Bodybuilding 101 My Experience
So what are the basic ways in which you can gain mass? I am going to show you some very simple techniques that I have personally used for my own benefit. While I was never the skinniest person around and this isn’t a guide on how to go from 110lbs to 180lbs of pure muscle in a week I will show you some very basic things you can do to gain more muscle over a decent period of time. This won’t get technical, this is bodybuilding 101 after all.
Firstly you need to remember 3 things that lead directly to muscle gain:-
- Heavy compound exercises
- Lots of food
- Lots of sleep
These three things, when combined, will ensure that your work out and your diet pays off. However, why do you need sleep I hear you ask? Well the fact is that growth hormones are released when you sleep. When combined directly with the right exercises and the right food (which we will go into later on) then you will quickly see your body mass and muscle grow.
However, it is important that you get the right kind of sleep. A few hours here and there is not going to help you much as the growth hormones that we are talking about need a continuous period of sleep to properly work. I used to get around 8 hours every night and this helped me greatly so this is what I would recommended if you can. Even if you can’t then try and have some naps during the day to ensure that you get your 8 hours per 24. While this will not work as well it will still have an effect on how quickly your body grows.
Do Genetics Matter?
When speaking to people about body mass and building up your muscles, I hear a lot of talk about genetics. Basically the story goes that if you don’t have the right genes then it is very difficult for you to put a substantial amount of weight on, never mind convert this extra weight into muscle.
I look at it this way. Essentially genetics in this sense means how your muscle fibers are made up. We can further break this down into two categories: fast-twitch and slow-twitch. Fast-twitch means that you are better when it comes to explosive activities so running 100m for example. Slow-twitch is more about endurance and sustainability so keeping up the same tempo for 1,000m to put it into perspective. The key difference is that those with more fast-twitch muscle fiber find it easier to build muscle due to the fact that they have larger growth capacity.
Personally speaking, I think you can still get the right results regardless of your muscle genetics. It is just a little bit easier for those who fall into the first category.
Comparing Size and Strength
So, how can we compare size and strength? Is it really the case of ‘the bigger you are the strong you are’? Well, not really. I’m not the biggest. For sure I have muscles but not compared to some other people. The difference is that I have considerable strength. Let me explain.
How strong you are depends, to a large extent, on your central nervous system. Strange I know. However, it is your nervous system that determines how well your muscle fibers can be used. I’m not saying that someone who has literally no muscles at all will start lifting free weights like they are nothing. But if you have this this central nervous system tuned in to what you are doing, then you will find it much easier to lift without actually having particularly big muscles.
This can help your reps as well. Low reps can be quite demanding on your central nervous system. When you raise this to the double figure mark it is focusing more on your size as opposed to your strength and when it gets beyond 15 then this is endurance.
Essentially, low reps help your strength, more reps help your size. Getting the balance is crucial.
Getting The ‘Right’ Reps
Getting the ‘right’ reps for your workout and what you want to achieve is very important. One of the first things you need to establish is the speed of your reps.
If you want to increase your strength then you want to lift the weight as fast as you can. But tone down the speed when you lower it. Look at your muscle and body as a coiled spring. When you lower the weight you are increasing the tension in your body much in the same way a spring would do. The compression increases the tension so that when you lift again it is essentially a release of that tension – called the stretch (myotatic) reflex.
For size, do the same but faster and leave 3 three seconds between lowering and lifting again as this will increase the intramuscular force.
It is also important that you time your sets right in terms of the amount of time you spend between each set. So, if you are aiming for strength then it doesn’t really matter how much time you spend between sets. Just ensure that you get as much time as you need to successfully complete the next set. If it is size that you are going for then spend a maximum of 30 seconds between sets – remember I told you that these muscles respond better to explosive and quick movements. However, the way I do it is to take 30 seconds for the first few sets and then gradually increase the time in between sets. I’ve found that this works well.
Workout Length and Stress
Does stress impact your workout and therefore you ability to build muscles? When you are experiencing stress you release a hormone called cortisol, that has a massively negative impact on muscle growth – it is a ‘catabolic’ which is the complete opposite to what you want – ‘anabolic’ (which builds muscles). It’s not that having ‘no stress’ makes muscle building easier. Cortisol is actually produced the longer your workout goes on anyway, so try not to overdo things.
Indeed, your workout should be an hour MAXIMUM. Some people try and go for hours but this diminishes what you set out to achieve. Start your workout time from your first proper exercises and not your warm up.
Actually, now that I think of it, how much of a warm up do you actually do? Are you one of those gym goers who simply goes head first right into it? If you are then you will probably be doing yourself more damage than good. A good warm up routine can be:
- 5 minutes of cardio
- Some dynamic stretches to loosen then muscles
- Light warm up sets before the real things
Your nutrition requirements depend greatly on your starting shape and build. And what you want to achieve.
For pure strength and to bulk up your size then basically eat everything and anything. If you do this you will put on weight. But your consistent gym exercises and weightlifting should turn most of this into muscle, which evens the whole process out.
For actual bodybuilding then a good saying that I have always tried to live by is ‘Diets don’t work. Lifestyle changes do.’ Think about that. Apply it. See the results.
Just like those lifters who come in gung-ho to the gym, leaving right after your last set is not good for you either. You need a proper warm down. Once you have done some light exercises to allow your muscles to relax in a natural way look straight towards that protein shake (with water, no milk by the way).
What I have found is that the two hours after your workout are the most important. This is when your muscles are most receptive to protein so a lot of it in this time period will do you the world of good. Once you have had a protein shake then what I used to do was go straight to actual food to help supplement this. Avoid fats if you can but eat plenty of carbs. Essentially the meal you take right after you have worked out should be the biggest one that you eat all day.
Route To Success
What have I provided here? This isn’t an instant guide to building muscles. However I have shared some very simple, basic but often overlooked or ignored tips that have helped me to get to the size that I am.
Like I said before, I didn’t start out as scrawny but I wasn’t exactly big either. The same is true at the moment; I am not massive but I have good strength and can certainly show my muscles. The trick is to preserve and follow some of the basic advice that I have given you. It isn’t going to happen overnight but if you apply some of wht I’ve said here and stick with it the results will come and they may even astound you.