Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Can't-Fail Mass-Gain Triad...

muscle+gaining+secret+sleep get big muscles

Eat Big!
Train Big!
Sleep Big!

Thought you guys may enjoy this article By Charles Staley

This is the first part in a 2 part series. Enjoy! Part 2 will follow soon.

As you can see from the title there are three main components to successfully gaining muscle mass as you get big and strong:
  1. eat, eat lots of clean nutritious food
  2. train, this is a no-brainer, you have to work hard in the gym to get big
  3. sleep, this may be a surprise, but at least eight hours as needed you need your muscles opportunity to grow in size

If you've taken this advice to heart and acted in it, you've already experienced the synergistic power of reprogramming your metabolism.

If you haven't incorporated these principles into your mass building program, you better jump on it if you want positive results.

The rationale behind the "Big 3" philosophy is rooted in simple evolutionary biology.
  1. In order to pass on your genes to the next generation, you need to survive long enough to reach sexual maturity. This means, among other things, having the ability to create a portable energy supply in the form of excess fat deposits.
  2. to create an excess bodyfat, you've got to be able to taken in more calories than you need, on a regular basis.
  3. part of the bodyfat equation is carrying limiting the amount of muscle having only minimum needed to survive. Muscle is metabolically expensive to create and maintain.
Side Note to # 3: that is why I insist that in order to have an effective fat loss program you need to weight train and build muscle.

As you digest these big 3 I am sure a body type comes to mind; skinny-fat. With that in mind, it should be of no surprise that that's a common physique. If you're in survival mode that will be great, otherwise it's less than ideal.

You're reading this because you want to get bigger and stronger and probably don't care much about the evolutionary stuff. Mother nature doesn't really want you to get all big and jacked, but I do.

Which leads to the solution.

You've gotta fool mother nature and your genetics. This will happen because you will:
  1. convincing her that you actually need more muscle in order to survive, that is where the training comes in
  2. that you're taking in plenty of food, eating well
the "Big 3" in greater detail


Training refers to just a few tactics and principles. These concepts are not controversial, cutting-edge, hard to understand and are easy to implement. What I am saying is that they're not "sexy."

If you're among the 87% of readers who just closed this browser window- SEE YA!.

For the rest of you, let's explore the tried-and true components of successful mass-gaining programs:

1) Restrict your training to multi-joint movements performed with free weights.
What this includes is:
  • any squats
  • all deadlifts
  • presses of your choice
  • all pull-ups too
Now for the to be avoided exercises:
  • any exercise machine, including - pec dec, leg curl or extension, even the leg press.
  • no need for curls, ab exercises, or calf movements
  • avoid all running, swimming, cycling, aerobics, group classes.
  • pilates, functional training, spinning, tae-bo, yoga, body pump
  • any device/method you see on a TV infomercial, including Total Gym, Bowflex, P90X, The Perfect Pushup, Iron Gym
there are plenty of things that have been missed, but if you're in doubt just remember the rule: restrict your training to multi-joint movements performed with free weights

2) Train 3-4 days per week.

Not 1, 2, 5, 6, or 7, or any number higher than that (no two-a-days, in other words). Can you train 3 days one week and 4 the next? Yes. This should be the most simple recommendation to understand and follow, so I'll move on to the next point…

3) On your "work sets," use weights that are heavy enough to prevent the performance of more than 10 reps in a single effort. Go heavy!

Yes, that means you have a lot of flexibility in the weights you select, and the set/rep brackets you use, all the way from singles with super heavy weights to 10 reps with more moderate weight. There is no single "ideal" set x rep equation- anything in the "10 reps and under" category will prove effective. Personally I prefer eight and under but 10 will suffice

What really matters is how many "quality" repetitions you perform in a session. By "quality" I mean reps where you expose large muscles to high tensions. Let's explore that in just a bit more detail…

Creating High Tensions: Load VS Speed

If you load up a bare to a weight that's just slightly less than you can lift, and perform one rep, you'll have exposed your muscles to a very high tension- that's probably obvious. What's less obvious to a lot of people is that you can get similarly high tensions by lifting lighter weights.

The way you do this is with acceleration. Using between say, 65 and 75 percent of a weight you could lift only once, performing sets of maybe 2-5 reps per set, using as much controlled speed as possible on the "positive" (concentric) phase of the lift, creates as much tension as a very heavy weight would.

And it's both safer and more fun to boot. So in your mass-training, use a variety of weights, but always move every rep as fast as possible.

4) Limit (And Time) Your Training Sessions.

Most experts would say that 60 minutes is a maximum ideal length for a weight-training session, but I'll go out on a limb and use 90 minutes instead.

The reason for my recommendation is that if you're using effective exercises (as described earlier), you'll need a relatively large number of warm-up sets before you can tackle your work sets for that exercise. So for example, you don't need to do much of a warm-up for tricep kickbacks or the adductor machine, but you do need a significant warm-up for a deadlift workout or a heavy bench press session. This is especially true once you get stronger- which you will.

5) Limit each training session to no more than 4 exercises.

The reason for this recommendation is dictated by the previous suggestion regarding workout length. If your total session is limited to 90 minutes, and assuming that you're using effective exercises as recommended earlier, you'll only have 22.5 minutes per exercise, and that includes warm-up sets. That's not a lot of time if you're working hard. So remember, the recommendation is no more than 4 exercises- in many cases, 3 is even better, and very often 2 exercises per session is absolutely ideal.

It's not about hitting the muscle from all angles, muscle confusion, or any other bullshit you've picked up on the internet somewhere- it's about picking 1-2, or maybe 3 big, hard movements, and working the piss out of them.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

About The Author

Charles strength/performance coach. Charles’ methods are ahead of their time and quickly produce serious results.

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