Part 3 - Injuries & Recuperation
Part 4 - Training Tips & Traveling Nutrition
I am doing 4 sets of 12 reps but I read somewhere that if you are looking to increase muscle mass then you should be doing more sets with less reps but higher weight. Is that correct?
Doing 4 sets of 12 reps you have developed good muscular endurance. To increase muscle mass you are right in doing lower reps. Six reps are good for strength gains. Eight to ten are good for lean mass gains. For the reverse pyramid heavy-duty alternative your reps for each exercise should be 6, 8, 10. But do not make the mistake of increasing your sets. This will prolong your workout. Time is a factor in high-intensity training.
Many bodybuilders workout too long, few workout out too hard. Since the reverse pyramid calls for your first set as the heaviest weight you can handle for 6 reps make sure you do a thorough warm-up, say 10-15 minutes for loosening your joints, stretching your muscles and preparing them and the mind for what lies ahead.
I'm having this problem when I bench press. When I get up to 230 pounds I can only do it one time. I've been stuck on this weight for a couple of months. Could you give me some advice as to how to increase my strength?
First of all, a single rep max (1RM) is out of the question for increasing strength. A single RM is okay to do once a month to satisfy the ego but do not do it continuously. All you're doing is placing undo stress and strain on your joints, tendons, and ligaments. It is only in due time they will give out and you'll end up with a serious injury that will put a halt to your high-intensity training that may take weeks or up to months to heal.
Doing single RM's weeks on end on bench press it is not surprising you have been over-training in this particular exercise. Your chest cannot recover from the excessive abuse it's been receiving from this one exercise. That is why you have been "stuck" for a couple of months.
Because you've been beating your pecs too much with bench they are probably having an adverse effect from that exercise. You might be lacking upper pec strength to get beyond your 230 pounds. Begin with inclined bench presses first on a 6, 8, 10 rep system and then bench press. Since you are accustomed to working out with few reps on bench press try starting with the very least minimum of 4 reps for your first set and follow with 6 and 8. Do not go below 4 reps on any given set as this may cause serious injury. You should notice strength gains on a weekly basis and muscle gains of at least two pounds on a monthly basis.
Don't forget you can monitor your strength increases by "warm-down" sets, i.e. your last couple of sets - 8, 10. Remember to make sure you are getting enough quality nutrition in the right amounts at the right times to boost your recuperation cycle. And rest!
I am a high school wrestler and enjoy playing lacrosse. I want to build both strength and endurance to increase my performance for both sports. How can I use the reverse pyramid to do this?
For increasing volume to build both strength and muscular endurance simply increase your rep range. Rather than the standard 6, 8, 10 system do a 8, 10, 12 (this is a good medium for both strength and endurance) or 10, 12, 14.
I have tried several different techniques for increasing bicep size. Yet, I do not notice any difference. In fact, I do not get sore any more. Does this mean that I am not growing if I am not sore? Are muscles growing if they not sore the next day or two?
If you "have tried several different techniques for increasing bicep size" then it appears you are over-training them. Muscle size is not dependent on technique used but:
- How well you isolate the muscle
- How you perform the exercise
- How many repetitions you do - a range of 8-12 is good
- How well you are eating
- How much rest (recuperation) you need to aid in growth.
When it comes to training biceps former 8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney has a smart approach, "Touch'em, feel'em, and move on." It is very easy to over-train a small body part like the biceps.
The name of the muscle game is stimulate, not annihilate. Because most of us want big biceps we fall into the trap thinking more is better and go crazy training them like a masochist. That is a mistake and can in fact halt muscular gains no matter what body part you are training.
I know a colleague of mine that when he trains his chest he never feels sore the next day. Yet, he grows. Why? He does two important things outside the gym to promote muscular growth:
- He follows a high-performance sports nutrition meal plan regimen
- He gets sufficient rest to promote actual growth.
Lack of soreness is not an indication that you are not growing. The "feeling" of soreness is a result of pain receptors being triggered due to inflammation and since people have different responses to pain, we cannot use this as a measure for a "good" workout.
Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) that you are referring to is an indication you've trained too hard or you've trained enough to isolate the muscles worked. The soreness is normally felt 24-48 hours after exercise, sometimes sooner. Muscle soreness is caused by damage to the muscle fibers themselves and not caused by a build-up of lactic acid as once thought. Muscle biopsies taken on the day after exercising show bleeding and disruption of the "z-band" filaments that hold the fibers together. This is why protein is important when on a muscle building program. Protein maintains, repairs and re-builds connective tissue that has been damaged by making it thicker, thus, stronger and bigger.
Soreness reappears from an increase of intensity by "over-loading" your muscles repeatedly. If the soreness persists into the 3rd or 4th day or longer it either means you trained too hard or you did not take the necessary steps to alleviate the soreness to help your muscles recover after exercise, and thus, aid in their growth. If you've stimulated the muscles in the gym you've got to take it two steps further in the process to treat DOMS and promote muscle growth outside the gym: nutrition and recuperation (rest).
For any strength or muscle building program quality not quantity is better and more productive. The "No Pain, No Gain" dictum can be self-defeating. You should be doing at most 9 sets for biceps per training session if you are following either the Intermediate or the Advanced 2-ON, 1-OFF training program. If you are following the Beginner program then you should be doing 3 sets per training session and 9 sets total for the week.
I had an uncommon intense leg workout on Wednesday and on the following week on Wednesday they are still extremely sore! Why? Did I over-work them?
Yes, you did. Remember there is such a thing as over-working your muscles. What you have actually done is "traumatized" and damaged the muscle fibers to such an extent that they have been over-worked and not been able to recuperate. Once a colleague of mine had such an intense leg workout that he could not literally walk for 3 full days! After he was able to walk he went to the hospital for a routine visit.
The nurse drew his blood and gasped at him and asked, "Were you in a car accident?" Evidently, this colleague's blood was so high in a chemical compound that was brought on by his leg workout that exhibited severe trauma to the body from what being in a car accident would show that he was diagnosed as having been in one!
I heard that muscle hypertrophy stops at age 40. After that you can forget about making muscle gains. What are your thoughts?
Muscle will respond to resistance in order to gain muscle mass. Muscle does not know age. It is true that when a person ages, hormone production lessens, making muscle gain slower and more difficult. However, it is well known that additional muscle can be acquired by the novice at almost any age. If the individual has been training for many years and has already added a significant amount of muscle, progress is usually slower than in the case of the novice.
When you get older you need more time to recuperate after an intense workout. You also have to be more diligent in your diet as your natural metabolism slows down (three percent each year). But with age comes wisdom, patience and directed focus on your goals in life. Hard work, dedication and sound nutritional information are the foundation of a complete bodybuilding package, and putting your goals in proper perspective assists in guiding you toward your objectives.
Most people never reach their genetic potential for gaining muscle mass because of incorrect eating, supplementing and training. If you are lifting heavy with proper form and technique, eating properly, and getting sufficient rest, you should get results. There is no basis to support the myth that muscle hypertrophy ends at a certain age. Masters Olympia over 60 champion Ed Corney and 1998 NPC USA Bantamweight Winner Randy Leppala can testify that muscle hypertrophy does not stop at age.
I lift weights at school and all they have is an olympic bar, plates, and a bench. I've been doing some benching, close-grip bench presses, and curls. What else can I do with what limited equipment I have?
Work with what you have. What you described is the basics for building muscle. You'd be amazed what other exercises you can include for other body parts by only having an olympic bar, a few plates, and a bench. In addition to the exercises you already mentioned you can include these as well: dips between two chairs or bars, inclined bench presses (if you've got an inclined abdominal board), t-bar rowing in a corner of the room (my favorite done in this fashion), bent-over rowing, shoulder presses, reverse curls, wrist curls, lying tricep extensions or french presses, squats, calf raises, and stiff-legged deadlifts for lower back and hamstrings.
With the help of a partner or peer you can perform body leg curls on an abdominal board also for your hamstrings. Simply hook your feet under the pads while facing down on the board. With only your lower extremities in contact with the board and the back of your heels secure have your partner take a hold of your hands and you curl your own body weight up and back using your hamstrings. Careful on these as this exercise will leave your hams awfully sore and tight the next day!
I was considering a membership with Golds Gym. What do you think?
Regardless of the name of the gym, what it looks like, what sort of equipment it has or how the environment is it boils down to one word in how you respond and use this kind of environment for gaining strength and muscle: Attitude. I've trained in gyms from Oregon to Michigan to New Hampshire to California and overseas to Japan and Israel.
I worked with what I had and MADE muscular gains. Arnold Schwarzenegger flamed the attitude in me nearly 20 years ago when he said to me, "If you can't be a first-rate bodybuilder where you are at then forget it."