Many of us have dreamed about having a toned and muscular body, however, some of us might not know where to begin. In today’s world, information regarding strength training is readily available with just a click of your mouse. However, there is so much information out there that anyone looking to start a strength training program will most likely end up feeling confused, frustrated, and unmotivated.  Indeed, there are just as many misinformed individuals out there as there are myths about weight training. So where do you begin? What should you do? I asked these same questions when I first started strength training. Now, let me share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly side of trying to build that “ideal body”.


         First, the ugly. I first fell in love with weight training in the grocery store. (Please try not to laugh) I was trying to find some cereal at the time when I happened to be walking down the magazine aisle of a supermarket called Safeway. A magazine had caught my attention. It was a Muscle and Fitness magazine. On the cover was this huge-looking bodybuilder and I unconsciously reached out to check out the articles within this magazine. As I flipped through the pages and scanned the articles, I happened to come across the page where it tells you how to do the different exercises to hit a specific “target” muscle, and I thought hmm, I could do that. Little did I know that weight training was going to hurt me.


         Needless to say, I bought the Cap’n Crunch cereal and the magazine and headed home to learn what muscle I wanted to work out first and eat my cereal. I read the magazine article twice. I wanted to be ready. A few days later, I went to the gym and paid for a yearly gym membership. The first thing I did was I tried to grab some dumbbells and do chest exercises. I set the dumbbells in front of me, sat on the bench, and as I lifted the dumbbells onto my chest, I suddenly realized that the dumbbells were a lot heavier than I first thought. No matter, I’ll power through. I lifted it up, so good so far. However, as I tried to bring it down, the weights got exceedingly heavy and I dropped it on my chest, and then as it started falling off, I went to try to hold onto it and felt a sharp pain in my shoulder. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just hyperextended my shoulder muscles and I was done! No more weights, no more looking like the Hulk.


In short, my fellow beginning bodybuilders, the lesson is not to start off with a weight that is too heavy. When you begin, find a weight that you can do eight to ten reps for four sets. In other words, if you’re doing a chest routine, you want to be able to lift the weight up off your chest at least eight times. Then, you would rest and do that three more times. That would be four sets altogether. In total, you would be lifting the dumbbells about thirty-two times. Take your time. Concentrate on form and not how much weight you can lift.


Next, the bad! A wise person once told me that the only time success came before work was in the dictionary. Unfortunately, when I started this love affair with strength training, I tried to have success before putting in actual work. Because I was younger at the time (in my early 20’s) I thought that all I needed to do was get into the gym, pick up a few dumbbell weights, and in about a week I would be looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his heydays. It goes without saying that I was completely wrong! Strength training takes time and a lot of hard work. Just like with everything else in life. It took me a long time to see results because of the shoulder injury I sustained earlier. Fortunately, that shoulder injury helped me to see great results because I had to do everything slower, use the correct form and the right weight. Thus, the second lesson. In the beginning, try not to overwork yourself. You don’t have to go to the gym every day to see results. You can go to the gym a minimum of twice per week. Three times if your feeling motivated. Also, each session should not be longer than an hour. During the routine, you should only rest for about a minute to a minute and a half. This gives your muscles time to recover before your next set and it’s not too long where your muscles get cold and you might injure yourself. There is no one size fits all slot for everyone to see gains in strength training. It depends on your physiology and other factors beyond your control. Notwithstanding, I urge you to start when you can and hopefully see the results you want.


Finally, the good. I wish I could tell you that I ended up looking like Superman or Captain America, but I didn’t. Why is that good you might ask? Well, my answer is this. What I gained from strength training was more than bigger muscles and a six-pack. What I had gotten was something more valuable. Strength training offered me the opportunity to be more confident, become more disciplined, and have more patience. Primarily, strength training changed my mindset about how I approached things. Sometimes in life, when you’re trying to search for or even gain something, you end up with something better, but it depends on how you look at it. In the end, I leave you with these wise words from Forrest Gump. “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”.


-By Ngot Toung