When you start resistance training, most of your initial increase in strength is due to a phenomenon called neural adaptation. This means that the nerves servicing the muscles change their behaviour. The nerves are thought to fire more frequently (prompting increased muscle contraction) and more motor units are recruited to perform the contraction (a motor unit is the nerve cell and its associated muscle fibres). This means you become stronger, but the muscles remain the same size – you’ve hit the plateau.


At the end of the day, you have to focus on how you feel. “Listen to your body,” says Davis. “It tells you when it needs a day off.” As a rule of thumb, take a rest day if your perceived pain is above a seven on a scale of 10, Davis advises. Or, focus on a different body part (say, if your legs are sore, focus on upper-body moves). Can't stop, won't stop—at least, till your next rest day.
Including a small amount of higher sugar and/or higher fat food here and there (I usually try to refrain from using the term “cheat meals” as it wrongly implies that you’re doing something outside the rules) is not going to negatively affect your muscle building or fat burning progress, and it will make your overall eating plan much more enjoyable while still delivering the same results.
The best way to develop muscle strength is for the muscle to contract to its maximum potential at any given time – maximal voluntary contraction (MVC). In resistance training, MVC is measured by the term XRM, where RM is the maximum number of repetitions that can be completed with a given resistance or weight. X is the number of times a certain weight can be lifted before the muscle fatigues.
To know how far 12 weeks of hardcore training have taken you, you’ll need to know where you began. In “Week 0” - a single workout to be performed one full week before taking on the rest of the program - devote an entire gym session to finding your three-rep max on five multijoint lifts. Your performance will provide you with a fair assessment of your strength so you can accurately measure your gains at the end of the program (Week 13).
The general strategy adopted by most present-day competitive bodybuilders is to make muscle gains for most of the year (known as the "off-season") and, approximately 12–14 weeks from competition, lose a maximum of body fat (referred to as "cutting") while preserving as much muscular mass as possible. The bulking phase entails remaining in a net positive energy balance (calorie surplus). The amount of a surplus in which a person remains is based on the person's goals, as a bigger surplus and longer bulking phase will create more fat tissue. The surplus of calories relative to one's energy balance will ensure that muscles remain in a state of anabolism.
Nutrition is important but I find that most people over-obsess about their diets. I hear people fretting over stuff like; Should I eat a chicken breast or a fillet of salmon? A handful of almonds, or a teaspoon of peanut butter? Broccoli, or spinach? brown rice, or yams? A half cup of yogurt, or a half cup of cottage cheese? High carb, or low carb? As much widespread confusion that exists regarding diets that should be followed in order to burn fat, the premise of the whole issue is actually very simple. Regardless of what you eat, as long as you take in fewer calories than you need in order to meet metabolic and physical activity energy requirements, you will lose fat. Some people have made great progress in fat loss simply by taking my advice and eating what they normally eat, but just eat 1/3 less of everything with the exception of green vegetables which are actually negative calorie food items that you can eat as much as you want off. Don’t complicate your nutrition and make it more difficult than it needs to be. Fats don’t make you fat, and carbohydrates don’t make you fat. Calories consumed beyond the body’s maintenance and growth needs make you fat.
Once you feel comfortably balanced, contract your quadriceps and gluteal muscles and lower your body slowly. When you reach the point where your upper legs are just below parallel to the floor, push back up to the top without “locking out” and repeat the movement. Make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight to protect your lower back, and keep your head up and your eyes fixed ahead as you perform this exercise.
The squat is performed by squatting down with a weight held across the upper back under neck and standing up straight again. This is a compound exercise that also involves the glutes (buttocks) and, to a lesser extent, the hamstrings, calves, and the lower back. Lifting belts are sometimes used to help support the lower back. The freeweight squat is one of 'The Big Three' powerlifting exercises, along with the deadlift and the bench press.[2]

Training to a point of momentary muscle failure, at which completion of another repetition on any given set is impossible despite your greatest effort, is the only way to force the body to resort to its biochemical resources sufficiently to stimulate real growth! One of the biggest mistakes I see being made in the gym is when certain individuals will end a set of an exercise just because an arbitrary number of repetitions has been completed.This will do very little to stimulate muscle growth. A set should be terminated only when your muscles have been forced to the point of it being inconceivable to produce 1 more repetition within a working set. I use the word forced because obviously, you know muscle growth doesn’t come easy and literally needs to be forced! Any degree of effort in a set that is less than 100% may yield a bodybuilder some results, but never to the same extent that all out maximum effort will.
Of course, cardio is an important part of fitness too, but the benefits of strength training are major. Strength training helps build muscle, and lean muscle is better at burning calories when the body is at rest, which is important whether you're trying to lose weight or maintain it. It also helps strengthens joints and bones, avoid injury, improve your muscular endurance, and will help you give it your all during your other workouts, whether that means setting a new PR if you're a runner or pushing (and pulling) a little harder with your legs during your favorite indoor cycling class.
Focus on those exercises, trust me, you won't regret it. Also, don't be afraid to add weight to the bar as well, as long as your form is in check. Overloading the muscles is essential for growth because the body doesn't need to adapt if nothing's changing. Therefore, you must force your body to change by adding weight or another repetition on that exercise that next time it comes around.

The pyramid system of training was in vogue during those days. Bodybuilders using multiple sets per exercise would typically warm up with a light weight and gradually increase the resistance over the 4-5 sets so they were using their heaviest weights for the last sets. As mentioned above, the bodybuilders would start training faster while still using heavy weights as the contest got closer. This would increase the intensity of the workout while still using the same weights because of the decreased rest periods.
Site enhancement oil, often called "santol" or "synthol" (no relation to the Synthol mouthwash brand), refers to oils injected into muscles to increase the size or change the shape. Some bodybuilders, particularly at the professional level, inject their muscles with such mixtures to mimic the appearance of developed muscle where it may otherwise be disproportionate or lagging.[54] This is known as "fluffing".[55][56] Synthol is 85% oil, 7.5% lidocaine, and 7.5% alcohol.[55] It is not restricted, and many brands are available on the Internet.[57] The use of injected oil to enhance muscle appearance is common among bodybuilders,[58][59] despite the fact that synthol can cause pulmonary embolisms, nerve damage, infections, sclerosing lipogranuloma,[60] stroke,[55] and the formation of oil-filled granulomas, cysts or ulcers in the muscle.[59][61][62] Rare cases might require surgical intervention to avoid further damage to the muscle and/or to prevent loss of life.[63]
In the fourth and final week of the program, you’ll train four days in a four-way split that hits each bodypart just once (except for calves and abs, which are each trained twice). Four-day splits are common among experienced lifters because they involve training fewer bodyparts (typically 2–3) per workout, which gives each muscle group ample attention and allows you to train with higher volume. As you’ll see, chest and triceps are paired up, as are back with biceps and quads with hamstrings, each a very common pairing among novice and advanced bodybuilders. Shoulders are trained more or less on their own, and you’ll alternate hitting calves and abs—which respond well to being trained multiple times per week—every other workout. No new exercises are introduced in Week 4 so that you can focus on intensity in your workouts instead of learning new movements.
What makes Arnold's routine stand out today is the volume and frequency with which he trained every body part. His offseason chest routine consisted of up to 26 working sets on a high-volume day, and he trained his pecs three times a week! Arnold also cycled heavy and light days to work the muscles with different relative intensities and ensure he wasn't overtraining his pecs.
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.[26] Insulin has steroid-like effects in terms of muscle gains.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29]
The deadlift is performed by squatting down and lifting a weight off the floor with the hand until standing up straight again. Grips can be face down or opposing with one hand down and one hand up, to prevent dropping. Face up should not be used because this puts excess stress on the inner arms. This is a compound exercise that also involves the glutes, lower back, lats, trapezius (neck) and, to a lesser extent, the hamstrings and the calves. Lifting belts are often used to help support the lower back. The deadlift has two common variants, the Romanian deadlift and the straight-leg-deadlift. Each target the lower back, glutes and the hamstrings differently.

"Making strategic changes to your workouts keeps plateauing at bay," agrees Grenade's Vinny Russo. "Once you get comfortable, you tend to stay there. This limits your physical potential, because you're no longer progressing. Get out of that comfort zone and push your limits. Once you become accustomed to that style of training, manipulate another variable to keep making it a challenge!"
Assuming that around 80-90% of your diet is comprised of nutrient-dense, “clean” foods (such as lean proteins, minimally refined carbohydrates and healthy fats), the other 10-20% can come from whatever sources you’d like as long as it fits into your overall daily calorie and macronutrient totals. (The only exception here are for foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils, as these should be strictly limited or eliminated altogether)

This is a favorite leg developer of old-school bodybuilders. For this squat variation, the bar will be up high on your traps and you will take a narrower stance. This will force your knees over your toes and allow your torso to stay upright, leading to a more quad dominant exercise. While this squat variation is more quad dominant, your glutes and hamstrings will still get a good workout (assuming you squat below parallel.)


When trying to gain mass, eat two breakfasts. To restock liver glycogen and put the brakes on the catabolism that chips away at your muscle overnight, down two scoops of whey protein along with a fast-digesting carb such as Vitargo or white bread immediately upon waking. One of our favorite morning shakes is two cups of coffee, two scoops of whey, and two to three tablespoons of sugar. About 60 minutes later, follow up with a wholefoods breakfast that boasts quality protein—such as Canadian bacon or eggs—and slowerburning carbs, such as oatmeal.
In the 1970s, bodybuilding had major publicity thanks to the appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Lou Ferrigno, and others in the 1977 docudrama Pumping Iron. By this time, the IFBB dominated the competitive bodybuilding landscape and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) took a back seat. The National Physique Committee (NPC) was formed in 1981 by Jim Manion,[7] who had just stepped down as chairman of the AAU Physique Committee. The NPC has gone on to become the most successful bodybuilding organization in America and is the amateur division of the IFBB. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the decline of AAU-sponsored bodybuilding contests. In 1999, the AAU voted to discontinue its bodybuilding events.
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.

OK. Imagine this: It's the end of the most intense workout you've ever had. It's gone extremely well up to this point. You just need to bust out one more set of deadlifts and then you can call it a day and relax with a nice protein shake. But when you pull the weight off the floor, it falls back down. You think to yourself what's going on, and that you know your legs have enough energy left to pump out a few more. What's the problem?


Here's one for those of you who still compete. One of the most important things about professional bodybuilding is the way you present all that hard work and sacrifice when you get on stage. You want to pose in a way that hides your flaws and accentuates your strengths. If you want to see those flaws and strengths clearly, take pictures of your poses and when you look at them, cover your face. Sounds silly but it allows you to be more objective. Now, you may want to enlist the help of a credible posing coach to hone in your routine.
Avoid overtraining. Listen to your body. After bad form, overtraining is the most common mistake I see in the gym. If you find you are losing enthusiasm for your work outs, if you are constantly tired, if your progress has slowed or stopped, it's time for a break. If you have been training consistently, I recommend taking a week off every two to three months. You will return to the gym reinvigorated, renewed, and rested. You will not lose strength in one week. Even after a month off, chances are you will surprise yourself by returning to the gym stronger than when you left. Following a break is the ideal time to modify your training program.

Rep schemes remain in the hypertrophy range this week, but overall volume increases by adding more sets to individual exercises: up to five sets per move for larger bodyparts, and even 10 sets of calf raises on Thursday. This bump in volume will ensure that your muscles are overloaded sufficiently to continue the growth they’ve already begun experiencing in the first three weeks. Completion of this four-week program now entitles you to go to the next stage.


Choose your favourite cardio exercises like spinning, outdoor biking, running, hill sprints, or swimming, whatever it is, hit it hard. Literally! Experts advise to perform HIIT, high-intensity interval training, to burn fat in a time-efficient manner. A 3-to-1 rest-to-work ratio is effective. It 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.
Coming home ravenous after a ballsout training session and having nothing ready to eat can send you on a hunt for the nearest bag of Doritos. But having a stockpile of protein-packed foods that can be reheated easily guarantees you’ll make healthy choices and get the nutrients your muscles need. Use the weekend to rustle up big batches of chicken, chili, stews, hard-boiled eggs, and rice, which will keep in the fridge or freezer the whole week.
Start small and work your way up the ladder one step at a time. If you make too big of goals, you may never reach them, and you may lose motivation and interest, which will ultimately lead to giving up. However, if your goals are attainable, once you do reach them, a never before felt euphoria will rush through your entire body, and you'll finally realize why everybody who is in this is in it. This'll only push you even harder the next time, and the next time, and then the next time, and before you know it you look back at old photos and can't even recognize yourself.
In either phase, don’t exceed 1 gram per pound of body weight of protein (2.2 grams/kilogram). A little more probably won’t hurt a healthy person, but chances are, based on the science of protein requirements for athletes, it won’t help either. It will only cost you in expensive supplements or food. Any hint of kidney disease and you would need to be cautious about excessive protein intake. Consult your doctor for advice if this applies.
Long before he was paid $25 million for his movie roles, Arnold Schwarzenegger penned monthly articles for bodybuilding godfather Joe Weider's muscle magazines. Arnold's writing didn't win any journalism awards, but he later collected his ideas and training philosophies in his best-selling "The New Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding," which is still used as a reference tool by bodybuilders today.
For us recreational enthusiasts, there are few things that provide more inspiration than the audible feats of strength that take place in our own gyms every day. The clanging of non-collared plates on a big set of squats. The seismic thud of a stacked set of dumbbells hitting the floor. The primitive, rep-beating grunt of fellow strength-seeking men. It’s this cacophony of iron that pushes us to push ourselves. We want to move more weight - lots more - and we’re ready to put in the work.
The pyramid system of training was in vogue during those days. Bodybuilders using multiple sets per exercise would typically warm up with a light weight and gradually increase the resistance over the 4-5 sets so they were using their heaviest weights for the last sets. As mentioned above, the bodybuilders would start training faster while still using heavy weights as the contest got closer. This would increase the intensity of the workout while still using the same weights because of the decreased rest periods.
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.[26] Insulin has steroid-like effects in terms of muscle gains.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29]
×