I have broken down 22 rules that, if followed, will bring you one step closer to that bigger, stronger, thicker bodybuilder physique. So, let's get down to business...
1. Strive To Get Stronger
There is a direct correlation between increased muscle strength and growth. By lifting heavier weights in each workout, you will break down the dense muscle fibers that lighter weights can't stimulate. The dense muscle tissue that you produce from lifting heavier stays with you through the dieting process.
2. Add Creatine To The Supplement Stack
Creatine is probably the most well documented sports supplement on the market. It may help with both strength and size. Creatine drives water into the muscle tissue as well as assists in the production of ATP which is the driving force for muscle contraction. The more efficient your muscle contracts, the more power you will produce. I would add 5-10 grams of Creatine a day, split between pre and post-workout shakes.
3. Go Back To Basic Lifts
If you are not already doing so, bring out the good old basic exercises: compound movements. The exercises below are the most effective exercises for producing growth in each muscle group. Each and every exercise should find its way into your workout routine.
Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift.
- Barbell Press (rotate between angles of the bench)
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip.
Bent Over Barbell Row
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Bent Over Barbell Row.
Upright Barbell Row
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Upright Barbell Row.
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Bench Dips.
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Barbell Curl.
Standing Calf Raises
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Standing Calf Raises.
Hanging Leg Raise
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Hanging Leg Raise.
Full Body Exercise:
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Barbell Deadlift.
4. Don't Be Afraid To Cheat
I'm talking about your diet here, of course. Indulging in some unhealthy foods like pizza, burgers, sweets or any other cheat food you enjoy is actually great from time to time. It helps relieve some stress of the regular meal plan that you are on, as well as gives your body the extra calories it needs to recover from all the work you are doing in the gym. Do your best to keep cheat meals to a minimum, as you will find that if you're not strict with this, you'll fall into the habit of allowing yourself too many cheat meals.
5. Monitor Activity Outside The Gym
Most young lifters have an interest in both the gym and many other athletic endeavors. This is a great thing. Enjoying many different activities is fun and exciting, but when your goal is to put on size and grow, you'll need to monitor your activity levels outside the gym.
You need to find the right balance between your lifting and other physical activities. If you do decide to participate in both lifting hard and other physical activity, you will need to increase your overall calories accordingly.
Don't expect the body to grow if you are running ten miles a day or playing hours of a sport and then hitting the gym hard. The body can only handle so much. In the next segment, we will talk a little bit more about overtraining.
6. Don't Overtrain
For a natural athlete, the body is very susceptible to overtraining when you are dieting. Your body just doesn't have the extra calories and nutrients to recover from excessive workouts. Your body will tell you it has had enough by either constant fatigue or even mild sickness.
When you are in the growth stage and are taking in much more calories, the body is much stronger and signs of overtraining are not as apparent. This is where taking the advice of an expert is key.
Click To Enlarge.
Your Body Just Doesn't Have The Extra Calories And
Nutrients To Recover From Excessive Workouts.
I see countless lifters in the gym doing set after set after set in the hopes of getting bigger. After a while, you are doing more harm than good. Your body only needs a certain amount of exercise to stimulate growth, and after that, results will diminish.
You can find plenty of workouts here on Bodybuilding.com with the exercises, sets and reps all spelled out for you. What I like to say to my clients is, "If you put your 'all' into every set, there is no way you will be here for longer than an hour."
Recovery is the final step before growth. Here is (in a few, simple steps) how your body basically grows:
You need to train your butt off in the gym to help break down the muscle tissue, and then, after the work has been done, you need to refuel with the right foods (protein and carbs). The final step, recovery, is just as important as the previous two. But this is the step that is usually overlooked.
There are 3 common mistakes that come to my attention regarding recovery. First, I see a lot of lifters (both beginners and experienced) working out with weights every day of the week. Secondly, as we talked above, the extra activity outside the gym will determine the body's ability to recover properly. Finally, many people are using incorrect workout splits.
Some muscle groups recruit other muscles too, especially in compound lifts. For example:
- Squats recruit all leg muscles but also indirectly recruit your lower back.
Recovery is just as important as training itself. It is the time when your body strengthens and repairs itself from the hard work in the gym. Incorporate "off days" in your workout split, keep extra athletic endeavors to a minimum, and do your best to not overlap primary and secondary muscle groups on consecutive days.
Sleep is one of the most critical forms of recovery that the body will need. When you sleep, your body releases most of its growth hormone, IGF-1, and testosterone. All of these hormones aid in recovery and the muscle building process. Also, getting a good night's sleep will give you more energy for the next day's workout. Try your best to get 8 full hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
By incorporating a cardio routine into your workout program, your appetite will go through the roof, which will make it a lot easier to eat clean, healthy food. You will also improve your cardiovascular system, which is critical when lifting heavy.
The heart is the most important muscle group in your body, for without the heart working at peak levels, the rest of your body will suffer.
Click To Enlarge.
By Incorporating A Cardio Routine, Your Appetite Will Go Through The Roof, Which Will Make It A Lot Easier To Eat Clean, Healthy Food.
I have seen countless guys fail to reach their desired rep range because their cardiovascular system failed on them. They were strong enough to get those extra 2 reps, but they were too out of breath and had to rack the weight. Sooner or later, you will start losing muscle if you don't reach your desired rep range. If you want to put on that size, then start doing some cardio.
10. Weight Gainer For "Hardgainers"
The typical ectomorph is what the bodybuilding community calls a 'hardgainer.' The ectomorphic body type requires more calories to put on muscle mass than your average Joe. In this case, I always recommend a weight gainer supplement for them.
Pick one that has a good amount of protein (around 40-50 grams), is very high in carbohydrates (75+ grams), and has moderate-to-high fat levels (10-20 grams). The sources of all the three macronutrients might not be of the highest quality, but that is fine. This body type's main goal is to increase the overall amount of calories, as well as training hard and recovering.
11. Make Your Weight Gainer "Healthy" For Endomorphs
As mentioned above, the quality of the macronutrients for the typical weight gainer supplement on the market is not high. The carbs are simple sugars and the fats are usually saturated. This is fine for the ectomorph that needs any and all calories but for the endomorph body frame, which easily puts on body fat, this kind of shake will not fly.
A shake with those ingredients will go right to the waste line rather than the muscles for an endomorph. Here are some ways to make your own healthy weight gainer.
First let's start with a quality protein, one that is low in carbs and fat. I like to use Big Blend from Betancourt Nutrition below are some of the carbs and fats I will add to my shakes to get the healthy extra calories I need for growth:
Note: My email is at the bottom; Send me an email for some nice Healthy Weight Gaining Shakes
12. Shock Techniques
For some reason lifters like to use a lot more shock techniques while cutting weight than when trying to grow. I believe the thought behind this is "the increased intensity in the gym will translate to increase fat loss." This is true, you will burn more overall calories with increased intensity, but why is it, during the off-season or growth stage lifters do less of these shock techniques?
Shock techniques are a great way to increase the intensity of your workouts year round. With the proper amount of calories and recovery time they are a great way to increase overall muscle size and strength. Below are some of my favorite shock techniques:
Performing 3 exercises one after the other for the same muscle group.
Performing 4 or more exercises one after the other for the same muscle group.
Performing an exercise to failure with a given weight then picking up a lesser weight and continuing to perform reps. You can repeat this process for as many times as you would like.
Perform an isolation exercise followed by a compound exercise. The isolation exercise will exhaust the target muscle so when you get to the compound movement the assisting muscles can help you push the target muscle in to further fatigue.
You will need a training partner for this one. Use a weight that you could only perform 1-3 Reps on your own. Perform the eccentric (lower of the weight on the bench press for example) very slowly and under control.
Have your lifting partner assist you to near lock out on the concentric (pressing when bench pressing for example). Perform as many eccentric reps as necessary to hit your desired rep range.
Perform as many full range of motion reps as possible. When you can't perform any more reps in good form place the weight down rest for no more than 15 sec and continue the set to failure again. You can repeat this process several times to kick up the intensity even higher.
You will need a training partner to assist you. Perform your set, once you have reach failure have your training partner assist you with addition reps only giving you enough help so you can grind out the reps in a full range of motion. I usually do a maximum of 5 forced reps with each set.
Perform your set in a full range of motion once you can't perform anymore reps in a full range of motion try doing 3/4 or 1/2 of the range of motion to extend your set. Try adding 1 Shock Technique to each of your workouts and watch your size and strength go through the roof.
13. Don't Miss Workouts
The growth stage needs to be taken as seriously as cutting. Missing workouts is a big no-no. There should be no reason that you miss a workout. During dieting you can make a bunch of excuses about energy levels and not wanting to overtrain. These excuses are not legitimate excuses for the advanced lifter but when it comes to the growth stage there are no reasons to miss a workout.
Energy levels should be fine as you are eating enough calories you shouldn't be fatigued as cardio levels are just moderate. Take the off-season/growth stage serious and serious gains will come from it.
14. Be Consistent With Your Diet
Many people in this great county have the problem of being overweight. When dieting, their problem is usually sticking to a consistent diet. Cheating on their diet is the reason they don't improve their body. The same holds true for the skinny guy or gal that is looking to put on weight. In their case it is not cheating that is the problem.
Being consistent with hitting their overall calorie numbers is where almost everyone fails. I hear it all the time. "I can't put on weight and I eat a ton". In this case most of these lifters eat maybe 1 or 2 big meals a day with the rest being snacks. You need to approach your diet when growing the same way you do when you are dieting, only difference is the portion sizes are increased.
Protein should be included in each meal, complex carbs and healthy fats as well over 5-6 moderate size meals a day and you will be good to go.
15. Eat Plenty Of Carbs
Carbohydrates are a very important part of the off-season diet and a great energy source, if used properly throughout the day. Simple carbohydrates (i.e. fast digesting) are great to have post-workout because they spike your insulin level and drive the glycogen into your muscles.
They also help to drive the amino acids from your protein shake, that you should have post-workout, with that simple carbohydrate to aid in protein synthesis (i.e., muscle building). Complex carbohydrates provide a more prolonged energy source and are great to have for breakfast or later in the day.
Click To Enlarge.
Carbohydrates Are A Very Important Part Of The Off-Season Diet And A Great Energy Source, If Used Properly Throughout The Day.
16. Limit Machine Use
Too many trainers rely too heavily on machine use in their workout programs. With all the new fancy machines out now, who can blame them? They are comfortable, smooth and easy to use. But I have the motto: nothing in weight lifting is easy These machines do have benefits, when used properly and are great to supplement your program (I like to use them at the end of the workout, if I use them at all) but nothing works better than free weight basics.
Free weight basics, with barbells and dumbbells, like squats, deadlifts, rows, bench etc., should be the bread and butter of all of your workouts off-season and pre-contest. They recruit the most muscle fiber use which will lead to maximum growth and improvement.
Only after you have exhausted maximum energy with the free weight basics, should you think about using machines or cables. Remember, the harder you work, the better the results and nothing is harder than free weights.
17. Don't Worry About The Scale
Worrying about the scale has caused a lot of men to put on fat in the off-season. Men love stating how much they weigh, if the number is above 200 lbs. So in their pursuit to put on as much weight as possible, most of these ego-driven males end up putting on a substantial amount of body fat.
Your body cannot continue to add pounds of lean muscle mass each week, so if your weight continues to increase every week, you are probably putting on too much body fat. I tell my clients to focus on what they look like, not on what the scale says.
Women are the complete opposite once they see their weight go up; they either stop eating as much or do a lot of cardio. This shift is driven by the pursuit to keep in contest shape. However, this practice will make it extremely difficult to make improvements.
18. Make Goals And Write Them Down
This issue is for my competing athletes and starts immediately after your contest is over. You should talk to the judges about your presentation to help you understand where you can improve and what your strong points are. Then, in the next week or so, sit down with your personal trainer and discuss how you are going to approach the off-season and make the improvements to your physique.
|JOIN BODYSPACE TODAY|
I see many competitors, pros and amateurs alike, who show up every year looking the same. These individuals don't improve and also don't win.
Judges take notice of competitors who improve on weak points and they will reward you with a higher placing. So in the beginning of the off-season, make some short and long term goals for yourself; this will help keep you focused on the improvements that you need to make between competitions.
Click To Enlarge.
In The Beginning Of The Off-Season, Make Some
Short And Long Term Goals For Yourself.
19. Add Glutamine To Your Supplement Stack
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body. This amino acid should find its way into your supplement stack one way or another. Along side creatine I believe that glutamine is a must for all hard working athletes and weight lifters.
Glutamine is mainly functions with your immune system. Whenever you hit the gym you are putting a stress on your body and immune system. A strong immune system is critical for all weightlifter that are going to hit the gym hard. When your immune system is weak from either malnutrition or overtraining you are at risk of getting sick.
20. Add Beta Alanine To Your Supplement Stack
Beta-Alanine is a non essential amino acid that helps in the production of carnosine. Carnosine is found in fast twitch muscle cells. Its main function for us weight lifters is buffering hydrogen ions. Too many hydrogen ions in the muscles will lead to low pH levels or an acidic environment. This acidic environment will lead to the burning sensation that you feel when working out, aka "lactic acid". The lactic acid in your muscles will cause fatigue and eventually muscle failure. Also when pH levels get too low, both ATP and calcium, both critical in muscle performance, are less effective.
Higher levels of carnosine lead to higher pH levels which lead to a less acidic environment in your muscles.
21. Stay Lean
The human body is most efficient when it has low to moderate body fat. I am not taking about being in stage shape all year, but if you can't see your abs then you have gotten too fat. Too often, I see guys and even some ladies getting actually fat when trying to put on muscle.
If you were to ask any bodybuilder when their training is the best they will tell you more often than not about 4 weeks into their diet. The reason for this is they have cleaned up their diet and are now eating healthier and doing more cardio.
As what I have preached above, sticking to a consistent diet, hard training, and doing moderate cardiovascular work will help the body stay lean and put on size at the same time. Being healthy should be number one, stick to the points above and you will not only get bigger and strong but you will look great as well.
Click To Enlarge.
If You Were To Ask Any Bodybuilder When Their Training Is The Best They Will Tell You More Often Than Not About 4 Weeks Into Their Diet.
22. Keep Learning
More knowledge equals more growth period. Try to learn as much as you can about Training, Nutrition and Supplementation. Here on Bodybuilding.com they have 1000's of articles about each. Think to yourself right now, if you knew everything that you know now a year ago would you have the same body? The answer is probably not. Learning will help you stay away from common pitfalls as well as give you the tools to get to the next level.
There you have it. 22 Proven Rules to Grow By. Follow each and every rule and you will see that your Muscle Growth will go through the roof. Each of us break these rules from time to time but if you are consistent and true to your sell about following them you will find your results to be that much better. Good Luck!
As always if you have any questions regarding anything above or just a general fitness question don't mind asking Stewbid@comcast.net