I am not the most “buff” person in the world, but I am reasonably strong for my size and have done a number of different strength programs with varying degrees of success. While this topic may appear mundane, it actually highlights an aspect of American thinking that is not always, pardon the pun, healthy. In the 1800s traveling salesman would promise “snake oil” that would cure baldness, erectile dysfunction, shyness, etc. Anyone stupid enough to buy this deserved to lose their money.
It’s the same situation today. Americans want the “dream body” in a few days with relatively little effort. Here is the problem: working out is…well…hard. You are destroying muscle cells and dealing with the lactic acid bath that soon follows. It is not for no reason that New Year’s resolutions last ten days. It isn’t fun…at first.
Lifting weights mirrors economic investment (godly dominion man). You will not see any real gains for about four weeks. You will not see any substantial gains for at least six. And to make it worse, since you are looking at yourself in a mirror everyday, and since any gains (by definition) will be small, the odds are you won’t see any gains (though they are there).
However, there are legitimate venues for working out. I’ve tried a good deal of them. The ones that promise painfully hard work over a long period of time are generally worth the time (and maybe the money).
Scooby does a good job exposing all the snake oil products.
The Good Ones:
Old-Fashioned weight lifting. As with any workout program, a lot depends on your genetics and body type (I know it is not politically correct to mention it, but genes and DNA really do make a difference). Get a decent weight lifting book and assuming you have access to weights (non-negotiable, obviously), then this can deliver reasonable, long-term growth.
P 90-X. Currently the most popular. Pros: it really does give you practical strength in key, core areas. Every workout also boosts your cardio. If you continue with it for 90 days, you will see results. Cons: it is kind of pricey and you will have to come up with your own weights (dumbbells up to 40 lbs). Also, it has an insane learning curve. You simply won’t be able to do the first few workouts for the full hour, and don’t pretend you can do the ab-ripper workout right away. You can’t. This is really discouraging for most people and they simply quit. Further, while you will get stronger and get rid of fat, if you are little and wiry to begin with, you will not pack on muscle mass.
Bodyweight: it’s free. And it works. Even better, most people will spend 30 dollars on the ultimate chin up bar whereas this guy will show you how to get the same results for free (hint: use a towel).
I modify my own workouts. Some of p90x’s workouts are really good (legs, chest and back, and plyometrics). Some are stupid (Kenpo), and I am not fully sold on their different phases.
Neutral to Bad
Men’s Health tips. If you go to the men’s health website (and I recommend you don’t, since they are pagan fornicators), they will give you dietary and other such tips on weight lifting that promise you instant results. Like anything in life, if someone promises you instant results, they secretly want your money. Still, some of them are halfway decent.
I really don’t like the “get lean muscle” look. I am currently growing my beard out and trying to pack on mass. Basically, I want to look as opposite from the Jersey-shore metrosexual as I possibly can.
The best workout: a mixture of bodyweight and old-fashioned weightlifting. Every two weeks I do a few P90X workouts to “shock” my muscles.