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.
This period also saw the rise of anabolic steroids in bodybuilding and many other sports. In bodybuilding lore, this is partly attributed to the rise of "mass monsters", beginning with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sergio Oliva, and Lou Ferrigno in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and continuing through the 1980s with Lee Haney, the 1990s with Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman, and Markus Rühl, and up to the present day. Bodybuilders such as Greg Kovacs attained mass and size never seen previously but were not successful at the pro level. Others were renowned for their spectacular development of a particular body part, like Tom Platz or Paul Demayo for their leg muscles. At the time of shooting Pumping Iron, Schwarzenegger (while never admitting to steroid use until long after his retirement) said that "you have to do anything you can to get the advantage in competition". He would later say that he does not regret using anything.
An obvious one I know, but many misjudge this. If you have two weeks to get ready for the beach then the quickest way to drop fat (and subcutaneous water that can blur muscle definition) is to drop your daily carbohydrate intake to 50 grams of fibrous carbohydrates. So say hello to broccoli, cauliflower and kale, and kiss goodbye to breads, cereals, fruit, rice and pasta. Where people go badly wrong when dropping carbs is that they simply switch to eating lean proteins and don’t replace some of the lost carb calories with calories from fat. This inevitably leads to an energy crash and the subsequent blowing of the diet because the trainee simply runs out of steam and willpower. A few whole eggs, a piece of steak and plenty of supplemental Omega 3s (I prefer 10 grams a day for carbohydrate tolerant individuals, more if there appears to be insulin resistance) work wonders.
One bodybuilding “secret” that works amazingly well is to simply practise posing your muscles. Provided that you are lean enough in the first place rapid definition can be gained by simply flexing your muscles as hard as you can, as often as you can. Try this little experiment – every day contract the quadriceps muscles in your right thigh as hard as you can for 20 sets of 15 seconds. Take a photo on the first day, and then a photo after day 10. You will be amazed at the difference. Send in your before and after shots to [email protected] and the best example of this I will post up on my main Ultimate Performance website and/or in a follow up article to this one if the Editor allows it.
Pick your favorite form of cardio -- spinning, outdoor biking, running, hill sprints, swimming -- and hit it hard. Literally. Brian Lebo of the Athletic Performance Training Center in Ohio advises HIIT, high-intensity interval training, as your way to burn fat in a time-efficient manner. Lebo advises a 3-to-1 rest-to-work ratio. In practical terms, this means you can for example go hard as you can on a hill sprint for 30 seconds, walk or jog back down the slope for 90 seconds, and repeat four times for an intense 10-minute training session.
For some guys, the answer to the exercise question will always be that they're looking to put on muscle. Whether you have a very specific goal, like getting into figure contests and bodybuilding, or you just want to fill out a t-shirt, you have to start somewhere, even if you've always struggled to add and keep weight onto a skinny frame in the past.
Any good training regimen needs to include variables that can be toggled to alter training for specific purposes. A weight lifter, for example, would take into consideration their specific exercise techniques, pounds lifted, sets per lift, reps per set, tempo per rep, rest between reps, rest between sets, emphasis between concentric, eccentric, and/or static contractions, number of sets, set order, supersetting, and so on, ad nauseum.
Most trainers typically do 3-4 sets of an exercise, but with chins Arnold commonly used a technique in which he aimed for a total number of reps—say, 50—rather than target a particular number of sets: "On the first set you may do 10 reps. Perhaps you struggle with 8 reps on the second set. You have 18 reps now. If you make 5 on the third set, you have 23 reps. You continue to add them until you've reached 50, even though it may take you 20 sets to do it. That's how I built up my chinning power, and I was very successful with it."
Stress causes trouble for all of us. But for those interested in transforming, high levels of stress can really put a damper on your progress. It can have behavioral implications, such as increasing your risk of overeating and skipping workouts, but it's also just bad for your body on a number of levels. Utilize constructive stress management techniques like journaling, meditating, talking to a friend, or going out for a long drive around the city. Learn what works for you and then put it to use.
Neither was Fresno, for that matter. The point is, you won't be Mr. Olympia, or break any world records, in just a year's time. Be realistic about the improvements you can make in a specific time frame. Likewise, give any program 8-12 weeks to see if it's working for you. Try to improve even 1% every workout, as any progression is good, whether it's an extra set, more reps, more weight, or better technique. Over time you'll accumulate massive improvements. Consistent improvement equals long-term gains. I've been training over 20 years and I'm still improving every workout.
Milo of Croton, the ancient Greek athlete, strong man, and wrestler, may be credited as the first athlete to use the principle of progressive overload. Legend has it that Milo trained for the Olympics by carrying a newborn calf on his back every day for years prior to the Olympic start date, and by the time the Olympics arrived, the calf had grown to a full-size cow, and Milo was still carrying it on his back! In essence, Milo adapted to the growing weight of the animal by growing stronger himself. That's progressive overload. To follow this model for developing strength and tone, you lift weights that are heavy enough to create muscular fatigue at the 10th to 12th repetition and then when that gets easy, you increase the weight and lift that new weight until you can do it again for 10-12 reps. You can increase the weight every time you get to 10 or 12 reps. Typically every time you add new weight, you lift fewer reps because it's heavier, but then as your muscles grow stronger, you perform more reps.
Although muscle stimulation occurs in the gym (or home gym) when lifting weights, muscle growth occurs afterward during rest periods. Without adequate rest and sleep (6 to 8 hours), muscles do not have an opportunity to recover and grow. Additionally, many athletes find that a daytime nap further increases their body's ability to recover from training and build muscles. Some bodybuilders add a massage at the end of each workout to their routine as a method of recovering.
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.