1. Train to Muscle Failure
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 it’s 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.
2. Train Intense
Training intensely is the key to stimulating muscle growth but don’t mistake volume for intensity. All too often, people trying to achieve a higher level of intensity in their training make the mistake of assuming that increasing volume and duration are effective methods of boosting training intensity. Let me make this perfectly clear. Volume and frequency have absolutely nothing to do with intensity! High volume training sessions can actually be counter-productive. So how do you effectively increase intensity? A. By progressively increasing the amount of weight that you use. B. By progressively decreasing the amount of time it takes you to perform a particular amount of work. (For example, I have made some of my best muscle gains from workouts that lasted no longer than 30 minutes.) C. By working your muscles at the capacity of nothing less than 100% on every set.
3. Shorter Intense Workouts
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 is 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 cortisole 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.
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?
5. Lift Heavy and Intense
Training with submaximal weights and low intensity will be easy and unproductive. Training with maximal weights and high intensity will be difficult but highly productive.
6. Range of Motion
A muscle has 3 levels of strength: positive (raising the weight), static (holding the weight), and negative (lowering the weight). All 3 of these aspects of any exercise must be focused on in order to stimulate maximum muscle growth. In other words, don’t throw weight through a range of motion just to get the weight from point A to point B. If you throw, you won’t grow!
7. Keep Nutrition Simple
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 wide spread 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 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 of. 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.
8. Low Cardio Intensity
Anaerobic exercise, and aerobic exercise are opposites, so therefore should be treated as opposites. In the world of exercise science the definition of anaerobic refers to exercise that is of high intensity, but short of duration. Opposite to that, the definition of aerobic refers to exercise that is low in intensity, but long in duration. This is why you shouldn’t perform your cardio intensely. If you’re doing your cardio, and you’re gasping for air to the point where you cant carry on a conversation with someone, then that means your body is burning mostly sugar, and not fat because there is not enough oxygen present to burn fat. In other words, by performing cardio intensely, you have actually made the exercise anaerobic, so you will be drawing from into the same recovery sub systems that support your weight training, and consequently will short circuit maximum muscle growth.
Be patient! Too many people want it all right now so they become frustrated if they haven’t built their dream body within a few months of training. When such a point is reached, many bodybuilders either quit all together, or turn to dangerous drugs such as steroids, or synthetic hormones in order to speed up the process. Steroids are insidious. They may produce rapid gains in the short term, however the compromises are extraordinary and should be very carefully considered. The steroid users that I knew 15 years ago that I wished I could look like are now either dead, or out of shape dealing with severe health problems. If you love bodybuilding like I do, then you will want to be able to do it, and enjoy it from now until well into your golden years of life. Don’t get discouraged when progress doesn’t seem to be coming quickly enough. I’ve been there before, so I know how it feels. I can tell you from experience that if you are persistent it will pay off eventually. It took me 26 years to put on 40 lbs of muscle! That averages out to roughly 1.5 pounds of muscle gained each year!
10. Taking Advice
. Be very careful who you take advice from! I just cringe when I hear some of the bad advice I hear some guys dishing out to other people at the gym! Just because someone runs their mouth virtually non-stop and appears to sound confident in the words they are saying doesn’t mean that they are an expert! Most often, the people with the greatest levels of expertise are the one’s who quietly seem to be progressing above, and beyond what the people around them are. You must also make sure that the person your taking advice from is on the same playing field that you are. In other words, if they are taking steroids but you are not, what works for them will not work for you. The body chemistry is drastically altered by the use of steroids. Chemicals can make up for many training and dietary blunders that you wouldn’t get away with without the use of chemical enhancements.