Forget the Fads
Building muscle is simple, and once you get the correct form down, the exercises you should be doing are simple. They’re the same exercises that guys have been doing for years, and they’ve been working for years.
Over the years, we’ve seen our fair share of fads. We thought that saturated fats were the enemy when trying to burn fat. Now we’re finding out that fast carbs and trans fats add to our waistline and that trans fats are destroying our hearts. We saw the influx of machines in our neighborhood gyms, and women were swept up in the aerobics fad. Now resistance bands and Bosu balls are popping up everywhere and we’re getting swept up in the excitement while the barbells and chalk are sitting lonely in the corner like the mop on those Swiffer commercials. However dramatic the amount of changes we’ve seen in the fitness industry over its relatively brief existence, the things that produce the best results have remained relatively intact.
1. You don’t need a massive exercise repertoire to build lean muscle mass.
Every time I walk into the local gym where I train, I see trainers walking their clients through a hilarious array of contortionist-type exercises. I see more people on one leg than I do on two. There are more people on a balance board than on solid ground.
The thing that’s even more concerning is I see fewer and fewer people using barbells or dumbbells than ever before. It seems like people are training less for strength, which helps in joint and bone health (and for women, it helps prevent osteoporosis), and more for show. I see too many people doing exercises because they look cool or complex.
Instead of doing the simplest, most effective method of training, we’re trying to come up with the fanciest, most complicated exercises that end up being less effective in the long run. They take weeks to master, which diminishes the intensity of our workouts tenfold.
If your goal is to become stronger and build muscle, here are the exercises that should be at the center of your training (including the various variations for each):
* Bench press
* Military press
* Yates row
* Olympic lifts
2. If you want to build muscle, you have to eat a lot of food.
I get a ton of emails a day from skinny guys saying they’ve tried everything but can’t pack on any muscle. When I ask how much they’re eating (if they don’t know the caloric value), they’ll give me a daily example of what they consume. The constant with all of them is that they (and myself when I was struggling to put on mass) aren’t coming close to eating enough food on a daily basis.
Rather than using a caloric intake guideline, I usually just highlight what foods to eat and when to eat them, focusing the majority of carbohydrates around a workout. But to get an idea of just how much we need to be eating in order to gain any kind of muscle mass, I think it’s important to do a week or two of a calorie-focused nutrition plan.
The majority of us really don’t have any idea just how much we need to eat because we also don’t have any clue of exactly how many calories we burn during our day. BMR calculators can fall short, especially with the really wiry ectomorphs. They don’t calculate our training, a walk to work, or any activity we do during the day that burns calories. And we often neglect to bring those things into the equation as well.
If you’re trying to gain muscle mass, start with a minimum of 5000 calories a day of whole foods. Don’t short change yourself on carbohydrates, fats, or proteins. Just make sure the vast majority of the calories are whole and/or come from an animal or the ground. Stay away from trans fats and fast carbs unless they’re within a couple hours of your training session.
Here’s an example of what to eat:
Five eggs, 1–2 cups of oatmeal, whole milk
Shake consisting of chocolate protein powder, whole milk, and peanut butter plus one shot of espresso (optional)
Two chicken breasts, risotto (packed full of veggies) 1–2 hours before workout
Gatorade (or carbs powder blend) and protein powder
Dinner (post-workout meal)
French toast (12–16 egg whites, four slices of bread, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and butter)
Cottage cheese, fruit, and dry oats
Food preparation tips
Chicken breasts: Prepare a bunch at the same time. Fill a pan with chicken breasts. Lightly season each, add 1/4 inch of water to the pan, and insert into the oven. The water will make the chicken breasts much juicier.
Note: You don’t want to overcook any food and risk killing some of the valuable nutrients.
French toast: Use a spat of butter to cover the pan. Let the bread soak in the aforementioned mixture of egg whites and such for a few minutes. Place the soaked bread into the pan, douse with cinnamon, let cook for a few minutes, and then flip.
3. Lifting heavy weights usually results in muscle gains.
Assuming that you’re eating enough food and doing the right exercises, you can’t really go wrong with lifting heavy weights. Trying to add weight on a weekly basis should be engrained in your head. Having at least one heavy week each month should also be routine.
You need variation in your routine, but like I said earlier, that variation should come in the form of rep, set, and tempo variations. You don’t need to look in the exercise dictionary for a new kind of press to do each time you work your chest.
A simple way to have the right variation in your training is to change reps weekly or every three weeks. On a four-week ‘phase,’ start week one with a higher rep count and lower rest periods. You can choose the kind of sets (super sets, single sets, drop sets, or so forth).
Week 1: 10–12 reps
Week 2: 8–10 reps
Week 3: 6–8 reps
Week 4: 4–6 reps
That’s a good, simple starting point. Also rotate between barbells and dumbbells every week to hit your muscles in different ways. If you have chains, by all means use them.
Creating programs with confusing exercises looks good, but it might not get you the results you’re looking for because much of the time it takes away from the intensity of the workout. Intensity can make or break your gains. If you aren’t working hard, you aren’t going to build the body you want.
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|08-18-2011, 02:29 PM||#11|
Bearded Beast of Duloc
Join Date: Jul 2009
Training Exp: 20+ years
Training Type: Powerbuilding
Fav Exercise: Deadlift
Fav Supp: Butter
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