How to Go from Nerd to Muscle Man

Four Parts:Working Out for BeginnersHitting the WeightsEating Right to Muscle UpChanging Up Your Look

Are you one of those people who is known as the "nerd" or "geek" at school? Do you want to put some muscle mass on your frame? Getting in shape is a good way to change your image and become more well-rounded in the process.

Part 1
Working Out for Beginners

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    Train for strength before you reach for the big weights. Strength training exercises focus on proper form and technique, not on how much weight you can lift at once.[1] Increased strength improves your muscle tone, which can help make your muscles more defined and noticeable long before they get bigger!
    • Heavier weight training is best left for puberty, when hormonal changes make for optimum muscle growth. If you're a late bloomer, get ahead of the game by strengthening and toning your muscles now!
    • Work out for periods of 30-45 minutes. That should be enough time for at least a few different exercises.
    • Work out 2-3 times per week for 4-6 weeks. Give yourself 1-2 days off between workouts to allow your muscles to rest, recuperate, and grow.
    • The simplest exercises use body weight as resistance to strengthen your muscles.[2] Check out some examples below.
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    Pump out some push-ups. Stretch out your body face down on the floor. Put your palms flat on the floor close to your shoulders. With your legs straight and your toes touching the floor, push your upper body up and away from your hands until your arms are nearly extended. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. That's one repetition, or rep.
    • Complete a set of 6-10 reps. Rest for 1-2 minutes, then try to complete another set of 6-10 reps.
    • Try to keep your body as straight as you can, with your back, butt, and legs all in a line.
    • Push-ups are a classic exercise to strengthen the muscles of the shoulders, arms, and chest. Proper form also helps stabilize the abdominal muscles.
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    Do some sit-ups. Lie flat on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground next to each other. Cross your arms over your chest. Keeping your legs still, bend up from your stomach until you are looking straight ahead at your knees. Slowly lower your upper body back down to the starting position. That's one rep.
    • Complete a set of 8-12 reps. Rest for 1-2 minutes, then try to complete another set of 8-12 reps.
    • For an extra challenge, hold both hands behind your head as you sit up.
    • Sit-ups focus on strengthening the abdominal muscles, also known as your core.
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    Strengthen your legs with simple squats. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold your hands a few inches in front of your chest for balance. Keep your back as straight and vertical as you can while slowly bending your knees. Lower your body until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor, then push yourself back up to a standing position.
    • Complete a set of 10-15 reps. Rest for 1-2 minutes, then try to complete another set of 10-15 reps.
    • As you bend and straighten your legs, try to keep your weight balanced on your heels instead of your toes or the balls of your feet.
    • Squats help strengthen the leg and butt muscles.
    • Squat exercises are a fundamental part of weightlifting, so it's a good idea to perfect your form early on with this exercise!
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    Use simple fitness equipment to get stronger. Dumbbells aren't the only type of portable workout equipment. The right tools can add more resistance to your body weight workouts and expand the number of exercises in your workout repertoire! The following items can be bought at most fitness stores and are much cheaper than weights or machines.
    • Medicine balls come in a variety of sizes and weights. Hold one against your chest for extra resistance while you do sit-ups.
    • Grip strengtheners are basically springs with a handle on each end. Hold one with your thumb around one handle and your four fingers around the other handle. Slowly squeeze the two handles together to perform 1 rep. Start with a set of 10-15 reps with one hand, then do a set with your other hand.
    • Take your squats to the next level with a resistance band![3] Stand with both feet shoulder width apart on a resistance band, and hold the ends in front of you at shoulder height. Use the same form and range of motion as a body weight squat.
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    Keep a change of workout clothes handy. Yes, you'll want to save your everyday clothes from becoming a sweaty, smelly mess. But to properly develop strength and promote flexibility, exercises should always be performed through a full range of motion.[4] Wear loose, breathable clothing that won't restrict your movements. Light shorts, sweatpants, and tee shirts are ideal.

Part 2
Hitting the Weights

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    Go to your local gym or your school's weight room. Ask a trainer or an assistant there to give you some advice. No beginning weightlifter should exercise without some guidance or supervision! Everyone is different, and an expert will help you figure out a weightlifting routine that is appropriate for your age and experience level.
    • School gyms often have teachers or other staff that will provide you with input or even personal training at no cost to you! They are there to help you, so take advantage of their expertise!
    • Make staff aware of any health conditions you might have. Such details are often covered on waivers and other entry forms used by the facility.
    • If you have already been working out at home using body weight or light resistance, let them know. Someone may ask you to demonstrate a few exercises in order to check your form and offer pointers.
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    Select exercises that will result in the most growth. Because of the hormonal changes that take place during puberty, teenage bodies are primed for a lot of potential muscle growth. Take advantage of growth spurts with compound exercises that require the use of multiple muscles and joints at once.[5] Here are three of the most fundamental compound exercises in the weight room:
    • Bench Press
    • Squats
    • Deadlifts
    • Combine them with lighter strength training exercises like pushups, pullups, and sit-ups to challenge your body with a broader range of movement.
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    Structure your weight routine with a split schedule. Focusing your effort on certain muscle groups during one gym session gives other parts of your body time to rest and recover. There are different ways to split things up:
    • A workout based on different body parts. For example, work chest muscles Monday, legs Wednesday, arms Friday, and back muscles Sunday.
    • Workouts that pair muscle groups together. Work out abs and legs on Tuesday, back and biceps on Thursday, chest and triceps on Saturday.
    • Over the course of a week, you should be able to work every muscle group in your body at least once.
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    Split up your workout according to muscle actions, like pushing and pulling.[6][7] Pushing motions work the chest, shoulders, and triceps arm muscles. Pulling motions work the back muscles and the biceps muscles in your arms.
    • Pushing exercises include bench presses and pushups.
    • Pulling exercises include different types of rows.
    • Alternate "push" and "pull" days at the gym.
    • Core exercises and cardio can be given their own day in the gym, or thrown in with any of the specific muscle group days.
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    Make steady increases. Progress through your workout routine by regularly increasing weight, the number of sets, or the number of exercises. Muscle fibers can only get bigger by continually pushing them to new limits.[8] This is called muscle hypertrophy.
    • In the first four weeks, spend each workout performing 3 sets of 4 exercises for a total of 12 sets. Then add a 4th set to each muscle group exercise for maximal gains.[9]
    • For the best muscle gains, do 8-12 reps per set.[10] Do fewer reps than you would for light strength training.
    • Start out with a comfortable weight and slowly increase the weight for each set. When you can perform 8-12 reps with no trouble, your muscles have gotten used to that weight. It's time to add more!
    • Keep a log of your workouts so you can accurately increase the weight each time.
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    Mix it up. Muscles groups are challenged week to week by increasing the weight of each rep, or the number of sets your perform. But even if you increase weight, your body still becomes used to the overall routine you've been doing. Hypertrophy should also be a long-term goal if you want to get bigger, so it's best to change up your workout routine every 12 weeks.
    • It's okay to keep a couple of exercises from your last workout plan, but try to choose as many new exercises as you can.
    • You can also try a different split routine. If you have been working every body part on a separate day, pair them up.
    • Many exercises have variations that can be done using dumbbells, machines, or resistance bands. Shoulder presses are a good exercise to modify in this manner.
    • To give all muscle groups time to recover, add a few days of extra rest between your old and new workout routines.

Part 3
Eating Right to Muscle Up

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    Eat frequent and consistent meals. Keep your body supplied with a constant source of fuel, especially when you're going to be shocking your muscles by building strength and muscle mass. Don't skip any meals!
    • With main meals and snacks, try to eat an average of 5-6 times a day for maximum muscle growth.
    • Prepare snacks and quick meals ahead of time to keep your diet on track.
    • To re-fuel your body and repair your muscles immediately after a strenuous workout, keep a post-workout protein bar or shake handy.
    • Many different protein bars are available in stores if you need a last-minute snack. Check labels for details on protein content and other nutrition information.
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    Consume food in the proper ratio. 55% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, 25% should come from protein, and 20% should come from healthy fats.[11] That may seem like a lot of carbs, but they're your body's main energy source. You need a lot of carb energy to ensure that your body doesn't have to start consuming muscle-building protein for fuel.
    • Healthy carbs come from fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain cereals, breads, and oatmeal.
    • Protein in meals comes from chicken, lean red meat, and fish.
    • Healthy fats come from seeds, nuts, avocados, olive oil, and peanut butter.
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    Use nutritional supplements wisely. Supplements are meant to bolster the amount of protein and other nutrients that your body uses to repair and build up hypertrophic muscles. Use supplements in addition to a good meal, not as a substitute for one![12]
    • Always discuss supplement usage with a coach, trainer, or parent before making them part of your muscle building regimen.
    • Protein shakes are a good way to ingest extra protein and other nutrients between meals. Protein powders can be purchased at any health food store or online.
    • Vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids are just as important to muscle building as protein. Multi-vitamins pack a lot of essential nutrients into a daily tablet. Tasteless fish oil pills are a good source of healthy fatty acids.
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    Learn to count calories. Calorie counting is not a diet, but a way to keep track of the amount of energy that comes from food and the amount of energy used by your body.[13]
    • There are several ways to count calories. Many fitness websites and apps have built-in calculators to help you.
    • If daily calories from food total more than the daily number of calories you burn, you will gain weight.
    • To build noticeable muscle mass, try to increase your daily food intake by 300-500 calories per day.[14]
    • If daily calories from food total less than the daily number of calories you burn, you will probably lose weight. Never lower your calorie intake if your goal is to add muscle mass!
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    Don't worry about following a flawlessly perfect/italic muscle building diet! Adolescents are constantly growing and so their metabolism can take more punishment than the average adult's. As long as you stay true to your workouts and maintain a balanced diet, chowing down on some junk food from time to time won't derail your muscle man goals.

Part 4
Changing Up Your Look

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    Update the rest of your body along with your new physique. If you don't, you can spend all your free time in the gym and just end up looking like a bulky nerd. Believe it or not, there really is a middle ground between Clark Kent and Superman! Change your bookish style to complement the body you want.
    • Intensify your level of hygiene, especially since you plan to exercise on a regular basis. Shower after every workout.
    • Shave as often as you need to. Some scruff is okay, but unkempt facial hair is a nerdy look to be avoided.
    • Get a haircut. Hairstyles come and go, but short or trimmed hair is usually a look more associated with athletic guys. Ask a stylist or barber for advice.
    • Pay attention to small grooming details like keeping your nails neatly trimmed.
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    Dress to suit the body you're building. Clothes make the man! Use trial and error to find styles that you're comfortable wearing but that will also make people stop and look twice at your physique.
    • Get some new eyewear. Contact lenses or Lasik eye surgery are options if you're tired of glasses. Otherwise, try going with a glasses frame that is in style.
    • Don't ditch the tee shirts. Tees with pop culture prints are a very popular style. Plus it can be fun to see how much better you fill out a shirt that used to hang off of you!
    • Match colors appropriately. An easy rule is to always match the color of your shoes and belt. Don't mix black shoes with a brown belt, or vice versa.
    • You may need new threads out of necessity as much as style. If your goal is to pack on the muscles and you're still a growing adolescent, be prepared to go through at least a few shirt and pant sizes.
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    Develop a well-rounded lifestyle. It's great that you want to make positive changes in your life, but be careful not to go from one extreme to the other. Don't give up on who you were, add to who you are!
    • Make sure to stay focused on schoolwork and not slack off. Be proud of your good grades and non-athletic talents. They're part of you who are.
    • Explore how exercise and science overlap. If you like to work out, the field of kinesiology could be a great career option for you!
    • Working out is a great way to socialize and meet new people. Good friends can start out as workout buddies you met at the gym.
    • Lead by example. Your fellow nerds may want to put on some muscle or try a sport but are afraid to. Maybe some jock at the gym is afraid to talk about his love of books. Your journey could be a source of inspiration to others who want to break out of their niche.
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    Balance cosmetic changes with the mental and physical value of exercise. Sure it's great to look in the mirror and see muscles where none were before. But think about how your new routine makes you feel. Are you more confident? Do you have more energy? Think about how working out change your self-image for the better.


  • If you don't feel ready to enter a gym, a workout routine using body weight and light resistance is a great way to start shaping up in the privacy of your home.
  • Begin any workout with a warmup. Warm-up activities help to increase body temperature and blood flow to your muscles.[15] Run in place, outside, or on a treadmill for 5 minutes.
  • Remember that strength gains will always come before size gains. You'll get a lot stronger before you get any bigger, but both will come with enough time and patience.
  • Whey and casein protein powders are both milk by-products. Vegan protein supplements are available if you're lactose intolerant.


  • Realize that this is a gradual process that you will start seeing results in somewhere around 3 - 4 months. Yes, that sounds like a long time but in the end it will be worth it!
  • Sports teams may spend a lot of time at your school's gym. This can create an intimidating environment for beginners. Find out if there are times when the weight room is not full of athletes.
  • Don't give up even if you are sore at first. This will pay off in the long run!
  • Talk to your doctor and parents about the dangers of anabolic steroid use and other performance enhancers. Resist the temptation to bulk up at any cost - the cost will be your health and your integrity!
  • It can be hard to redefine yourself as a teenager when your peers are used to you looking and acting a certain way. But the changes you're trying to make will hopefully last long after school is over!
  • Adolescents with heart conditions should NOT strength train or engage in intense workouts without consulting a doctor first.[16]

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Categories: Building Muscle & Strength