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Lean Mass!

Volume training maximizes growth hormone, and induces a fuel-swapping effect: your body burns body fat as energy while sparing carbs, which leaves the muscles fully loaded with glycogen.

After a disappointing 2nd place finish at the Southern SNBF in which I trained and dieted extremely intensely for, I've had to think long and hard about what I would have to do to rock the SNBF ranks once again next year. So after careful consideration and consulting with my friend/trainer, Mark Aguilar, I know now what I must do. He doesn't want me to get too big or too fat in the off-season so when dieting comes around again, it'll be much easier. In order to accomplish this, he has devised a plan for me which is basically cycling my caloric intake and my macronutrient breakdown. In the end, I should gain what we all want: LEAN MASS.

Cycle #1: Weeks 1-3

Volume Train: For the first three weeks of the new program, I will utilize "volume training" in the gym. This method of training calls for relatively high reps (10-12, for instance) and relatively short rest periods. Take each set to momentary muscle failure, then allow 45-90 seconds of rest between sets depending on the exercise, the weight used and your level of fatigue. Shoot for 4-or-5 sets per exercise.

Volume training maximizes growth hormone, a powerful hormone that helps increase the absorption of protein into muscles, and induces a fuel-swapping effect: your body burns body fat as energy while sparing carbs, which leaves the muscles fully loaded with glycogen. This ensures that you will gain lean muscle while shedding fat.

Pack in Carbs: Eat three to four grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight per day during the volume-training phase to keep your glycogen stores full. Eat one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to complement this increased level of carb consumption. Spread all this out among 5-or-6 meals per day.

Cycle #2: Weeks 4-6

Lower Sets and Reps: Different rep ranges and rest intervals yield different results. Of course you were already aware of this. Following cycle one, shift into a 3-week size-building mode that dictates doing two exercise per body part for four sets of six to 12 reps each, taking all sets to failure. Here's the basics of how this structure should work: aim for failure at 12 reps with heavy weights; add weight, aiming for failure at 10 reps. Add more weight and lift to failure at eight reps; increase the weight once more, going for failure at six reps.

Use rest intervals of 60-90 seconds between sets for small body parts and two minutes between sets for larger body parts. The added rest time allows you to recover and go to true failure on your next set.

Adjust Carbs and Protein: The longer rest intervals between sets minimize the need for carbs, while the heavy-duty training until failure places a premium on protein for repair of muscle tissue. This should be a no-brainer. Increase your daily protein consumption to one and a half grams per pound of bodyweight and lower your carb intake to about three grams per pound of bodyweight.

Cycle #3: Weeks 7-9

Lower Reps and Lengthen Rest Intervals: The name of the game, my friend, is adding strength and power. For the next three weeks, train using a maximum of two compound movements per body part. Increase poundages and drop the number of reps you perform so that you hit failure on the fourth or fifth rep (warm-up with lighter weights first ... naturally). Increase the rest intervals to 3-to-4 minutes between sets. Even though you're training heavy, maintain good form.

Pack in the Protein: Boost your daily protein intake to two grams per pound of bodyweight. Protein requirements go up with the heavier poundages you're hoisting in the weight room. To raise the level of protein in your diet, consume more red meat and whole eggs than usual. It's a nice change of pace from egg whites and chicken breasts. The need for carbs remain minimal, however, so keep your daily carb count on a par with cycle two.

Your body needs round-the-clock nutrition during the heavy training in this cycle to be sure you're getting the full complement of calories need to pack on more mass, keep a chilled protein/carb shake on-hand and drink it as soon as you wake up in the morning or in the middle of the night when you use the restroom. Mike Matarazzo used to do it and look at him now. Now if Mark Aguilar is right about this and my inner self is perfect and disciplined enough, I should grow by leaps and bounds. Until next time, train hard, train smart, think BIG!