To quote America’s foremost food writer, Michael Pollan, “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” Protein powders notwithstanding, this is great advice. Whole foods like lean meats, nuts, seeds, and vegetables contain more of the nutrients muscles crave, and deliver a steadier supply of amino acids and blood glucose to muscles than the nutritional dreck found in the middle aisles of your local supermarket.
To build extra muscle, you need to eat in excess of what you currently eat, and work out with weights on a regular basis. How much muscle you can gain, how quickly and with what definition is largely determined by your genetics and age. But everyone at almost any age should be able to gain some muscle and strength with weight training. Proper nutrition is a crucial element in the muscle building process.
If you have little experience of weight training and free weights, you may wish to start with the machine leg press instead of the squat, especially if you're not accompanied by a trainer, helper or spotter. Even so, there is no reason to be intimidated by the squat exercise. It need not be done in a squat rack or power cage with the big bar and free weights to begin with, although squatting with the bar alone is a good way to practice form. Dumbbells or small-bar barbells or a Smith machine can provide reassurance for the beginner. The same applies to the racked bench press with heavy bar, which can be substituted with dumbbells or lighter barbells. The key is not to lift too heavy too soon.
In the 12th week of the program, performing three sets of three on all exercises will provide a barometer with which you can measure your improvement. Then, in the 13th week, you’ll test your three-rep max (3RM) on five major strength lifts. If you performed the 3RM test before you began the program (see “Testing Your 3RM”), you should be looking at roughly a 25% improvement on all five lifts.
The Upper Body B workout starts with pull-ups. Use an overhand grip. If you are unable to do pull-ups, you can do lat pull-downs or some form of assisted pull-up in its place (still using an overhand grip). It’s fine. However, you should make it your eventual goal to be able to do pull-ups and actually work towards eventually doing them here. These are still to be done in front of your head… never behind the neck. Also, if you are someone who can already do 3 sets of 6-8 pull ups, then you need to add weight. Search around online for what’s called a “pull-up belt” (also called a “dip belt”) and buy one. It will allow you to add additional weight to body weight exercises like pull-ups and dips. It’s one of the only training products I fully recommend, and when your own body weight becomes too easy for you, it’s a requirement for progressive overload to take place.
Calorie load the right way. Nutrition is one of the biggest and most important facets of bodybuilding. You can lift seven days a week, train hard, and do all the cardio in the world, but if your nutrition is poor, you will not see rapid and mass gains in muscle size and strength. Learn to eat the right amount of the right kind of calories to gain muscle the way you want.
After a muscle has been stressed sufficiently with high-intensity training, you must not train that muscle again too soon so that you allow for the body to respond with a compensatory build up of new muscle tissue. You can measure your progress to determine whether or not you’re allowing enough recovery time for growth to take place simply by taking note whether or not you’re stronger any time you repeat any given workout. Some people have argued this point with me and have stated that there is no relationship between muscle size and strength. If this is the case, and you don’t need to get stronger in order to get bigger, than how exactly should you go about getting bigger? By getting weaker?
Find experts you can trust. Your gym should have professional trainers ready to help you achieve your goals because you won’t be able to learn what you need to know quickly. With a fitness trainer, you can get sound advice instead of having to wade through the massive amount of bodybuilding information online. You will need the help of a nutritionist to assist in planning your diet, while a trainer can help you with your workouts. The advantage of getting a pro to help you is that the diet and workout plans can be customized to suit your needs. You don’t have to follow a generic plan.
Eat the right amounts and types of carbohydrates: To figure out your carbohydrate needs, multiply your lean body mass (fat-free body weight) by 0.8 and that will give you the total grams of carbs you need to consume per day. Divide that number by 3 and that equals the amount of carbohydrate grams you will have for Meal 1, on your meal prior to the workout and on your meal after the workout. Since we are emphasizing fat loss, stick to low glycemic carbohydrates (such as oatmeal, brown rice, grits, and sweet potatoes), except for the post workout meal where a high glycemic carbohydrate such as cream of rice is more desirable.
Train to muscular fatigue. Many people approach an exercise with a preconceived notion of the exact number of repetitions they will do for each set. (Ten seems to be a popular choice.) These misguided souls are training inefficiently and will never reach their full potential. When performing an exercise, your goal is not a certain number of repetitions. Do not start your set saying, "I'm going to do X number of reps." Depending on the muscle group and your particular athletic objectives, you will probably want to stay within a certain range of repetitions. However, your goal is to fatigue the muscle by performing each exercise (with good form) until you no longer can.
Personal trainer Nick Twum is also quick to emphasize the importance of deadlifts, which he believes are one of the best muscle-building movements you can do. Deadlifts are a great exercise for overall muscular development. They'll help you build a big back, round glutes, strong legs, and big forearms, while furthering shoulder and trap development.
The low volume bodybuilders would increase the intensity of their workouts by using heavier resistance and pushing a set past the normal limit of failure. Training techniques such as forced reps, rest pause, drop sets and forced negatives would push the muscles to failure and beyond. Because of the extreme high intensity, bodybuilders using these techniques would typically perform half as many sets as the high volume trainers.
The third and final phase of the “25% Stronger” program helps you max out your strength levels by gradually decreasing the volume of your workouts while increasing the amount of weight you move. You’ll begin the last phase at the top end of the strength range (seven reps). Each week, you’ll perform fewer sets and reps - five of five, four of four and finally the last week in which you perform three sets of three - so your body is fresh for the final tests in Week 13.
Don't worry, we're still talking snail's pace weight gain. Aim for one pound per week of lean muscle mass gains, though you may initially gain faster if you started out extremely lean or glycogen depleted. Start by adding 500 calories to your current daily intake, and maintain that intake until you plateau. If or when this happens, add another 250-500 calories and repeat.
Perform three weight-training sessions per week, hitting your whole body each time. Base your routine on compound exercises such as squats, lunges and deadlifts. These burn the most calories, hit more muscles and give the best bang for your buck, claims Rachel Cosgrove, strength coach and co-founder of Results Fitness in California. If you're not sure of any exercise techniques, ask a trainer at your gym for assistance.
Use protein supplements wisely. Throwing back a protein shake every morning is not a guarantee that your body will build muscle mass. Although protein shakes are not inherently bad, they are also not a magical means of building muscle. If you decide to implement a protein supplement in your diet, make sure the ingredients are high-quality (i.e. not riddled with sugar and empty carbs).
Develop your strength training routine. The exercises you perform will depend on your goals for your body and your stage in the training process. It's generally suggested, though, that you stick to the same major compound movements that most bodybuilders use, making this the cornerstone of your strength training. Later you can incorporate isolation exercises and machines into your routine, but right now you should be focused on leaning up and gaining muscle, doing the following exercises:
After session 12, consider whether you need to increase the weight for any particular exercise. If you can comfortably do more than the RM of 12 exercises, increase the weight by a modest amount, say two pounds or a kilogram for isolation exercise muscles such as triceps and biceps, and 5 pounds or 2.5.kilograms for compound and large muscle group exercises like squats and deadlifts. When using dumbbells, this would apply to each one. Don’t increase the number of sets beyond 3 at this time.