Hi, I read your article Training To Failure and found it very informative.
I have the following problem:
I am an intermediate bodybuilder and I seem to have reached a plateau after
3 months of fast gaining bodybuilding 4 days a week. I don't seem to be
making more gains and though I aim to train to failure, I seem to be getting
tired before my target muscles feel the pain (for example when I bench
press, my arms tire before my chest. When I train my biceps, I seem to get
tired before I feel the burn and if I add weight, I seem to get tired at an
earlier repetition before I feel the burn also. What do you recommend for
me to gain lean mass at this stage and for me to push to the need max,
because my training to failure takes place before feeling the muscle burn.
That is a good question. To get the desired burn, you may have to drop the weight a bit on your sets. Therefore, you would be able to do more repetitions, and stress the muscle more before failing. Then, on your next set(s), you will have leeway to up the weight and go until you fail again. This should burn the muscles very well. If you are still not feeling the burn, I suggest performing more exercises for that body part. For example, on chest, your triceps and shoulders will most likely fail much sooner than your chest. To compensate for this, try performing 3-5 sets of flyes on the pec-dec machine or using a comfortable weight on dumbbells and a flat or slightly inclined bench. Immediately following, do bench press. You'll find that your chest is significantly burned and that your arms and chest may give out closer to the same time. You won't be able to put up as much weight, and you might not be able to perform as many reps, but your burn will be much higher and more intense and that is what you want because that is what's going to get your muscle bigger and stronger. Another possibility is that your energy levels are low. To remedy this, you must ask these questions:
1) Are you getting at minimum 8 full hours of sleep?
2) Did you get enough to eat during the day? Perhaps your diet is lacking in some way. Maybe it's your carb intake. Check out this short article on carbs by Seth Pauley:
Carbohydrates-When, what kind, and how much to eat
In the world of bodybuilding and fitness, proper consumption of carbohydrates is essential. Eating too much can make you fatter and eating too little will make you drag so much that you will lose muscle from your workouts, not being fueled properly. The key, as in all of life, is balance.
3) Perhaps you need some energy enhancing supplements to give you the boost you need to propel your workouts to the next level so that you fail not because you were tired, but because the muscles could go no further. Some top recommendations are: Creatine, L-Glutamine (for enhanced recovery), and any sort of Thermogenic (i.e. ThermoDynamX, Xenadrine NRG, Thermo Hydroxadrine, etc.).
With carbohydrates, what you really have to watch out for is the sugary, high glycemic index carbs which are released into the bloodstream very quickly. This rapid accumulation of sugar in the body creates a surge of insulin, a hormone which makes you fat if it stays elevated every day. You can still eat the carbs you need and get away with it if you eat the right ones which are low on the glycemic index and in limited amounts. Also, reduce your consumption of carbs on non training days.
I have had success with eating carbs right before and after a workout, which is when you need them most, and leaving them alone for the rest of the day. You need carbs before a workout for fuel, and after a workout to replenish your lost glycogen storages. Actually, it is best to consume quick release carbs in the form of a liquid right after a workout because you will absorb the carbs right into the muscle without risk of an insulin surge. After a workout, I would recommend a powdered blend of carbs and protein you could easily find in Bodybuilding.com's cyber store at the best prices around.
You should consume only liquids for 2 hours after the workout so it can all go straight to your muscles which are screaming for nutrients. Your muscles will improve if you take advantage of this window of increased absorption.
L-Glutamine will also give you an advantage and you will notice decreased muscle soreness from workouts. This is because it feeds your muscle exactly what is depleted most from a hard workout as L-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid found in raw muscle tissue.
A good multivitamin will also reduce free radical damage after a workout as muscle breakdown produces a lot of free radicals.
Having discipline with your diet is an absolutely essential part of your success in building a better physique--so remember that!
4) Are you getting enough vitamins and minerals? Make sure you're taking your daily multivitamin so that your body has everything it needs to build, heal, and repair.
5) Make sure you're getting enough protein for your muscles to build. Approx. 1.5-2 grams per pound of bodyweight per day.
Don't worry as much about how much you're lifting, focus more on intensity and burning out the muscle. Fatigue it to absolute failure. If it is giving out early before it's burned, you should lower the weight and do more reps until you fail. If it's still not burned, throw in some more exercises. Like on biceps day...if you've done 5 sets of standing barbell curls (each to failure) AND 3 sets of biceps-isolating, excruciating incline dumbbell curls and you're still not burned, force yourself to do three sets of alternating dumbbell curls or burnout three sets on a biceps isolation machine. Whatever it takes. I promise you're biceps will be throbbing for at least 2 days after your workout.
Keep lifting hard!
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