Further suggesting that training to failure plays a lesser role in the hypertrophic response is a study that noted that training to failure with light weight did not produce marked strength gains (meaning that failure itself wasn't the most critical factor). In fact, increasing the resistance of the movement recruits more motor units and is correlated with gains in strength and hypertrophy.[6,7]
Focus on form. Good form means you can reap all of the benefits of your workout and avoid injuries at the same time. To maintain proper form, pay attention to your posture (stand tall with chest lifted and abs held tight), move slowly (this ensures you're relying on muscles, not momentum, to do the lifting), and remember to breathe. Many people hold their breath while exerting, but exhaling during the hardest part of the exercise helps fuel the movement.
The focus when doing this exercise should be on activating the hamstrings. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart with your legs straight throughout the movement. This forces the brunt of the work to be done by the hamstrings. You are going to effectively hit the hamstrings, glutes and back with this exercise. The straight leg deadlift has helped build many ironclad physiques.
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.
Fat, including the much-maligned saturated fat, is necessary for building a rock-solid physique. It revs up testosterone production, provides necessary calories, and helps your joints endure the heavy lifting needed to spur muscle gains. Aim for at least 0.5g of fat per pound of body weight (90g for a 180-pound man), or 30% of your total daily calories. Divide that into equal thirds from saturated fats found in beef, coconut products, and dairy; monounsaturated fats from almonds, avocado, olive oil, and peanut butter; and fat-burning polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. Avoid the trans-fatty acids found in fried foods.
In step 3, cut back your energy intake by the 15 percent you added previously. Because you're now not the lean guy you once were, you may have to eventually eat slightly more to maintain that extra muscle, but that comes later. Bodybuilders do this to prepare themselves for competition: They put on muscle and some fat by eating, then they strip off the fat, leaving the muscle to show through. It’s called "cutting."
In the last week leading up to a contest, bodybuilders usually decrease their consumption of water, sodium, and carbohydrates, the former two to alter how water is retained by the body and the latter to reduce glycogen in the muscle. The day before the show, water is removed from the diet, and diuretics may be introduced, while carbohydrate loading is undertaken to increase the size of the muscles through replenishment of their glycogen. The goal is to maximize leanness and increase the visibility of veins, or "vascularity". The muscular definition and vascularity are further enhanced immediately before appearing on stage by darkening the skin through tanning products and applying oils to the skin to increase shine. Some competitors will eat sugar-rich foods to increase the visibility of their veins. A final step, called "pumping", consists in performing exercises with light weights or other kinds of low resistance (for instance two athletes can "pump" each other by holding a towel and pulling in turn), just before the contest, to fill the muscles with blood and further increase their size and density.
Carbohydrates play an important role for bodybuilders. They give the body energy to deal with the rigors of training and recovery. Carbohydrates also promote secretion of insulin, a hormone enabling cells to get the glucose they need. Insulin also carries amino acids into cells and promotes protein synthesis. Insulin has steroid-like effects in terms of muscle gains. It is impossible to promote protein synthesis without the existence of insulin, which means that without ingesting carbohydrates or protein—which also induces the release of insulin—it is impossible to add muscle mass. Bodybuilders seek out low-glycemic polysaccharides and other slowly digesting carbohydrates, which release energy in a more stable fashion than high-glycemic sugars and starches. This is important as high-glycemic carbohydrates cause a sharp insulin response, which places the body in a state where it is likely to store additional food energy as fat. However, bodybuilders frequently do ingest some quickly digesting sugars (often in form of pure dextrose or maltodextrin) just before, during, and/or just after a workout. This may help to replenish glycogen stored within the muscle, and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.