In this third installment of transformation factors, I will share four determinants of bodybuilding success that have helped me and countless others to pack on the muscle. Combined with the preceding two installments of factors, these will assist with massive gains if followed consistently.
(But Do So With Caution)
There is no question that aerobic training has its place in bodybuilding, as its benefits are great if done correctly.
| What's The Difference Between Aerobic And Anaerobic?
Aerobic means "involving or improving oxygen consumption by the body". Aerobic exercise, therefore, enhances respiratory and circulatory efficiency by improving oxygen consumption. Aerobic movements require oxygen to generate force, and enlist slow-twitch muscles for activity over sustained periods of time (minutes to hours). Examples of aerobic exercise includes cardio, jogging, cycling, and running marathons.
Anaerobic, on the other hand, literally means "without oxygen". Anaerobic exercise, then, does not require oxygen to generate force. Anaerobic movements use fast-twitch muscles for short bursts of intense activity lasting only brief durations of time (ranging typically from a few seconds to up to a minute). Examples of anaerobic exercises includes isometric holds, sprinting, and high-intensity weightlifting.
However, for those who train naturally, and/or who have hardgainer genetics (i.e. the majority of people questing for size), aerobics should be used as a way to assist and complement weight training workouts, not as an activity in is own right.
In other words, one should never lose sight of the very reason they began bodybuilding: to build muscle. Aerobic training, if done correctly, will generally target fat cells via the process of oxygenation.
How Aerobic Exercise Works
When training aerobically, the body will draw on oxygen to facilitate ATP production (ATP is a molecule used to activate the body's various energy systems).
| What Is ATP?
Otherwise known as Adenosine TriPhosphate, ATP is critical to the release of energy. ATP is an adenosine-derived nucleotide that supplies large amounts of energy to cells for various biochemical processes, including muscle contraction and sugar metabolism, through its hydrolysis to ADP.
In the presence of oxygen, the body will usually preferentially burn fat. This makes it a good activity for a bodybuilder who needs to lose bodyfat. However, aerobic activity will also burn some protein and carbohydrate, as it is not purely a fat-burning activity. For the bodybuilder who struggles to put on any weight, this fact alone could make aerobic activity undesirable.
Indeed, aerobics could prove counter-productive to muscle growth as the protein it draws on might otherwise be used for muscle development. Indeed, excessive aerobic work may actually cause muscle degeneration due to the protein being used as a fuel source, being taken directly from the muscle.
In saying all of this, aerobic activity will help to build capillary networks and strengthen cardiac output, both of which assist blood flow to the muscle. Efficient blood flow to the muscles means greater nutrient delivery and waste product removal.
This all adds up to increases in muscle size and strength. Aerobics also help improve many aspects of health, including cardio respiratory function, mental acuity and digestion (all components of muscle growth to some extent).
The key is to find the right amount of aerobic work necessary to help deliver results in muscle mass, without actually stripping the body of quality size. Three 30-minute sessions of walking per week could be sufficient for the majority of bodybuilders. However, play around with this figure until the correct amount is found.
Generally, the harder and more intense the aerobic session (assuming it is extended beyond 20 minutes), the greater the deleterious affect on muscle. Overtraining with aerobics will undoubtedly destroy muscle building potential. Emphasize the weights and use aerobics sparingly if extreme muscle size is sought.
In The Areas Of Training & Nutrition
Becoming as fully informed as possible on training and nutrition will enable one to cut through the mythology and half-truths that pervade bodybuilding, to make real results in the fastest possible time.
Reading publications and websites, like the one you have in front of you, will go a long way toward the realization of all your bodybuilding goals. Granted, there are many tried and true methods of gaining size (many of which are featured on this site), which are to be learned and adhered to over the long term. However, knowledge in the areas of training and nutritional science changes all the time.
Many of the latest discoveries might prove to be ill-conceived, but there are a good many that may facilitate muscle growth. The key is to learn the underlying science behind what works and what doesn't, and apply this science to your training and nutritional framework. An example of the type of information worth learning can be found in bodybuilding.com's weekly podcasts.
The transformations series has also covered some of the more important tried and tested bodybuilding principals. For example, in last month's installment (part 2), protein was suggested as being of immense value, as well as listing the correct percentages and ratios one should consider when structuring high protein foods into their diet.
This is but one example that will save the prospective bodybuilder time when it comes to planning their diet.
The real secret to sticking to a diet and training plan is to believe 100 percent in what you are doing. Through becoming fully informed, one is better able to buy into the rational behind why they are adopting a particular approach, and stay with this approach over the long term. To gain a knowledge base that will keep you at the forefront of bodybuilding research and improve muscular gains, do the following:
- Read all the reputable online bodybuilding publications, such as this site.
- Read well-referenced magazine articles.
- Invest in several of the better-known bodybuilding books on the market.
- Join several of the online forums, to share information and learn about what is new in terms of training and nutrition (you will be surprised at what you learn in various forums).
- Attend seminars presented by scientifically-minded individuals.
- Find someone you can trust and listen to them. Do not take advice from unqualified sources.
Get Adequate Rest
Not exactly rocket science, but an overlooked principal nonetheless. Sufficient rest is absolutely essential to bodybuilding success, so much so that even a small drop-off in muscular restoration will have negative consequences. For bodybuilding to really work it needs to become a lifestyle.
If one does not enjoy the regimentation of the bodybuilding lifestyle, optimal muscle growth will not result. Given the heavy demands of weight training coupled with correct dietary habits, it is imperative that the right amount of rest be achieved, as it is during this time training stress and nutrients do their respective jobs, and protein synthesis is facilitated.
Unfortunately, the realities of life dictate a certain amount of extra-curricular, non-bodybuilding exertion. The demands one's regular job entails, and the various social commitments they need to uphold mean the perfect amount of rest for maximal muscle growth will probably never be achieved.
Sadly, this is the reality. However, there are many things a person can do to facilitate the recovery process, and maximize their muscle building efforts.
1. Limit Workouts To No More Than One Hour.
Extending the workout period beyond what is necessary for muscle growth might have a deleterious impact on recovery. If one has an extremely busy schedule and chooses to spend hours in the gym, the recovery time they have outside the gym will be shortened.
In practical terms, a bodybuilder should try to spend the majority of their time resting and eating enough protein and other calories to support muscle growth. The work in the gym should be short and intense. The volume can be kept reasonably high if this is the preferred method. Just try to reduce rest between sets to keep the session within the one-hour time frame.
2. Get At Least Eight Hours Sleep Per Night.
Achieving the right amount of quality sleep is critical in order to efficiently engage the process of protein synthesis. Growth hormone is also released as we sleep, making adequate slumber doubly essential.
Sleep is the ultimate form of rest and should not be overlooked. Several nights of broken sleep staggered over a long period can have a cumulative negative effect on muscle growth. The keys to getting adequate sleep include going to bed a least two hours before midnight, avoiding stimulants for up to six hours before bedtime, and relaxing thoroughly in the hours preceding sleep.
3. Take A Half-Hour Afternoon Nap.
Due to the activity of the brain's circadian rhythms, the body often feels drowsy during the mid-afternoon period. A short nap at this time is often all that is needed to revitalize the body and mind. Be sure not to sleep for too long, as this can have the opposite effect and make it hard to sleep in the evening.
4. Limit Partying.
The bodybuilding lifestyle being what it is dictates no unnecessary negative influences. Staying up late drinking and partying will place the body into a catabolic state and ruin one's gym efforts.
The bodybuilding lifestyle does not expect that one becomes a social outcast, just a shifting of priorities. Attend functions that are conducive to your bodybuilding goals. Eat and socialize, but try to avoid drinking and late night partying.
5. Avoid Stress.
Most of us know that stress is unavoidable. Our societies are often high-pressured, stressful environments. We can, however, negate to a large degree the various negative stressors to which we are subjected on a daily basis. When confronted with a stressful situation, remain calm and think the matter through before deciding on the correct course of action.
Instead of letting anger bottle up, focus on what is important in life as a way in which to overcome its destructive effects. Excessive negative stress will render the individual mentally and physically exhausted. Not the fastest way to muscle-building recovery!
6. Stay Hydrated.
Although not commonly touted as a direct muscle-builder, water consumption is one of the more critical factors for muscle hypertrophy and fat loss. It is a well-known fact that muscle will grow faster in a healthy, non-toxic environment. In fact, the toxins that regularly invade our body, on all levels, diminish the anabolic conditions necessary for extreme muscle growth.
| Hypertrophy Vs. Hyperplasia
Hypertrophy refers to an increase in muscle size, due to the enlargement of the size of the cells, as opposed to an increase in the number of cells (by cell division, a.k.a. Hyperplasia). Hypertrophy is most commonly seen in muscle that has been actively stimulated, the most well-known method being exercise.
Staying hydrated through the sufficient consumption of pure water will help to purify the body's internal organs as well as the skin. Performance in the gym will improve as a result of the more efficient anabolic environment that increased water consumption creates.
An improvement in performance (i.e., heavier weights lifted, and an ability to sustain a set longer) will assist muscle growth. Furthermore, increased water intake will directly volumize the muscle cells, thereby allowing a greater degree of leverage and power output during a training session.
Simply put, a dehydrated muscle is a weak muscle, while a hydrated one is strong. In fact, total body weight is comprised of around 80 percent water with lean muscle mass composition being at around 70 percent. Water will also assist with protein storage and metabolism. Additional protein in the diet calls for sufficient levels of quality water.
|WATER INTAKE CALCULATOR|
An additional advantage of water consumption for the bodybuilder is fat loss. Most bodybuilders are looking to simultaneously decrease fat stores to reveal their underlying muscle. Water helps to liberate fat stores so they can be burned as an additional energy source during intensive workouts.
When the body is well-hydrated, blood levels of oxygen are greater. The higher the level of blood oxygen, the greater the body's fat-burning potential. With adequate levels of oxygen, the body cannot utilize stored fat for energy efficiently. Increased water intake also helps with appetite suppression and allows one to cut back on unnecessary (fat storing) foods as a result.
Water has also been shown to help eliminate the surplus sodium that is taken in through the diet. Excessive sodium can contribute to high blood pressure and a puffy appearance (water retention). Neither of these is conducive to extreme muscle growth.
A hard-training bodybuilder who consumes at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight (the suggested ideal amount) should drink at least five liters of waters per day. A good trick is to carry a bottle of water everywhere and sip from it liberally. To ensure adequate hydration of the muscles throughout the day, the following can also be done.
- Always drink water before, during and after a workout. Doing this will ensure the muscles do not tire, and performance is not reduced due to the dehydration that can occur more readily when the body is at work.
- Make it part of your morning ritual to drink two glasses of water immediately upon rising. This is the perfect start to the day, and sets the pace for the remainder of the day.
- Drink cold water wherever possible. Cold water is absorbed into the body at a faster rate compared to warm water.
- Envisage your muscles becoming full and round whenever water is consumed. This little psychological trick will hopefully help one to remember to prioritize water in one's diet, and underscore the importance of keeping the muscle well hydrated with at least five liters of water per day!