The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Weightlifting
Ok, so you want to start lifting weights. You may not want to get huge, you may just want to get in shape, but the bottom line is you want results. Wait, what’s that? You think you have to give up beer in order to get in shape? You think you have to give up partying and watch the big game at home instead of at the bar with your friends? Nonsense! Are you crazy?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret here…
How many times have you heard that line before when the so-called “experts” are trying to sell you something? The stuff I’m going to tell you isn’t any big secret. Hell, if you walked up to me in the gym I’d gladly share everything with you. There are no big secrets when it comes to weightlifting, but there are wrong ways and right ways to go about it. The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Weightlifting will tell you what has worked for me and many others. I didn’t pick these ideas out of a muscle or fitness magazine; I’ve asked people, big people, what they do and then test it out on myself. Not surprisingly the different variations that I hear from these people all consist of one common goal: lift heavy. Big, compound movements are what I’ve been told produce the results. I’ve tried it and it works. I wish I had known more about this when I was in college instead of at age 30. I wish I had known more about women back then too, but that’s another topic.
Any kind of weightlifting requires some level of commitment from the lifter. Being a beer drinker, you also have to maintain your level of commitment to drinking. Who wants to cut down or quit drinking in order to get big? Not me, that’s for sure. The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Weightlifting doesn’t ask for a huge level of commitment from you. Actually, it asks for the bare minimum. Trust me, I’m lazy, I know what bare minimum means. I live bare minimum every day. When it snows outside most people shovel their sidewalks completely clean; the path I make is a shovel’s width wide. Lazy. Those guys who go to the gym at 8:00 at night and don’t leave till the gym closes are freaking nuts. While they’re flexing their arms in the mirror and checking out the women in the tight shorts you’re in a bar hitting on the women in the tight shorts getting them drunk with countless shots of tequila. While those dudes are on the treadmill getting some cardio in you’re at home in bed with the drunk chick(s) getting your cardio in. Hmm, which would you rather do? The weightlifting program in front of you only requires 40 minutes a day, four days a week. But remember, I did say this was the bare minimum; any less time won’t produce the desired results. This program requires 160 minutes from you each week. That’s a little over two and a half hours, less than the amount of time it takes to watch a football game. Two and a half hours a week to get big. That’s not asking a whole lot if you ask me.
Want to know something even better? It’s possible to cheat on the bare minimum commitment level but only under certain circumstances. Since this guide basically consists of three workouts you can get by with just three visits to the gym in the event of a holiday. For example, the week of Thanksgiving, hit the gym Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and you’re clear for the weekend. Don’t even feel guilty about missing that fourth workout; it’s a freaking holiday, enjoy it. Just make sure that you get four in during regular weeks.
I’m also going to need your lunch hour. Lifting weights during your lunch hour is the best possible time for the person who partakes in beer drinking related activities. Try lifting weights in the morning. After a good night of drinking I assure you won’t be up to the task. Lifting weights after work just cuts into your beer drinking time. Trust me, I’ve tried all three. In the mornings you risk a heart attack and at night you risk missing the big game that’s on TV. Using your lunch hour eliminates both of those scenarios and breaks up your workday nicely.
The way I see it there are two different kinds of attitudes in any weight room. You have the guy in the corner doing three sets of dumbbell curls with 25 lbs, ten reps each. You have the guy on the bench press who throws a 45 lb plate on each side and never changes it. You have the guy who does a set of sit-ups between every set. You don’t want to be that guy. No, if you want to get big you have to push yourself; you can’t just go through the motions. How are you going to get big doing 25 lb dumbbell curls? Hell, my sister can do that! If you don’t change the weight on the bench press you might as well not even do it. Through some weight on there, actually challenge your body. The attitude that you need every time you go to the gym is that you’re going to lift more than you did the previous time.
Here’s the thing: we’re looking for sets of 6-8 reps with as much weight as you can handle. Start off with a weight that you can do 10-11 times for a warm up set (note: we only do a warm up set for the first exercise of the day); after that start adding the weight. For example, if you can do 11 reps on the lat pull down machine with 180 lbs, drop the pin down to 200 lbs or 210 lbs and go at it. If you can do 8 reps, great, leave the pin there for your next set. If you get 6 reps on the next set take 10 lbs off and use that next. Continue to lower the weight as your body fatigues, keeping within the 6-8 rep range. After the lat pull downs switch to the standard pull up (still on the machine). Typically you can do more on the pull up than the lat pull down so drop the pin again to a heavier weight and work the same process for six sets. By the end of those twelve sets you’re going to feel it in your back, biceps, and forearms – and you still have one back exercise left to do.
The bench press workout is a little different than the back workout. You need to keep the same “lift heavy” attitude but you have to get to that point in a slower manner. The easiest way to explain it is to show you what I do.
1st set – 135 lbs
2nd set – 185 lbs
3rd set – 205 lbs
4th set – 225 lbs
5th set – 235 lbs
6th set – 245 lbs
7th set – 235 lbs
8th set – 225 lbs
9th set – 205 lbs
With this progression you don’t hit the heaviest point till your sixth set. You want to make sure you’re good and warmed up when you have the heavy stuff over your chest. But this doesn’t mean you don’t take the other sets seriously; you’re still trying to pump out as many reps as possible, even if they’re in the 10-15 rep range.
While I wouldn’t recommend this to any weightlifter, I typically don’t use a spotter except for that heavy sixth set. Actually, not many people in the gym I go to ask for spots. They have the bench presses lined up against the walls and in order to get in the spotting position you have to crawl underneath the bar; it’s pretty pathetic. I do nine sets because of this. While I’m sure I could get another rep out with each set if I had a spotter, after nine sets you’re gas tank is pretty much empty as it is; an extra rep here or there wouldn’t make any difference.
The whole point of this is you have to move some weight around. You have to handle as much weight as you can safely complete six reps. Doing three sets of ten reps won’t get you anywhere. What happens when you hit rep number ten? You stop, right? Aiming for a range of 6-8 pushes you mentally to get another rep. If you get five you’re going for six. If you get six you’re going for seven. If you get eight and you’re going for nine you’re probably not using enough weight. Make a mental note to put more weight on for your second or third set the next time you do that body part and move on. Constantly strive for more, both more weight and more reps. Don’t be the guy standing in the corner with the pink dumbbells.
The workout I’m going to show you is simple. It has to be simple if you use the “lift heavy” attitude. You’re not going to be doing 20 lb triceps kickbacks. You’re not going to be doing wrist curls. Talk about a waste of time. The Beer Drinkers Guide to Weightlifting incorporates mostly big movements that allow you to use a lot of weight. Using a lot of weight is the only way to get big. Without further ado, here’s the workout.
Dumbbell shoulder presses – 6 sets
Dumbbell side/front combo raises – 3 sets
Dumbbell back raises – 3 sets
Shoulder shrugs – 4 sets
Barbell bench presses – 9 sets
Barbell incline bench presses – 4 sets
Standing triceps extensions – 5 sets
Lat pull downs – 6 sets
Pull ups – 6 sets
Horizontal dumbbell rows – 4 sets
Barbell curls – 5 sets
1 set of sit-ups after each workout
These are your three workouts. Working out four days a week you’re going to hit one of these twice in one week (say Monday and Friday). Normally I don’t like doing a body part more than once a week. On the other hand, six days of rest is just a little too much. Five days of rest is ideal but it’s impossible to design a workout around that unless you’re going to be lifting on the weekends. Weekends aren’t made for lifting weights. Weekends are made for drinking. This is The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Weightlifting, not The Weightlifting Guide for Beer Drinkers. Beer comes first.
You’ll notice the day with the most sets is the back day with 21 sets. If you are a beer drinker and a smoker you will appreciate the almost two minute time span between sets (40 min / 21 sets). Take your time between sets. You want to be pretty much fully recovered – heart beat and breathing back to normal – before you start your next set. Grab a towel, wipe off, drink some water, do whatever it takes to get you prepared for the next set. Even though two minutes seems like a long time you’ll realize that you need it when you’re lifting heavy weights. Don’t take a newspaper or a magazine in to the weight room with you. If you get caught up in an interesting article it is bound to take away one or two of your sets as you lose track of time while you’re reading.
(I know some of you are asking, “When do you do legs?” I don’t do legs. I know the jokes and stereotypes of the guys in the weight room with huge chests, backs, shoulders and arms and skinny legs but I don’t have much of a choice; I tore the ACL in my left leg six years ago. The funny thing is I didn’t know that I tore it. I was in a pretty bad car accident and broke my leg. They put a rod down the inside of my tibia and repaired the LCL. Six months ago I tore some cartilage in the knee while doing squats and had to go in for surgery. I went in for a follow up and the doctor was showing me pictures of the surgery when she came to one photo, pointed and said, “This is where your ACL should be.” No one had ever told me that I had torn it before that. I always knew the knee was weak, but I just figured that was from the accident and playing basketball every day back in grade school and high school. Now, at age 30, I figured I’ve lived without it for six years, why get it fixed? It’s a horrible operation with at least 12 months of rehab. I’d have to give up my beloved Jeep Wrangler because of the manual transmission. The Wrangler is six years old and has 21,000 miles; I’m not giving that puppy up.
So no, I don’t do legs, but you’re more than welcome to throw a leg day in there as a fourth workout if you want (squats are your best option). Just please be careful.)
What’s the number one reason why people give up on working out? You know how people make New Years resolutions and go to the gym for three months and then quit in April? The increase in the number of people in the gym who don’t know what the fuck they’re doing really pisses me off. Working out in and of itself isn’t a bad thing; it can actually be addicting. The “work” you’re doing in the gym doesn’t really feel like work if you’re doing the right things and you’re seeing results. You can’t see results if you’re wearing a XXXL t-shirt. Go to Wal-Mart. They have tank tops for $3. Buy a bunch.
The reason most people quit any given workout is because they don’t see any results. Why would anyone wander around a weight room for an hour a day if they didn’t see results? I promise you The Beer Drinkers Guide to Weightlifting will not leave you wandering around the weight room. I promise you it will also get you results. You need to wear your new tank tops in the gym to see the results. Flexing in the mirror before you go to bed or when you wake up is gay. Seeing shoulder striations and veins pumping in your arms while you’re working out is totally not gay. Actually watching your biceps contract on a curl when the muscle is filled with blood just motivates you to do another rep. Why do you think they have mirrors in weight rooms? Sure, go ahead, flex a little in the mirror when nobody’s looking. Flexing while you’re in the gym and your muscles are pumped will show you much better results than flexing before you hop in the shower in the morning.
The tank top is essential for lifting weights. Not only will you be able to see results but it will also keep you cooler.
(Side note: if its summer time and you’re doing work outside, be sure to wear your tank top. You don’t want mid-arm tan lines in the weight room.)
I’m not a nutritionist. I can’t tell you what to eat with any scientific studies or reasons. I’m not going to tell you to stay away from carbs or only eat meat. Eat what you want to. In my “special” case, I drink at least 1,500 calories just in beer every night. Every night. Those skinny little rich bitches on The OC or The Hills probably don’t consume that much in three days (if they do I guarantee you they throw it back up). And that 1,500 calories is just beer; it doesn’t include the five meals I eat every day. Who knows what that chili dog from the cafeteria has in it? Have two!
Typically I eat five times a day. 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:30 pm, and 5:30 pm. The 9:00 “breakfast” is usually just some veggies or a breakfast sandwich from the cafeteria. The 11:00 meal might be a turkey sandwich or something with some meat in it. The 1:00 meal is the pig out meal. After a good workout I suggest you go all out and eat whatever you can. It doesn’t matter what it is, just pound it down. Some people will tell you eat lots of protein after a workout, some will say lots of carbs; I like Nike’s old slogan: Just Do It. The 3:00 meal is more likely just a snack to tide you over till dinner. Once again, with dinner just do whatever the hell you feel like. If you eat at 5:30 you don’t have to worry about all this food sitting in your stomach while you’re sleeping; most of it will have digested by the time you go to bed. I’d rather pig out at 5:30 than skimp and end up pulling out a frozen pizza at 10:30. Eating at 10:30 at night is not ideal.
If you’re a serious beer drinker I don’t think there’s any reason to have a serious diet. The two just don’t go together very well. I have other things to worry about than what I eat. Even if you’re just a six-pack a day drinker, that’s 600 calories (light beer). Don’t adjust your diet around your drinking. Unless your name is Britney Spears, you’ll do fine with this program.
So what are you waiting for? Go out, join a gym that’s close to your place of employment and give it a shot. You’ll be surprised at your ability to lift more weight after just one month. You may not see physical results after just a month, but the strength gains will be undeniable. The actual muscle will come as you start to increase the amount that you’re lifting. It has to. There’s no way around it. Lifting more weight requires more muscle. The two go hand in hand. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
After a while you can try your own variations of this workout. The second best workout I can think of, if you have good knees, would be chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, legs on Wednesday, shoulders on Thursday, and arms on Friday. My only two problems with this workout are I can’t do the legs and I think there’s too much time off between workouts. With The Beer Drinker’s Guide to Weightlifting you hit one body part twice a week every three weeks. In three weeks you hit each body part four times, not just three. Over the course of a year this starts to add up.
If you take anything away from this I hope it would be to do big, compound exercises with as much weight as you can. Chest, back, and shoulders. Hit ‘em hard, hit ‘em heavy, and hit ‘em with the attitude that you want to get big.