Typically, many male bodybuilders adhere to the old school "bulk up and train down" philosophy when trying to add mass. Unfortunately, this results in a gain of a significant amount of unwanted fat which only makes it harder to maintain the lean mass when dieting down because there is so much fat to lose.
Here is a simplified, general program designed to help increase lean mass and strength, while minimizing any gains of fat. I have tested it on myself and others, and it works remarkably well and actually fits in quite well with a social life as an added bonus.
What can you expect from following this program? You can expect to gain strength and you can expect to gain size without adding any bodyfat. How much size? Realistically, about 1 pound every 2 weeks or 2 pounds a month. Most of that is lean mass.
If you gain weight faster than that, chances are you are probably gaining too much fat. You will have to tweak your diet/cardio slightly if you are gaining (or losing) at a faster rate than that given.
Of course, there are always exceptions as every one is unique so you have to determine what works best for you regarding actual exercises, volume, calories consumed, etc...
First, the basics. The nutrition program is based on tried and true "zig-zag" dieting method for gaining mass, where you consume enough calories for maintenance for a few days and then eat above maintenance levels for a few days and then repeat. The training is a 5-on, 2-off cycle which fits nicely into having weekends off.
Another "bonus" of this system is that you do little to no cardiovascular work during this program because the dieting during the week is fairly strict and does not result in gaining fat.
You can follow this program for as long as your "off season" lasts. Since you don't get fat from this program, you can follow it year round, all the way up to your 12-week pre-contest diet (for you competitive bodybuilders).
Learn More About Pre-Contest Diets...
Here is an example of the exact training program I follow. Keep in mind that I typically will vary the exact exercises, sets, reps, etc. with each workout, depending on how I am feeling that day, but it is typical of what is normally done.
Note that I always warmup for 5 minutes on the treadmill, followed by a few minutes of light stretching. All weights are "pyramided" up to the maximum weights and the reps drop accordingly (sometimes!).
You should keep a training log and try to "one-up" yourself each time.
You really need to push yourself to the limits and go for heavy weight for maximum results. Use weights heavier than you ever thought you can handle! Remember, you are trying to force your body to do what it doesn't want to do (gain muscle) so you have to push it hard.
Monday - Back.
- Weighted chins, 3-4 sets of 12-10 reps
- Deadlifts, 5 sets of 12-6 reps (pyramid the weights)
- Barbell Bent Rowing, 3-4 sets of 12-10
- Low Cable Rows, 3 sets of 12-10
- Barbell Shrugs, 4 sets of 12
- Hyperextensions, 3-4 sets of 20-30 (using a 10 pound plate)
Tuesday - Chest/Biceps/Abs.
- Incline Barbell Press, 4 sets of 12-6 reps
- Smith Machine Flat Bench Press, 3-4 sets of 12-6
- Incline Flys, 3 sets of 12
- Weighted Dips or Cable Crossovers, 2 sets of 10-12 reps.
Perform 3-4 tri-sets of the following, in non-stop fashion. Rest 1 min. after each tri-set
- Cambered Bar Curl, 10-8 reps
- Preacher Curl (cambered bar), 8 reps
- Dumbbell Concentration Curl, 8 reps
- Abs - 3 tri-sets of 3 different exercises.
Wednesday - Legs.
- Leg Extensions (2 warmup sets of 20)
- Squats, 6 sets of 12-10 (including 2 warmup sets)
- Leg Press or Hack Squats, 3 sets of 12-10 reps (alternate between the 2 each week)
- Leg Extension, 3-4 sets of 12
- "3-position Lying Leg Curl", 2-3 tri-sets of 10
- Stiff Leg Deadlifts, 3-4 sets of 10-12
- Seated Calf Press 3 sets of 25-30, superset with
- Squatting Calf Raises or
- Standing Calf Press, 3 sets of 12
Thursday - Delts, Triceps.
- Seated Side Laterals 4 sets of 10-12
- Hammer Strength Machine Press, 4 sets of 12-8
- Prone Laterals, superset with
- Cable upright rows using rope handle, 4 sets of 10-12
- Front laterals or cable side laterals, 2-3 sets of 10-12
- Rope Pushdowns, 3-4 sets of 10-12
- Skull Crushers, 4 sets of 12-8
- Smith Machine Close Grip Bench Presses, 3 sets of 10-8 reps
Friday - Miscellaneous Day.
You can do calves, abs, and cardio this day if you have too much bodyfat. Or, you can do what I do and use it to focus on a lagging bodypart. I often choose to work back a second time, along with biceps, calves, and abs, and forego the cardio since my metabolism is high. If your legs are lagging, hit them again on this day. Whatever bodyparts you work a second time, I recommend doing completely different exercises (and possibly different training method) than for what you did the first workout of the week. Here's MY typical Friday workout.
- Partial Deadlifts on Smith Machine, 4 sets of 12-6
- Lat Pulldowns, 4 sets of 12-8
- Straight arm pullovers on lat pulldown station 3 sets of 10-12
- Incline Alternate Dumbbell Curl, 3 sets of 10-8
- Seated Hammer Curls*, 3 sets of 10-8
- Calf Raises on Smith Machine standing on a block (4 sets of 12-10)
- Calf Press on Leg Press Machine (4 sets of 10-12)
- Abs - 3 tri-sets of 3 different exercises (heavy day), including the crunch machine
* Shown standing.
That's it for the weight training. Now, for the diet?..
Monday through Friday afternoon, you will stick to a fairly strict "bodybuilding" diet. Basically, your caloric intake will be at your individual maintenance level, with only a moderate amount of carbs, about 1.25-1.5 grams per pound of lean mass per day of protein, and whatever fats are in your foods (limit your fat intake to healthy fats such as red meat, fish, egg yolks, etc.).
Determine Your Daily Protein Needs!
The key here is to eat only one "portion" of complex carbs per meal for meals 1-4. After Meal 4, consume only fibrous carbs or no carbs. Here's an example of my daily diet during the week to give you an idea of what your diet can look like. Supplements are discussed below and not all are shown in the sample diet.
Right now, I weigh around 202 at my lowest (at around 9% bodyfat) so you will have to adjust your intake up or down accordingly. As you can see, I typically have 8 or 9 meals per day. This is an excellent way of spreading out your calories and feeding your muscles with a constant supply of amino acids to support growth and it keeps your blood sugar levels stable to support fat loss.
- - 2 Scoops
5:30-6:30 - Train.
7:00 - 4-6 rice cakes, whey protein.
9:15 - Muscle Milk, 1 cup oatmeal.
12:00 P.M. - Chicken or tuna and 1 medium baked potato.
3:00 - Muscle Milk and 1 cup oatmeal.
5:30 - Steak, ground beef, or fish with either a large salad or steamed veggies.
8:30 - Lean Dessert Protein or Optimum 100% Whey or egg whites with 1 yolk.
10:00 - Lean Dessert Protein or low fat cottage cheese or both.
10:15 - Bedtime.
2:00 A.M. - (Optional, if I wake up)- Optimum 100% Whey or Lean Dessert Protein
Friday Evening - Sunday
Here's the fun part! With the adherence to a strict moderate carb diet during the week coupled with the high intensity training, your body is now primed for an "anabolic burst"!
In theory, periods of overfeeding (higher calories) for short periods of time after a period of caloric restriction will cause little to no fat gain and will cause an increase in your testosterone and growth hormone levels. This weekend overfeeding serves that purpose.
Basically, you will want to eat as much as DOUBLE the amount of calories you do during the week. It will be hard to do, but keep trying. Now do NOT use this as an excuse to pig out on junk food because that will defeat the purpose.
Sure, have a dessert now and then if you want, but mainly stick to clean, low sugar and low fat foods. In other words, not too much junk! Try to keep your protein at or slightly below the week day levels, but emphasize carbs and fats.
Here's An Example Of What I Might Eat On The Weekends:
Friday evenings, I usually have sushi rolls and steamed rice or steak and a potato or steamed rice, and 2 hours later, a Tri-O-Plex bar to get the "party" started.
7:00 A.M. (Upon arising)
- - 4 Scoops of
Cytomax weight gainer
- (630 calories!).
9:00 A.M. - 2 whole eggs with 4 egg whites; bagel, cream cheese or pancakes and syrup.
11:00 A.M. - Tri-O-Plex bar or Cytomax weight gainer drink.
1:00 P.M. - 2-3 bratwursts on buns, with sauerkraut OR "large" roast beef sandwich (or 2!).
3:00 P.M. - Cytomax weight gainer drink or Tri-O-Plex bar - or sushi rolls and steamed rice.
5:30 P.M. - Steak, pasta (2 cups) or hamburgers with potato salad.
8:00 P.M. - Tri-O-Plex bar.
10:00 P.M. - Cytomax weight gainer drink.
Sunday evenings I try to start "tailing off" on the carbs, although from time to time I may eat out Sunday night and have another large meal with dessert too to top off the "glycogen tanks".
Supplements are just that. They are not the key to the success of this program. However, supplements can enhance the effectiveness of this program. Here is what my supplement strategy looks like.
Monday through Friday:
- 2 Tribex capsules
Immediately After Workouts:
- 10 grams of l-glutamine and 5-6 grams of BCAAs
- Desiccated Liver Tablets: 3-4 with meals, 3-4 times per day
- 1:00 P.M.: Tribex, 2 capsules on an empty stomach
- 100-200 mg of
- with 3-4 high carb meals, especially the evening meals
I cycle creatine off and on. Typically, I will take a month or 2 "off" and 2 months "on". With all the red meat and carb loading going on, creatine is not nearly as effective as it might be during a "cutting cycle" so creatine can be omitted altogether.
I've been following this program for about 12 weeks and in that time, I have gotten a little bit leaner and I have gained about 6 pounds (all lean mass).
Right on schedule. I have not taken creatine for the last 10 weeks, and I don't miss it a bit!
People in the gym are starting to notice an improvement. Some ask if I am getting ready for a contest! That's a pretty good compliment considering I am in my "off-season". (My next contest is not until June 2005).
Last Sunday evening, while I was "chowing down" big time at a restaurant with dessert and all, this couple walked up to my table and the man said "I have to ask you a question. What's your secret? How do you eat all this food and dessert too and still stay so lean and in good shape?" Well, now you ALL know my "secret"!
Follow this program, fine-tune it as needed for your own individual metabolism, and you will get stronger, more massive, and people at YOUR gym will start to notice the new and improved you as well!