Q: I'm lifting 5 or 6 days a week. Why aren't I gaining muscle?
Q: I'm following a routine I found in a Muscle Magazine, but I haven't seen any results yet. What gives?
Overtraining is a very real scenario for lifters. The idea of "lifting more is better" is a fallacy. You grow when you rest, not in the gym. Resting is 50% of your training, and the most neglected aspect. Try to skip at least one day between workouts, or every other day.
Find a good program such as 5x5, Rippetoe, Max-OT, and read about them. Here are some examples of scheduling:
Day 1 - Chest and Triceps
Day 2- Rest
Day 3 -Back and Biceps
Day 4- Rest
Day 5 - Legs and Shoulders
Day 6 & 7 - Rest
Day 1 - Upper Body
Day 2 - Rest
Day 3 - Lower Body
Day 4 - Rest
Day 5 - Upper Body
Day 6 - Rest
Day 7 - Lower Body
Day 8 - Rest
Day 1 - Whole Body
Day 2 - Rest
Day 3 - Whole Body
Day 4 - Rest
Day 5 - Whole Body
Day 6 & 7 - Rest
Sadly, alot of the routines in the magazines that are given to new lifters are filled with ISOLATION movements. Isolation's are exercises that target one muscle group only. They have their place in training but NOT WHILE BULKING.
The exercises you want to use are called COMPOUND movements, which target 2 or more muscle groups.
Below I have outlined various exercises to focus on while bulking - exercises that will add the MOST mass the quickest! Base your workouts around these to add mass. Stick to the basic, barbell movements. No fancy sh*t to target your 'inner pecs' or 'tricep head'. We want to bulk and add mass, not sculpt and cut!
Squat - Legs, Back, Shoulders, Core, Abs
Deadlift - Shoulders, Back, Core, Legs, Calves, Abs, Arms
Chinups - Biceps, Back, Shoulders, Abs
Dips - Shoulders, Chest, Back, Abs, Triceps
Military Press - Shoulders, Back, Arms, Core
Bench Press - Shoulders, Arms, Chest
Rows - Back, Shoulders, Biceps
Q: What rep range should I use when lifting?
There is no short answer for this so I will try to make it as short as possible. Every range! You want to lift HEAVY, in order to push yourself. But you want to change it up and lift 8-12 reps sometimes, instead of 5. There are two reasons to change it up. 1) So your body does not get used to a certain way of training. and 2) Slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers respond to different rep ranges. For example, 12-15 rep range targets mostly slow twitch, which aren't involved in strength but in endurance. But the are still a muscle fiber, and when you want to build size you build the complete package.
The 12-15 rep range will also give your body and central nervous system time to recouperate. It's a little like tapering down the intensity instead of taking time off altogether.
Something like this would suffice:
Weeks 1-4: 5 rep range (strength & size)
Weeks 4-8: 8-12 rep range (size & strength)
Weeks 9 & 10: 12-15 rep range (endurance, slow twitch)
Q: I'm eating my daily amount of protein, but I'm not gaining weight. What gives?
Protein is only a third of the equation. Here comes carbs and fats to the rescue! You need to load up on carbs if you want to grow, as well as have a healthy mix of fat. "Seefood diet - if you see food, eat it!"
The main equation for eating for success is this: Eat more calories than you burn in one day.
You need to stuff your face.
Below I have categorized two things: the protein & fat category, the carbohydrate category. Fats are not something you consume on their own, but they are naturally in the food we eat.
Beans / Tofu
Bread / Bagels
Oats / Oatmeal
Bananas & Fruit
Q: I think I have my diet and training dialed in. I'm eating a ton of healthy foods, and I'm training heavy with compound movements three or four days per week. Which steroids should I use?
Woah! Slow down there. You can make amazing gains without steroids. In the long run it will be healthier. Anything that is worth having is worth working for, and by using the proper techniques I have outlined in this FAQ you will be able to make steroid-like gains, as long as you are disciplined and train hard.
Q: I hear alot about supplements that add muscle and size. Which ones should I use?
While supplements are an important part in training and fun to use, you should use them as an aid in training, not the focul point. Your focul points should be diet and training. Supplements aid in giving you a few extra reps in the gym, quicker recovery, and more energy. That's it. There's no special pill, or magic bullet, that will fix all of your problems and reach all of your goals. Don't think supplements will replace hard work for you, or make things easier.
Beware how you spend your money and read about them before purchasing. There are alot of 'snake oil' supplements that claim to do more than they actually manifest. On the other side of the token, there are many beneficial products.
I have outlined some below for you. I have stayed away from posting certain brands, as there is enough information and customer feedback for you to make your own educated decision as a consumer.
Casein powders are wonderful for bulking. They feed your muscles with protein for long periods of time. This is the slow digesting protein powders. Take these inbetween meals and before bed, the time where you'll need a slow, steady flow of nutrients.
Whey Isolates are the fast digesting powders. You'll need these post-workout and in the morning, when your body is starving for protein to heal your broken muscles.
The best choice for a protein, in my opinion, is a protein powder that combines both slow and fast digesting protein. This eliminates the need to buy 2 seperate, specific products. KISS (keep it simple, stupid!)
While these have their place, like all things, alot of them are filled with sugars and maltodextrins. I recommend you use a weight gainer right after a workout, as it causes an insulin spike with the sugar. Creating an insulin spike all day is not very healthy and I don't recommend using a weight gainer.
While a good thing to use is a Meal Replacement, they are a bit pricey. The carb source is usually a mix of maltodextrins and healthier carbs, these are prefferable to weight gainers.
Many people recommend making your own meal replacements as a cheaper alternative. Popular combinations include mixing your protein powder, bananas, fruit, oats, ice cubes, granola, and maybe even a little fat free iced cream for flavor.
Creatine is an important part of training. Creatine monohydrate is the king of creatines. There are many new forms, such as Creatine Ethyl Ester, dicreatine malate, etc. They *arguably* all work better than monohydrate alone.
My advice is to find a product that contains maybe two or three different types of creatine together. The recommended dosage is about 4g-7g of creatine per day. Unless you are 235lbs+, there's no need to take any more than that. It will just be flushed out during urination.
Creatine will increase ATP (muscle energy) as well as transport water into your muscle cells. It's an important product when bulking.
Arginine, Glutamine, Citrulline, Alanine
We are getting into the fringe of 'making supplements too important' now. Find a good pre-workout enhancer, that contains creatine, and you'll find these amino acids. There is no need for a seperate product with these. It's just not nessecary to build muscle and it won't replace hard work at all. If you find a creatine product with these in it, then you'll be all set. Most creatine blends include a 'muscle volumizer' blend, that contains these. Don't nitpick.
These work great for those of us who don't have large appetites. They will increase your hunger, and help you digest large amounts of food. An important and 'secret' aid when bulking. Make sure to keep your water intake high!
Multi Vitamins - Get those vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
Ginseng - Increase hunger and increase energy for cheap $
Fish oil - Healthy fats to help with cardiovascular health
Green Tea - A cheap, effective anti-oxidant.
Q: I have my diet and training in check. I picked up a creatine, multivitamin and protein powder. Is there anything else I should know before I start bulking?
Remain consistent. Weight gain will not happen overnight - at least not quality, muscular gain. It is a slow process, but if you remain determined, disciplined and stick to your guns you WILL acheive success.
I went from 130lb boy smoking a pack of marb's a day, to 170lbs lean muscle in a little over 3 years. I did this by routine: eating, lifting, sleeping, day in, and day out. At times I thought about giving up, and at times I thought about using steroids. At times I thought I would never get big, and I got very depressed. But slowly I acheived my goals and gained confidence in this equation. Eating, lifting, sleeping.
You have to live, breath, eat and sh*t the weight game. You have to be so determined to get jacked that nothing can stop you, that you know how the body works, how nutrition works, how everything works. Good things come to those who wait, but good things only come to those who work hard. There's no handouts in life.
Think big, eat big, lift big.