I know, I know, flat bench press is your favorite lift, or whatever else you prefer, but if your goal is to build up triceps, perhaps you should start with something like dips, or even separate your regimen into a chest day and an arms day. It's simply impossible to improve if you waste all of your energy on your "favorite" lifts while neglecting the muscles that you truly want to bring up.
Over the past 7 years, I have heard more bad fitness advice unknowingly disseminated by otherwise well intentioned people than I could possibly ever formulate responses to. Indeed, most of the time, I let my best wide-eyed, mouth agape, "you've got to be kidding me" face signal my reaction to the bits of training nonsense I come across on nearly a daily basis. (Enter here please, 99.9% of the low-carb pundits.)
Order of exercises: Design your plan so that large muscle groups are worked before smaller groups. The theory is that if you fatigue a smaller muscle group first, then the larger group won't work as hard as it can. For example, do bent-over-rows before biceps curls. Biceps work in both exercises, but since the larger and stronger back muscles are used in the rows, they wouldn't get a maximal workout if the biceps are fatigued. Another way to say it is that the biceps become the weakest link in the chain if you work them first.
Traumatic-sounding, but true: muscle damage — or more specifically, the micro-trauma to muscle and connective tissue that’s a natural consequence of resistance training — touches off a regenerative process that can stimulate the production of new muscle cells. Research shows that eccentric movements (e.g., the lowering phase of a bicep curl), which require a muscle to lengthen under tension, produce greater micro-trauma than concentric movements (e.g., the lifting phase of a bicep curl), which require it to contract.
Muscle soreness is a common side effect to working out. It subsides as part of the recovery process. Delayed-onset muscle soreness is the most common type of soreness and occurs 24-72 hours after training. This is why rest days are important, to allow soreness to disappear before training again. In fact, if you are scheduled to train and are still sore, take an extra day off.
I recommend a cyclical approach to bulking and cutting to optimize anabolic hormones and minimize unwanted fat accumulation. This could be 16 weeks of above-maintenance intake for lean mass gains, followed by 16 weeks below-maintenance intake for fat loss. Of course, feel free to experiment with what works best for you. When done correctly, this approach will yield considerable lean mass gains while you stay pretty darn lean.
Let's face it, injury risk increases with age. Furthermore, when you’re injured, it takes longer for you to recover and eight weeks out of commission is a lot more of a life-altering event now than it was in your 20s. When something hurts, the wrong kind of hurt, either train around it by doing exercises that do not cause more pain, or take off all together.
No matter if you overindulge on the weekends or just have a couple of drinks in the evening, alcohol is still a toxin. It will negatively affect your ability to burn fat and recover from workout sessions—this much is known. So as much as possible, remove alcohol from the picture, at least during your transformation. Many, many people have discovered after going dry for a few weeks that it was the missing piece of the puzzle for them.
(Note that multiplying your bodyweight by 20 results in a high calorie estimate specific to building mass. Many maintenance calorie estimates are closer to body weight multiplied by 15. If the result of multiplying your bodyweight by 20 seems incredibly high given what you know about your body, you can err on the conservative side and multiply by 16-18.)
Multijoint movements like presses and upright rows are the best mass builders for shoulders, since they engage the greatest degree of deltoid musculature. Arnold would go heavy with these movements, especially early in his workouts when his energy levels were highest. He commonly did presses both behind and in front of his head for complete development.
Our body needs a breather. When we rest or when we sleep is the time when our body conducts a synthesis of proteins, that is, the breakdown of proteins which results in the reconstructive process of muscle building and repair. Regular and adequate rest is needed in order to gain muscle. Also, metabolism takes place during the night when we sleep, and fat is burned during this process as well. This makes sleep the most effective tool when it comes to fitness and health, and we must give our mind and body 48 hours of rest before hitting the gym again, as this is the optimum time for muscle recovery.
For people struggling to really bulk up or put on muscle mass, consuming sources of rich and healthy fats regularly is the key. People who shy away from fat consumption on fear of putting on weight need to know that fat consumption is good for our metabolism, and fat adds mass which can be converted into muscle with regular and intense workouts. Also, diets such as the ketogenic diet involve healthy usage of fats in for weight loss and muscle gain. Healthy fats are a muscle gainer and must be consumed frequently so as to provide the calories and the bulk needed for our body to break down.
Attend local competitions. When you are just starting out, visiting local competitions will be helpful for a few reasons: you will be able to get a feel for competitions and what will be expected of you, you will be exposed to your potential competitors, and you will be able to speak with like-minded men and women who also enjoy the sport. You can make connections at a competition you might not be able to make at your local gym.
For Arnold, building a big chest started with training for strength since he competed as a powerlifter early in his career. With a foundation of strength, Arnold discovered that gains in size came easier. Consider an offseason powerlifting cycle to help boost all your numbers before shifting back into bodybuilding-style training. For the record, Arnold once benched 225 pounds for 60 reps!
The bulking and cutting strategy is effective because there is a well-established link between muscle hypertrophy and being in a state of positive energy balance. A sustained period of caloric surplus will allow the athlete to gain more fat-free mass than they could otherwise gain under eucaloric conditions. Some gain in fat mass is expected, which athletes seek to oxidize in a cutting period while maintaining as much lean mass as possible.
You can train long, or you can train intensely, but you can’t do both. For every set completed, more, and more of the body’s limited reserve of biochemical resources are used up in an attempt to merely recover from, or compensate for the exhaustive effects of the workout, leaving that much less left over for over-compensation in the form of more muscle mass. Long, drawn out training sessions decrease growth hormone, and testosterone levels, while increasing cortisol levels. This hormonal shift creates a very catabolic environment in the body that will result in muscle loss and a reduced basal metabolic rate. If it’s taking you several hours to get through a workout then you’re wasting your time. I suggest never allowing any lifting session to exceed 45 minutes in duration.
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For every person who lifts weights these days, it seems there are two who have a podcast about it. There are more bodybuilding tips promising greater strength and muscle than ever before, and along with them a ton of confusion; one buffed-up Instagrammer says lifting heavy will get you swole, while a well-known fitness personality has claimed in recent years that two 30-minute workouts per week netted him 34 pounds of muscle in a month.