Most of us who read this site have one thing in common - we want to be big. Hulk-smash, huge-muscle, B-I-G, BIG.
Being big was my obsession for more than 20 years. I did whatever it took to get massive. I pushed my muscles to grow.
As I entered my 40s, however, I realized that my muscle growth was starting to plateau; the only things growing were my waistline and chins. I was your typical big-fat guy. I had big arms and a big gut.
I was hesitant to start a fat-loss program because I didn't want to lose any muscle. My biggest fear came true. I lost 20 pounds - but a lot of quality mass along with it.
In the last few years, I have found more of a medium ground with my training. Conditioning work and bodybuilding don't have to be mutually exclusive. You can maintain your muscle mass without looking like you're in your third month of pregnancy.
Shampoo and ...
The best thing about conditioning work is you'll probably only have to do it once a week. From my experience, too many people overdo it with high-intensity workouts. HIIT is great if fat loss is your only goal, but too much of it can shrink your size.
Even though I'm a conditioning specialist, I'm also not a fan of Tabatas or "finishers." I don't like Tabatas simply because I love spending time at the gym. A quick 5-minute workout means I have to go back to my nagging wife and screaming kids. I prolong my workouts and take the long way home so I can avoid the misery at my household.
Furthermore, I never understood the concept of "finishers." If you train hard throughout your workout, you don't need a finishing movement to gas you out.
However, if you want to get big and stay in shape, try these conditioning tips.
As bodybuilders, we sometimes get too comfortable with our single-body-part workouts. We can shock our system to grow and adapt by doing something different, such as a full-body routine once a week.
Conditioning athletes do total-body workouts because they train their bodies to work as one complete unit. Compound movements make us strong. Years of isolation training has made us forget a great commandment for getting huge - you gotta keep on getting stronger.
Stay with the basic whole-body compound movements like deadlifts, squats, bench presses, rows and good mornings. A weekly full-body workout will develop your strength, sure. But more important, it'll pack muscle on your body.
Train to Raise Your Metabolism
We bodybuilders love the feeling of "the pump" when we train. However, when conditioning to burn fat, you don't have to get all your muscles pumped. Instead, focus on elevating your metabolism.
How do you know if you are raising this elusive thing called metabolism? If your heart is pounding, you're hunched over and grunting out 1-word sentences, you've probably worked out intensely enough to elevate your metabolism.
I bet you won't see too many people gasping for air like this at your gym. In fact, the only places you'll always see people struggling like this are a professional athletic field, track, court, ring or octagon - homes for the conditioned athletes.
Instead of a pure cardio day, perform a barbell complex. One of my favorite barbell complexes is the following: bent over row, front squat, military press, back squat and good mornings. Do five reps for each movement, and don't put the barbell down until you are finished with all five moves.
This barbell complex will get your heart rate and metabolism soaring! You'll incinerate the fat in your body and get more muscular from this metabolic conditioning workout.
You may have read that slow-tempo movements are great for hypertrophy. However, many new studies now suggest that training with faster movements recruit more fast-twitch muscle units - big muscles that have a lot of potential for growth. As a result, you develop bigger muscles than ever when you train like a conditioned athlete at maximum speed.
For your isolation body part days, where you shape muscle, you can continue to lift at a slower tempo. However, train explosively with compound movement. Lift the load as fast and forcefully as you can. Remember, it's the intent to move fast that's the most important factor, not the literal speed of the movement itself.
Stay Off The Treadmill
I've got great news for all you bodybuilders! You don't have to do any more long, boring cardio anymore! This doesn't mean you can throw away your running shoes. Just about all conditioned athletes have one thing in common - they run sprints.
Sprints not only develop your cardiovascular system, but they also help you develop massive legs. The best part of a sprint workout is brevity; it should only take approximately 15 minutes. Do 8 rounds of 50 yard sprints on your cardio day. Short sprints will get you in the best shape of your life while you remain as massive as possible.
Machines are great for bodybuilding isolation movements. However, to break out of our training comfort zone, sometimes have a workout session where you don't use any machines. I don't like to train my conditioning athletes on machines because they need to learn how to move. Machines are more like mechanical straight jackets.
The biggest problem with machines is that you don't have to brace your core when you work on one. Working out on a machine is stable, so you don't have to recruit your abs when sitting or lying down on one. On the other hand, when you train with free weights, you need to tighten up your core to maintain a sense of balance.
Instead of doing those useless crunches use free-weights, and concentrate on tightening your abs as much as possible during the entire movement. With this tip, your 22-inch arms won't shrink - and the only thing that'll grow smaller is your waistline.
Hit Those Hips
When was the last time any of you trained arms and ... hips? I never did any hip work until I took up conditioning training. Just about all elite athletes in any sport view the hips as their true power zone.
The hip is crucial to power movements like squat and deadlift. Training hips can help you boost your conditioning, size and PR stats. Kettlebell swings are one of the best conditioning movements to help you activate and understand the explosive power of the hip thrust. The stronger your hips are, the more potential you have to build bigger muscles.
Building big muscles and getting in great shape don't have to be mutually exclusive. With these 6 essential tips, you can do both at the same time.
Get big, stay big, and get in better shape than ever.