"What program works the best?"
"What should I do for my legs, butt, chest, arms, shoulders etc?"
"How many sets should I do?"
"How many reps?"
Well, I really have no idea. What I do know however, is that how you perform a particular exercise is paramount.
Execute an exercise properly with excellent form and you will get results. Execute an exercise with shoddy form and you'll not likely get the results you were hoping for. What I have found over the years is this: It's not WHAT you do that matters most... it's HOW you do it.
When I first started bodybuilding 14 years ago, I glued my nose to the pages of Muscle & Fitness. I devoured the information and tried to replicate all of the programs that the professional bodybuilders used to craft amazing physiques. I figured that these programs were the ticket to my ultimate success.
When I look back, I have to shake my head and chuckle. After systematically performing all of the routines, absolutely NOTHING about my body resembled those that graced the pages of the magazines! Not too far into the iron game, I surmised there must be more to bodybuilding than performing specific exercises in a particular order.
I invested in a muscle chart and studied each major muscle group to appreciate its purpose. I identified the origins and points of insertion to discern precisely how the muscle worked. I began to incorporate that information into my training sessions and gained a better grasp of human movement in general.
This knowledge added a completely new dimension to my training sessions. Only after arming myself with a greater understanding and reverence for the body's function, was I able to realize what body building could truly be.
Finally, I could properly position my body during each exercise, to allow the target muscle to fully contract through its entire range of motion. Things were never the same since.
It was during this time that I became less obsessed with "the exercise routine" and less concerned with the amount of resistance. Instead, I chose to relentlessly focus on my position and the movement of the muscle on which I was working.
Instead of thrusting my body to lift weight that were just too heavy, I insisted on maintaining proper form - even if it meant putting my ego aside and lifting lighter weights. The payoff was huge.
As time passed, my strength and overall development improved dramatically. My muscles had shape, detail and size. To this day, when I train a particular muscle, I always visualize it in my mind. I focus on fully engaging it through the entire range of motion.
If I do not feel the muscle fully contract against the resistance, I reduce the weight and continue the set. What I lose in reps because of my unwillingness to compromise position and form, I gain in development. And, after fourteen years, I continue to learn, to perfect, to understand, to grow. Done properly, bodybuilding is truly a never-ending learning process.
I know, I know, you're still thinking: "Just tell me what to do!" Okay, here is where you start:
Every Muscle In Your Body Has A Specific Purpose.
Take the biceps for instance. If you ask an orthopedic, he or she will likely advise that the biceps "flex and supinate the forearm at the elbow." HUH?! Put simply, the biceps pull the forearm up from an extended position and allow it to rotate at the elbow joint.
So, as you perform your biceps curls make sure that you maintain the proper position to allow the biceps to fully perform this function.
Do not move your elbows forward and get the shoulders involved; do not swing the weight to generate momentum, do not lean and engage your hips and back to bully the weight up. Rather, allow the biceps to function as intended from the very moment that you begin the set right on through the final rep.
Study Human Movement:
Learn How Your Body Moves.
Invest in a muscle chart and identify the major muscle groups. See where these major muscles begin (point of origin) and end (point of insertion). A muscle begins or is "anchored" on one bone and ends or "attaches" to another bone.
When a muscle contracts or "shortens," it moves a part of our body. In order to fully contract any muscle, you must move the point of insertion toward the origin.
Take the lats for example. Basically, the muscle is anchored in the lower portion of the back (thoracic/lumbar region) and attaches to the upper portion of the arm (on the humerus bone) just past the shoulder joint.
Now consider the lat pulldown. At the beginning of the movement, your arms are extended over your head and your lats are fully stretched. Now, as you begin to pull the bar down toward the sternum and the lats contract or shorten, the muscle pulls the arms down and in toward the body.
When the movement is complete, the lats are fully contracted. At this point, notice that the upper portion of your arm (where the lat inserts) is very close to the middle portion (thoracic region) of the back (where the lat originates.)
With proper posture and body position during the movement, you are always pulling the muscle's point of insertion toward its origin to a full contraction at the end. The same goes for all of the other muscles in the body.
Maintain Proper Position:
Stand Up Tall.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your knees "soft" (slightly bent). Pull your chest up and out toward the ceiling. Stick your rear end out. Keep your shoulders back and down. Tighten your abs/core.
Go For Feel:
Don't Force It.
If an exercise does not feel right, then stop, readjust your position, perhaps reduce the resistance and try again. If something just does not click with a particular exercise, do not be afraid to do something else. Be flexible in your workouts.
Everyone is so wonderfully different that a canned workout program found in the pages of a fitness magazine or a book will not necessarily produce the results that you seek. Can you train your quadriceps and biceps together? Yes. Can you train your hamstrings and shoulders together? Certainly.
Can you train your chest and calves together? I don't see why not. Now, I will admit that there are certain combinations of exercises that work better together than others for various reasons, but do not be afraid to experiment.
There isn't necessarily one magical program that will work "the best." It all comes right back to this: Sculpting your physique does not so much depend on what you do. Its how you go about doing it that really matters.
Learning and ultimately mastering proper form and technique takes time, patience and a lot of practice. However, the more you invest in learning, the more time that you devote to experimenting, the greater the payoff in ultimate results.