Whether you’re looking to build muscle, burn fat or get stronger, it all starts in the kitchen. After all, the saying goes that 90% of the fight starts in the kitchen. Many people simply focus on counting calories to meet their goals – burn more calories than you consume means losing weight, and eating more calories than you burn means putting on weight. However, while this is true, there is more science to it for the serious fitness enthusiast.
There was a guy not too long ago who simply ate McDonalds every day for a month and still lost weight to prove a point. However, you are what you eat and there is no doubt that he would have been malnourished at the end of his stint. People with a very basic approach like this end up with poor body composition, a lack of energy and can generally feel down in the dumps.
These days it’s smarter to use a tool like a macronutrient calculator to get a basic idea of what sort of balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats you should be consuming based on their goals. Every single professional bodybuilder knows exactly what they are putting into their mouths, and this doesn’t just refer to carbs, but what nutrients and vitamins those foods provide as well.
As a general rule, people should consume 1-2g of protein per lb of bodyweight, and the balance of carbs and fats will vary depending on his or her goals. A calculator can help provide a starting point to work from, and then you can tweak it from there until you see the results you want. Once you find your tipping point, it’s smart not to cut too many calories if you’re trying to lose weight, or eat too many calories if your goal is to put on muscle. If you do the former, then you’ll seriously lack the energy to complete your workouts properly, and if you do the latter you’ll be putting on more fat than necessary.
Carbs: As many people point out it’s best to choose complex carbs to keep you fully for longer and provide you with energy stores you can tap into throughout the day. Many bodybuilders like to start off with oats for breakfast as they’re a good source of both carbs and protein, though many also include a protein shake or boiled eggs as well. Other complex carb examples include buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, wheat, corn, sweet potatoes and many others. If you do eat simple carbs, the best time is right after a workout to replace your glycogen stores.
Fats: While you might have read that you should stay away from fats, the truth is they play a very important role in the body – which includes regulating hormones. Good options include avocados, nuts (i.e. walnuts, almonds etc.), seeds (i.e. pumpkin seeds), and those found in meats like salmon and tuna.
Protein: Remember that when it comes to protein, your body can only absorb so much at a time. This is why most servings in shakes and bars range from 20-50g maximum. It’s best to spread out your meals in this regard and include protein with every single meal. As an added note, when you use a protein shake you'll find different types. Whey protein is by far the most popular quick release protein, with whey protein isolate being best for those who are trying to lose weight. Casein protein is also a good option as it is a slow releasing protein and great for pre-bedtime. There are also protein blends which are great so you can get the best of both worlds.
Supplements: Popular supplements aside from protein that bodybuilders use include creatine (by far the most popular), flaxseed oil, fish oil, multi vitamins, BCAA's, and l-glutamine.
In my last blog I spoke about the importance of building muscle naturally. Too many people, after watching old bodybuilding videos of Arnold Schwarzenegger and other champions at Gold’s, start looking for Dianabol for sale. Even with performance enhancement these guys worked hard and ate like horses, but they were pushing the boundaries and were able to do so legally and with the assistance of doctors. Things are different today, and it’s become much more impressive for bodybuilders to reach and exceed their goals naturally. Today’s blog will focus on the different types of training to meet your goals, whether you’re looking to build strength, cut fat, or pack on muscle mass.
While a layman might say that as long as you’re lifting weight and incrementally increasing it, then you’ll build muscle and strength. While this is true to an extent, there is a science behind everything professionals and serious fitness aficionados do in the gym. To elicit muscle growth and get bigger, you’d think it’s important to lift as much weight as possible. However, referred to as hypertrophy training, those looking to build muscle should focus on a manageable weight that they can lift for 3 or 4 sets for reps of 8 to 12. Some of the more famous big guys like Dwayne Johnson are known to do sets and reps of 4 x 15 for most of their exercises – and this includes compound exercises like squats too.
I once had a personal trainer, explain to me that performing leg exercises (such as a leg press or squat) for anything less than 15 reps won’t elicit growth in both slow twitch and fast twitch fibers. Doing this for 15 reps sucks, but it’s worth the results. Having said this, the weight needs to be heavy and you should progressively be adding weight every week or two. When you’re able to fully complete your full range of reps on your final set, then next time increase the weight a little. If you continue to do that at these ranges and eat correctly, rest enough for your torn muscle fibers to repair and grow, then you’ll see growth guaranteed. If you train too light and don’t increase your weight then you won’t progress. Similarly, if you use too heavy a weight that you fall too short of your rep goals or can’t use the proper technique, then the only thing you’re working out is your ego.
While you’ll naturally build strength using the method above, most fitness trainers and bodybuilders agree that lower reps with higher sets is the key to building strength. For instance, one of the most popular powerlifting programs for building strength is a 5x5 routine (5 reps for 5 sets). If strength is your goal, then it’s important to keep in mind that these ranges are almost exclusively used for compound movements such as those discussed in the previous blog (squats, deadlifts, bench presses, shoulder presses etc.).
To make sure you have a well-rounded approach you can fall back to hypertrophy type training as assistance exercises to accompany your compound movements. For instance, dumbbell flyes for 3 set of 12 reps is a good finisher after doing a 5x5 bench press. Just remember that it’s smart to have a spotter to assist you when you go heavy – in fact a spotter is great regardless as they can help you safely push out a few more reps that you would not otherwise be able to do when working out alone.
While many people want to cut fat and build muscle at the same time, it’s just not possible unless you’re playing around with your hormones. To cut fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume, it’s as simple as that. Many people looking to burn fat just stick to cardio related exercises and while this is very important to burn fat, you should keep in mind that you also use a tremendous amount of calories when lifting weights as well. In addition to this, by mixing cardio and weight lifting, you are more likely to retain muscle and even improve the quality of that muscle while you lose weight.
There are many ways to lose weight which definitely begins in the kitchen, but when it comes to working out you can use steady state cardio – such as long jogs on the treadmill or outside, or high intensity interval training (i.e. sprinting on the treadmill as fast as you can for a minute, jogging for a minute, sprinting for a minute and so on). It’s usually a matter of preference as to what is chosen. When incorporating weight training, it’s best to use more of a hypertrophy routine with cardio at the end of your sessions, or on alternate days. Just remember that rest is just as important here as it is when building muscle or strength.
Choosing a Workout Routine
As for programs to choose, again there are many options and what you choose generally comes down to preference and the time available to you. The routine I provided in the last blog is an example of a split where you could focus on one muscle group a day. If you go with this routine, then keep in mind that it’s all about angles. Hitting that muscle group from all angles to illicit muscle growth; and then having a full week for that muscle group to recover before you increase the weight incrementally and doing it again. Some people with less time on their hands may choose to do full body workouts three times a week, and perhaps some cardio on their off days. An example of a full body workout may be as follows:
- Chest – Flat Barbell Bench Presses
- Legs – Lunges and Seated Calf Raises
- Back – Barbell Rows
- Shoulders – Front Raises
- Arms – Alternating Bicep Curls and Tricep Cable Push Downs
- Abs – Sit Ups
Tuesday: Morning Jog
- Chest – Incline Barbell Bench Presses
- Legs – Hamstring Curls, Leg Extensions and Calf Raises
- Back – Pull Ups
- Shoulders – Military Presses
- Arms – EZ Bar Curls and Dips
- Abs – Leg Raises
Thursday: Morning Jog
- Chest – Incline Barbell Bench Presses
- Legs – Squats
- Back – Deadlifts
- Shoulders – Lateral Raises
- Arms – Chin Ups and Overhead Tricep Extensions
- Abs – Timed Plank
Still, others may want to use a push pull routine. This involves using pushing exercises one day, pulling exercises on another day, and say a leg focused workout on another day. For instance:
Example Pulling Exercises: Deadift, Pull Ups, Face Pulls, Bicep Curls, Rows, Lateral Shoulder Raises
Example Pushing Exercises: Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Tricep Push Downs, Squats
These are just a couple more examples, but there are literally hundreds of programs you can choose from, and thousands of exercises so it’s important to research and see what fits in with your goals and time available to you. In addition to that, always change up your routine every 12 weeks or so as the body is very quick to adapt which can slow down progress.
The benefits of steroids are not worth the risk for those looking to build muscle quickly, and this is true for both men and women. While there are a wide range of compounds that bodybuilders use, most people are incredibly ignorant of the precautions that must be taken to ensure that the cycles don’t cause permanent damage to the body. This can include anything from severe liver damage to gynecomastia in men, or virilization in women.
Added to that, if someone has success with a cycle, how many times will they repeat it and what sort of side effects will this result in long term? Believe me, I know, which is why I have dedicated this blog to building muscle naturally to dissuade those who are looking for the easy road.
Of course, there is a chance that some people are low on testosterone as levels tend to drop slowly once men reach around age 30. They might ask, "where can I buy testosterone?". The smart option for those who are suffering from symptoms of low testosterone is to visit their GP's and have their levels checked. If the levels are below normal (the average is usually between 280ng/dL and 1100ng/dL), then your doctor may start you on hormone replacement therapy.
Symptoms of low testosterone may include fatigue, decreased sex drive, impotence, mood swings, depression, increased body fat and more. So with this in mind, these symptoms shouldn't be ignored.
However, we haven't evolved to have our hormones manipulated so this blog is all about going it the natural way. So without further adieu.
There are hundreds of different workout programs people can choose and thousands of exercises for all muscle groups. The goal that you are working towards will determine what program and exercises you should utilize in order to achieve those goals. I’ll mention more about how to work toward different goals in part two.
As a basic point of reference, I always say that people looking to build muscle should focus heavily on compound exercises and perfect the techniques so they are able to progress quickly without fear of injury. This may involve using a personal trainer at first, or at the very least carefully studying multiple workout videos. Compound exercises everyone should include in their workout routines include the squat, deadlift, bench press, pull ups and shoulder press. Even simply focusing on these five will lead to significant overall body improvement. Some studies have even hinted that compound exercises can also increase your body’s testosterone levels.
There are many other compound exercises of course, as ‘compound’ simply refers to using more than one body part/joints or muscle group to lift or push a weight. Many people use a compound movement at the start of their routine when they have more energy and then finish off with isolation exercises. For instance, a simple weekly routine may be as follows:
Monday's Chest Day – Start off with a barbell flat bench press, followed by incline bench presses, dumbbell flyes and cable cross overs. Sit ups for abs.
Tuesday's Leg Day – Start with a barbell squat for your first exercise, followed by lunges, hamstring curls, calf raises, and leg extensions.
Wednesday's Back Day – Start off with a deadlift, followed by pulls ups, single arm dumbbell rows and hyperextensions.
Thursday's Shoulder Day – Start off with a barbell shoulder press, followed by face pulls, alternating front/side dumbbell raises and dumbbell shrugs.
Friday's Arm Day – Start off with chin ups, followed by alternating dumbbell curls, alternating hammer curls, reverse grip tricep push downs, normal grip tricep push downs, and overhead tricep extensions. Timed plank for abs.
Saturday and Sunday - Rest.
Of course this doesn't leave much room for cardio, so someone following a routine like this may add 20 minutes of cardio at the end of each workout session to keep their heart healthy.
Part 2 will go into more detail about the different types of training for your goals; while part 3 will focus on diet.