TRAIN LIKE A MAN, NOT A BODYBUILDER

TRAIN LIKE A MAN, NOT A BODYBUILDER

Just because someone is big and jacked doesn’t mean they’re in good shape. Furthermore, having more muscles doesn’t necessarily mean you’re strong or make you more effective in a fight. In fact, if you train like a bodybuilder, chances are you’re less healthy than the health-conscious dad who doesn’t lift weights; and probably slower too. (Read This: 5 Reasons Why Real Men Train for Strength)

Truth is, though, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a properly programmed workout routine, it’s possible—and even more beneficial—to build muscle, maximally, while improving your conditioning, experiencing better heart health, and becoming more athletic in general.

In this article, I plan to go over why you should train like a man, not a bodybuilder, so you can not only get strong and jacked, but become a more useful part of society; so you can become a better protector and defender.

1. Train for Strength, Not Size

Whenever I hear a “man” say that he wants to build muscle but has no interest in gaining strength, I cringe. Not only is that superficial and beta, but it isn’t possible to any significant degree.

You see, the primary driver of hypertrophy is progression. If you want to get bigger, you’ve got to get better. It’s why you don’t see jacked powerlifters—or recreational lifters for that matter—bench pressing 135 pounds.

Here’s how it works: We subject our muscles to a certain stress, our body then recovers and adapts to the given stress in order to handle it again later. If we continue to subject our body to the exact same stimulus, our body finds no reasons to grow; it’s already adapted. If, on the other hand, we lift more weight—be it by adding 5 more pounds to the bar or keeping the weight the same and squeezing out a few more reps—we’ll stimulate further adaptations and grow.

You see, there’s a major difference between training for strength and preparing for a powerlifting meet. I’m not telling you you’ve got to aim for a 600 pound deadlift—although that may very well be a byproduct of training for strength—I’m simply stating that if you want to get bigger, you’ve got to get stronger and there’s no way around it.

Now, this is not to say that one should aim to increase their one rep max each week; to the contrary, unless you’re competing, you should never attempt your one rep max in the gym. What we should aim for, however, is better performance:

  • More weight without sacrificing reps
  • More reps without sacrificing weight
  • Increased force

And so on…

If you’ve added 5 pounds to the bar, you’ve gotten stronger.

If last week you were able to push 135 pounds for 8 reps, and this week you’re able to push it for 10, you’ve gotten stronger.

And if you bench pressed 135 pounds last week and it took 2-3 seconds to get the last couple of reps up, and this week you pushed those last two reps easier, you’ve also gained strength.

Haven’t gained much size on your legs? Look back for the last 6-12 months and tell me how much stronger your squat has gotten. I can guarantee there is a strong correlation between the amount you can bench press and the size of your chest and triceps.

2. High Frequency Training

If you’ve been training for years and your legs are still getting sore, you’re doing it wrong.

You see, if you’re crawling out of the gym once per week on “leg day,” it’s not because you “killed it.” You’re crawling out of the gym each week because you’re not training your legs frequently enough.

A study that was published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared training 1 day per week using a split body workout vs. 3 days per week using a full-body approach. Researchers found that subjects who trained a single muscle-group more frequently throughout the week, despite no changes in total volume, experienced significantly more muscle growth than the low frequency group.

The reason for this is twofold:

  1. Repeated Bout Effect: the adaptation whereby a single boutof eccentric exercise protects against muscle damage from subsequent eccentricbouts.

Although this effect does still require an adequate rest period between bouts, training more frequently will increase your ability to recover and adapt.

  1. Muscle Protein Synthesis: the driving force behind adaptive responses to exercise and represents a widely adopted proxy for gauging chronic efficacy of acute interventions, (i.e. exercise/nutrition).

If we can synthesize more protein than we breakdown, we end up with more muscle than we started with.

Studies suggest that MPS is more than doubled at about 24 hours following an intense training bout. It then begins to drop back to baseline about 12 hours later.

So let’s look at an individual who trains his legs once per week. He elevates MPS once during that week, a couple of days later it’s back to baseline, and it’s not elevated again for another 5 days. If, on the other hand, this individual had trained his legs twice per week—despite the volume being equal—he would have spent more time building muscle.

3. Train for Progression, Not Fatigue 

Bodybuilders believe that it’s in those last few reps that we grow, and thus, training to failure is critical for maximizing muscle hypertrophy. What makes a muscle grow is not the last 3 or 4 reps, however, but a pathway known as progressive overload: adding more volume through increased reps and/or weight, over time (i.e. getting stronger).

That said, our main focus in the gym should be performance. If we’re fatigued, then our performance suffers and the rest of our efforts are in vein.

I’ll give you an example: you walk into the gym and you are aiming to bench press 185 pounds for 3 sets—here’s what it might look like when you’re training to failure.

Set #1 – 185 lbs x 8
Set #2 – 185 lbs x 5
Set #3 – 185 lbs x 3

You exert so much energy squeezing out those last few reps on the first set that the second set suffers. Despite feeling fatigued, you push as hard as you can on the second set and fail at 5 reps. By the time you’re on your third and final t set, you’re toast. Not only did you hinder your performance on the bench press, but you’ve made yourself useless for the remainder of the workout.

If we look at the bench press alone, the total workload would have been 2,960 pounds.

Now let’s look at how your bench press may have gone, had you ended a couple of reps short of failure, instead.

Set #1 – 185 lbs x 6
Set #2 – 185 lbs x 6
Set #3 – 185 lbs x 5-6

In this example, you didn’t exert too much energy on the first set, thus the second set doesn’t have to suffer. Now, after two pretty intense sets you may not be as primed, but certainly not taxed.

Workload: 3,145-3,330lbs

Although the difference in workload during the bench press may not have been drastic, the real disparity happens as you get further into your workout.

4. Build Your Body, Not Your Arms

Although there isn’t anything inherently wrong with biceps curls and leg extensions, they should never make up the bulk of our workouts. When these small, insignificant movements become the focal point of our training, we leave a lot of room for growth on the table.

If you want to build the most amount of muscle in the least amount of time possible, the exercises that are going to provide the best ROI on your time must be the focus of your training.

Think of your pecs as a house, your triceps as a shed, and the workers as the muscle you’re recruiting to do the work. Performing isolation exercises (i.e. biceps curls and triceps pushdowns) is like hiring 10 workers to build the house and telling 8 of them to work on the shed. Sure, you may eventually end up with a nice shed, but the house will never get done.

Now imagine if you hired 100 workers to build the house then told 20 of them to build the shed. Both jobs would get done faster. Focusing your efforts on big heavy compounds is like hiring 100 workers instead of 10. 

A compound lift refers to an exercise that engages two or more joints (e.g. bench press, squat, deadlift, etc.). Because you’re involving multiple joints, you can train more muscles at the same time. The main benefits of training with compound movements are twofold: (1) you’re accumulating more volume for multiple muscle-groups, and, (2) because multiple muscle-groups are involved, you’ll be able to use heavier loads.

As someone who is looking to gain the most muscle and strength in the least amount of time, your primary goal is to focus on the exercises that’ll give you the biggest bang for your buck. And although there is a time and a place for smaller isolation movements, focusing solely on compound lifts will yield about 90-95% of your potential muscle growth.

5. Do Not Avoid Cardio

Over the years, cardio has been demonized and defamed by popular bodybuilders and fitness magazines. Ask any meathead in the gym why he doesn’t do cardio, and he’ll tell you it’s because he’ll lose his muscle mass.

And although excessive cardio has been associated with muscle loss, the right type of conditioning work can actually aid in muscle growth. This happens, primarily, for two main reasons: (1) it serves as active recover and thus increases the rate at which we recover from intensive workouts and (2) it increases our work capacity which allows us to do more work in the gym.

Now although 2-3 days of running on the treadmill won’t hurt—to the contrary, it may actually improve recovery and performance—GPP may be a better option.

GPP or General Physical Preparedness lays the groundwork for later specific physical activity. In your case, it’s meant to increase conditioning, strength, speed, endurance, structure and skill.

Failing to incorporate at least 1-2 days of GPP work, per week, may not hinder your ability to gain muscle, but it certainly won’t maximize it either.

You see, being strong and muscular is great—and that can be achieved without any conditioning work—but what is it good for when a fire breaks out and you’ve got to count on your lungs to save your family?

In short, make sure you’re performing your GPP work—not only does it make you more useful and harder to kill, but it will increase recovery and improve work capacity.

Train Like a Man, Not a Bodybuilder

Bodybuilders may be big and jacked, but most of them aren’t strong or athletic. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that, despite appearance, most of these guys are typically out of shape and suffer from poor heart health. It’s not rare to see these big buff bodybuilders gasping for air from simply walking from their car to the gym. And let’s not even get into the constant injuries and nagging joints that come from poor training habits.

Want to be—and look—like a complete badass? Train like a man, not a bodybuilder.

About The Author

Alain Gonzalez is a former skinny guy turned jacked fitness pro whose transformation story has been featured in articles on websites all over the internet. He has dedicated his life to helping naturally skinny guys like himself to overcome their genetics and take their physiques to the next level.

You can contact him at –
http://www.MuscleMonsters.com/
Instagram: @MuscleMonsters
YouTube: MuscleMonsters

BODYWEIGHT TRAINING FOR MAXIMAL STRENGTH

BODYWEIGHT TRAINING FOR MAXIMAL STRENGTH

Training Calisthenics For  Strength

The best way to train for strength involves low rep sets with high resistance. Hitting around 2-6 tough reps per set causes the highest strength gains. If you do a bodyweight squat right now, you’ll quickly realize that those won’t cut it for strength work, since 6 reps doesn’t even feel like exercise.

The key to Calisthenics being effective for building strength is exercise selection and progressions. Progressive overload is consistently adding more weight and/or reps per set to your training to increase your strength levels further. If you never increase the resistance, eventually the movement will become to easy to help increase your strength levels beyond what they are currently. That is why you need a good progression system for each movement. With bodyweight exercises, the only way to increase the external resistance is to gain weight. Since that isn’t a good way to overload your muscles, you need ways to increase time under tension, and the overall difficulty of the movements themselves.

Instead of finding new progressions for bodyweight movements, most people just move onto typical weight training, dismissing Calisthenics as an endurance tool. Well, we are going to change that. If you follow my layout, you are going to build some great strength!

Lets take a look at some of my favorite movements and their progressions!

Lower Body Push Movements

Your legs have the biggest muscles in your body, meaning that strengthening them with bodyweight movements is usually the toughest task. Like I said earlier, regular bodyweight squats aren’t useful here. What you need is unilateral movements where only one of your legs will move your entire bodyweight, effectively doubling the resistance of a typical air squat.

My two favorite movements for strengthening your Lower Push muscles are Pistol Squats and Shrimp Squats. Lets look at each individually, along with their proper progressions as you get stronger.

Pistol Squat Progressions

Assisted Pistol Squats: Most people are going to start with Assisted Pistols. In addition to the challenge to your balance, Pistol Squats are usually too hard to nail down on your first few sessions. This regression involves holding onto something sturdy throughout the movement to keep you steady and allow you to “cheat” by pulling your body up as much as you need to to support your legs’ effort. The stronger you get with these, the less you should be using your arms to pull. The last step for these is to only have your arms touching something to keep your balance but not be able to pull any of your bodyweight up.

Pistol Squats: Moving from Assisted Pistols to Pistols can be a challenge for some people. The best thing that I can recommend is to start with your heel elevated on a stable surface and to place your off foot on the ground after every rep to maintain your balance. Once you have the balance aspect down, you can remove the elevated surface from your heel and avoid touching your off foot on the ground for an entire set.

Advanced Pistols: After Pistol Squats get easy for sets of 6, your next best thing would be Paused Pistols. Pause for a two count at the bottom of each squat. This will reduce the elastic rebound in the bottom of the squat, making you rely more on your concentric strength alone. The last progression is Plyometric Pistols, which you can add in with a pause as well. Jump at the top of every squat to improve your explosive strength. After you get to this point and they begin to get easy, Pistols will be less of a strength tool and you’ll need some external resistance to continue improving strength with this movement. That is down the road, however.

Shrimp Squat Progressions

Assisted Shrimp Squats: An Assisted Shrimp Squat is very similar to an Assisted Pistol. Your hands are helping you balance and pull yourself out of the hole when leg strength is not enough. You can also place your back foot on the ground earlier in the ROM of the movement to take some of your bodyweight. You’ll want to build up to only using your arms to balance yourself and not touching your back foot to the ground at all.

Shrimp Squats: Think of a Shrimp Squat as a Split Squat without any support from the rear leg. Instead of placing the back foot on the ground, you are actually going to hold it with one hand. The other arm can extend to improve your balance. Lower your back knee to the ground and explode back up.

Advanced Shrimp Squats: Paused Shrimp Squats are great but the most effective version of a Shrimp Squat is an Elevated Paused Shrimp Squat. Find a sturdy surface to place your front foot on. Start with something that is only an inch or two tall. The stronger you get, the higher the surface can be, flexibility permitting. You still get the back knee to the ground and pause before ascending. However, the elevated surface increase the ROM of the movement, making it tougher than a traditional Shrimp Squat.

 

Lower Body Pull Movements

This includes your hamstrings and glutes for the sake of this article. I know your glutes are activated during Lower Push movements as well. My favorite Hamstring movements are Hip Bridges and Towel Drags. For Glutes, nothing beats Frog Pumps.

Hip Bridge Progressions

One Leg Hip Bridge: One foot is on the ground and the other foot is not. You can cross that leg, or leave it straight in the air. Bridge up and focus on digging with your heel to activate the hamstrings as well as possible. Make sure you have a nice two count pause at the top of each rep. The mind muscle connection plays a big role in how effective these are.

Elevated One Leg Hip Bridge: Elevating your foot increasing the ROM of the movement. The mechanics are all the same. The Hip Bridge is a great movement, but it is limited when strength is the ultimate goal.

Towel Drag Progressions

Two Legged Towel Drags: I supposed this technically requires equipment (a towel). But, everybody has a towel so it’s still a Calisthenic movement in my opinion. Similar to a Hip Bridge in that you are digging with your heels. However, you will start with your legs strength and a towel under your heels, preferably on a slick surface like hardwood or linoleum. Dig your heels into the towel until your feet begin to slide towards your butt and your hips raise off the ground.

One Legged Towel Drags: The mechanics are all the same as the Two Legged Towel Drag, but you are only using one leg. The rougher your surface, the harder this movement is. If you don’t have a slick surface, you can use something like cardboard on carpet for the same effect.

Frog Pumps: There are no progressions for this movement. It is basically a Hip Bridge with a different foot placements. Instead of the bottom of your feet being on the ground, they are going to be pressed together, meaning the outside of the foot is what is making contact with the ground. Make sure you keep your knees pushed out and bridge up, making sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of each rep. These become easy for sets of 6 relatively quickly. However, your glutes are already being strengthening with all of the other leg movements that you’ll be doing, so no worries about under-training.

Upper Body Push Movements

To strengthen your chest, triceps, and shoulders, you need some creativity beyond normal pushups! My favorite movements for chest training are Wide Paused Pushups and Crucifix Pushups. My favorite shoulder movement is Handstand Pushups and it’s progressions. My favorite Triceps movements are Body Ups and Diamond Pushups.

Wide Paused Pushup Progressions

Wide Paused Pushups: The simplest of pushup progressions, taking a wide grip and pausing at the bottom of each rep will help activate your chest muscles more than a regular pushup can. This is a movement that can get easy pretty quickly, however.

Wide Paused Plyometric Pushups: To add more difficulty and build some explosive strength, adding a plyometric jump at the top of each pushup is the way to go. You can add a clap, or find some solid surfaces to land on with your hands. The more explosive you get, the higher you will be able to land. If you opt for clapping, you can do double and triple claps.

Crucifix Pushups: Crucifix Pushups don’t really have a progression system. You will start to use these when you chest gets strong enough to work them into your training. Think of these as a super-wide pushup. Your fingers should point out to the side and you should start each rep on the floor. Your hands should be so wide that when on the ground, your elbows are only a few inches off the ground. The ROM for this movement is very small, but this movement can be very effective for chest isolation.

Handstand Pushup Progressions

Pike Press: Pike Press with your feet flat on the ground is the easiest way to work direct shoulder work into your training regime. Just make sure that your hands are as close to your feet as possible and make sure your head goes down directly between your arms for each rep.

Elevated Pike Press: The Elevated Pike Press take some of the weight off your feet and adds more to your arms, causing more overload on your delts. Start with your feet elevated on a small platform and work your way to higher platforms as you get stronger. Keep working these until your feet are at least as high as your hips. Once you accomplish that, you can work your way into Handstand Pushups!

Handstand Pushups: Handstand Pushups are a dangerous move if you aren’t strong enough to rep them out. For that reason,you should linger on Elevated Pike Press until they become easy. That way, you know you are strong enough to support your bodyweight in a handstand, with your feet against a wall for balance.

Advanced Handstand Pushups: Once sets of 6 get easy enough on Handstand Pushups, it’s time to elevate your hands so your head can go further, which increases the ROM. Eventually, you want to get to a point where your shoulders can lower all the way to your hands at the bottom of the ROM.

Body Ups: Body Ups start in a Plank position. From that position, with your palms flat on the ground, you extend your elbows until your arms are fully upright. This is a fantastic Triceps isolation movement. It mimics Skull Crushers very well, which is one of the best Triceps movements with a barbell. If you can’t do these on your feet, you can always try these on your knees first. If you get too strong, you can attempt these with one arm too!

Diamond Pushups: Diamond Pushups are a basic pushup with your index fingers and thumbs touching, creating a diamond shape. Lower your chest to your hands, pause for a two count, and explode up. Again, if these are too tough on your feet, do these on your knees. You don’t need a more advanced Triceps movement, as your Triceps are hit effectively on your Chest and Shoulder training as well, just like your Glutes are with your other leg training.

Upper Body Pull Movements

If you want to really strengthen your lats, upper back, and biceps, you need a pull up bar. Since this article is all about equipment-free strength training, I’m not going to address this much. If you have a pull up bar, you need to focus on pull ups and chin ups and their progressions. If you aren’t strong enough for normal pull ups and chin ups, do slow negatives until you get stronger. If normal pull ups and chin ups are easy, you need to add in slower reps and maybe even one arm movements if you get strong enough.

Other Muscles

I didn’t address Calf training but if you want to build strength with your bodyweight, doing elevated one leg calf raises is your best bet. There are a ton of articles out there about core training with your bodyweight alone so take your pick of the hundreds of movements that you’d like to perform. Your forearms don’t need direct training if you are doing Upper Pull movements on a pull up bar.

The Program

Monday
Pistol Squat Variation – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps
Hip Bridge Variation – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps
Frog Pumps – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps

Tuesday
Wide Pushup Variation – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps
Handstand Pushup Variation – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps
Body Ups – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps

Thursday
Shrimp Squat Variation – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps
Towel Drag Variation – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps
Frog Pumps – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps

Friday
Crucifix Pushups, or Wide Pushup Variation if you can’t do Crucifix Pushups yet – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps
Handstand Pushup Variation – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps
Diamond Pushups – 5 sets of 2-6 Reps

Once you can do a variation of a movement for 6 reps on all 5 sets, it’s time to move onto the next progression of the movement.

You can add in additional endurance work to each of these days, if you’d like. Easier variations of each of the movements can be great for endurance when you get strong enough!

Get To Work!

This won’t make you a world champion powerlifter. However, you will definitely build a solid foundation of strength and make your future endeavors in fitness much easier. Try out the program and work through the progressions as you get stronger. Let me know how the program works for you in the comments!

About The Author

Milo Martinovich is a Personal Trainer and co-owner of MM Fitness, a private personal training studio.

He trains people in his region, as well as around the world with online coaching services!

You can contact him at –

Instagram: @mmfitstrong
5 MUSCLE-KILLING MISTAKES THAT ARE KEEPING YOU SCRAWNY

5 MUSCLE-KILLING MISTAKES THAT ARE KEEPING YOU SCRAWNY

Are you struggling to pack on size?

Does it seem like you’ve tried everything, yet nothing you do seems to work?

If so, you’re not alone. Every day, millions of dudes across the world venture to the gym with the goal of getting huge, yet many fail.

Type “how to build muscle” into a Google search, and you’ll get more than 4 million results!

With so much information out there, it’s no wonder you’re confused.

You can build muscle a number of different ways, but there are certainly plenty of things you can do to completely kill your gains.

What are they?

Check out these five muscle-killing mistakes you may be making.

1. Trying to bulk when you’re not already lean

Unless you want to add a bunch of fat, you have no business entering a bulking phase if your body fat isn’t already around 10 or 12 percent.

You need to focus on getting lean first.

Decreasing body fat percentage increases testosterone levels and increases insulin sensitivity.

If you have a body fat percentage that’s too high (i.e. you don’t have visible abs), you won’t be able to use insulin efficiently. Many experts believe fat around the waist is a major cause of insulin resistance, a condition in which your muscle, liver and fat cells won’t be able to absorb glucose from the bloodstream (Insulin Resistance and Diabetes).

Since your body doesn’t use the anabolic hormone insulin well, you’re not going to be able to shuttle nutrients into your muscles. You’re going to pack on a lot more fat than muscle if you’re insulin resistant.

Not good.

Increased fat mass is associated with lower levels of free testosterone and growth hormone too (Vermeulen et al., 1999). Your levels will go back to normal, though, if you decrease your body fat.

Do a quick check – can you see at least an outline of your abs?

If you can’t, you need to reduce your body fat by staying in a slight caloric deficit. To calculate how many calories you need, check out the formula in the next section.

If you’re lean enough to bulk, make sure you do a clean bulk.

Eat just enough to allow you to slowly gain muscle.

If you try the old-school dirty bulk and eat everything in sight, you’re going to put on more fat than muscle and look like a slob!

2. Ignoring the energy balance equation

“What supplements should I take?”

“What should I eat post-workout?”

“How much protein should I eat to build muscle?”

While all these questions have their place, they aren’t the most important things to focus on in a muscle-building program.

Hitting your calorie requirements and macronutrient goals for the day are the big-ticket items that should be the majority of your focus.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many calories you take in post-workout if you don’t meet your calorie needs for the day.

Let’s say you need 2,800 calories per day to put you in a slight caloric surplus to gain weight and build muscle. You focus all your efforts on the exact formula necessary to take advantage of the post-workout anabolic window, eating 100 grams of carbohydrate and 25 grams of protein for a perfect 500-calorie post-workout meal.

However, you focus so much on that post-workout meal that you take in only 1,000 calories the rest of the day. That means you’re 1,300 calories under your daily total. Your muscles aren’t going to grow if you’re in that big of a caloric deficit.

To gain weight, you’ve got to be in a positive energy balance, taking in more calories via food and liquids than you expend via exercise and other activity.

To lose weight, you’ve got to be in a negative energy balance, expending more calories than you consume.

If you want to put on some size, figure out your calorie requirements first. Let’s use the Mifflin equation.

For Men: Resting Metabolic Rate (in calories/day) = 10 (weight in kilograms) + 6.25 (height in centimeters) – 5 (age in years) + 5

For Women: RMR (in calories/day) = 10 (weight in kilograms) + 6.25 (height in centimeters) – 5 (age in years) – 161

Let’s say you’re a 20-year-old guy who’s 6 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds. To figure out your weight in kilograms, divide 160 by 2.2, which is approximately 72.6

Six feet in centimeters is 182.88.

Let’s plug in the numbers:

RMR = 10 (72.57) + 6.25 (182.88) – 5 (20) + 5
RMR = 725.7 + 1,143 – 100 + 5
RMR = 1,773.7

So you need 1,773.7 calories to maintain your body weight at rest. That’s assuming you’re not moving during the day. Here’s how to factor in your activity level.

Sedentary (little or no activity) = RMR x 1.2
Mild activity level (intense exercise 1-3 times per week) = RMR x 1.3
Moderate activity level (intense exercise 3-4 times per week) = RMR x 1.5
Heavy activity level (intense exercise 5-7 times per week) = RMR x 1.7
Extreme activity level (intense exercise multiple times per day) = RMR x 1.9

Let’s say you exercise four days per week. Multiply 1,773.7 by 1.5, and you get 2,660.55.

But once again, that’s just to maintain your body weight. If you want to add about one pound per week, add 500 calories to that total.

So that’s about 3,160 calories per day. If you’re a 20-year-old male who’s six feet tall and 160 pounds, you’ve got to take in 3,160 calories per day to gain one pound per week if you’re exercising four days per week.

Keep that caloric intake and activity level consistent, and you’ll no doubt put on some size. Then, working on hitting your macronutrient goals. According to Precision Nutrition, your split should be as follows:

  • If you’re an ectomorph (naturally thin), consume 25% of your calories from protein, 55% from carbohydrate and 20%from fat.

  • If you’re a mesomorph (naturally lean and muscular), take in 30% of your calories from protein, 40% from carbohydrate and 30% from fat.

  • If you’re an endomorph (naturally thick), consume 35% of your calories from protein, 25% from carbohydrate and 40% from fat. (Berardi and Andrews, 2015)

Like we talked about – make sure you’re not in too big of a caloric surplus and be sure before you start to bulk you’re already lean. Otherwise, you’ll put on quite a bit of fat too.

3. Changing your approach too often

In the age of the internet, you can find information on building muscle just about anywhere. Easy access to information has its perks, but has its drawbacks too.

Why’s that?

Because there’s so much information out there, it’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly changing your routine every time you read something new.

One week you start to use intermittent fasting because some expert told you he put on muscle that way. Then, the next week you read a blog post in which the author argues you must eat breakfast every day because that’s what every bodybuilder does.

So who’s right?

Both approaches probably work – they just need to be followed out in full.

Just about every person who’s made a major body transformation has stuck to a plan for a long period of time.

By minimizing the number of variables you change, you’ll have a much better idea if what you’re doing is working.

If you start by training four days per week and taking in 3,000 calories per day with the intent of gaining weight, but then decide after a few days you need to add in some cardio and stop eating as much because your abs aren’t showing any more, you’re going to end up right back where you started.

Pick a plan, and stick with it. That’s why it’s important to choose only one focus at a time. If you’re bulking, focus both your training and nutrition on adding mass. If you’re cutting, focus both your training and nutrition on burning fat.

Research shows the best way to make gains is by creating small wins for ourselves.

According to a former professor from Stanford, the greatest way for people to improve is through making small changes in things we do often.

Instead of trying to follow some complex 3,200-calorie diet plan you’re going to follow for three days, focus on adding one nutrition habit at a time.

If you have trouble getting food in right away in the morning, have a protein shake every single morning. Toss some protein powder, oats, peanut butter, berries and spinach in a blender, and you’ll be able to add several hundred calories to your diet every day.

As we discussed before, the key to weight gain is staying is taking in more calories than you burn off, so start crushing those shakes!

Once you master this habit, add another. You’ll see much better results making small changes and sticking with them over a long period of time rather than making huge changes you can’t stick with for any amount of time.

4. Not tracking your progress

Take a look around just about any gym, and you’ll notice almost no one has any method of recording their workouts.

Well, honestly, most of these people probably don’t even have a workout plan to begin with, but that’s a topic for another day!

If you’re not tracking your results, you’re going to have no idea if what you’re doing is even working.

Progressive overload is among the most important factors in muscle growth because of general adaptation syndrome (Rosenblatt, 247).

Originally described by Austrian-born physician Hans Selye, general adaptation syndrome describes the body’s response to stress. In the alarm phase, the body reacts to a stressor by switching to “fight-or-flight” mode as it prepares to defend itself. Then, in the resistance phase, the body adapts to the stressor.

You need to challenge your muscles more each workout if you want to grow. Always aim to add weight to the bar or increase the tension you place on your muscles so they adapt and grow back bigger and stronger.

Keep a workout journal so you make sure you’re always increasing the challenge every workout.

You have literally no excuse not to track your workouts. You can buy a notebook for $1 at your local Wal-Mart. Otherwise, you can probably download a free tracking app on your phone.

If you want to pack on size, you’ve also got to take measurements consistently under the same conditions.

Weigh yourself naked every morning when you wake up, after you’ve gone to the bathroom and before you’ve had any food or liquids. Then, record your weight on a sheet of paper next to your scale. Take progress photos at the same time and day every single week.

If you measure everything under the same conditions, you’ll know it’s an accurate representation of your progress. That way, you won’t have to factor in whether you wore shoes last time or whether you just scarfed down a huge meal.

Tracking your nutrition is huge too. It may suck initially to have to record everything you eat, but you’ve got to know how many calories you’re consuming if you want your muscles to grow.

Use an app on your phone like MyFitnessPal to record your food intake. Many apps even allow you to scan a barcode on a package and the information automatically comes up.

5. Not taking the time to learn proper form

In today’s technologically advanced society, you have no excuse to not know proper form.

You can find videos and articles all over the internet giving you detailed descriptions of exercise technique.

If you fail to perform the lifts correctly, you’re receiving literally no benefits from a workout. You can have every other aspect of your program – like sets, reps, volume and intensity – planned perfectly, but if you aren’t executing the lifts well, you’re not going to see any gains.

Good technique allows you to take advantage of the three most important factors in muscle growth:

  1. Mechanical tension

Your body doesn’t know the difference between a 20-pound dumbbell and a 50-pound dumbbell, but it does know the amount of tension it feels. If you’re trying to curl a 50-pound dumbbell, but you’re jerking your body around like a fool, you’re placing literally no tension on your biceps. Stick with a lighter weight and focus on feeling the muscle actually working.

  1. Muscle damage

Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a phenomenon caused by micro-tears to your muscle tissue. In response, your body releases growth factors important for muscle growth. So being sore after a workout can sometimes actually be a good thing – if you’re training intelligently. Just make sure you’re not destroying yourself every time you’re in the gym.

  1. Metabolic stress

Believe it or not, getting a “pump” can actually be a good thing for building some size. It’s not just folklore! The buildup of metabolic by-products in your muscles can lead to the release of anabolic hormones through cell swelling. Doing some burn-out sets every once in a while – as long as you maintain tension on your muscles – can put some serious size on your body.

Understand what kind of learner you are. Do you learn best by watching, by doing or by reading about something?

Knowing this information will help you determine if you should learn technique from watching videos, having someone teach you in person or reading a book or blog post.

About The Author

Luke Briggs builds training and nutrition programs for guys who struggle to build muscle so they can be that ripped, muscular dude everyone wants to be.

You can check out Luke at:
Website: Luke Briggs Fitness
Facebook: LukeBriggsFitness
Twitter: @LukeBriggsFitness

4 THINGS YOU NEED TO DO TO RECOVER OPTIMALLY

4 THINGS YOU NEED TO DO TO RECOVER OPTIMALLY

Before we get into recovery, let’s talk about a human tendency and one that’s grown into a cultural norm: tepidness.

We have a tendency to ease into things rather than charging in yelling and screaming with guns a blazing. We do this because we think it’s safe. Walking in with caution rather than running in with total abandon is seen as smart. But it isn’t.

Once a decision is made a man must carry out said mission with everything he has.

We’re seeing it in how we fight wars. We put restraints on our soldiers rather than letting them do what war dictates they must: destroy the enemy.

And it’s our fault. That is, it’s the populace’s fault because it’s we who are afraid of seeing what war truly is. We’re afraid, scared, riddled with a guilt that cannot be explained and so we ask our warriors to ease into battle, to fight with fairness rather than tenacity.

This has to end, both on a cultural level and on a personal level.

We cannot tie our warriors hands behind their backs and expect them to win, nor can we think that by easing into anything we’re setting ourselves up for victory.

Victory is all that matters, whether it’s war or business or life. Sure, we have values, we live and fight with honor, but we attack, we hunt down the looming goal, we destroy the enemy, because in acting with tepidness, in being timid, in using caution, we weaken our resolve, we convey the fact that we don’t really want to win, because if we truly did we’d give no quarter.

As a man, you need to define your mission in life, you need to know your enemy (typically he’s internal, but with the growth of evil ideologies, even the civilian has a literal, physical enemy), and you need to decide to act while refusing to look back, refusing to give anything less than your most tenacious.

This, oddly enough, brings us to recovery.

THE LEAST EARNED, MOST TALKED ABOUT ASPECT IN PERFORMANCE

It’s one of the most talked about topics in this industry of health, training, and performance, and it’s utter nonsense.

So few of us actually EARN our recovery.

We train for an hour a day, half-assed, with no real pain. Life should leave you crawling into bed at night from exhaustion dying to shut your eyes and get some rest. But that’s rare.

We ‘go to the gym’, workout a little, but neither our lifestyle nor our training regimen dictate we even need to actively recover.

Thus, before we even delve into why it’s important to recover effectively and how to do so, I’d be remised if I didn’t highlight the fact that so few of us actually need it.

What we do need is a tenacity in our training that befits the steps we’re going to cover.

Here’s a sample of how we should be living – and it’s something that we can all do.

Morning Routine

10-15 minutes
5x pull-ups
10x push-ups
15x air squats

Repeat as many times as you can within the time period you choose.

Workout – Your Real Routine

Training doesn’t need to be long, but it must be tough. Lift heavy things intensely, or perform circuits that push you mentally and physically, or do both. A few programs that will fit:

Strong Like a Warrior (uses weights)

Boxing Bodyweight Program (bodyweight)

Both programs will push you. They’ll obviously help you reach your aesthetic goals, but they’re also designed to test your mettle while training.

So, let’s assume you are earning your recovery (which is rare, lately, I have not been one of these guys, I’ve been slacking, which is why I’m implementing that morning routine, plus some kind of training every day, today I’m off to go on a hike up a mountain with Teddy, for example), what then should you be doing to ensure you’re getting the most out of your body and your workouts?

To start, recovery is actually the act of building. It’s repairing. It’s maintaining a healthy body, but also enabling your body to see the benefits from said training.

As an aside: I mentioned that workouts must be intense. The topic of pre workouts comes up a fair bit while talking about intensity. Well, the majority of them suck, so I’ve stopped taking them all-together. What I do take is:

  • A big cup of coffee – Caffeine obviously aids in energy, but it helps you recruit more fat to burn as well.
  • Onnit’s Shroomtech Sport – I’ve noticed I can train longer and with more intensity, and I’m becoming a fan of ONNIT. They’re a good company, research-backed, they seem to keep and open mind as to what works and what doesn’t so the products they produce actually get results.

Alright…

So you’re training your but off, living an active lifestyle, one befitting a warrior, or simply a fella that would be very difficult to kill, and you’re TOAST.

You’re not sleeping well. You’re sore, run down, and you’re wondering about how to best recover. What follows may not be to your liking, because if you actually want optimal recovery, you may have to make some lifestyle changes.

Recovery isn’t about popping a few pills, it’s a lifestyle.

4 THINGS YOU NEED TO DO TO RECOVER OPTIMALLY

1. Get a quality sleep.

If you’re training your arse off, you can’t also be partying your arse off. A quality sleep is dependent on a sleep routine. If you break that routine consistently you’ll find yourself unable to fall asleep and unable to wake up at the time you need to in order to win at life. (Read This: Conquer Your Morning. Win Your Life)

Get your sleep.

2. Don’t drink.

I will never completely recover optimally simply because I like a beer here and there, and a scotch, and some vino. I do, however, go a week or two every month without booze, and the energy I have, the quicker I’m able to recover is tenfold.

Alcohol is both estrogenic, and it dehydrates you. You need to be very hydrated to recover optimally, and you definitely need your testosterone levels thriving  at the same time.

3. Hydrate.

Being properly hydrated helps with both mental and physical health. It also aids in muscle recovery. However, the notion that other beverages besides water – including coffeedon’t count toward your ‘total hydration’, are myth. That being said, you want the bulk of your water intake to come from actual water, even though

As a baseline, drink ¾ to 1 gallon of water per day. But this has to increase if you’re exercising as you need to replace all water lost through sweating.

Add 1-1.5 litres of water per hour of exercise on top of that baseline, plus a little extra if it’s hot out and you’re sweating a little more than usual, and you’re good to go.

Mike Matthews has a great article on hydrating effectively here: How Much Water Should You Consume?

4. Roll and Stretch.

It’s tough to find evidence for stretching because it’s difficult to find athletes who compete at any level who don’t do it. But in my own life there’s a stark contrast between how I perform when I roll and stretch and when I don’t (foam rolling, or using a lacrosse ball, not rolling as in BJJ).

This is the active recovery aspect that’s just as important as training. You need to be taking 15 minutes a day on average to ensure your muscle health, length, and break down any knots.

SUPPLEMENTATION

 

There’s a lot myth surrounding which supplements aid in recovery, and which are simply useless.

BCAA’s are great, for example, but they aren’t necessary if you consume enough protein.

Check out this article: The Ultimate Guide to Protein

Thus, consuming a post workout shake that’s high in a high-quality protein and good carbs (assorted fruits are my go to) to stop the rise of cortisol that occurs during and after a workout by spiking your insulin levels is a must.

You DO need to take some whey protein that’s high quality and contains the right amino acids – Here’s a Grass Fed Whey you can try.

If you’re fasting, BCAAs are great

Creatine is one of the most tested, proven, and beneficial supplements you can use.

It reduces muscle inflammation and aids in recovery.

Where recovery is really aided is in the quality of your diet, and the nutrients you consume.

If you’re busy, or if you’re an athlete, I highly recommend a greens supplement. I take Athletic Greens once a day, twice a day on days where I’m extra active.

It gives you both an energy boost and the nutrients required to maintain your health and energy even if you’re training your ass of ass previously stated.

OVERALL

Recovery must first be earned.

Once it’s earned, it becomes more about habits, diet, and the life you lead than about the supplements you take.

So, go earn that fucking recovery!

About The Author

Chad Howse: Chad’s mission is to get you in the arena, ‘marred by the dust and sweat and blood’, to help you set and achieve audacious goals in the face of fear, and not only build your ideal body, but the life you were meant to live. He’ll give you the kick in the ass needed to help you live a big, ambitious life.
You can contact him at –
http://www.ChadHowseFitness.com/
https://www.Facebook.com/ChadHowseFitness
https://www.YouTube.com/ChadHowseFitness

7 Simple Steps to Faster Muscle Growth

7 Simple Steps to Faster Muscle Growth

There are two ways to build muscle: the long and hard way and the longer and harder way.

Despite what your favorite fitness model may have said in his latest YouTube video, there are no secrets and there are certainly no shortcuts. There are, however, some simple steps you can take to ensure you’re on the right track and getting there as quickly as possible, all while avoiding the dead-end mistakes that sabotage most trainees.

If you’re tired of spinning your wheels and wasting time, and are ready to build more muscle, follow these 7 steps.

Step #1 – Prioritize

There is the recreational lifter who gets in the gym when he “has the time”. Then there is the serious lifter who structures his days around his training.

Here’s the truth: if you can’t set 1 hour aside, a few days per week, to work on your fitness goals, you’re not serious. And to be frank, if you’re the guy who’s trying to “find” time to train, don’t expect to look like the guy who makes time to train.

One commonality you’ll find with all successful bodybuilders is: they put the house of pain before the House of Cards – the gym before their favorite TV show.

If you’re “too tired” to train after work, train before. If you’re too lazy to get up a bit earlier, this isn’t your thing.

This is not to say you can’t live a healthy lifestyle when you’re too busy to find time to lift, just don’t expect to look like the guys who make it a priority.

Don’t get it confused. If your goal is to build a solid, magazine worthy physique, you won’t have to sabotage your relationships or quit your 9-5 job – but you will have to put fitness higher up on your priorities list than The Walking Dead.

Step #2 – Be Proactive

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” –Alan Lakein

There are 4 main training factors that attribute to muscle growth:

  • Volume (sets x reps)
  • Intensity (how heavy you’re lifting)
  • Frequency (the amount of days you’re training per week)
  • And progression

Successful bodybuilders know exactly how many sets, how many reps, and how much weight they’re using on any given exercise. Their training schedule is written in stone. And they walk into the gym, each day, with a goal in mind – be better today than I was yesterday. (Read This: How to Create Your Own Strength Program)

Think of your training program as a GPS navigating you to your goals. Without one, you’re bound to make left turns when they should have been rights, jump off on the wrong exit, and stop for directions. Sure, you might eventually make it if you’ve got a good sense of direction, but you’re guaranteed to waste time.

Bottom line: find a program that fits your needs and stick to it.

Step #3 – Be Calculated

If you’re going to build muscle, maximally, you’ve got to be in a positive energy balance: consuming more calories than you’re expending. If you want to burn fat, you do the opposite.

But eating more (or less) calories is just a prerequisite. Getting those calories from the right macronutrient breakdown to ensure you’re getting sufficient protein, essential fats, and carbohydrates is the real goal.

Guys who build muscle or lose fat, on demand, can do so because they’re calculated. They gauge and adjust their calories according to their goal – whether it be to gain mass or burn fat, they know (more or less) what they’re consuming.

I don’t care how great of a program you’re on, if you’re not eating enough, in the right macronutrient breakdown, you’re not going to build muscle. Same goes for fat loss – no matter how much cardio, if you’re not in a deficit, you’re abs will remain buried.

Sound like too much work? Let me simplify it: if the goal is the build muscle, aim to get 1g per pound of bodyweight in protein, daily. At the very least, you’ll need 0.3g per pound of bodyweight in fats. And as many carbohydrates as you need in order to perform at your peak, without going into too large of a surplus.

Step #4 – Set Realistic Goals

Half of the muscle we can expect to gain in our lifetime can be achieved in our first year of training.

This is due to our bodies being hyper-responsive to the newly introduced stimulus during the beginning stages of our lifting career.

Unfortunately, the further into our lifting career we get, the longer it takes to build muscle.

While a trainee who’s been lifting for 2-3 years can expect to gain 0.5-1 pound of muscle per month, a more experienced lifter may gain a fraction of that.

So what does this have to do with realistic goals? Everything!

If building 12 pounds of muscle in 1 month isn’t realistic, then why aim to gain 3 pounds per week?

Guys who build the best physiques in the least amount of time possible, do so because they’re realistic about what is attainable. This allows them to spend more time building (gaining muscle) and less time destroying (burning fat).

Here’s an example: During his second year of training, Joe spends 12 weeks bulking up, increases scale weight by 12 pounds, and 9 of that is body fat. He spends another 8-12 weeks dieting down to his starting body fat and, assuming he’s maintained every ounce of muscle, ends up 3 pounds heavier after about 5-6 months of grueling work.

Had Joe been realistic, he would have maintained a reasonable surplus and gained the same amount of muscle in half the time.

Step #5 – Be Present

If the simple act of showing up to the gym was enough, everyone would be jacked and shredded.

Guys who maximize their results don’t just show up and go through the motions, they’re focused on the task at hand.

A study published in The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy found that subjects were able to alter muscle activity in their rectus abdominis or obliques by simply focusing on the individual muscle when performing trunk curls.

Another study published in The Journal of Athletic Training found that subjects who were given activation cues for their glutes and hamstrings were able to increase activation in the respective muscle.

Bottom line: Don’t just show up – be present. If you want to maximize your time in the gym, train with intent. Make every single rep, during every single set, count.

Step #6 – Strive for Improvement

Make no mistake about it, if you’re not getting better, you’re not getting bigger.

The main pathway by which we elicit adaptations that result in hypertrophy is progressive overload: the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training.

This can be done a few ways:

  1. Increase weight without sacrificing reps
  2. Increase reps without sacrificing weight
  3. Increase Training Density
  4. Increase Power
  5. Increase Training Frequency

Couldn’t we could just add more sets?”

This is certainly a viable option, but studies show that it’s only possible to a certain degree before we experience diminishing returns. Not only is this strategy not efficient past a certain threshold, but it’s impractical.

That said, you don’t have to bench press 400 pounds, but you should always walk into the gym with the goal to improve.

Step #7 – Be Patient

Once you understand what is truly attainable in terms of muscle growth, you’ve got two choices: quit or be patient.

Next time you see a guy in the gym with an impressive physique, ask him how long he’s been training. Although that number may vary, you’ll quickly realize one thing: it takes time.

The guys who have built a physique more impressive than 99% of people, were patient. They chipped away, day after day, month after month, year after year. It wasn’t some 90-day challenge or 7 day juice fast – it was hard work, commitment, and patience.

About The Author

Alain Gonzalez is a former skinny guy turned jacked fitness pro whose transformation story has been featured in articles on websites all over the internet. He has dedicated his life to helping naturally skinny guys like himself to overcome their genetics and take their physiques to the next level.

Alain Gonzalez
Fitness Author
Strength Coach
Certified Personal Trainer
Founder, www.MuscleMonsters.com

5 BEYOND FAILURE SETS  FOR BIG GAINS WITH SMALL LIFTS

5 BEYOND FAILURE SETS FOR BIG GAINS WITH SMALL LIFTS

Face it, you’ll probably never single-arm curl a 75 pound dumbbell with strict form for 4 sets of 12. (Read This: 5 Reasons Real Men Train for Strength)

Lucky for you, though, you won’t need to.

Look, believing that you’re “not progressing” with your biceps curls because your bench has gone up 10 pounds in the last week and you’ve been stuck curling the same 30 pound dumbbells for the last month, is silly.

Think about a bench press: you’re not only using one of the largest muscle groups in the body – the chest – you’ve got assistance from the triceps, the shoulders, and if your form is dialed in, the core and some leg-drive. Do you think it’s fair to compare that with a single-joint exercise that targets one of the smallest muscle-groups we train directly?

Probably not…but let’s do it anyway.

Adding 10lbs to a 200 pound bench press is a mere 5% increase in weight – this is manageable on even the most basic of training programs. Adding the same amount, however, to 40 pound dumbbell curls (20 in each hand) comes out to be a whopping, and unrealistic 25% jump – an increase that will take even the most hyper-sensitive beginner months to achieve.

Problem is, we know that the main pathway by which we build muscle mass is progressive overload. If we’re not getting stronger, we’re not getting bigger.

But here’s where the importance of understanding volume comes into play.

Volume: Sets x Reps x Weight

If we perform 20 pound dumbbell curls for 4 sets of 8 reps, our total volume is 640lbs. We now adapt to that stimulus in preparation to handle this stress again in the future. If we go in the gym again the following week and perform the same total volume on curls, our body has no reason to adapt and thus we’re only working hard enough to maintain the gains we’ve made.

If we want to increase the total volume, we have a couple of options:
1. Increase the amount of weight used without sacrificing sets and reps.
2. Increase the amount of reps performed without sacrificing weight and sets.

What about increasing the number of sets?

Couldn’t one just add more sets of curls?

Sure, this can be done, but studies show that it’s only possible to a certain degree before we experience diminishing returns.

When it comes to small isolation lifts, since we are limited to the amount of weight we can increase, adding reps would be our best bet.

But if you’ve been training for long enough, you know that it’s easier said than done. Especially as we get further into our lifting career and closer to our genetic ceiling.

I mean seriously, when’s the last time you saw someone performing side laterals with 70lb dumbbells, using strict form?

This is why we’ve got to get a bit more strategic and where I recommend implementing set-expansion a.k.a. beyond failure techniques.

Failure: The point where you cannot complete another repetition with strict form.

The beyond failure techniques I am going to share will allow you to add total volume, without increasing weight, by pushing beyond the normal limits of muscular failure through extending work sets.

This can be done in 1 of 5 ways…and they all require one thing: balls.

Note: I recommend using these methods strictly with small isolation lifts such as: biceps curls; lateral raises; leg extensions; triceps pushdowns; and so forth.

1. Cheating

Once we’ve reached a point of muscular failure, we can no longer perform another rep with form. But if we want to squeeze a few more reps out of our set, we can loosen up our form a bit by using some body English.

The idea of cheat reps is to move the weight through a full range of motion by using a bit of momentum in order to complete the rep. This technique, however, should not be used excessively, nor should you use it as a way to lift heavier.

How to Perform Cheat Reps
This technique should be kept limited to movements like: curls, standing shoulder presses, lateral raises, and rear-delt flyes. It’s never a good idea to cheat on squats, deadlifts, bench press, or any other heavy compound lifts.

Biceps Curls: Once you’ve reached the point where you cannot perform another repetition with strict form, you can use some body sway to help curl the weight upward.

Lateral Raises: Once you’ve reached muscular failure, bend and unbend your knees slightly to create a bit of momentum.

2. Drop Sets 

If you reach failure on lateral raises with 30 pound dumbbells, you should still be able to knock out a few more reps with the 20’s. Drop Sets are a method by which you can extend your sets by reducing the weight, after your initial set, in order to add some more volume.

How to Perform Drop Sets
When performing a given exercise and reaching failure at, say, the 12th rep, reduce the weight by about 20% and knock out as many as you can with strict form. Reduce the weight again by another 20% and perform another set to failure. Two or three weight reductions are more than enough for the purpose of expanding the set.

For Example: Triceps Pushdowns
100lbs x 12
80lbs x 6
60lbs x 4
End Set

This technique can be used with any exercise where the weight can be quickly and easily adjusted. (Read This: 5 Brutal Workout Finishers)

3. Negative Training 

Once concentric failure is reached, the muscle will still have not achieved eccentric failure and thus the set can be continued using the negative portion of the lift. This is because we are much stronger on the negative than we are on the positive – about 1.75 times stronger to be exact.

How to Perform Negatives
Once you’ve reached failure, your spotter will aid in the concentric portion of the exercise by helping you lift the weight for the last few reps. You’ll be responsible for controlling the weight, slowly, through the negative portion of the exercise.

Negative training, under certain circumstances, can be performed without a spotter. For instance, if you’re performing single-arm dumbbell curls, you can use the unoccupied arm to help lift the weight (as the spotter would) and then control the dumbbell through the negative using the working arm, alone.

4. Rest/Pause 

A fatigued muscle can regain more than half of its strength in a matter of seconds when resting. Rest/Pause training takes full advantage of this regeneration by allowing you to move maximal poundage, with strict form, after reaching failure.

A study published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness compared 3 volume matched groups: SELF (reps to self-determined repetition maximum); FAILURE (reps to failure); and REST PAUSE (reps to self-determined repetition maximum with a rest/pause technique). They concluded that rest/pause training leads to greater muscle growth than traditional loading protocols.

How to Perform Rest/Pause Sets
Take your set to the point of failure, release the weight, and rest 10-15 seconds. Using the same amount of weight, perform another 3-4 reps; rest 10-15 seconds, then  knock out another 2-3 reps.

For Example: Biceps Curls
30lbs x 10 Reps
Rest 10-15 Seconds
30lbs x 4 Reps
Rest 10-15 Seconds
30lbs x 3 Reps
End Set

5. Forced Reps

This is where you have a training partner help you lift the weight once you can no longer complete any more on your own. Unlike negative sets, though, your spotter will only help just enough to get the weight back up.

How to Perform Forced Reps
Once you’ve reached failure doing full reps on your own, your spotter should place his fingers under the bar and give you the least possible assistance needed to achieve another rep. The spotter may have to assist a bit more as the set progresses, but the set should end before the spotter is doing most of the work.

Conclusion

If you want to grow, you’ve got to achieve progressive overload. But there comes a time, with most small isolation lifts (i.e. curls, pushdowns, lateral raises, etc.), where adding weight and/or reps becomes a slow, arduous process.  If you’ve reached that point with any single-joint movement, then it’s time to put your big boy pants on, buck up, and kick your own ass with these beyond failure techniques.

About The Author

Alain Gonzalez is a former skinny guy turned jacked fitness pro whose transformation story has been featured in articles on websites all over the internet. He has dedicated his life to helping naturally skinny guys like himself to overcome their genetics and take their physiques to the next level.

Alain Gonzalez
Fitness Author
Strength Coach
Certified Personal Trainer
Founder, www.MuscleMonsters.com