Newbie: I Want Bigger Mirror Muscles – Weight Lifting Q&A

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By Alex
Last updated on

Question: I have been lifting weights for 3 months. I am 191 cm (6’3″) tall and weigh 80 Kg (176 lbs). I want to add muscle to my chest, biceps, triceps and shoulders. I also want to reduce the excess fat around my stomach. In these past 3 months of training, my strength has increased, but I still need to bulk up. Please give me a proper weight lifting routine and muscle building diet. – Mohanraj R.

Answer: Hey Mohanraj. Let me start by saying, it’s great that you’ve gotten into lifting and are motivated to improve your body. However, from your message, it seems like you only want to work your “mirror muscles”…

…That is, the muscles on the front-side of your upper body, that you see when standing/flexing in front of a mirror.

It’s pretty common for new lifters to have this as their goal. But unfortunately, it’s a misguided goal. You see, the mirror muscles only make up a small portion of your overall muscle mass. What about all of those back muscles and lower body muscles?

Some use the argument that since you can’t even see your own back muscles and because most people will never see your leg muscles, that there’s no point in training either. I hate to break it to folks that believe this, but its just plain wrong, and I’ve heard more convincing arguments from two-year olds who can’t even form coherent sentences.

There are some very important reasons to workout all the major muscle groups, including those of your back and lower body. One of those reasons is that, by ignoring leg and back training, you miss out on some of the most effective weight lifting exercises, such as pull ups, bent over rows, glute-ham raises, leg press; but especially the big-boy lifts: squats and deadlifts.

Deadlifts focus on your back (especially the spinal erectors) but also hit the gluteal muscles and hamstrings very intensely. Squats hit your quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscles to the greatest extent, but also give the spinal erectors a significant workout.

However, the best part about squats and deadlifts isn’t even that they hit all those previously mentioned muscles. But rather, they both work almost every single muscle in your entire body to varying extents; including those chest, biceps, triceps and shoulder muscles that you so eagerly want to improve.

In other words, by skipping out on these and other robust leg and back exercises, you will be limiting the growth potential of the very muscles you want to build up. Not to mention, you’d also end up looking like the stereotypical, meathead gym rat; sporting a disproportionally large upper torso, with tooth pick legs and a two-dimensional back! 😀

Aesthetics aside, there are even more important reasons to work all major muscle groups. That is, for functional and health reasons. When you only workout your chest, arms and shoulders, you gradually force your musculature into a state of imbalance. The imbalance occurs because your pulling muscles (i.e. back muscles) become overstretched and weak, while your pushing muscles (i.e. chest and shoulder muscles) become shortened overly tight…

…The result of this? Well, it’s not pretty. Basically, you start out by looking something like the Hunch Back of Notre Dame’s protégé; nothing too serious. But as time goes on and you continue training improperly, your posture begins deteriorating at an accelerating pace. Then it finally gets so bad that it’s commonplace for strangers to come up to you, only to confuse you with some bell-ringer from the 15th century named Quasimodo.

Yes, I’m exaggerating for effect, but the truth is that training in this manner leads to a slouched, forward-head posture or a similar deficiency. But even worse than the crappy posture is the greatly increased chances of chronic pain or injuries effecting shoulder, neck or upper back regions.

Okay, by this time I’ve hopefully persuaded you into training your entire body, and not just your mirror muscles. So now I’ll get back to the specifics of your question…

First and most importantly, let me stress that you’ve only been lifting for 3 months. That’s a blink of an eye compared to seasoned lifters. Building muscle is a slow process. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Secondly, you mentioned that you have gained a noticeable amount of strength thus far, but not so much in the way of muscle. It’s important to understand that all beginners experience a delay of several weeks where they only gain strength, but don’t experience any noticeable gains in muscle mass. So the fact that you’ve gotten stronger at least shows that you’re been heading in the right direction. Who knows; because of this delay that happens before seeing any muscle growth, there may be some gains waiting for you just over the horizon…

…And even if there aren’t, that will soon change once you begin training the rest of your body with big lifts like the squat and deadlift (as I had advised in my above ranting). Doing so will jump-start your muscle building progress. I suggest you use the MYx8 weight lifting routine, which I recommend to all beginners. Be sure to download the PDF and read the details so you understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

When training on this routine (or any other routine), it’s imperative that you train with the principle of progressive overload in mind. If you don’t, then you may as well forget about gaining any muscle. The most basic application of this principle is to increase the weight of a given exercise, over time, and without sacrificing proper form… A simple, yet powerful concept.

However, it will be impossible to apply this principle, unless you’re on a diet plan that gives your body the nutrients it needs to recover and adapt accordingly.

Luckily for you, I’ve already created a step-by-step guide on how to make just such a diet. See bodybuilding diet and read the guide all the way through (multiple times if necessary). Follow the instructions for the “bulking diet.” Its purpose is for gaining muscle, but you’re also likely gain a little bit of fat, since you’ll be eating more calories than you burn per day. This is more or less a “necessary evil” (except for experienced dieters and/or those with a certain body type)…

…I realize this goes against your other goal of losing the extra bit of fat that you currently hold around your stomach. But based on your height and bodyweight, it’s likely you don’t have much muscle mass to begin with. Therefore, it doesn’t make any sense to do a “cutting diet” (for fat loss) because that would only make you look scrawny. And this is why I highly recommend a bulking diet; it allows you to build a solid base of muscle first, so that you can reveal a ripped and muscular physique once eventually do go on a cutting diet.

Hopefully all this information has put you on the right track, toward muscle building success. Be patient and remain dedicated. If you use the resources provided and follow the advice laid out in this post, I guarantee that you’ll look back to this point in time a year from now, and be amazed at just how far you’ve come.

Happy lifting,

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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