When you understand the science of how your muscles work, in relationship to your nervous system, your bone and joint structure, you can increase your overall muscle mass exponentially. But most guys are doing what the Pro’s do, not what they should be doing, because they’ve seen them on videos and read their instructions in magazines like Flex.
They presume that what they see professional bodybuilders doing, is the right way to lift weights and build muscle. That is not to say it is wrong, it works for them. But there is a far more optimal way to build muscle. Which I am going to tell you about later in the article.
The problem for you, is that the Pro’s are genetically gifted athletes who do not always use good form. They often do not need to. And when you copy what they are doing, you place yourself at high risk of injury. Many of them, not all, advocate lifting very heavy weights to place stress on your muscles.
Again, the problem with that is your joints won’t cope with the amount of weight you are using, which puts them at a high risk of strains and even, snaps!
You don’t want that. And you do not need to use extremely heavy weights.
You need to use an intelligent approach. Educate yourself and learn how to use an optimal amount of weight to place the correct amount of tension and torque on the muscle fibers, for a long enough time, without injuring your joints and connective tissue (ligaments and tendons).
When you gain this important knowledge, you can build lean muscle mass, literally at will.
Trying to do what a professional bodybuilder does in the gym is barmy! Sorry. When you see them in videos, all you can see is them lifting the weight. You can’t see what they are doing with their brain and you don’t know what they are doing when they leave the gym.
And, most of them tell you nothing more than ‘lift heavy weights’. They don’t like to give their secrets away!
These guys (and women) have masseurs, physiotherapists, trainers and nutritionists, all looking after their body. If you’ve seen Jay Cutler recently as he prepares for the next Mr. Olympia contest, you’ll see him getting deep tissue massages, you’ll see him stretching his muscles at home and you’ll see the amount of nutrition he puts into his body.
Most of us don’t have those luxuries and capabilities, or we simply don’t know how to utilize them. ‘Meatheads’ just get to the gym and lift the heaviest weight possible believing the misconception that they will tear their muscles to shreds, to make them grow!
Not going to happen. So, don’t be a meathead.
If I Use Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s), Will I Build Muscle Faster?
No. If you are not placing enough tension on the muscle you are trying to hit, it won’t grow. I say trying because when most guys are lifting weights, they are not actually hitting the muscle they intend to in their workouts.
“Huh, what?” It’s true, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
It will not matter what you are shooting into your muscles, if you body is not working optimally, and you are not placing enough torque on the muscle you are training, you will not maximize your time and effort in the gym. Don’t be one of those ‘eat more, train more, lift heavier, take more steroids’ guys! I would say that most of them are just wasting their money with PED’s and some are suffering great pain from injection sites.
How do I know this?
Because I was one of them – a long time ago. I just copied what the biggest guys in the gym were doing (and taking) and I ended up with a lot pain in my knees, elbows, and don’t get me started on my shoulder pain. I train intelligently and successfully around those niggles now.
So there came a point about ten years ago where the things that I was doing, just didn’t make sense to me. I was in the gym five to six times a week. I was lifting heavy weights, doing doing drop-sets, super-sets, 21’s – you name it, I did it.
But I never exploded with muscle growth.
So I educated myself on the most effective ways to build muscle, and how to place optimal tension on the muscle I was working in any workout. I learned, and so must YOU, how to focus and place the right amount of tension on the muscle I was at the gym to train. What do I mean by this?
Let’s Get to the ‘Nitty-Gritty’ :: How Do You Build Muscle in the Most Optimal Way Possible?
Ok. Lets take rear deltoid for example. If you are bent over and just swinging those weights out to the side without protracting your shoulders and isolating that muscle, you are merely training your upper back and trapezius muscles. You might be hitting your rear deltoid with a secondary movement, but it won’t be the primary muscle you are exercising.
The muscle you are trying to build, should be the main muscle you are training. You must learn how to isolate that muscle.
Maximize your results, while minimizing your time in the gym. Sounds like a pretty simple equation to me!
There are specific things you must do and also things you must not do, when you want to build a lot of muscle. And when you put all those ingredients of the muscle building recipe together, you can increase your muscle mass exponentially over a short period of time.
You must be a scientist. Know your body. Realize what works and what does not work. When something is not working, is giving you joint pain or you just don’t feel your muscles are exhausted on leaving the gym – it’s time to look at your overall plan, and figure out what has gone wrong or what is missing. Remember, 75% of your work is outside of the gym.
You could be performing every exercise perfectly, but if you nutrition plan is garbage, if your rest and recuperation is poor and if you don’t stick to a plan (that you can be consistent with) – YOUR HARD WORK WILL NOT PAY OFF IN THE GYM.
If you stick to these rules, your body has no option but to increase its muscle mass.
- Weight training – Timing and execution of exercises is fundamental.
- Diet – What to eat and when is even more important that lifting the weight.
- Take the correct supplements.
- Rest and recuperation
- Stick to a plan for at least forty days.
Firstly, Let’s Look at Your Weight Training
Don’t be a meathead OR a juice junkie!
Instead, be the intelligent bodybuilder. Learn how to connect your mind with your muscle, so you actually train the right muscle in a workout. This is called “Mind Muscle”.
Lets take the seated bicep curl for example.
Execution: Sit upright against the back of the bench. Squeeze and lock your abdominal muscles and look straight ahead. Start with the dumbbells at the bottom. Contract (tense up) your bicep and drive them up, so your forearms finish the rep at ninety degrees to the floor. Keep your upper arm at almost a 180 degree angle to the floor (straight down).
When you hit the top, hold it for a second. Then keeping your bicep engaged, hold the contraction all the way back down to the start position for around 4 seconds. DO NOT STOP at the bottom.
Keep the motion going – one second contraction up, then four seconds negative. Do this for eight to ten reps. By the way, if you’re using a set of thirty pound dumbbells, you will need to drop the weight by about ten pounds. SERIOUSLY, when I started working out this way, I more than halved some of the weights I was previously lifting!
This is NO JOKE. It works.
When you learn to isolate the muscle, you don’t need the weight. It is only your mind telling you, and the BS you’ve read in so many magazines, that you need to really struggle with a weight. Don’t believe the hype, leave your ego at the door of the gym and forget about what the other guys in the gym are lifting.
Do you want to be a bodybuilder or a power lifter? That’s an easy one.
You want to be the biggest guy in the gym, ripped to shreds – who doesn’t need to use the heaviest weights, which place too much stress on your connective tissue.
Heavy Weights = Joint Pain.
You will be able to increase the weight back up soon enough, but first learn how to safely hit any muscle, without straining your joints and connective tissue.
Apply this bicep training technique to every muscle group. First connect your mind with the muscle. Engage that muscle (contract it) and then execute for a one second positive versus a four second negative. Keep the momentum going throughout the whole set, WITHOUT jerking or throwing weights around.
Everything should be controlled.
If you find you need to jerk a weight up – IT IS TOO DAMN HEAVY.
- Pick three or four exercises for any muscle group.
- Do three or four sets per exercise.
- On the last set do a drop-set : 3 or 4 drops for around five to six reps.
- Each set should last approximately forty seconds, apart from the drop set which will take a long as it takes.
Remember, the more time under tension your muscle is, with an optimal amount of weight, the more stress is placed on that muscle, which means it breaks down ready for you to repair it with food and recuperation.
Now Lets Look at Your Muscle Building Diet
It’s not rocket science. But most people make it so damn hard for themselves. I’m not pointing any fingers here, I was guilty of that too. Again, its about educating yourself to know what to eat and when.
You need three basic components of muscle building food.
- Protein – 40%
- Carbohydrates – 30%
- Fat – 30%
Split your food into six or seven meals per day. It is better to eat small and often, than big meals and just eat three times a day.
The amount of protein your body needs to grow is a priority. When to take in carbohydrates is also a high consideration if you don’t want to gain fat. And do not forget about adding fat to your daily diet. I’m not talking about devouring a Big Mac every day either!
Your fat should come from good sources like olive oil, avocados, coconut oil and nuts. Oh yes, don’t forget fish oils too. I’ll tell you what one of my secret weapons is later. It is similar to fish oils.
How Many Calories Do You Need?
What is your current, lean bodyweight? That is your current overall weight, less body fat percentage.
I am going to presume that you are genetically challenged, and have an ectomorph body type like me. This means you have a lean structure, you have a fast metabolism and find it difficult to gain lean muscle.
Your metabolic rate (body at rest) requires you to consume around 2200 calories per day, just to maintain bodily function, ie breathing, eye movement and your heart pumping (If you want to get this exact figure, just search this site for a Basal Metabolic Rate calculator).
So if you want to gain weight (which you do), you need to consume more calories than just those two thousand two hundred.
On top of that you are walking, driving and working out. That burns another 1000 calories, which you need to replace to maintain your body-weight. But your goal is to gain weight, right?
So you should increase your calorie intake again, to allow for this growth. Say around another 500 calories. This would make your total calorific intake 3700 calories.
Now comes the science and good old common sense. Let me explain.
If you’re gaining muscle mass at this level of food intake, without gaining body-fat then your progress is right on track. But, you might not be at your maximum calorie intake!
If you have not gained an ounce of body-fat, then you may be able to increase your calories further, and you will get faster gains. But this is where common sense must prevail, or you will hurt your overall progress.
Try adding another 300 calories to your diet and if you make better gains, again without increasing body fat then you may be able to increase it further.
Track your progress. What is the mirror telling you? It never lies. Not unless you have some weird house of fun mirrors in your bedroom!
If you notice that you are increasing body fat, then cut back 300 calories and stick to that.
If you are anything like me, you may be able to increase your calories as high as 5,000 per day. That’s a lot of food, which can be very expensive and time consuming to cook (I will let you in on another of my secrets later!)
Eat only good food. Leave the processed, fatty, sugary crap to those other guys, ok? You don’t need it. Your diet should consist of high calories obtained from nutritional sources of white and red meat, egg whites, oats and other high fiber grains, rice, small amounts of pasta and jacket potatoes, yams and include good amounts of fresh vegetables.
What about fruit? Leave fruit for the kids. If you are going to eat a banana, eat it for breakfast to kick start your metabolism or right after your workout.
When you eat a sugary food like this, even fruit, your insulin levels spike. This is not good, as the drop in insulin levels causes chaos to your neurological system. The drop in sugar could cause you to ‘binge’ on the wrong types of foods!!
Lets get to the all important protein. How much and when?
For your muscles to grow, you need around 1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean bodyweight (remember, your overall weight less body fat percentage). So if your lean bodyweight is 200 pounds, you need 300 grams of protein per day.
Timing of Your Food Intake
You need protein in EVERY meal. You need protein first thing in the morning when you wake up (unless you are doing morning cardio), and you need protein last thing at night before going to bed. If you wake up in the middle of the night, consider taking a protein shake to bed with you!
You need protein before and after your workout, so your muscles are able to repair and build. How much depends on your bodyweight, but you can use me as an example to follow. I weigh about 220 pounds lean body weight. Before my workout (30 – 60 minutes), I consume about 40 grams of protein.
Then within thirty minutes of finishing my workout, I consume 40 grams of protein (usually a high quality protein shake). And my next meal after that has about 60 grams of protein.
What about carbohydrates?
This is often a controversial topic, so I will tell you about the science that I follow (and which works for my clients).
I believe that if you are under (around) fifteen percent body fat, you can eat carbohydrates for breakfast. If you are over the fifteen percent mark, you don’t need them!
“What?” I hear you gasp. “Don’t you need carbohydrates to give you energy for the day?”
First thing in the morning, your body is in a fat burning zone, eating up the fats and sugar residues around your body. This is why it’s optimal to do your cardio as soon as you wake up – you burn more fat!
Studies have been conducted on this and the results showed that eating carbohydrates with your breakfast meal, seriously affects what your body does with your blood sugar level for the remainder of the day.
Stick to protein and fats for breakfast. This will help to keep your sugar blood sugar levels for the whole day.
The benefit of that is you are less likely to see spikes and dips in your energy levels, so you won’t ‘crash’ mid afternoon and then need stimulants to get you going again! This used to happen to me. I’d eat big carbohydrate meals right throughout the day, come the afternoon my eyes are closing, and my body needs to rest. Or sleep!
For years I struggled in my day job. I’d end up disappearing for a couple of hours, just sleeping in my car. Then go back to my job, drink a ton of coffee and start again.
Things are very different today. I have all the energy I need. I don’t crash. Sorted!
Your last carbohydrate meal before your workout should be at least two hours before you start. It is a myth that you need carb’s in your body to give you energy. Carbohydrates actually work against what you are trying to achieve. Your body takes so much energy as you digest those carbohydrates. You may even feel sleepy after a big carbohydrate meal!
Huh, sleepy when you get to the gym?!
Not a great idea. Agreed?
Save your carbohydrates for immediately after you train. This is when your body needs them most, to rejuvenate your broken down muscle mass. My first meal is a high protein and higher carbohydrate recovery drink. My real food meal comes within the next hour. I believe this is optimal. It works for me. It works for my personal training clients.
The rest of your ‘30%’ portion of carbs is then split between the rest of your meals.
Cooking Tips :: How to Save Time in the Kitchen
You are going to end up with a lot of cooking to do. My recommendation is to do all of your cooking twice or three times a week. Cook your rice and yams every couple of days. If your main protein source is chicken, turkey or steak, you can cook it and make up individual meals with your rice and veggies and freeze it. Just use Tupperware containers. You can even freeze your rice!
All you need to do then is go to the freezer, grab a tub and pop it in the microwave! You’ll save tons of time.
What About Muscle Building Supplements?
The number one supplement you should always have in your kitchen cupboard is a quality protein powder. You are probably not going to be able to get all of your daily protein from your food. You would need an extraordinary amount of food, which, if you are a newbie ‘gym-rat’, you won’t be able to cope with.
So you should supplement some of your meals with a quality protein shake. Whey protein is probably your first choice, as this is absorbed by your body immediately. Casein protein is great as a meal replacement only. It absorbs much slower than other protein sources of protein.
There is a bombardment of bodybuilding supplements available to you, and there is a lot of controversy surrounding them. Should you take them, or should you just stick to protein power and maybe creatine?
Some of the top professional bodybuilders suggest that you should get your nourishment from your food, while others advocate staking several supplements throughout the day.
So, what do you do?
Money is an issue for most. These tubs of pills and powders can seriously strangle your wallet! And you may be taking something that has no real benefit for the money you need to spend.
Our suggestion at QBX Fitness is to ensure that you have all your vitamins and minerals every day, plus a pre-workout stack and a post-workout stack. You need to prepare your body and neurological system for the stress that is about to be placed on it, so we recommend the following.
- 20g BCAA (branched chain amino acids)
- 5g Glutamine
- 5g Arginine
Then post workout, your body is at its highest anabolic state. Take advantage of it. Get your carbohydrates and your protein into your body. Get your nutrients into your system, because your nervous system and neurological system will LOVE YOU for it. Seriously!
- 500mg Krill oil (My Secret Weapon – this is the highest potency omega-3’s you can get. And since using it (1000mg per day), my joints feel less stress and my blood circulation is much better)
- 500mg Glucosamine
- Creatine (cycled – 4 week use, 4 week no use)
- 3 – 9g leucine
There is a ton of other supplements you could be taking, but do you really need them all? Well, maybe. But they are really only necessary to a professional bodybuilder or anyone who lives like one!
Decide what supplements you need, based on your goals. But, for anyone looking to gain a huge amount of muscle, then we would encourage you to invest your time researching what every supplement will do for you, and then invest in the right supplements over and above these lists.
Rest and Recuperation
Finally, but no less important that pushing weights around the gym, is to make absolutely sure you get enough rest and recuperation. Getting the right amount of sleep is vital to your health, not just your weight training program. If it means going to bed an hour earlier to get the right amount of sleep – DO IT.
This is when you will grow. Your muscles will suck up all of the nutrients you’ve eaten throughout the day, repair and build your muscles BIGGER than the day before.