click here for part two!
click here for part four!
Q. What would you say is the optimal number of days one should spend in the gym each week in order to increase muscular size and strength?
A. The short answer: 3 to 4. Too many people don't understand the value of recovery time and how important it is to bodybuilding success. If you do not allow your body adequate time to recuperate, you will not grow, plain and simple. I feel that training 3 to 4 days per week directly hitting each muscle group once every 7 days is optimal to allow full recuperation. Anymore than this and you are simply eating away into your recovery time and setting the stage for overtraining. More is not better! I train 3 days per week using the following split:
Q. How do I know if I am overtraining?
A. There are a few signs to watch for in order to determine if you are spending too much time in the gym:
- Decreased appetite
- Feeling overly tired
- Muscle loss
- Decreased strength
- Decreased desire to workout
By listening to your body you should be able to "feel" whether or not you are overtraining. If going to the gym becomes a major chore or if your strength and weight are not steadily increasing each week, then you may want to look into decreasing your overall training volume.
Q. When I do bench presses I find that my left arm is lagging behind my right arm. This has also led to an imbalance in my chest growth. What should I do to correct this?
A. Use dumbbells! Strength imbalances are very common and can be corrected by utilizing dumbbells rather than barbells. Barbells allow one to arm to cheat for the other, which will naturally lead to a stronger arm. When using dumbbells the weaker arm is forced to catch up to the other and less cheating is involved. Within a few weeks you should notice a marked difference.
Q. I just started working out a few weeks ago. Roughly how long will it take before I am able to gain a decent amount of muscle?
A. There are too many factors involved in this one to give a straight answer. It will largely come down to your training intensity, diet, supplementation, rest, and most of all, your genetics. I don't care what anyone says, the fact of the matter is that genetics DO play a very large role in bodybuilding.
One's ability to increase their muscle size and strength is largely controlled by what is, to us, uncontrollable. Don't get me wrong, anyone can get huge and look great, but the rate at which this occurs is not the same in everyone. In my case, I was able to gain a decent amount of muscle after about 6 or 7 months of training. For someone else, that same amount of muscle may have come in 2 years. Some people could have gained that much in 3 months. Some people don't even lift weights and are big! Don't obsess about it. Pour your heart and soul into your training and good things will happen, guaranteed.
Q. What are the best exercises for trap development?
A. I contribute most of my trap development to heavy deadlifts and shrugs. Deadlifts really put a lot of stress on the upper back and are an awesome movement for thickness in that area. Load the bar up with as much weight as you can handle for 6-8 clean reps. Don't be a wuss, big weights build big muscles! Shrugs are also a great movement to isolate that area. You can use a barbell or dumbbell for this one, but make sure you are using a full range of motion. It is all too common to see someone load the bar up and do 10-quarter shrugs, which will do little to nothing in stimulating growth.
Q. I'm a female who is interested in strength training. The only problem is that I don't want to get that bulky look that a lot of female bodybuilders have. I just want to tone up and gain a bit more definition. What is the best training method to accomplish this?
A. First of all you must realize that rapid muscle growth does not occur over night. It is a long process that is slow and gradual. You are not going to suddenly wake up one morning, look in the mirror and see that you have transformed into the incredible hulk. Gaining "bulky" muscles is probably one of the biggest myths that prevents females in the gym from making noticeable changes. The fact is that many females use weights that are much too light for them.
Am I right? How often do you see females take a set to the point of failure? Almost never. Usually they'll load the bar with a weight that they can easily handle for 20 reps without much of a struggle. Why is this? Fear of "bulky" muscles! A fear that is completely wrong and illogical! First of all, spot reduction is impossible. You cannot "tone up" using weights. You are either gaining muscle or losing muscle, period. Secondly, due to hormone differences, females gain muscle at a much slower than males do. Thirdly, fat takes up 5 times as much space as muscle. If you were able to decrease your body fat and increase your lean muscle, you would be smaller, not bigger. Think about this next time you go to the gym.
Q. What do you feel is the most valuable exercise for each muscle group, and why?
Quads: Squats - View
No questions asked. Unless you've been living in a hole you know damnwell that squats are the best lift for adding lower body size, period.
Hamstrings: Stiff Legged Deadlifts - View
These allow you to handle the most amount of weight and are awesome for hamstring development. You'll definitely feel these the next day.
Calves: Standing calf raises - View
These stress the entire calf area and allow you to get a great stretch and contraction for full calf development.
Lats: Wide grip chins - View
These are the bread and butter of lat development.
Traps: Deadlifts - View
These are the best lift for overall back development and really stress the entire upper back.
Chest: Dumbell presses - View
Obviously a standard press is the most valuable lift you can do for chest. I chose dumbbells because I feel they offer a better range of motion and are much safer.
Shoulders: Overhead dumbbell presses - View (Shown w/ machine)
Overhead presses stress the entire shoulder complex and are great for adding width to your upper body. I'd go with dumbbells over barbells as it is a lot easier on those all too delicate rotator cuffs.
Biceps: Barbell curls - View
A basic movement that cannot be overlooked for bicep development.
Triceps: Cable pushdowns - View
The opposite of a bicep curl, and in my opinion the best lift for stimulating the triceps.
Abs: Rope Crunches - View
Allows you to isolate the abdominals through a full range of motion.
If you have any questions, please e-mail me at Sean_Nal@hotmail.com!