Over the course of my recent transformation, a greater understanding of all the essential requirements for bodybuilding success has been realized. Knowing and doing are two separate things. Putting the knowledge I have gained as a trainer into practice, during my transformation, has shown to me the importance getting it right all of the time.
Getting into ones best possible shape (in my case preparing for a bodybuilding contest), is, for many, an exercise in guesswork. People often become their own laboratory, as they stumble along, adhering to a hit-or-miss approach, which can only lead to disillusionment, and in some cases program abandonment.
Often, a personal trainer and/or coach can make for smoother sailing, as they will, more often than not, know what is best at any particular stage in ones program. The gains I have made as of late have not been hit or miss. Rather, they have been achieved with the adherence to sound scientific principals. A good knowledge base, and an excellent trainer, have ensured total success.
In my "Transformation Factors" series of articles, it has been my intention to provide a detailed analysis on the principals and methods that have, so far, ensured for me, continuous gains in muscle mass with corresponding reductions in body fat.
In the first of this series, I pin-pointed intensity and consistency as being crucial bodybuilding success factors. This time I will delve into technique, power movements, essential fatty acids and protein - further essential factors.
Ensure Correct Technique
A major strategy for maximizing bodybuilding results, and one that is often overlooked, is the application of correct form during each and every rep of each and every set. It never fails to amaze me the number of trainers who do not insist upon perfect training technique, from their clients.
Bottom line: every trainer and prospective bodybuilder should understand the importance of correct technique. Without a proper understanding of exercise form and function, the muscles will receive inadequate stimulation and optimal progress will not occur.
Furthermore, training with improper technique could result in several kinds of injury. An injury could mean the fast track to mediocre results, and, in certain circumstances, a permanent barrier to future training success.
Get Some Expert Training:
Rather than relying on the advice given from well-meaning fellow trainers, or through observation of others in the gym, consult with expert trainers and study exercise descriptions in various reputable training manuals. Applying correct technique right from the start will initiate the formation of the neural pathways needed to establish proper form over the long-term.
Improper form will result in the laying down of incorrect neural pathways (the mind/muscle connections that allow for correct technique), and, as we know, bad habits are hard to break.
The Perfect Rep:
Generally speaking, depending on the exercise performed, the perfect rep should begin with the weight held in either the concentric position (where the muscle is squeezed to contraction) or the negative position (where the muscle is contracted in an eccentric, or lengthened, position).
A gradual (two second) descent and powerful (one second) ascent along the correct arch should form the basis of every rep. During the negative (or eccentric) phase, the working muscles should ease into a full stretch before powering the weight up (the concentric, or positive, phase) into a full contraction.
During the concentric phase, it is important to squeeze the muscles so as to attain a greater muscle pump, which will, in turn, help to facilitate muscle growth.
In summary, there are two main reasons why correct technique should be applied across all exercises.
- To help to ensure the avoidance of injury.
- To adequately stimulate the muscle, and facilitate greater growth.
Use Power Movements
Often bodybuilders will get caught up in the hype surrounding the multitude of exotic exercise options on offer, without considering the importance of the fundamental power movements that more efficiently add mass. Successful bodybuilding demands an emphasis on compound power movements, before isolation type exercises are considered.
Why Should You Use Power?
Firstly, the compound movements save time, given they can get the job done a lot faster.
Secondly, these exercises target the muscles more effectively, thus stimulating growth at a faster rate.
And thirdly, they allow for the greatest increases in training poundage, which is crucial for training progression.
From an anatomical, and practical, point of view, it simply makes sense to use the exercises that work a large range of muscle groups first in the workout, before, if at all, refining with isolation work.
- Bench press for chest and shoulders.
- Military press for shoulders.
- Squats (and their variations) for total upper-leg development.
- Deadlifts for total back development and hamstrings.
- Chin-ups for lats.
Power (or compound) movements include:
An additional advantage of emphasizing these movements is the fact they also stimulate growth in muscles that are typically trained with specialized exercises - muscles such as forearms, calves, biceps, triceps, abs and lower back.
For a complete, balanced, physique, it is important to use a wide range of exercises to target all muscle groups evenly. The key is to have the bulk of the workout comprised of power movements, with the remainder focusing on smaller specialized exercises such as the bicep curl and the triceps pushdown.
The smaller muscle groups like biceps, triceps, forearms and calves, require less in the way of volume than the larger groupings. Therefore, there is no real need to attack these groupings with multiple sets. Considering these guidelines, an example of a chest and triceps workout would be as follows.
- Exercise One: Bench press (4 sets, 8-12).
- Exercise Two: Incline bench press (4 sets, 8-12).
- Exercise Three: Parallel bar dips (4 sets, 8-12).
- Exercise Four: Decline bench press (4 sets, 8-12).
- Exercise One: Triceps press down (3 sets, 8-12).
- Exercise Two: Lying triceps extension (3 sets, 8-12).
Consume Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's)
There is a long-held misconception that eating fats (regardless of their form) will make you fat, and obviate muscle gains. The reality is, not all fats are created equal.
Saturated and trans fats are ones we should primarily avoid. An argument could be made in support of saturated fats as a testosterone booster.
Indeed, some saturated fat (mostly animal fats that are solid at room temperature) is needed for testosterone production. This is readily consumed through a normal diet. Excess saturated fat, on the other hand, may contribute to a whole host of health problems and is to be avoided.
Trans fats (fats artificially created through the hydrogenation of oils) are considered inert in that they provide no nutritional benefits, and are extremely deleterious at the cellular level.
Essential Fatty Acids:
For bodybuilders who seek maximal size, the most beneficial type of fats to consume are the EFA's - omega three (Linolenic Acid) and six (Linoleic Acid).
These primary EFA's are essential because they cannot be manufactured by the body. They support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. Of particular relevance for the bodybuilder are the EFA's cell repairing properties. EFA's actually allow muscle cells to properly utilize nutrients and expel waste products.
They also are used in the formation of cell walls, making these walls supple and flexible, and improving circulation and oxygen uptake with proper red blood cell flexibility and function. As mentioned, omega three and six EFA's are the ones that support muscular growth at the cellular level.
The principal Omega-3 fatty acid, Alpha Linolenic Acid, is converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and later into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to maintain muscle integrity and support further growth.
- Hempseed oil
- Pumpkin seeds
- Brazil nuts
- Sesame seeds
- Some dark leafy green vegetables
- Wheat germ oil
- Albacore tuna
- Grape seed oil
- Pumpkin seeds
- Pine nuts
- Pistachio nuts
- Sunflower seeds (raw)
- Olive oil
- Borage oil
- Evening primrose oil
- Black currant seed oil
- Chestnut oil
The most effective way to attain high levels of omega three is through the supplementation of flaxseed oil.
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Other Good Sources Of Omega Three Include:
Omega six EFA's are converted into various eicosanoids, which help to counter muscular inflammation and assist the repairing process.
Again, the highest levels of omega six are found in flaxseed oil.
Other Good Sources Of Omega Six Include:
Such is the importance of the EFA's for bodybuilding success and general health, I would go as far as to suggest they should be placed second only to Explosive Growth Blend at the top of ones supplement list - above whey protein and various amino acids.
Eat Sufficient Protein
This one seems a no-brainer, but, again, I am surprised at the number of people who seek to build muscle mass, yet will not consume sufficient protein. Most of us know that protein plays a large role in muscle tissue repair.
Without it, the muscles, and many other bodily tissues - including the skin, hair, and various organs - would simply fail to grow, and death would be the inevitable result. The key for those wanting to build large muscles is to determine the various protein percentages and biological values of certain foods, and design a diet comprised of, at the very least, 25-35 percent quality proteins.
Whey, which has the highest biological value of all the proteins (around 95-percent), eggs, which are one of natures perfect foods and a complete source of protein.
Milk, which is for many easy to consume and protein dense.
Fish, which, in some cases, has the added bonus of high omega-six essential fatty acid content.
Various animal meats (steak, chicken and turkey).
Good Sources Of Protein Include:
A good rule of thumb, in terms of grams-of-protein-per-day, is one gram per pound of bodyweight. Some authorities feel that more is needed; some consider the requirement to be less. However, the one-gram-per-pound rule has been shown to provide sufficient protein for the growing bodybuilder, and is followed by many of the sports pros and other experts.
Remember: without the right amount of quality proteins in your diet, the muscles will simply fail to grow, making training a waste of time and energy. To ensure adequate levels of protein in the diet, do the following.
If short on time, prepare protein drinks and take these in place of whole food proteins. Protein drinks can also be taken in addition to whole protein foods to boost protein consumption, if this is what is needed.
Prepare a large pot of hard-boiled-eggs (a favorite of yesteryears bodybuilders), and consume two-three of these at each meal throughout the day. As stated, eggs are one of the perfect sources of protein and should not be underestimated when it comes to heaping on the muscle.
Eggs can also be added to protein drinks. A good rule of thumb is to eat one yolk to every five egg whites, to avoid excess cholesterol - there is still controversy on this point, but following this guideline will help to ensure safety.
Eat a varied sources of whole-food proteins. If possible, eat, chicken, steak, fish, eggs and other sources throughout the day to maintain a high protein status and eliminate boredom. Using several different sources of protein will also provide a wider variety of different nutrients specific to that protein source.
Take in a whey protein shake during training. Yes, during training. It has been shown that uptake of protein to the muscles is greatest, if that protein is consumed in whey form, during the workout. Heavily dilute the around 30-grams-of-whey with around one liter of pure water and have it last for the duration of the session. Drink additional water during this time, if needed.
There we have it. An explanation of four important factors for bodybuilding success. Adherence to all of the above have certainly given me the results I have been looking for, for so long. In the next installment we will discuss eating clean, recovery and hydration.
|Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3|