cover, but before getting ahead of yourself, have you ever thought about the foundational principles?

Of course not because it’s just not exciting enough am I right?

But often times, people will increase the weights they use at the expense of sacrificing form and technique which can often lead to injuries down the line.

I always recommend people use a lighter weight when first getting familiar with exercises and concentrating on using good form and technique before increasing the weights.

Form first and load second. This rule will lead you to progress better in the months and years to come. If your foundation is shaky, your results could inevitably crumble upon adding weight to your exercises.

Preperation Tip #1 – Getting the essentials

Alright, now it’s time to get prepared outside of the gym.

Why you might ask?

Well because you might think that the workouts are the primary reason you gain muscle and you’re not far off, but the real results come from when you combine nutrition and weight training.

The key is to stay prepared no matter what the situation.

Here is a list of items you should get immediately that will definitely go a long way in the end.

Plastic sealable baggies, 2-3 shaker containers, plastic cutlery, herbs and spices and Tupperware containers (glass or plastic).

Be sure to keep the plastic cutlery in places like at work, in the car, in your gym bag and anywhere else you think you might need it in case you forgot your home utensils.

Also take the time to purchase some assorted nuts and protein powder and store in the same places. I would store the protein powder using the Ziploc baggies. This way you are always sure you have some form of protein and healthy fat source in case you forget a meal at home.

Having these items will really help you stay prepared and better enable you to stay on track with nutrition.

Preparation Tip #2: Picking a suitable program

Alright, so now I want you to understand how to pick the right program for you.

This is where lots of people surprisingly fail because they don’t really know what goal is best for them and it’s perfectly understandable.

If you are super skinny, then obviously, you could benefit to pick a mass gaining program where you will gain muscle and bodyweight.

If you are overweight, then again, obviously you would pick a fat loss program.

But if you have a ‘skinny fat guy’ syndrome then you need to choose wisely. What’s a skinny fat guy you might ask? Basically it’s a person who is skinny but has a gut on them.

The best measure is to get your bodyfat measured and if you are above 18-19% bodyfat, I would recommend losing fat first before trying to gain any more weight.

If you are under this marker, then you can go ahead and start a muscle gain phase, but just know you would benefit more from it if you were around 10-15% bodyfat. Your local gym should be able to provide you with the bodyfat measurements.

Preparation Tip #3: Focus on proper technique and form

Like I mentioned above, to be prepared for the long road in the weight room, it’s important to learn proper technique and exercise execution.

There are countless resources that you can find online or in person at a gym to learn the exercise properly.

Now I know, sometimes money is tight and the idea of spending money to learn exercises might not seem appealing, but remember, this is your body and your life and if you don’t perform the exercises correctly, it can lead to many injuries and a potential end to your workout days.

Learn from online video demonstrations for the basic stuff and if ever you want to get more advanced and learn some more technical moves like Olympic type of lifts, then you can always go to your local gym and inquire about personal training to learn exercise demonstrations.

You don’t have to sign up for a big contract at the gym and have them hold your hand for 3 months, unless you are really not confident in your ability, but instead, get them to show you the exercises and then get them to verify your form and technique, then have periodic intervals when you might return to get a refresher.

Think of this as an investment instead of an expense. You want to add weight to the bar to get bigger and stronger right? Well then you have to focus on this basic stuff as well and I guarantee it will lead to the biggest benefit in the end.

 Preparation Tip #4: Tracking progress properly

 Tracking progress is one of the keys to getting results. After all, how do you know if you’re making any progress if you never measure it?

 Get in the routine of including the following habits:

-          weighing yourself every 2nd week, at the same time of day, before eating and document it

-          take a progress photo every month

-          use workout sheets to track your lifts

-          weekly journals about thoughts regarding training, nutrition, recovery etc.        

Preparation Tip #5: Know what you want to achieve

 In order to hit a target, you have to know where to aim right?

 Well, the same applies in building muscle and transforming your body.

 In the last tip we discussed how it’s important to track progress, but you need to first create a reference point or an end target or goal you wish to achieve.

 Set yourself a one month goal such as I want to gain 7.5lbs in the next 4 weeks or I want to increase my bench-press by 10lbs in the next 4 weeks.

 Set yourself a 6 month goal that is more long term such as ‘I want to stick with my program for 6 months and gain 30lbs’.

 Be specific in your goals and keep them somewhere you can see them everyday to remind you of them.

 By having a clear direction and end goal in mind, you will be much more likely to come close to hitting it.

 Knowing what you want to achieve is very powerful so do not neglect it.

 Preparation Tip #6: Protein Powder, Multivitamin and Fish Oil

 A hot topic in bodybuilding is and always will be supplements.

 As a beginner or even as an advanced lifter, I would not include very many supplements to be honest as I feel they create the false hope of achieving unbelievable results.

 But that being said, here are the top three I would recommend for a beginner to include that I feel are essentials.

 Protein Powder: Even if you are new to fitness, you should still know that a good protein powder is essential to build muscle. You will require more protein than the average person not trying to gain muscle and because of this requirement it will be easier to consume the excess protein in a shake form from mixing powdered protein.

 Multivitamin:  A multi-vitamin should be included regardless of whether you are on a fat burning phase or a muscle building phase.

The answer for including a multi-vitamin should be obvious but just to be clear, a multi-vitamin serves the purpose of providing your body with essential vitamins and nutrients that you might be lacking even if you are in taking a very healthy and clean diet.

I like to think of a multi-vitamin as a form of insurance whereas you can be confident that you’re getting all your recommended daily intakes of nutrients and minerals.

 However, a multi-vitamin will not replace bad habits and a bad diet.  Therefore I recommend including a multi-vitamin as well as following a healthy diet rich in vegetables.

It is even more important to include a multi-vitamin while you’re on a fat burning phase because your overall activity level will be increased and the more total activity that you output will result in more nutrient depletion from your body.

To ensure that you are not lacking any of the essential nutrients, I recommend taking extra multi-vitamins when dieting to lose fat simply because your overall calories will be decreased while you’re total to activity of exertion will be increased.

It is just a good measure to increase your multi-vitamin intake when you expose your body to these circumstances.

Fish Oil:  Fish oils particularly omega 3’s, are highly beneficial in fighting inflammation in our joints as well as our muscles.

Besides the benefit of decreased inflammation, fish oils have also been known to increase the sensitivity on our receptor sites on our muscles to increase insulin sensitivity which as we had already explained above will result in the body releasing less insulin and in turn means less fat storage and more muscle glycogen replenishing.

In plain English, your body will be in a better muscle building and fat burning environment.

Preparation Tip #7:  Dealing with the ups and downs

 This is often something fitness professionals don’t talk about but it is a factor that can affect people negatively if they don’t know how to handle the psychology of building muscle.

 There’s going to be times when you weigh yourself and its not what you expected and you will get disappointed or you might have cheated a bit too much on your diet and gained a bit too much or you might experience a workout where you don’t progress and you have a terrible training session.

 Now don’t get me wrong, it won’t always be bad. Often times it will be really good, but when you do experience some disappointment be sure to:

 -          Stay positive and realize it’s not a dead end but rather a slight deviation in the ultimate path to your goal

-          Get over it fast and then forget about it. Do not dwell on it.

-          Realize it happens to everyone at one point or another but the main thing is to continue working at your goals. That’s what the people with the best physiques do. They don’t let something stop them when they reach a road block, they go at it even harder and that’s what you should do

 Preparation Tip #8: Finding the common principles to build muscles

 I’ve got a secret for you right now…there is no END-ALL program to solve all your muscle building or fat loss dilemmas. It’s true. You can waste a lot of time searching for the perfect program because it doesn’t exist.

 There are really good programs out there that will deliver great results, so in the end don’t spend your time procrastinating for months.

 Every program has its purpose so just find one that you can relate to and give it a go. Everyone will respond differently to different training modalities so you can listen to others opinions about program selection, but an even better option after that is to just try the program yourself to see how you respond to it, then document your results.

 Continuing doing this process will lead you to find which training programs you got your best results from.

 Always search for common principles between workouts and authors and replicate those common points as they are more than likely the most powerful and effective strategies. It’s not so much the workout as it is the principles of those workouts; progressive overload, rest and recovery and proper nutrition.

 That’s it for part 1 of ‘The Beginners Fast Track Guide To Building Muscle – Developing The Fitness Fundamentals’.

 Stay on the lookout for part 2 where I will share with you my top tips on how to develop the right habits to begin eating the bodybuilder’s type of diet.



17 Responses to “The Beginner’s Fast Track Guide To Building Muscle Part 1: Developing The Fitness Fundamentals”
  1. Garrison Garrison says:

    Good information. Thanks!

  2. Joey Vaillancourt Joey Vaillancourt says:

    Glad you liked it :)

  3. walter walter says:

    Hey Joey,
    Great article that makes alot of sense! I just purchased your “Bones to Buff” program and was wondering how it would help someone my age, (59). Now I’m fairly skinny with a gut and have been working out on and off for about 4 months now. My biceps have actually shrunk! I feel stronger, but I sure don’t look stronger. I’m 5′9” and I weigh 178lbs. I actually have to watch taking protein shakes as I have kidney disease and was told to limit protein intake. Am I doomed to keeping this physique or is there something I can do to get a little more defined? I sure would appreciate any info you would offer as I really like your no-nonsense approach to training. Hope to hear back from you…

  4. Joey Vaillancourt Joey Vaillancourt says:

    @walter – Hi Walter, glad to hear you are using Bones To Buff. Now before going on, i want to know how you are tracking your progress. You said your biceps shrunk and that could mean you are losing muscle but it could also mean you are losing fat…just because they shrink doesnt necessarily mean its muscle and without proper body composition tracking, you really cant know. As for results, to be honest, if you are looking for more defintition, you might want to add 2 sessions of 20 min post-workout cardio after your weight sessions to lose more fat. it will result in slower gains, but more lean mass in the end.I think you will be just fine, following the new plan.

    Dont worry so much about protein intake if you really cant take it. try to get about 1gram per pound of lean mass at minimum and if you can, 1 gram per pound of bodyweight.

    Let me know if you have any other questions

    All the best,


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