THE BASICS OF BIGNESS.
If you regularly read the plethora of mainstream muscle magazines that are currently available then you will no doubt be aware of the publishers dislike of anything that is not "new". Whether it be the latest top pro's routine, the shiniest new fangled machine, or the greatest ever exercise for increasing the delineation between your teres major and your infraspinatus, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will find it's way into the pages of one of these rags. Just so long as it's "new". Why is that? Well, the logic goes something like this: new is interesting and interesting sells magazines. Note that it doesn't go: new is interesting and interesting builds big muscles!! Oh no, far from it . What builds big muscles is boring. There's no escaping it. In theory ,at least, building a huge physique is mind numbingly simple. It is in the actual practice of building that physique that the interest lies.
So, here is my challenge to you. For three months from the moment you finish this article, don't try to learn anything else about building muscle. Don't read any books, don't ask anyone's advice and don't buy any more magazines. Spend the money on food instead. All I want you to do is to read this article, understand it fully, and then put all your available energies in to applying it's wisdom, every day, for three months. At the end of this time you will find that you already know everything that you need to know in order to get very big and very, very strong indeed. It won't be fun. Your buddy's in the gym will think you've gone mad. But in three months time they will all be training just like you, so hang in there and ignore the inevitable criticism that will flow in your direction. It is part of the British mentality to mock and belittle the success's of others, usually in an attempt to draw attention away from the protagonist's own failures, so expect it from the off. Ignore the stares, ignore the comments, look at the ground, grit your teeth and get on with it. You will succeed and they will continue to fail.
What I will ask you to do would not have in the past been considered at all unusual. In fact, forty years ago it was the only way anyone ever got big and strong. It was only with the advent of drugs that there became any choice about how to train for growth. The mistake the majority of trainee's make is that they train like the pros, but without the drug intake of the pros. Funnily enough, they don't grow much. In fact many of them don't grow at all. These are the victims of the fallacy perpetrated by muscle magazine journalists everywhere. These are the guys who believe in the power of whatever is "new", while completely ignoring that which has been proven effective thousands of times over . Don't be one of them. Follow this program, in all its simplicity. Don't add exercises, don't try to get by on less sleep and don't cut corners with the nutritional component of the program and you will grow. How much will you grow? Well, I can't make guarantees' but I personally have gained twenty two kilos in the past 13 weeks, going from ninety four to one hundred and sixteen kilos whilst doubling my strength at the same time. Want similar results? Then do similar things. Stick with what follows, believe in its efficacy, and you will grow like the proverbial weed.
FREQUENCY AND RECUPERATION
This routine is dead simple. It relies on the massive muscle stimulation and hormone production effects of the "big" exercises, while incorporating sufficient recuperation and nutritious calories to allow you to recover from the equally massive stress that these exercises place on both your musclo-skeletal and your nervous systems. These routines also allow for extra rest and recuperation, at your discretion, whenever you feel it is required. This isn't an excuse to get lazy, just an allowance for individual differences and a recognition that certain bodyparts (lower back particularly) tend to take a hammering with the bigger exercises, and hence may need an occasional extra dose of rest and recovery once in a while. You will work every two to three days, dependent upon your own ability to recover, and your other days will be spent off. This may be a dramatic reduction in frequency, depending on what you've been used to, but when you see the exercises you'll be doing, and the intensity I will ask you to apply, then you'll understand why it has to be this way.
On each working day you will warm up on the stationary cycle for five to ten minutes before stretching for a further 10 minutes or so…you do remember how to stretch, don't you? It's just that it seems to be one of those things that everyone knows prevents injuries, and yet hardly anyone bothers. Be bothered! It will dramatically increase your training life span and greatly reduce your likelihood of developing joint and tendon problems later on in your training life. Warm up and stretch before every workout. Not just the bodypart you intend to work, but your whole body. Protect yourself !!
Once you have warmed up you will proceed to the real work of the day. The first day will consist of squats and assistance work. The second day will consist of bench presses and assistance work. The third day will consist of deadlifts and assistance work. On each day you will start with the main lift and then proceed to the assistance work. Before the work sets of each exercise you will follow a system of progressive lift specific warmups that will serve to further protect you from injury, whilst not taxing your recovery abilities too much or taking away strength from the work sets. I will use the deadlift to illustrate the warmup system. Say your planned work sets for deadlifts will be two sets of five with one hundred and eighty kilos. Start with a set of twenty with the empty bar, then a set of ten with one plate a side (60 kg). Follow this with a set of five reps with two plates a side (100kg), then a set of three with three plates a side (140kg), and finally a single with three and a half plates a side (160kg). At this point you're ready for the work sets of five reps with four plates a side (180kg). Follow a similar procedure for the other days' major lifts. Start with 10% of the work weight for twenty, then 30% for ten, 60% for five, 80% for 3, then finish with about 90 to 95% for one rep before moving on to the work sets. Between each warmup you should take about a minute to a minute and a half rest, though in reality this will probably only be long enough to add the plates in preparation for your next set. This system gets the working muscles, tendons and ligaments thoroughly warmed up, while taking you close enough to the working weight to allow you to get a feel for the poundage you will be lifting. This is important as it allows you to get your technique perfect with a heavy weight before you do the actual work. Far too many trainees warm up with a set or two with 50% of the working weight and then move on to the work sets. This is foolish not only because the actual working structure will not be warm enough (hence encouraging injury) but also because the nervous system will not be adequately prepared for the level of effort required to lift the work set poundage, hence depriving the trainee of his or her ability to generate maximal efforts in the work sets. The described system of warming up should not take away from your work set strength, but as a safeguard leave at least two minutes between the 90 % single and the first work set, maybe more if you feel you need it. Just rest long enough to focus yourself on the work set ahead, but not so long that you cool down substantially and lose the benefits of the warmup.
Once you're all warmed up and ready to go you can move on to the work sets outlined below. As stated above, day one consists of squats and assistance, so let's start there. Your exercises on day one will be as follows.
2.Front Squats or Leg Extension
3.Stiff Legged Deadlifts or Hamstring curls.
Day two is bench presses and assistance. Your exercises for day two are as follows.
2.Clean and Jerk or Standing Push Press or Military Press
Day three is deadlifts and assistance work. Exercise selection is as follows.
2.Barbell Row or Cable Row
3.Chins or Pulldowns to the chest.
As for rep ranges and sets, perform three sets of 6 reps for the "big three", and two sets of twelve for the assistance work. The exception to this is the clean and jerk. This exercise relies on such high levels of whole body coordination that I recommend you perform five sets of only 2 reps. This will ensure a maximal level of concentration can be applied to each rep with out fatigue increasing the chances of a missed rep or other mistake.
The reasoning behind giving you choices in what assistance exercises you do on each day is to allow you to give your lower back and other hardworking muscles more rest if they need it. Everyone recovers differently and you must make allowances for your own personal recovery abilities. The assistance exercise listed first on each day is the most taxing, the second less so and the third the least taxing of all. On day two, for example, the clean and jerk is the most taxing. It works your whole body, and puts lots of stress on your hip structure, thighs, arms and lower back as well as your shoulders. The standing push press stresses the deltoid structure equally heavily, but places less strain on your lower back and hips than the clean and jerk. The seated military press places virtually no stress on the lower back and hips but will still allow you to severely punish your deltoid complex. Can you see what I'm getting at? Each day you can decide for yourself how fatigued you are (especially in the hips and back ) and make your choice of assistance exercise selection dependent upon that, hence avoiding overworking the lower back and hips, which could easily take away from your performance in the squat and deadlift. On days when you feel fully rested and raring to go, do the biggest exercises and get the most muscle stimulation possible. If you feel a little less than perfect then go ahead and do the smaller exercise. You'll still get some of the necessary muscle stimulation of the relevant body part, but you won't tax your recovery abilities quite as much as you would with the bigger exercise. It's exactly the same deal with the front squat and the leg extension. They both stress the front thigh very heavily but the extension takes your lower back, hips and grip out of the equation. Lower back , hips and grip play a big part in the deadlift, so if progress slows in this lift then you should drop the front squat in favour of the leg extension, and drop the stiff legged deadlift in favour of the hamstring curl. Always keep in mind that the primary aim of his program is to give you a strength base in the three big lifts that will carryover to any other work you might do in the future. You must deduce for yourself how much assistance work you can recover from. How do you know what you can recover from? Simply start out with a fixed workout frequency and do the most taxing exercises on the list. I suggest a schedule something like one on, one off, one on, two off, one on, one off. From this starting point you can take measures to reduce your workload if neccasary. Simply put, if progress slows or stops on the lifts, then change the assistance work to the less demanding exercises. This should enable you to recover better and hence begin to make progress once again. You must understand that as a muscle grows bigger and stronger it requires more recovery time to heal up after a workout, so as you grow you will need more recovery time, and less total work per bodypart or area. Dropping the big assistance exercises in favour of the smaller ones will take pressure off of your hip and lower back structure by drastically reducing the total number of sets for these areas and increasing the time off between workouts that stress them. If after time your progress slows again then feel free to drop the assistance work all together. I'm not kidding! If need be, drop it all. If after dropping all assistance work your progress slows again, then decrease your workout frequency. Throw in an extra rest day, then another if need be. Almost make sure you totally recover before you do the same lift again. In this way you reduce workload and then frequency, hence preventing any insidious overtraining that may be developing and allowing yourself to make more progress on the big lifts. And remember, in this program, that is what it is all about. The big three.
Far too many trainees get caught up in detail exercises before they have a base of strength and size from which to work from. This leads directly to the plainly ridiculous sites that we all see in the gym everyday. The skinny neophyte pounding away doing dumbell laterals with 15 pound 'bells. The guy who wants huge legs but maxes out his quad workouts with 35lbs for 15 sloppy reps on the leg extension machine. It's a disgrace.
THE VALUE OF BIG FREE WEIGHTS
Let me put it to you this way. Take two hypothetical trainees. Trainee number one spreads his effort over several exercises in order to "train the muscle from all angles", and spends most of his time seated or lying on some kind of machine to "isolate the working muscle". Trainee number two trains very hard on the big free weight exercises, for moderately low reps and sets, and does little in the way of assistance or machine work. He concentrates on a few big exercises and makes sure he adds a little iron to the bar every week. After about six months of lifting, both men will probably have doubled or perhaps tripled their strength in the movements that they perform. Trainee one will be substantially stronger in the leg extension, leg curl, lateral raise, front raise, pec deck, dumbell flye, biceps curl, triceps cable push down, calf raise, some kind of pulldown and perhaps a machine rowing movement as well, assuming that he can recover from the high volume necessitated by training so many exercises in one routine. Trainee two will be substantially stronger in the squat, deadlift, bench press and military press. Now, take these two hypothetical trainees and swap their routines. Have number one get under the bar and try to squat the weight our second trainee has built up to. He won't be able to. Have him bend down and try to deadlift our man's training poundage. It won't budge from the floor. Bench press? Not likely. Military press trainee number two's training poundage? He'll be lucky if he can even clean it to his chest. However,if we have trainee number two attempt our machine man's poundages and reps, he will complete them with ease, and probably smash the first man's personal record lifts in the process. It is just a simple fact that strength built on machines does not transfer over on to free weights, or indeed, real life. Free weights force you to constantly balance the load, to use secondary and supporting muscles to a much greater degree than machines allow while at the same time generally involving a greater degree of directly affected musclature in the first place. They force you to work hard, and as a result your body adapts. Strength built with free weights tends to transfer over to machines much better than vice versa. For example, in the four months since I began training I have worked thighs with squats and front squats almost exclusively. I can now squat 315lbs for 15 reps, and it goes up by a rep a week. Prior to writing this section of the article I had a go on our gyms leg extension machine. Remember, this is having never done a leg extension before. Most of the regular leg extension crowd use about 15 to 35 pounds for 10 to 15 reps. Me? 65lbs for 20 reps at my first attempt. Do you really think that any of those 30lbs guys could match my 315 for 15 squat? Of course not. Point proven. Free weights will build a greater amount of functional strength in the beginning trainee than machines and in less time too. This is not to say that machines are useless, it's just that until you are already big and strong they have little to offer you.
NUTRITION AND REST COMPONENTS
Rest is what makes you stronger. Granted it is the training that provides the stimulus for this growth but without sufficient rest and recuperation you will not grow. Be lazy on your off days, take things very easy indeed. Don't get up if you don't have to!!! Lie in late in the mornings, take a snooze before dinner, and make sure you sleep all night.
Sleep is a wonderful thing for inducing growth. When you sleep your body naturally produces the neccasary hormones for growth. Sleep is your natural time for tissue repair and growth, so make sure that you take full advantage of it.
As for the eating component of this regimen, I simply recommend that you eat as much clean food as you can. The program only lasts for three months, so you are highly unlikely to get fat. I know it is very old fashioned to recommend a "see food" diet to atheletes but the whole point is to rapidly change your structure and metabolism to one more suited for growth. The easiest way to do this is to ingest a lot of calories every day. Food intake alone is highly anabolic, so make sure and eat plenty. 10 meals a day is often not excessive , with some men needing even more feedings per day. Just eat until you gain 2 -3 lbs per week. In total this will give you a 24-36lb increase over the 3 months. This is a lot more than most guys achieve in a lifetime of training. At the same time you will put 60-90lbs on your main lifts, which will change your lifting career for ever. Just imagine yourself 36lbs heavier and 160lbs stronger. Set your goals and get on with it.
It is always easier to look for a new way to train than it is to deliver full bore effort on an old routine. Make the change now. Deliver all the effort you can on the big three lifts and assistance work outlined above. Eat as well as you can, and sleep as much as you can and you will be unable to stop yourself growing. Once you have experienced the true growth potential of your body, not distorted by overtraining, undereating or undersleeping, you will find it easy to generate a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for your training, which in turn will further speed up your gains. So get up off your arse and get on with it. Train as hard as you can then get out of the gym and eat. The rest will take care of itself.
I did NOT write that.
I found it on my harddrive and thought it was worth posting.