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3 Things I Wished I Knew as a Newbie
By Sean Lim (NASM CPT)
Before we begin the article, I would just like to stay that compared to many lifters, I am relatively new to the fitness industry and I'm constantly looking for ways to improve myself as a trainer and as a lifter. Next month will mark the 4th consecutive year I have been lifting consistently. My fitness journey was self-developing and I never really had any guidance nor did I have a personal trainer so experience was my greatest teacher (as well as YouTube). However, looking back, there are 3 things I wished I could change if I were a newbie all over again.

1. Got my nutrition right from the start
I had a pretty solid workout program from the get go. It consisted of all the big lifts with some accessory work and I was doing it consistently and loading progressively. The sight of gains on the biceps got me hooked instantly. However, my nutrition for the first year was rather poor. The average bro will tell you "eat big, get big" but that is only half true. I stuffed my face with everything in sight; McD, biscuits, chips, cheese naan, you name it. I got big alright… but I also got fat. The Law of Thermodynamics states that if calories consumed is more than calories used, you'll gain weight and vice versa. However, a calorie is not just a calorie. Tweaking with your caloric expenditure will help you see changes in weight but body composition is a whole different story. Okay, but that whole argument is for another day. The point being, I was stuffing my face with so much calories, I was throwing myself way above a surplus my body required to build muscle mass. So when it came to my first cutting phase, I lost considerable amount of size because most of what I put on was simply just fat. If I were to start all over again, I would eat right, get in quality calories, and eat at a caloric maintenance or a small surplus rather than just going on a see-food diet.

2. Learned about self-myofascial release (SMR)
Everybody loves a good massage right? It gives the kind of "pain" that hurts so good. SMR is no different in that regard. Over the past year, SMR has become a staple in my training especially after I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Some days were pretty unbearable were even limping was a huge task and the fear of my knee buckling was very real. However with SMR, I managed to reduce a significant amount of the bruising feeling around my knee by releasing the muscles surrounding it. Now, I'm squatting and deadlifting heavy again. Don't get me wrong, SMR is not a miracle worker but it has helped me a great lot.

3. Learned the Stabilisation phase
Hitting the gym was easy. I picked a rough program of what Superman did to look like Superman, Googled all the exercises, and followed them religiously. I got gains overtime alright but what happens when you build a house on sand? It crumbles when the waves come. My muscles were certainly getting stronger and bigger but my ligaments and tendons were not getting stronger as fast as my muscles. As a result, I hit plateaus hard and fast. All my big lifts stalled and I really had no clue why. I tried many many things; supersets, dropsets, paused reps, assistance lifts but the strength gains were barely there… at least until I discovered what the stabilisation phase was. The Stabilisation phase is the first phase in the NASM Optimum Performance Training (OPT) Model where it focuses on increasing neuromuscular efficiency (how your brain talks to your muscles) and strengthens the connective tissue and ligaments surrounding your muscles. Think of it as a foundational phase. I went through it faithfully over 4 weeks and I've managed to smash my plateaus after it.

If you want to learn more about how to build solid workout plan that keeps you injury free and constantly progressing, come join us for the next NASM Certified Personal Trainer live workshop to learn more about the Optimum Performance Training (OPT) Model and how it can work you as it has worked for me and many others!
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