Do you remember what it was like when you first began lifting weights? Do you remember looking for info in all the wrong places? Or reading the entire body of weightlifting mags and looking for some clarity, hoping someone or something would say, "Here is the way to physical perfection"? No such luck, right? There was about as much chance of finding a common thread of knowledge in the bodybuilding mags as there was that Jerry Falwell would be caught dirty dancing with Bob Paris.
People in the gym weren't much help, either, were they? You might have gravitated to the biggest guy in the gym for advice, the guy who looked like he just walked off the set of "Quest for Fire", but most of his progress was the result of pharmaceutical experiments so radical they'd make Mr. Hyde run screaming into the streets of London.
As the years passed, you learned a lot through trial and error, and you probably made progress, despite all the conflicting messages in the mags and on the street. We like to think that with the birth of Muscle Media 2000, some of that confusion went away and that the heavy oak door of confusion had been pushed open wide enough to at least let a beam of light come shining through
Sill, with so many conflicting messages from so many different sources - people arguing about what the best supplements, training programs, best everything are - you, along with all the other consumers, probably got more confused than ever before! Although there are a lot of things about building muscle size and strength that remain unknown, there are a number of very important things we do know. That's the intent and purpose of this Muscle Media 2000 special report - to avoid the speculation and the wildhaired theories and to tell you the facts you need to know to build muscle size and strength. If God had handed out an owner's manual with the human body, the chapter on building muscle would contain much of the same information as is included in this report.
This report contains 10 bodybuilding truths. Your initial reaction to some of the steps might be that they're simplistic, but sometimes you've got to go back to the basics to regain some clarity and get back on track.
Okay, before you smack your forehead with your palm and mockingly say, "Damn, why didn't I think of that?" keep reading. We all know that weightlifting works, but what's the best way.
Muscle hypertrophy has to do with the breakdown of muscle proteins, creating conditions for the enhanced synthesis of contractile proteins during rest periods. The more breakdown of proteins the more damage done to the muscle during work the bigger the muscle will be when it heals (providing all other factors, like adequate rest and nutrition, are optimum). In endurance training, the intensities imposed on the muscle cells are very low, and since tensions are very low, fiber damage is small, and fiber hypertrophy is small. With weightlifting, more fibers are recruited, and tension levels are very high. Hence, fiber damage is high, and as a result, through biochemical sequences too complicated to even attempt to describe here, fibers hypertrophy and strength increases.
Along the same lines, too small a number of reps has a limited ability to induce hypertrophy. Too small a number of reps represents a minor amount of mechanical work, and the amount of degraded contractile proteins is small. In other words, one rep, even if it's done with a weight equivalent to the rear axle of a Hum-Vee, isn't going to do the trick.
The question then remains: what's the optimal amount of reps to do? Of course, this is determined by weight. Studies have shown that the maximum amount of motor-unit recruitment occurs between four and six reps, and consequently, the total amount of degraded protein also reaches maximal levels in this same rep range. But there are different types of fibers in a muscle, and they're recruited systematically the low-endurance fibers being I recruited immediately for high-tension (high-weight) lifts, and the higher endurance fibers being recruited later, long after the four- to six-rep set is done. These high-endurance fibers come into play when rep ranges of 8 to 12 are used, so ideally, and generally, both types of rep schemes should be used in a workout program. So, if you train with heavy weights in rep schemes of 4 to 12 reps, you can't go wrong!
Furthermore, the age-old controversy regarding free weights and machines (and the merits of each) still resurfaces periodically. Which is best? Both are. Nowadays, very few great physiques were built by free weights alone, and I venture to say that none were built by machines alone. The modern bodybuilder uses both to attain his/her physique goals.
Beyond that, if you focus on fundamental exercises like the bench press shoulder press, squat, and deadlift, you will get stronger bigger.
Easy to say, but what exactly is working out too often ? Well, you can measure blood levels of 3-methyl histidine and creatine kinase (two biochemical markers of muscle damage), but that isn't exactly practical, is it? The logical assumption is that we should work a particular body part when it's regained its pre-workout capacity. Again, easier said than done. Would we have been better off had we waited an extra day?
There are as many theories on muscle recovery rates as there are groupies outside Shawn Ray's hotel room door. Why is it so darned complicated? Well, largely because it's so individualistic. People vary in this regard as widely as they do in hair color, height, or any other trait that is regarded as genetic. And, to boot, there are countless other factors that fit into the equation. What's the subject's age? How much rest did he or she get? What's the subject's nutritional or hormonal status?
Lab studies show that some individual muscle groups recover more quickly than others. Calves supposedly recover overnight, whereas forearms could theoretically be trained twice a day. Larger muscle groups like the chest or back theoretically need 48 hours, whereas still larger muscle groups like the legs may need several days.
Barring any number of complicated blood tests, there's one way to determine how long it takes you to recoversoreness. If you're scheduled to work chest today but your chest still hurts from the previous workout, take an extra day off. Although working a body part when it's still sore is occasionally permissible, it will eventually catch up with you; i.e., you will tear down muscle tissue and regress instead of progress. Muscles adapt and become stronger during rest periods, not during exercise itself. Accept this fact, or you'll be caught in the revolving door of bodybuildingmoving a whole lot but not going anywhere.
Ever talk to some of these guys who skip breakfast don't eat anything till noon and complain that they can't put on any muscle? Or maybe some of those guys who eat great one day and then let their eating habits go to hell the next? Hey baby, you've go to give the mason some bricks if you want your house built! Eating your entire day's allotment of calories in one, glorious, pig-like sitting isn't going to cut it, either. There's a lot of evidence to suggest that your body will only assimilate a certain amount of calories per sitting; any more will quickly be put in the First National Bank of Flab-onia where there is a substantial penalty for early withdrawal. What's more, research has shown that with optimal protein intake, nitrogen balance varies directly with the number of feedings; i.e., there is greater nitrogen retention with more frequent feedings. In addition, when taking in fewer feedings, the body has the tendency to show adaptive changes like rapid intestinal absorption of glucose and fat, increased synthesis of glucose, increased lipogenesis, and higher serum cholesterol (Young, et al., 1976). In short, infrequent feedings bad; frequent feedings good.
Nutritionist Keith Klein has bellyached about this small but important fact for years. He has seen, time and time again, cases where bodybuilders were eating only four times a day stopped making progress as quickly as your grandma carrying a football and shuffling for a first down against the defensive line of the Dallas Cowboys. Likewise, these same bodybuilders made dramatic improvements when they started eating six times a day.
Now, eating by the clock is hard because it requires a great deal of discipline, perhaps more discipline than working out! It doesn't matter if you're hungry or not, if you're out with friends, or if you're on the road when it's time to eat, you should eat. If you skip meals, eat irregularly, or try to make up for missed meals by having a Caligula-style Roman feast, you're throwing a lug wrench in the machinery of anabolism.
The average old-school nutritionists love to talk about protein. They like nothing better than corner the neophyte bodybuilder and assail him or her with the cold protein logic of the 1950's: "Listen, what's the most muscle you could build in one day? A few grams here and there? And what's the amount of protein the body typically needs in one day? About 70 grams, right? So, in order to build muscle, you only need 70 grams, plus the few that will go directly to the muscle growth you've elicited through your workouts. Any more will be wasted!"
Ahh, too bad it isn't that easy. If growth and metabolism were as two-dimensional as the old-school nutritionists claim, then all you'd need every day would be a few extra grams of protein to build muscle. Unfortunately, the body isn't two-dimensional; it's three- or even four-dimensional. Granted, the average sedentary shoe salesman body needs about 70 grams of protein a day to repair the damage caused by everyday wear and tear, including the occasional bruised-from-having-a-high-heeled-shoe-step-on-it toe. Bodybuilders, however, need more protein. A lot more.
Muscles grow because of net protein synthesis the difference between protein degradation and synthesis. In the average person, this net difference is zip he or she isn't incurring any damage, so protein needs remain largely unchanged day to day. However, in the bodybuilder, there's so much muscle fiber disruption occurring every day that a microscopic tour of a muscle would look like Poland after the Germans blasted through in World War II. Bodybuilders need extra protein to repair all this damage. What's more, they need it at very specific intervals. In fact, timing of protein intake is just as important as quantity. The only trouble is, it's almost impossible to say exactly when in the muscle-building process we should turn the hose on. Instead, it's safer to give the body large, regular amounts of protein, so we aren't caught with our muscle-building pants down when we need extra protein.
There's evidence that we need extra protein right after a workout. There's evidence that we need extra protein about 30 hours after a workout, when muscle resynthesis is at its highest. There's evidence we need it before bedtime, to keep cortisol levels low, GH high, and to provide enough amino acids throughout the eight-hour fast we commonly call sleep. See what we're getting at? The bodybuilder needs protein throughout the day and night. Here's a short list of the times we appear to need extra protein:
1. Going to sleep means not eating, and not eating means that the body runs out of protein and insulin about halfway through the night, so you, in effect, stop synthesizing the protein you need for growth and repair. This compounds itself if your last meal was at 6:00 p.m.
2. Strenuous workouts compound the problem. Damaged muscles need more protein and more insulin to "carry" that protein to the muscle cells.
3. Strenuous workouts also cause a decrease in GH levels and an increase in cortisol levels, making it even harder to build muscle.
4. Muscle protein synthesis is elevated for a relatively long time after a workout, proving that additional protein is imperative.
The question that remains is, how much protein? There's some evidence that extremely high levels of protein can elicit muscle growth above and beyond what you might normally achieve. One particular study involving Romanian weightlifters showed that their lean body mass increased approximately 6% when they increased their protein intake from 275% to 438% of the US government recommended levels. This, however, may constitute overkill. Get at least one gram of protein per pound of lean bodyweight. For instance, if you weigh 200 lbs and have a bodyfat percentage of about 10%, you need at least 180 grams of protein per day, taken in divided doses (ideally 6 divided doses).
Don't run right out and try to pick up a Dominatrix on Sixth Avenue who wants you to lick her 1 boots...that's not what we mean. You've all heard about intensity, but trying to explain it is as difficult as trying to explain why some people spend hours and hours downloading semi-naked pictures of Claudia Schiffer off the Internet (hey, I gotta have a hobby, don't l?). Intensity is probably the most important aspect of bodybuilding. After all, if you don't damage muscle fibers, you won't break down protein, and you won't cause the body to respond by rebuilding that muscle fiber bigger and stronger. There's an old saying in the coaching business: "Do as may reps as you can, and then do three more." There's no way to say it more succinctly.
Try this. The next time you're doing an exercise, say, dumbbell bench presses, do as many as you can, but wait! Don't put the dumbbells down. Merely let them rest for a moment in the down position while you regroup your thoughts, channel your concentration, and do another one. You can do it. It's amazing, but there's a certain point when the body gives up. Call it a self-preservation thing or whatever, but remember, the body doesn't have the final say in these matters. If it did, you'd either be eating, sleeping, or having sexnot working out. Tell yourself you will do another rep. It's during this extra rep when Mr. Pain will introduce himself: "Excuse me? I'm Mr. Pain, and if you don't stop doing the equivalent of poking me with a stick, I will make you regret it." Tell Mr. Pain to kiss off, because it's exactly at this point in bodybuilding time that you're exposing the body to the most muscle-fiber recruitment, the most metabolic and hormonal stress, and muscles will respond over time by becoming bigger. Hey, remember, no one ever said this sport was for sissies.
HMB, CLA, DHEA, Co-Enzyme Friggin' Q-10, Endo make-me-stand-up-and-say-howdy Pro: all of these supplements are at the howling center of a great supplement tornado. I say Supplement A works. You question my parenthood. Magazine X devotes an entire issue to Supplement Z. I lose my lunch. The truth is, some of these supplements may indeed work. There is ample evidence to suggest that a couple of them, namely HMB and CLA, may help you increase muscle mass. There's also evidence that DHEA may help people over the age of 30 lose fat and gain some muscle. HOWEVER, the feelings are hardly unanimous.
There is one supplement, though, that is virtually universally accepted as being effective in promoting lean body mass and strength creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is a naturally occurring chemical that's one of muscles' main energy sources. Luckily for us, it's possible to supersaturate muscles with this compound by ingesting it. And, if our muscles are chock-full of creatine, our muscle cells are stronger, and they recover faster. Creatine also has a "cell-volumizing" effect. In other words, it causes the muscles to hold more intracellular fluid, and it's theorized that this promotes protein synthesis and inhibits protein breakdown.
What creatine will do is help you gain mass, quickly. It also makes you stronger. And, if recent studies are correct, creatine, more specifically, Phosphagen HP, may even improve speed (over a 100-meter run) and reduce fat!
Best results are obtained when creatine is "loaded" for a period of five days. The usual loading dosage is between 20 and 30 grams per day, followed by a maintenance dosage of 10 grams or so.
After you're done working out, don't hang out by the Stairmasters and watch the "Thong-Butt Goddesses," à la Dan Duchaine. Granted, it may be intensely pleasurable, but it's not conducive to muscle growth. Go straight home and mix yourself a high-glycemic-index (Gl) carb and protein drink. There's strong scientific evidence that right after you get done training, your body needs nutrients. It stands to reason that the most important time to elicit positive adaptations in muscle tissue is right after an intense workout. And, from what we know about insulin, carbohydrate, protein, and muscle synthesis rates, it would be downright amazing if the post-workout drink didn't, over the long run, help you build muscle. A post-workout drink, made with the right ingredients, may lower cortisol levels, increase glycogen levels, and supply muscles with the protein they need to recover from the damage you've no doubt incurred.
Here's what a good post-workout drink should contain:
Around 50-100 grams of carbohydrate (a mixture of high Gl and low Gl)
About 40 grams of protein
Five grams of creating monohydrate
This can be accomplished rather easily by mixing a meal-replacement powder in 12 to 14 oz of juice and adding a heaping teaspoon of Phosphagen (or Phosphagen HP to increase the carb dose).
Although some people might argue that this isn't a surefire way to put on muscle, we'd argue right back. We know this kind of drink is effective as we've seen its positive effects over and over again.
Hey, if you want to play the game, you have to take the field. In bodybuilding, the gym in your playing field, and if you continually ride the bench, you're not going to make progress. In other words, if you go to the gym religiously for two weeks and then take two weeks off, you're not going to make much progress; it's more likely that inactivity will cancel out the activity, and the people who don't know your name in the gym will always refer to you as "you know, that guy who always looks the same, year in and year out."
Okay, that's pretty obvious, but along with consistency comes a methodical approach. Over time your workouts need to progress. As the weeks and months go by, you must gradually increase the workload so that your muscles are forced to adapt. It's called the overload principle, and it means that the stress placed on the muscle today must be greater than the stress placed on the muscle the workout before.
There are other ways to increase the overload principle, too. As Charles Poliquin pointed out in the July '96 issue of MM2K, there are 3 ways to incorporate progressive load increase:
Increased volume: more sets, more repetitions, more workouts.
Increased intensity: more resistance, more eccentric work.
Increased density: shorter rest intervals between sets, exercises, or workouts.
You must expose the muscles to a greater and greater work load, so they're forced to adapt by becoming stronger. In order to keep track of greater and greater work loads, you must keep a training journal. Carry it with you, and record every set and rep you do. Prior to your next workout, look over the numbers from your previous workout. Your goal is to beat those numbers. Instinctive training doesn't work unless you're so chemically enhanced that the mere act of sitting on the toilet will cause growth in your quads, hams, and glutes.
Remember when you first started working out? You picked up some lame routine out of Men's Fitness and practiced itwithout making a single changefor about a year, and you still made progress. Anything you did in the gym caused muscle growth. Too bad it's not that simple anymore. Experienced weight trainers need to change their routines often. You may be a creature of habit, but in the wild, creatures of habit get eaten by the big, slobbery-mouthed wolf that sits by the creek, knowing you'll be walking your very habitual sorry ass to the stream at 5:00 p.m. to get a drink. Change is good, particularly in bodybuilding. As you become more and more advanced, your body becomes more and more efficient in adapting to routines. In fact, many athletes adapt to the point of staleness in as little as three weeks.
Variety can be introduced in several ways. Short-term variations that can be added or deleted over successive three-week periods include rep ranges, type of contraction used, speed of contraction, range of motion, and the actual exercises themselves. These short-term variations are useful in that, done correctly and methodically, they exercise a muscle in all possible ways and that's what's necessary for full development of a muscle.
Long-term variations, adopted perhaps a couple times a year, include descending sets, super sets, eccentric training (i.e., taking six seconds to lower the weight), and pre-exhaustion. All of these can be incorporated rather easily if you keep a log and take one hour every three weeks to map out your next mini training cycle.
Here's an example of how you might alter a chest workout: weeks one through three, begin with five sets of bench press (four to six reps), raising the bar to a count of two and lowering it to a count of four. Afterwards, you may do 3 supersets of incline dumbbell presses and incline dumbbell flyes (each for 8 to 12 reps), lifted to a count of 1 and lowered to a count of 3. Three weeks later, you might begin your chest workout with three sets of weighted dips as a pre-exhaustion movement, and then immediately move on to three descending sets of incline barbell bench presses.
Let's look at another example using the leg press. From mini-cycle to mini-cycle, you could change the starting foot position high or low on the platform, feet narrow or widethe angle of the back rest, and the actual tempo of the movement (lowering the platform to a count of four one cycle, and then lowering it to a count of eight another). In each issue of Muscle Media 2000 we give you fresh new training ideas to spice up your workouts!
Eccentric training is the opposite of concentric training. It means lengthening a muscle as opposed to shortening it. In other words, eccentric training on the bench press means deliberately slowing the descent of the bar. It's been shown to cause more muscle cell damage. Why? No one really knows for sure. It even puzzles muscle physiologists. After all, why should lengthening a musclethe very act for which it was designedcause damage? Nevertheless, it does, and that's why every workout should incorporate an eccentric component. Most novices in the gym train like the old ball and paddle gamethey slap the weight up using a quick movement, ensuring lots of momentum, and watch as the weight flies up and then falls back, courtesy of gravity. Most novices just try to make sure it doesn't fly back and hit them in the face. The faster they go, the more intense they think they're working out. Pathetic.
The upward and downward portion of every movement must be slow and deliberate, and there are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, research has shown that the lifting portion of a movement recruits the most muscle fibers when it's performed slowly. This translates to about two seconds for most movements. The eccentric portion of the movement should be even slower, occurring optimally over four seconds. This takes into consideration the fact that eccentric movements are easier anyhow, since they have the added advantage of having both friction and gravity to help them. Secondly, slow strength training provides more time to activate both muscle fiber typesfast and slowresulting in greater force production. And thirdly, eccentric motor activities produce two to three times the force of concentric activities. Therefore, they cause more muscle damage and in turn provide the cellular signal to degenerate and regenerate a new fiber. Given that all other conditions are favorable, the muscle cell will grow back bigger and stronger.
To recap, here are the ten surefire ways to build muscle:
1. Lift weights! Do heavy sets of between 4 and 12 reps.
2. If a particular body part is sore, don't work it until it's not sore.
3. Eat six, evenly spaced meals a day
4. Eat at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight each day.
5. Do as many reps as you can, and then do three more.
6. If you're going to use one supplement, use creatine monohydrate.
7. Drink a high-carb, high-protein drink immediately after an intense workout.
8. Keep a training log, and try to constantly "one-up" yourself.
9. Use variety in your workouts.
10. Concentrate on using eccentric movements in your workouts.
Granted, there are other ways to make muscles grow, but the things described in this special report constitute a "unified bodybuilding theory." Eight out of ten coaches, gurus, and self-proclaimed experts will agree with them. If you follow the items laid out in this special report, you will grow, no doubt about it!
Mark Albert, Eccentric Muscle Training in Sports and Orthopedics, Churchill Livingstone: New York, New York, 1991 .
Richard Lieber, Skeletal Muscle Structure and Function, Williams and Wilkins: Baltimore, 1992.
Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, Science and Practice of Strength Training, Human Kinetics Books: Pennsylvania State University, 1995.