Moving From Beginner To Intermediate Level Bodybuilding
By now you've made significant progress in your bodybuilding career. For the past three to six months you've learnt how to perform the core lifting exercises in a technically correct manner. You've also conditioned the body and developed sufficient core strength to prepare yourself for a whole new level of intensity. Hopefully you've also built some rock solid muscle! But that's only the beginning.
In recent weeks your workouts have probably lost some of their effect so, even though you're lifting bigger weights, your muscles now need even greater stimulation to generate maximal growth. Don't expect miracles though - from this point onwards, every little bit of improvement will take even greater and more intensive work than before.
Because you'll be working your muscles more intensively, they'll also need more recovery time to adapt and grow and that's why you'll be reducing your workouts to three a week. Each primary muscle group trained will now need one full week to recover. After being used to whole body sessions and more workouts per week it may seem as if you're not doing enough but the point is, you'll be working your muscles very, very intensively and making better use of your time.
As you gain more experience you'll be able to tweak or re-design your basic muscle building program to suit your own individual needs, but the program described here should provide a useful starting point. What I'm proposing is basically a 3-split of the body on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
MONDAY (Chest, Triceps, Shoulders)
1. Chest Exercises
Incline dumbbell press - this is a compound exercise that targets the chest but also works the triceps and shoulders to a lesser extent.
Pec-deck flye - this is an isolation exercise that works the pectorals.
Dips - this compound exercise targets the triceps but also works the chest and shoulders.
Front military press - this compound exercise targets shoulders but also works the triceps.
Dumbbell lateral raises - this isolation exercise works the shoulders only.
Bentover dumbbell laterals - this isolation exercise works the rear delts.
WEDNESDAY (Back, Biceps, Forearms)
Front lat pulls - compound exercise that targets lats but also works the biceps and mid-back.
Deadlifts - compound exercise that targets the back and quads but also works hamstrings, calves and glutes.
Dumbbell rows - compound exercise that targets mid-back but also works biceps and lats.
Dumbbell shrugs - isolation exercise that works traps.
Dumbbell biceps curl - isolation exercise that works the biceps.
Dumbbell hammer curls - isolation exercise that works the biceps.
Barbell wrist curl - isolation exercise that works the forearms.
FRIDAY (Lower Body)
Squats or leg press - compound exercise that targets the quads but also works the hamstrings, calves and glutes.
Leg extension - isolation exercise that works the quads.
Leg curls - isolation exercise that works the hamstrings.
Standing calf raise - isolation exercise that works the gastrocnemius calf muscle.
Seated calf raise - isolation exercise that works the soleus calf muscle.
You could start this program by aiming for two sets of 8-10 reps per exercise but as your strength and size increase you should really introduce techniques that boost the intensity even further. This can be achieved in a number of ways including the use of pre-exhaustion, super sets, partial reps, isometric contractions and forced reps. These techniques are covered in detail elsewhere in this series of articles.
Increase Your Training Intensity Pre Exhaustion
You can only build muscle tissue if you can generate progressively stronger muscular contractions, so this calls for an emphasis on finding ways to increase exercise intensity. This should not be confused with exercise duration as maximum training intensity will actually shorten the time needed to achieve maximal muscular growth.
In an earlier article I outlined the ways in which you can intensify your training. Here we'll focus on the role that pre-exhaustion has to play in intensifying the training effect.
When an exercise employs two or more muscles it will be impossible to achieve failure for the primary muscle as the weakest muscle will give out first. This is perhaps best explained by giving an example. When targeting the chest, most exercises involve use of the triceps which is a relatively small and weak muscle. When performing the incline bench press for example, the triceps will fail before the pectorals have the opportunity to work to failure thus limiting the value of the exercise.
How do you get around this? By first performing an exercise that isolates and tires the pectorals before immediately moving on to the main exercise. For maximum benefits there should be no rest between the pre-exhaust exercise and the main compound exercise.
Beginners don't need to worry about pre-exhaust routines but when they advance to intermediate level they can be introduced once a week for each body part.
Examples of pre-exhaust routines commonly performed by bodybuilders are listed below:
Biceps - barbell curls and close-grip, palms-up pulldowns.
Triceps - pressdowns and dips.
Pectorals - flyes and bench presses.
Lats - dumbbell pullovers and barbell rows.
Deltoids - dumbbell laterals and presses behind neck.
Traps - shrugs and upright rows.
Thighs - leg extensions and squats.
Rock Hard Abs Do You Have What It Takes
If your abs look good, your whole body looks good. Having Big arms and chest is one thing but having rock hard defined abs is so another.
Everyone knows that nothing turns heads like a defined full set of abs. And hey, chicks love em. What more needs to be said.
Contrary to popular belief, the abs or Rectus Abdominis is really only one muscle. It stretches from the top of your pelvis up to your ribcage. The "six-pack" as it is called is merely sections of this one muscle.
Dispelling the Ab Myths:
The action of any muscle is simply to contract. And as you can't contract half your bicep or quad, it makes sense that you cannot contract half your abs as well. Therefore the myths about "upper ab" and "lower ab" training are total nonsense. I'm not discounting those training methods but the simple fact is that if you can't see your lower abs, it just means you've got fat covering them, not that you need to work them harder.
Say goodbye to hanging knee-raises, straight-leg raises, and any other type of leg raises for building your abs. They simply don't work. The primary role of your abs is to stabilize your body. When you raise your leg for example, your hip flexors pull on your spine and arch it forward/downward. Your abs stabilize this action by resisting and essentially keeping your back from breaking. Take note that this is the static action of the abs. It doesn't build or strengthen. Leg raising exercises only feel like they are effectively working your abs because of the repeated strain and exhaustion of your muscle producing catabolic, lactic acid build up. Search for "lactic acid" at http://www.muscle-body.com for more information.
What Really Works:
What does strengthen your abs is what strengthens any other muscle in your body. Contraction! In this case - Decreasing the distance between your rib cage and your pelvis.
So we come back to the good old sit-up. But there are a few things to keep in mind.
Firstly, forget about the cool all-the-way-up sit-ups you see in the movies. Your abs are fully contracted when your shoulders are about 5 to 6 inches off the ground. So don't bother trying to impress or outperform someone by touching your elbows to your knees. It does nothing for you. Crunches as they are sometimes called are the way to go.
Secondly, don't wedge your feet under something to help you get up. You don't need to do this if you are doing crunches properly anyway. Your legs should be at 90 degrees to each other and your knees at 45 degrees to your waist. If you need to, use something to press your heels back against to stabilize yourself. This way you will use your hamstrings instead of your hip flexors which will keep the focus on your abs.
Thirdly, keep your hands lightly held against the side of your head or crossed on your chest. Don't clasp them together behind your head or neck. If you do you will be tempted to pull with your hands to get the last few reps out, which will put unnecessary strain on this fragile part of the spine.
Another good exercise for abs is kneeling crunches. You will need special equipment to perform this exercise. This is where you kneel and contract your abs so that your upper body arches forward/downward. You hold a rope attached to a pulley with weights for extra resistance. Most gyms will have a rope attachment to the triceps pull down to perform this exercise. The idea is to lock your arms against your upper body so that you pull down only with your abs and not your arms.
Ab Training Devices:
In 2 words - Forget it.
You don't need them. Most of them do nothing for you. Building muscle is hard and it hurts. Most of these devices are designed to take the pressure off your body making the exercise seem easy and con you into thinking you are really targeting your muscles. Don't believe the hype. Ab training is definitely hard work but definitely worth it's reward.
New Year Resolution To Lose Weight And Gain Muscle
The New Year will soon arrive with much expectation. Many of us will be writing our New Year resolutions with some trepidation. Others write with great motivation. Are New Year resolutions meant to be broken? For some, yes, but most people will give it a shot.
For those whose resolution is to keep fit and healthy and enjoy life looking and feeling fantastic, then this article is for you and to motivate you to keep to your resolution successfully.
Different people exercise and workout for different reasons. Some want to be macho looking hunks, some want their fitness to be at their peak, some to lose weight and body fat and most people just want to gain muscle to have a well toned and attractive body. But whether you workout in a gym for general health and fitness purpose or to lose body fat and gain muscle to look attractively desirable, you will reap tons of fitness and health benefits whether you workout in a gym, at home or in a park. In fact unless you want to gain big muscle, it is not necessary to join a gym to reap the benefit of having a great workout. This will save you the hefty gym fees too.
For all those of you who workout regularly, you will be glad to know whatever reasons that compel you to workout, there are many more reasons for you to continue doing so.
For those of you who don't exercise at all, hey folks, these benefits are what you have been missing out.
Why My Muscles Won T Grow Cortisol Stress Hormone Destroy Muscle Tissues
There are many reasons why your muscles won't grow or why your muscle growth is retarded. One main culprit for your muscle tissue to in a catabolic and not in an anabolic state is the stress hormone called cortisol. This stress hormone, cortisol, is produced by your body when you are under stressful situations.
Yes, any type of stress, whether they are mental stress, physical stress or just emotional stress will trigger off an increased in the production of cortisol hormones. A high level of cortisol is always a bane for bodybuilders and that in itself, is creating more stress.
When you exercise or especially weightlifting body building exercises, you are placing a tremendous stress on your body. This in turn will cause the cortisol hormone in your body to rise to unacceptable level which may destroy your muscle tissues, bone density and causes weight gain especially abdominal fat. Ohhh...that abdominal fat that would not go away.
This hormone hates your muscles and wants you to grow fat. It takes away protein from the muscles. However to be fair to this hormone, the cortisol hormone has its positive functions.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal cortex and is commonly known as a stress hormone because the level of cortisol in your body rises sharply when you are under stress. This hormone plays an important role in your body's metabolic function, it facilitates cardiovascular function, carbohydrate metabolism and controls inflammation. After all, it is a steroid hormone.
As more cortisol is being produced, your muscle tissue breaks down further since the amino acids from your muscle protein is being converted into glucose for energy. This hormone also blocks new muscle tissues from growing because it interferes in protein synthesis in your muscles.
How to lower cortisol level?
Are You Having Trouble Building Muscle
Have you been going to the gym regularly for months and haven't been able to put on any serious poundage? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it's time to take a step back and make some plans. Building muscle is not rocket science. There are four key factors that will mean the difference between building muscle and staying skinny. You have to ask yourself these four questions.
Is my diet optimized for building muscle?
It's time to get out of the "3 meals per day" mentality. If you want to gain (or lose) weight you need to feed your body whole foods, six times per day. This means splitting your large meals up and eating about once every three hours. Not only is this good for your metabolism, but your body will use the foods instead of storing them as fat.
Your six meals per day should consist of mainly complex carbohydrates and protein. You should aim for at least thirty grams of protein per meal. High protein foods include lean meat, chicken, fish, egg whites, cheese and milk products. Complex carbohydrates are found in brown rice, brown bread and potatoes. Stay away from foods high in salt and sugar
Should I be using supplements, and when should I be taking them?
If you can afford supplements you should be using them. The basic three you should be considering are protein, carbs and creatine. Whey protein supplements are the fastest known way to deliver quality protein to your muscles. This makes shakes particularly effective after your workouts, when your body is craving protein for muscle re-growth.
There are three key times that supplements should be taken. First thing in the morning, after your workout and before bed. If your diet is up to scratch you shouldn't need supplements at any other time. Don't use supplements to replace meals. Supplements are supplements, not meal replacements.
Am I training hard and not smart?
The biggest mistake the new lifters make is thinking that the more they workout the bigger they'll get. This couldn't be further from the truth! Two basic rules you must remember when it comes to weight training. First, quality is better than quantity. Second, compound exercises are the kings of building muscle.
Compound exercises require at least two joint movements. Big compound exercises are the squat, bench press, wide grip pull up and seated row. These movements recruit many more muscles fibers to use to move the weight. This means more muscle groups are worked, the exercise is more challenging and the potential for growth is much greater.
Generally you should be doing three compound exercises for one isolation exercise. For example your back/biceps workout might consist of wide grip pull ups, seated row, bent over row and standing bicep curl. You might think this is not enough work for your biceps? Wrong. Your biceps are worked heavily in all over these exercises; the bicep curl just finishes them off.
The length of any training session should not exceed one hour. And you only need to train one muscle group once per week. This means a split routine should only need to be three days per week. In fact, most professional bodybuilders only train four times per week. Remember, it's quality not quantity.
Do I get enough rest and recovery time?
When you workout you're not building your muscles, you're breaking them down. The reason why you looked "pumped up" when you're in the gym is because your muscle tissue is swollen and damaged. Your muscles actually grow when you are resting. So in simple terms, no rest equals no muscle growth.
So take it easy when you're not working out. Ease up on the cardio. And make sure you get plenty of sleep. Sleep is the body's number one time for building muscle. This is also why it's important to eat before bed, so your body has the fuel to repair muscle in your sleep.
So you can see that despite what you read in magazines or on the web about building muscle, it's surprisingly simple. If you get the four aspects I have mentioned in this article right, you will build muscle. If you've got any questions, I'm available on the forum on my site. See links in my bio.
The Ultimate Muscle Meal Plan
With this article, I just wanted to share with you one of my special muscle meal plans that I love. Surprisingly, it actually comes in the form of a salad, but it is killer!
I know the ladies will love this idea, but for all of you guys out there that think eating a salad makes you less of a man... Well, you haven't tried my ultimate "salad on roids" yet!
Keep in mind that this salad is not low in calories. It's not low in fat. It's not low in carbs.
And guess what...that's the whole point! It's not low in anything, but it sure as hell is HIGH in everything under the sun that's good for your body... just about every vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, and phytonutrient on the planet! And that means your body will receive all the nutrition it needs to maintain optimal hormonal balance, function at it's highest capacity, keep your appetite satisfied for hours, and prevent any unwanted cravings.
Keep in mind that last point... when you fill your body with all of the nutrients it needs on a daily basis, you pretty much totally eliminate cravings! This happens because your body is satisfied and doesn't need to crave any more food, because it has all of the nutrients it needs.
I've experienced this myself. Years ago, I used to crave sweets ALL THE TIME. But now that I eat the balanced diet that I do these days, I can't say that I've had a craving in at least 5 years! No joke.
Alright, here's the special muscle meal plan recipe:
The Ultimate Muscle Salad
approx 1-2 cups spinach leaves
approx 1-2 cups mixed leaf lettuce
1/2 of a ripe avocado, diced
2 hard boiled eggs, diced (preferrably organic, cage free)
3 Tbsp chopped pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
top with homemade dressing made of balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and Udo's Choice Oil Blend (3/4 of total liquid should come from the vinegar)
Mix it all together and you've got one delicious and ridiculously nutritious salad. For an extra shot of antioxidants, wash it all down with some homemade iced green/white/oolong tea lightly sweetened with the natural sweetener Stevia or a little touch of raw honey.
Alright, now let's look at the approx macronutrient breakdown:
Prot: 23 g., Carbs: 48 g., Fiber: 12 g., Fat: 45 g., Calories: 650
Now before you throw your arms up in disgust and call me crazy for recommending such a high fat, high calorie meal, keep in mind to scale back the portion sizes for your own caloric goal. The portions above are simply the portions that I use considering that my maintenance caloric intake is around 3000 calories/day. If your maintenance is 2000 calories/day, then scale back the portions accordingly.
Also, I don't care about the high fat content of this meal... because every last gram of the fat in this meal is VERY healthy... from the pecans, the olive oil, the Udo's oil, the fresh avocado... and yes, even the fat from the eggs is good for you!
How about the carbs? Well, out of a total of 48 grams, you've got 12 grams of fiber. That's a pretty good ratio. Also, the healthy fats and protein in this meal will slow down the carbohydrate digestion, giving you a healthy glycemic response and steady controlled blood sugar.
Alright, so you're probably also wondering why there isn't a larger amount of protein. After all, protein is all the rage with bodybuilders, right. Well, actually 23 grams isn't too shabby, especially considering 14 grams of that comes from the highly bioavailable protein from the hard boiled eggs. Also consider that this meal has a whole lot of healthy fats, which increases the utilization of your protein. This happens because your body does not need to use your protein for energy, and can instead use it for muscle building or maintenance, and all of the other various functions that amino acids are needed for in the body.
Overall, with this meal plan, you've got a great mix of healthy fats, good fibrous carbs, quality protein, and a huge diversity of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other trace nutrients.
How To Gain Muscle Naturally No Steroids Necessary
Wondering how to gain muscle? There are many fads, gimmicks and "quick fixes" to be found, but there is really only one healthy way to gain muscle mass. You don't need to be gifted with great genetics or use potentially dangerous illegal hormones or steroids.
The "how to gain muscle" question has a relatively simple two-step process:
1) increase your caloric intake, and
2) workout. This combination will provide the desired results.
Don't be embarrassed to look in the mirror! You CAN have the body that you strive to achieve. When you first begin thinking about how to gain muscle, the first instinct may be "But I don't want to gain fat". Losing fat and gaining muscle mass are two different objectives, and are tackled in two different ways. At this point you have to realize that dieting and exercising to lose weight is different than dieting and exercising to gain muscle.
In gaining muscle mass, the caloric intake must be increased. You have to take in more calories that your body is used to: take in more proteins and fats-your body has no choice but to gain weight. While nutritional supplements may be utilized, this should NOT be used as a substitute for a healthy diet. The increased calories are then offset by working out with weights in order to achieve the increased muscle mass you desire. This workout will stimulate growth by "overloading" the muscles. The combination of caloric building blocks (which help rebuild and repair muscle tissue) along with the increase workout.
If you are among the millions who constantly try to gain weight and build muscle mass, remember that a firm commitment, the proper diet, and a good weight-training regimen are the best ways to succeed in reaching your goal. A muscle mass building diet includes plenty of protein and enough calories to promote weight gain.
A good place to start is to multiply your current weight by 18. This number will give you a rough idea of how many calories your body needs in a day to bulk up. If you are extremely active, play sports, or have a faster than average metabolism, you may need to increase your caloric intake even more. A muscle building diet requires a lot of effort on your part. It's not easy to consume enough calories in three meals per day. A good suggestion would be to eat several small meals each day rather than three large ones.
Protein is a critical element in any mass building diet. Ideally, you should eat one and a half grams of protein per pound of body weight. While this seems like a lot of protein, spread over several small meals each day it will be a lot easier to meet this goal. Fish, poultry, eggs, and lean red meat are excellent sources of protein. Lots of fresh vegetables and simple carbohydrates combined with plenty of protein should allow you to meet your calorie quota each day. The best muscle building diet is a combination of consuming adequate calories and the proper types of foods.
The Science Of Muscle Building
Bodybuilding involves more than just lifting weights. It pays to have an understanding of human kinetics. How do muscles work?
Muscles develop by making them work. Muscles can only work when the body is in motion. They work extra when we are in full motion. Thus, to develop the muscles to the maximum, we must make them work to the best of our abilities. Hence, the bodybuilding principle of "No Pain, No Gain."
You can't grow your muscles by doing nothing. You have to move around a lot. The only thing that will grow in points of inertia, if you remain stationary, is your weight. If you want muscle growth and power, you must work your body methodically. Muscle training is called a workout.
Muscles can be toned (or conditioned) by regular activities like brisk walking, jogging, and doing other slightly heavy works. But toning muscles will not grow them in size and beauty. You have to do more
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