What if "good" isn't good enough, and only "outstanding" will satisfy your burning desire? Do you crave the kind of huge, rock-hard, freaked-out physique that tells everyone in the world who sees you that you are dead serious about bodybuilding? If this psychological profile describes you, then you know that achieving this goal is one of the most difficult challenges any athlete will ever face. The longer you've been training, and the more muscle you build, the harder it is to get to the next level of development.
You can't do what everybody else in the gym is doing and expect to rise above the crowd with a superior physique. Extreme measures need to be taken for extreme results. The following suggestions are not for the casual trainer. They are for the hardest of the hardcore willing to do whatever it takes to blast their muscles into a dimension only a rare few will ever know. You have been warned.
1. Mid-night Protein Shakes
Sleep is critical for rest and recovery of hard-trained muscles. It's the bodybuilders's best friend. Or is it? Recent research has shown that something insidious happens about halfway through our nightly slumber. While the first four hours of sleep are spent in an anabolic, or building stage, shortly afterward this switches to a catabolic, or tearing-down, state. In other words, you build muscle for the first half of the night, then the body eats it up during the second half.
This is why you wake up starving every morning. But guess what? By then it's too late. The damage has been done. What you need is a dose of protein at that four-hour mark to give the body the amino acids it needs, in order to spare the use of your own muscle tissue as a fuel source.
You could wake up and eat a chicken breast, but even the most dedicated among us would soon grow weary of this. The temptation to skip the meal would rapidly grow too great.
Instead, keep a glass or container of protein powder mixed and ready to drink in your refrigerator. Since whey protein digests quite rapidly, you'd be better off using a casein-based protein powder, or one that's a mix of whey and casein. This will allow a slower digestion and absorption, ensuring that your muscles are protected against this late-night robbery of what you work so hard to build every day. If you don't usually wake up to urinate at some point roughly equivalent to the four-hour point, set an alarm. Don't be surprised if this one change helps you add a few pounds of muscle in the first two to three weeks of implementing it.
2. Split The Body Up At Least Four Ways
You already know that you need to split the body up into sections to train each muscle group effectively. What you may not know is that the more energy and attention you can give to each muscle group, the better it will respond. If you can, I would suggest separate training days for each of the following:
- Hams and calves.
That's six days of training, which would fit into a week and still give you a day of rest. Of course, should you find that you need rest days in between to recover, by all means take them.
However, you will probably find that these shorter, more focused training sessions (each should be able to be completed in under an hour) take less of a toll on the mind and body and leave you less wiped out than a two-hour blitz of common combinations like shoulders and arms, quads and hams, or back and biceps.
Also, no body part suffers under this system. Whenever you train more than one body part in a session, you can be damned sure the second muscle group suffers from the massive energy depletion that results from training the first muscle group. Have you ever trained back and biceps for a time, then started training biceps fresh on a separate day?
The poundages were greater immediately, the pumps were a whole new world, and you probably saw new growth within weeks. Why not apply this discovery to every muscle group? It could very well be instrumental in maximizing the development of every muscle on your body.
3. Schedule Daily Naps
Few of us get eight hours of sleep a night. Inadequate sleep holds back many bodybuilders from reaching their true potential. One way to combat this is to take advantage of our body's natural circadian rhythms and lie down for a nap each afternoon. Obviously, not everyone is going to be able to do this.
If you can, though, you will be amazed at how much more awake and refreshed you feel, even if the naps are only twenty or thirty minutes long. Most people who feel overtrained would almost instantly feel better if they could take a nap every day.
If you can't nap every day, nap whenever you can. Intense weight training is brutal, and recovering from many such sessions in succession is impossible without copious sleep. Take a tip from our neighbors south of the border in Mexico and take your daily siesta.
4. Consume Double Your Bodyweight In Protein Every Day
High-protein diets have been proven by several generations of bodybuilders to build more muscle than a diet containing the RDA, a minimum amount set by the government in wartime designed to keep soldiers barely alive. For the best results, and to feed muscles that work hard nearly every day, consume double your bodyweight in grams of protein.
If you weigh two hundred pounds, that's four hundred grams a day. How will you get it all? About half of this amount should come from food sources, and half from meal replacement and protein powders. It's really not that difficult. Can the body actually use and assimilate this much protein? Maybe, and maybe not. No studies have been done to determine this. Better to br on the side of caution and take in too much protein than to under-consume.
5. Hire A Personal Trainer And/Or Nutritionist
I can hear some of you balking right away. "Huh! Who needs them?" Unless you have a great training partner who pushes you farther than you could ever go on your own, you could probably use the services of a professional trainer. Many of the top amateurs and professionals over the years have turned to men like Charles Glass, Gunnar Sikh, Scott Abel, John Parrillo, and Vince Gironda for training and advice to break through a plateau or win the biggest show of their lives.
We are often oblivious to our own bad form, and also may not be training as hard as we could if someone else were pushing us. A pro trainer can correct bad form, show you new exercises, or twists on old exercises that you never would have thought of.
As hard as you think you push yourself to the limit, a great trainer can take you far beyond that limit. Nutritionists have also helped many bodybuilders achieve their greatest mass gains and leanest contest conditions.
Men like Chris Aceto, Will Brink, Keith Kline, Chad Nicholls, and Billy Smith are sought after by legions of bodybuilders and fitness women willing to pay top dollar for their expertise with diet and supplementation. If you can afford the services of these professionals, it can only help your physique.
6. Become A Personal Trainer
You have probably asked at various times already in this article, "how the hell am I supposed to do that with my job?" The bodybuilding lifestyle, especially as practiced by the most devoted of us, is exceedingly difficult under most work conditions, what with eating every two hours and constant training. This is why many competitive bodybuilders choose to work as personal trainers. For one thing, getting to the gym is never a problem.
You're already there to train clients one or more times a day. Second, even the busiest of trainers can sneak in shakes and bars while working. There's no boss hanging over your head to scold you for eating. Finally, it takes very little physical or mental energy to train the average person, who's merely interested in being fit. You also have blocks of time in the day to sleep, train, or do whatever you please. Aside from having an endorsement contract with a supplement company, it's the perfect job for a hardcore bodybuilder.
7. Make Research And Education A Priority
Training and nutrition science is now light years ahead of what the bodybuilders of generations past knew. We now have thousands of exercise physiologists, biochemists, and many other highly educated men and women constantly searching for new ways to improve athletic performance, gain muscle, and lose fat. Keeping up with the newest research findings and studies could very well make a significant difference in your own physique.
In the old days, this would have meant traveling to medical libraries and holing up in the alcoves with a stack of medical journals. Now, thankfully, we have the Internet, where you can log on and surf dozens of websites in a single day. Set aside either an hour a day or a full day once a week to keep informed.
All you need to do is plug in your topics of interest into a search engine like Yahoo or Netfind to check out not only the various information sites written by and for bodybuilders, but also more "legitimate" sources such as the Journal of the American Medical Association. For the latest findings on supplements, log on to http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov.
This is a database for consumers provided by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This one site alone has over 250,000 reports. So, while the physique magazines are an excellent resource, there is also a whole other giant world out there on the Web to explore and learn from.
8. Choose Your Friends (and Lovers) Wisely
Many successful people have credited their rapid rise in their fields to surrounding themselves with other successful people. Certainly anyone is going to feel more capable of success when they are in the constant company of those who have "made it." Sadly, ghettoes everywhere are filled with negative folks who not only believe they can never climb out of their miserable poverty, but who reinforce this poisonous belief among their friends and families.
Bodybuilding isn't so different. If your training mates at the gym whine and complain about how they can't make progress, and you have a family that puts down your goals as stupid or selfish, you're in a very poor environment to succeed.
Instead, associate with positive people who believe that anything is possible with hard work and a strong will. As far as a significant other goes, your odds of staying together are much greater if they also share your passion for physical fitness.
Otherwise, it's very likely that they will soon come to resent all the time you spend at the gym and your strict eating habits. I have seen hundred of marriages and long-term relationships split in just this manner. You would be much better in a supportive environment where you are encouraged to follow your dreams.
9. Don't Skimp On Your Bodybuilding Budget
Bodybuilding is not a cheap sport by any means. To have the best supplements and train at the best gym can get expensive. However, trying to save money by buying the cheapest supplements and training at the most inexpensive facility can be a huge mistake. Supplements, at least in the United States, are not tested and regulated by the government. Anyone can sell a giant bucket of what is supposed to be 100 % pure creatine for ten dollars.
It may actually be 1 % creatine and 99 % filler. Products from more reputable companies like Muscle Link, EAS, and Twinlab may cost a bit more, but at least you can have faith that you are in fact getting what you're supposed to. The cheapest gyms to join are usually the giant fitness chains like Bally's, but these are generally not great places for bodybuilders to train.
"Bodybuilder-friendly" chains like Gold's, World Gym, or Powerhouse typically have better weight-training equipment and an atmosphere that encourages hardcore training. Try squatting heavy at one of the "fitness" gyms and you may be asked to leave by the horrified management.
10. Avoid All Unnecessary Physical Activity And Mental Stress
What? And be a slug? Yes. A big, muscular slug. If you're playing basketball a few nights a week with your buddies, belong to a softball league, and take the dog for a jog every morning, you may as well forget about gaining muscle. You need to conserve your energy, not spin it out on twenty different activities. If bodybuilding is your top priority, then you must refrain from other pastimes that tax your body's recovery abilities.
This also applies to stress. Stress releases that evil hormone cortisol, which cannibalizes your muscle tissue. Don't get angry in traffic jams, or at telemarketers, or at the thousand other things every day that could raise your blood pressure. Learn to relax and go with the flow. You'll be happier, have a greater sense of well-being, and be bigger to boot.
11. No Partying
Many young men who weight train sabotage their hard work in the gym by staying out all night on Friday and Saturday nights, drinking and drugging in a frenzy that would shame Caligula. In addition to the negative effects that the substance abuse has on their bodies, they also invariably end up missing several meals.
Then it takes them a full day to get over their hangovers, and if they train at all after these binges, the intensity is laughable. You can get away with doing this once every few months, but make it a habit and it will wreak havoc on your physique.
12. Allow Almost Nothing To Prevent A Workout
If you are this dedicated, I doubt you miss many workouts. But you must be mentally prepared to have to train at an odd time, such as late at night or early in the morning, or to seek out a gym while on a business trip or vacation, so that you are always training.
Consistency in training is an enormous factor in your progress. A few missed workouts here and there all add up and can hamper your development. Never miss a workout unless there is no possible way you could train.
There you have it. These twelve methods are most definitely extreme measures, detailed specifically for those who have decided to make physique development the all-encompassing goal in his or her life. If you are in college or have a family to take care of, give careful thought before implementing them. This is a plan for those who have shut off all options except for building the best body they can. If that's you, you now have the blueprint to put your goal into action. Best of luck, and see you in the magazines!
Reprinted with permission from eMuscleMag.
You may contact Ron Harris at www.ronharrismuscle.com.