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Q. I'm really confused about training volume. I hear some people saying to train 5-6 days per week using in excess of 15 sets per bodypart, and then others saying that I need no more than 3 days a week in the gym using like 2-4 sets per bodypart. Can you please clear this up! What is best?
A. I think the main thing to realize here is that there is no "best" answer. There is no magical muscle building formula that will work for everybody. Our bodies are all different, and we respond to training in different ways. On one end of the spectrum we have those who swear by high volume and high frequency, saying this is the best way to build the most muscle. On the other end we have those such as myself who believe that minimal volume and infrequent workouts is the most sensible and smart way to stimulate new gains. In my view, recovery is a huge factor and simply cannot be achieved when training nearly every day. The idea in the gym is simply to "spark" growth and then get the hell out and grow. Muscles can be stimulated for new growth without performing endless sets. The key is intensity. Intensity and volume have a direct relationship: As the intensity increases, so must the volume. So, if we are training with 100% intensity, it is only logical that we minimize our time in the gym to prevent overtraining. Training with lower volume will also prevent cortisol production, and is a lot easier on the joints and connective tissue. How low of volume? I'd say 2-4 days in the gym per week using 4-7 sets for big bodyparts and 2-4 for smaller ones. Then again as I said before, everyone is different. Experiment and see what works best for you.
Q. I can't get enough of a pump in the gym. It's starting to frustrate me; I want a huge pump for huge gains! What can I do?
A. First you should understand what a pump really is. Contrary to popular belief, it is not caused by a flow of blood into a particular area of muscle. Instead, it is the result of blood that has been "trapped" inside a particular area. This results in a hard, full feeling inside the muscle. However, a pump is most certainly not an indicator of a successful workout. Although it feels great, we should never use this as a guide to whether or not we are having a good workout. Use progression as your guide for success in the gym, not the pump. You would get a huge pump by doing 50 reps with a 10 pound dumbbell, but do you think this would be effective for muscle growth? There is your answer right there.
Q. Is it really necessary to stretch before I workout?
A. There isn't really a clear answer to this question. Stretching apparently warms us up and helps to prevent injuries. Anytime you see sports teams before a game, they will usually devote a considerable amount of time to stretching. But how necessary is it? There has yet to be a study, which confirms that stretching helps prevent injuries. I personally do not stretch, and it has not seemed to make any difference. There are even studies which show that stretching before workouts can work against you and decrease your strength. My take is that if you don't usually stretch and haven't had any problems, there is no reason to start.
Q. I want to dramatically increase my arm size. What are the best arm exercises for accomplishing this?
A. There is no "magic" arm exercise that will yield incredible gains. Arms really don't require a lot of direct work as they get hit very hard in all of your big compound movements for your chest and back. The key to arm size is to increase your OVERALL size. You should be devoting most of your energy into your larger muscle groups, like chest and back. Your arms will grow along with the increased poundages in your compound lifts (heavy presses, dips, rows, overhead presses, rows, chins etc). Obviously you won't find 18 inch arms on a 160 pound bodybuilder. Some arm work is necessary though, just not very much. I usually do 3 sets total for biceps and triceps. Don't get too fancy and focus on basic, proven lifts. Barbell curls, dumbbell curls, pushdowns and close grip benches should be the cornerstone of your arm workouts.
Q. My workouts usually last for about 2 hours, but I've read that they shouldn't exceed 45 minutes to 1 hour. Why is this?
A. It is very important that we don't let our workouts exceed the 1 hour mark. Anywhere from 45-60 minutes into intense exercise the body releases a powerful catabolic hormone called "cortisol" which stimulates the break down of muscle tissue for use as energy. We should avoid cortisol like the plague, and this can be accomplished by utilizing short, intense workouts. Like I said before, the idea is to "spark" muscle growth and then get the hell out of the gym and grow. This can be accomplished with workouts that last for less than 1 hour.
Q. My chest is so stubborn and won't grow! Help! I want a massive chest!
A. Just like with any other muscle group, the key is to stick to basics. There is no need for any complicated techniques or lifts. For a massive chest, the key is sticking to the 2 basic lifts, presses and dips. You can do your presses on a flat or incline bench using a barbell or dumbbells. For dips, make sure to lean forward to take the stress off the triceps and focus it more on the chest. For overall mass, use a rep range of anywhere from 4-8. Again, with anything else, keep it simple. Here is an example of a highly effective chest routine:
Barbell bench press - 2 x 4-8
Incline Dumbell press - 1 x 4-8
Dips - 2 x 4-8