10 Tried and True Fundamentals of Building a Better Body

Do you remember what it was like when you first began your weight training? 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 magazines as there are politicians who tell the truth. People in the gym werent 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 theyd 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 with the birth of the internet, the heavy oak door of confusion has been pushed open wide enough to let at least a beam of light come shining through.
Still, with so many conflicting messages from so many different sourcespeople arguing about what the best supplements, training programs, best everything areyou, 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. Thats the purpose of this blog articleto avoid the speculation and the wild-haired theories and to tell you the facts you need to know to build muscle size and strength. If God handed out an owners manual for the human body, the chapter on building muscle would contain much of the same information included in this article. This article contains ten bodybuilding fundamental truths. Your initial reaction to some of the steps might be that theyre simplistic, but sometimes youve got to go back to the basics to regain some clarity and get back on track.

Lift Weights

Okay, before you smack your forehead with your palm and mockingly say, Damn, why didnt I think of that? keep reading. We all know weightlifting works, but whats the best way?
Well, scientific studies have shown the stimulus for muscle growth occurs when muscle cells are damaged. The body responds to this by increasing protein synthesis, which occurs
during periods of rest. Studies have shown that to break down muscle tissue, you have to provide a significant amount of stress to the muscle; you cant just lift a bunch of light weights and set this miraculous adaptation that leads to muscle growth in motion. To make it work, you need to lift heavy enough weights that you generally cant go beyond 12 to 15 repetitions, and occasionally, you should use a weight that allows you to perform no more than 4 to 6 repetitions. 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 are built by free weights alone, and wed venture to say none are built by machines alone. However, if I had to choose, I would focus on fundamental exercises like the bench press, shoulder press, squat, dumbbell curl, and so on.

Don’t Work Out Too Often

Easy to say, but what exactly is working out too often? Well, you can perform a bunch of complicated scientific tests to tell you exactly what condition the body is in, but this isnt practical. The logical assumption is we should work a particular body part when its regained its strength. Again, thats 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 of Justin Biebers hotel room door. Why is it so darn complicated? Well, actually, its not. Although recovery rates may vary from individual to individual, I have discovered over the years the one reliable indicator of when youre ready to train is by monitoring muscle soreness. If youre scheduled to work biceps today but your biceps still hurt from the previous workout, take an extra day off. Although working a body part when its 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. Remember, 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 weight training moving a whole lot but going nowhere.

Eat a High- Protein Diet

Muscles grow because of a net increase in whole-body proteinthe difference between protein breakdown and protein buildup. In the average person, this net difference is zip; he/she isnt incurring any significant damage in an average day, so protein needs remain largely unchanged from day to day. However, those of us who partake in regular weight training
exercise are routinely breaking down protein tissuetheres so much muscle-fiber disruption occurring every week that a microscopic tour of your muscle cells would look like Poland after the Germans blasted through in World War II. The bottom line is, weight trainers need extra protein to repair all this damage. Whats more, they need it at specific intervals. In fact, timing of protein intake is very important. Theres scientific evidence suggesting we need extra protein right after a workout. Theres evidence we need extra protein about 30 hours
after a workout when muscle protein synthesis might be at its highest. Theres also evidence we need protein before bedtime, to keep cortisol (a powerful hormone that breaks down
muscle tissue) levels in check, growth hormone levels high, and to provide enough amino acids throughout the eight-hour fast we commonly call sleep. See what Im getting at? You need protein throughout the day and night. The question remains, how much protein? Theres some evidence that extremely high levels of protein can elicit muscle growth above and beyond what you might normally achieve. However, the guideline that is accepted by many athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness experts is to consume one gram of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 185 lbs, you should be consuming about 185 grams of protein a day. Some of this can come from quality whole-food sources like chicken, fish, and
lean red meat, and some of it might come from a quality whey-protein powder or a meal replacement protein drink like Met-Rx . Ideally, you should consume protein every few hours throughout the day, beginning early in the morning and continuing until late at night.

Eat Frequently

Do you ever skip breakfast, not eat anything until noon, and then complain that you cant get any results from your exercise? Or, do you eat a perfect diet for a few days in a row and then let your diet go to hell for the next few days? Folks, youve got to give the mason some bricks if you want your house built. Eating your entire days allotment of calories in one glorious, pig-like sitting isnt going to cut it either. Theres a lot of evidence to suggest your body will assimilate (absorb and use) only a certain amount of calories per sitting; any more will quickly be put in the First National Bank of Flabonia, where there is a substantial penalty for early withdrawal. Whats more, research has shown if you feed your body balanced meals that contain quality protein and carbohydrates throughout the dayas many as six small meals spaced out every two or three hoursyoull enjoy a number of spectacular benefits, including: an increase in muscle growth, less stomach discomfort/indigestion, stable energy levels and a controlled appetite, and so on. In short, infrequent feedings are bad; frequent feedings are good! If you skip meals, eat irregularly, or try to make up for missed meals by having a Caligula-style Roman feast, youre throwing a lug wrench into the delicate balance of your bodys muscle-building and fat-burning machinery.

Use Creatine Monohydrate

HMB, CLA, DHEA, coenzyme friggin Q-10: 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. Theres also evidence that DHEA may help people over the age of 30 lose fat and gain some muscle. HOWEVER, the opinions are hardly unanimous. There is one supplement, though, that is virtually universally accepted as being effective at promoting lean body mass and strength and has been around since 1992 (that’s twenty six years as of this writing) and that iscreatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is a naturally occurring chemical thats one of muscles main energy sources. Luckily for us, its 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 its theorized 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, may even improve speed (over a 100-meter sprint) 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. And dont forget to drink plenty of water to maximize the effects of creatinea gallon a day is a good guideline.

Seek Pain

Youve all heard about intensity, but trying to explain it is as difficult. Intensity is a very important aspect of transforming your physique. You see, if you dont damage muscle fibers during your workouts, you wont create a stimulus for new muscle growth. Theres an old saying in the strength-coaching business: Do as many reps as you can, and then do three more. Theres no way to say it more succinctly. Try this: the next time youre doing an exercise, say dumbbell bench presses, do as many as you can, but wait! Dont put the dumbbells down! Merely let them rest for a moment in the down position while you regroup your thoughts, channel your concentration, and then do another one. You can do it! Its amazing, but
theres a certain point when the body gives up. Call it a self preservation thing, or whatever, but remember, the body doesnt have the final say in these matters. If it did, youd be either eating, sleeping, andnot working out. Tell yourself you will do another rep! Its during this extra rep when Mr. Pain will introduce himself: Excuse me, Im Mr. Pain, and if you dont stop doing the equivalent of poking me with a stick, Ill make you regret it! Tell Mr. Pain to kiss off, because its exactly at this point in your workout that youre getting the most effective resistance exercise!

Be Consistent and Take a Methodical Approach to Training

Hey, if you wanna play the game, you have to take the field. In bodybuilding, the gym is your playing field, and if you continually opt to ride the bench, youre not going to make progress. In other words, if you go to the gym religiously for two weeks and then take two weeks off, youre not going to make much progress; its more likely the inactivity will cancel out the activity, and people who dont 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, thats pretty obvious, but along with consistency comes applying a methodical approach. Over time, your workouts need to progress. As the weeks and months go by, you must gradually increase your workload, so your muscles are forced to adapt. Its called the overload principle, and it means the stress placed on the muscle today must be greater than the stress placed on the muscle the workout before.
There are three ways to incorporate a progressive load increase: Increase volume: more sets, more repetitions, and/or more workouts. Increase intensity: more resistance, more eccentric work. Increase density: shorter rest intervals between sets, exercises, or workouts. You must expose the muscles to a greater and greater workload, so theyre forced to adapt by becoming stronger. To keep track of greater and greater workloads, 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.


Gorge Your Body With Protein and Carbohydrates After Your Workouts

After youre finished working out, dont hang out by the Stair masters. Instead, go straight home and mix yourself a high glycemic-index (GI) carb and protein drink. Theres 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 didnt, 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 youve no doubt incurred. Heres what a good post-workout drink should contain:

Around 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrates
(a mixture of high GI and low GI)
About 40 grams of protein
Five grams of creatine monohydrate

This can be accomplished rather easily by mixing a meal-replacement powder (such as Met-Rx) in 12 to 14 oz of grape juice and adding a heaping teaspoon of creatine. Although some people might argue this isnt a surefire way to put on muscle, Id argue right back. I know this kind of drink is effective as Ive seen its positive effects over and over again.

Change Your Training Routine Often

Remember when you first started working out? You picked some lame routine out of one of the many other fitness magazines 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 its not that simple forever. 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 youll 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. Your body becomes more and more efficient at 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 they exercise a muscle in all possible ways, and thats whats necessary for full development of muscles. 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. Heres an example of how you might alter a chest workout: weeks one through three, begin with five sets of bench presses (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 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.

Concentrate On Eccentric Training

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. Its 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 thats 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 doesnt fly back and hit them in the face. The faster they go, the more intense they think theyre working out.
The upward and downward portion of every exercise 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 an exercise recruits the most muscle fibers when its performed slowly. This translates to about two seconds for most exercises. 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, dont work it until its not sore.

3 Eat at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day.

4 Eat six evenly spaced meals a day.

5 If youre going to use only one supplement, use creatine monohydrate.

6 Do as many reps as you can, and then do three more.

7 Keep a training log, and try to constantly one-up yourself.

8 Drink a high-carb, high-protein drink right after an intense workout.

9 Use variety in your workouts.

10 Concentrate on using eccentric training in your workouts.

Granted, there are other ways to make muscles grow, but the things described in this article constitute a unified bodybuilding theory. Eight out of ten coaches, Gurus, and self-proclaimed experts will agree. If you follow the items laid out in this article, you will grow, no doubt about it!