Hey, I am Drew Passaretti, a personal trainer and fitness coach and one who has been lifting for roughly 2 years. I have wasted a lot of time and money on fitness before I figured out the truths behind it. In this article and on my website I release reliable information so people can save time and money while becoming fit and achieving their strength and body goals. I hope this article clears up misinformation that you may have accumulated and brings you into the fantastically simple reality of fitness.

Far too often the question is asked, How do I become healthy? How do I get in shape? How do I get ripped? And far too often those who ask are filled to the brim with lies trying to get them to spend their hard earned money on what, let’s face it, is complete crap. Being in shape means returning your body to its natural state so doing so is really not very complicated, in fact it is quite simple. While there is definitely equipment which is helpful for getting stronger and more muscular, the fundamentals of fitness don’t change. In order to simplify we can break this down into two parts, Fundamentals of Training and the Fundamentals of Nutrition. The combination of these two things, and only these two things will get you in your dream body through determination and effort. Not through spending money on BS supplements and equipment which just leaves you overweight and broke. Now, let’s get started and change your fitness habits forever.

The Fundamentals of Training 

Training is an unavoidable and absolutely necessary part of becoming fit, there is no way around it. You cannot be in shape and healthy if you live a sedentary lifestyle, no matter the quantity and quality of your food, you must move to be healthy. Since most people are reading this to both gain muscle mass and look better, not just lose body fat, I’ll be covering weightlifting as this is the only way to gain muscle mass. The most time efficient way to lift to gain muscle mass would be to prioritize strength training for the first 8-12 months of training. Prioritizing strength will give you a basis of mass (this is what’s referred to as a “bulk”) that you can then work with and define as you progress as a lifter. To prioritize strength we generally push compound exercises, movements which stimulate multiple muscle groups at once, the most important being squat and deadlift. Squatting and deadlift, while most of the fatigue will be felt in the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, these lifts force your entire body to tighten up, they release a lot of testosterone in the process adding on muscle mass very efficiently. To prioritize these movements we adopt a “A B day” program. A day would be prioritizing squatting while B would prioritize deadlift, the muscles involved in each lift are very similar but the distribution of the weight is different so by swapping off squats for deadlifts you are giving your push muscles (quadriceps) more of a resting period then if you were to do squats again. Of course, an A and B day does not just include squatting and deadlifting, we must include upper body movements as well. The four most fundamental upper body movements are bench press and overhead press (for your upper body push muscles like chest, shoulders and triceps) and the barbell row and Lat pull downs for you pull muscles (Back and biceps). You would include bench press and overhead press under your squatting days and pulling under your deadlift days, this is because, as you have probably figured out, that squatting itself is a push and deadlift is a pull. 

Training Programs and Overtraining

When you overtrain, you both waste your time and inhibit muscle growth, there is no benefit to slamming all of your muscles in some 2 and a half hour gym session, it’s impractical and suboptimal for muscle growth. An example of overtraining could be hitting bench press and overhead press with high volumes in the same day, you wouldn’t perform the second exercise effectively. To avoid this you would adopt an A1 day and an A2 day and a B1 and B2 day. This is perfect for beginner and intermediate lifters as they should be training about 4 times per week in order to ensure effective muscle recovery and growth. Your workout would then look something like this.

Squat 2×3 (heavy)Squat 3×5 (light)Deadlift 3×4Squat 4xFDeadlift 2x3Deadlift 3×5
Bench 5×5Lat Pull down 4×10Overhead press 3×5Bench 3×5
Pushups 2xFF=failureBicep curls 3xFShoulder flies 4×12Barbell row 5×5

This is very basic programming but it helps grasp an understanding of training. All of this can vary on an individual and their genetics, building an effective training program comes from trial and error and tracking how well you perform in each session to determine what the next should look like. I would start by following this program and adjusting wherever you need to, for example if your biceps are sore from the curls messing up your rows 3 days later, pull back on curls maybe do only 2 sets or less weight. Tracking how well you are doing is a requirement, a great idea is filming videos of your lifts so you can both look at form as well as your rep count, bar speed and volume of work. Filming videos saves a lot of time and is a great way to keep track and make sure you are hitting the correct volume to avoid overtraining and undertraining.

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is such an important and vital topic to long-term muscle growth that it deserves its own category. The topic is really quite simple, comprehension of progessive overload helps you be a self-sufficient lifter and be able to create your own effective programs. Progressive overload is symbolized by the ancient Greek figure Milo that you see above. Milo was a farmer who wanted to be able to lift an ox, he started with a newborn calf. Milo carried it on his shoulders once every day until it was fully grown and by the time it was, he was able to carry around a 1 ton ox. The accuracy of this story is insignificant but the idea it symbolizes is exactly what bodybuilders strive for. Progresseive overload, adding small amounts of everytime you train so that long-term you become significantly stronger. This would look like adding 5-10 pounds on your compound lifts until you hit a plateau, where you cannot increase weight because your muscles are now larger and not recovering as fast. When you reach this point, play around with your rep counts and sets, adding a set or a couple reps at the same weight, until you can move up in weight again and decrease the set and rep count, effectively removing you from your plateau. With constantly increasing your rep, set or weight the volume (which can be looked at as total pounds lifted, so if I deadlift 200 pounds for a 2×3 I would have lifted 1200 pounds) is always increasing. Progressive overload is a cornerstone of bodybuilding and one that will cause inevitable muscle growth.

Of course, all of this requires equipment and the best way to stick to a training program is having a home gym. I figured this out through a painful trial and error of gaining mass and losing it because I didn’t have time to get to a gym. Getting equipment worth your money is a completely separate art but one that I have done for you. Check out my website to build your home gym and get started on your fitness journey. Now that we have covered training, let’s get into diet and supplementation.

Fundamentals of Diet and Supplementation

If there is trickery and promotional BS amongst the world of training, there is more in dietary and nutritional needs on the internet than is fathomable. This section will be much shorter as it is very cutthroat and really quite simple. Each macronutrient (or macro) protein, carbohydrates, and lipids (fats) have a distinct role in the human body. The two latter nutrients listed, carbs and fats, have been for some reason looked as an enemy of the human body. This is in fact quite the opposite, this is why they taste so good. In the days where food was seldom available, your body would reward you for eating foods with a high-density of calories through a good taste encouraging you to eat more. But now that food of all sorts is available everywhere people have begun abusing that reward and misunderstanding the macros in general. Fats are required in the human body for organ function and general health, but because they are so calorie dense you don’t require very much of them, actually way less than you think. And remember, anything you don’t require will be put onto your body as extra mass. The best way to avoid overeating fat is to consume 50-100 grams per day depending on your metabolic rate and activity level, plain and simple use fat as a tool and use it sparingly. Carbs are another essential macro, they are your body’s main source of energy and are vital to performance as a lifter or athlete. A very large portion of your calories should be coming from fats, double your intake of fat to get a solid carb intake. So if you consume 75 grams of fat, 150g of carbs is probably a good idea. The remainder of your calories should be coming from proteins. Protein is the macro which will be used to build muscle, teh amino acids you consume are like the “building blocks” of muscles, you must eat protein to gain significant muscle mass. A good starting point is 1-1.5 grams of protein for every pound of body weight, this is a great way to gauge your required protein for each individual. You should be consuming mostly protein because it is not calorie dense, it has a very high volume for the amount of calories it has. For information about supplements (creatine, pre-workout etc.)  please visit my website. I hope this information has cleared up some misinformation and given you a guide on how to succeed in the world of fitness. If you have any questions at all send me an email at  [email protected]

Elena Ognivtseva

Nutritionist, Cornell University, MS I believe that nutrition science is a wonderful helper both for the preventive improvement of health and adjunctive therapy in treatment. My goal is to help people improve their health and well-being without torturing themselves with unnecessary dietary restrictions. I am a supporter of a healthy lifestyle – I play sports, cycle, and swim in the lake all year round. With my work, I have been featured in Vice, Country Living, Harrods magazine, Daily Telegraph, Grazia, Women's Health, and other media outlets.