Archive for the tag - muscle mass

Too Much Cardio to Build Muscle?

Dear Davey,

For a little while now I have been trying to put on some muscle mass (I’m a fairly skinny guy), but have been having a hard time. I have been told by a few people that it is because I do too much cardio. I’m a cycling instructor here in Canada and I teach 3 – 5 cycling classes a week. Is there a way to gain muscle mass even though I do a large amount of intense cardio on weekly basis?

Thanks,
Jason

Hey Jason,

The real story here isn’t cardio – it’s calories. In order to build muscle, you need to create a calorie surplus. That is, you need to take in more calories than you burn.

If you take in fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight and mass. If you take in the same amount of calories that you burn, you’ll stay the same. But if you want to increase the amount of mass on your body, you need to take in a greater number of calories than you burn. The surplus calories can be put to work building new muscle mass.

Of course, this assumes that you’re exercising and engaged in a workout program that promotes muscle growth (i.e., heavy weights, train to muscle failure, etc.). If you’re sedentary and spending your time watching TV, then those surplus calories will build fat – not muscle. And even if you are hitting the gym, it doesn’t mean that your training necessarily targets gains in muscle size. In other words, make sure your workout is on point.

If you’re looking to build muscle, the recommended calorie surplus is 250 – 500 calories. So, calculate your recommended calorie intake – and then add 250 – 500 calories to it.

Doing frequent and intense steady-state cardio makes it harder to build muscle because you burn many more calories than the rest of us. Whereas I could gain muscle by eating around 3,150 calories, your requirement may be considerably higher – and difficult to achieve. This is why, for many people, frequent and intense cardio sessions can cannibalize their muscle gains.

If you can’t cut back on the amount or duration of cardio, then it just means you’ll have to top your plate a little higher – a problem that most of us would love having!

Love,
Davey

P.S. It’s worth noting that high intensity interval training is the type of cardio recommended for individuals who are trying to build muscle. High intensity interval training is more anabolic in nature and better for muscle retention.

Why Am I Not Gaining Weight?

Dear Davey,

I have been trying to put on weight for the last 6 months. I’ve tried several diets, I’ve been eating as much as I possibly can and have been training heaps as well. So far, I’ve toned up but haven’t put on any weight. What tips do you have? Sometimes I feel like I’m meant to stay this size forever and I often feel like I should give up.

From,
Luke

There are a few things to consider if, despite your diet and workout regime, you’re having trouble gaining mass.

Overtraining

First, overtraining may be a contributing factor. Overtraining is a condition wherein you provide more stress on the body than it is able to handle or recover from. When you lift weights, you create tiny tears in your muscles. This is a normal and healthy process – and, as the body rebuilds, the muscle is made stronger and larger than before. However, it takes time to recover. And if you’re training too frequently without adequate rest days in between, then the overtraining response will occur. Your body will become weaker and you may lose muscle mass.

Signs of overtraining include irritability, difficulty sleeping, poor performance, fatigue, losses in strength, weight loss, increased colds or flues and muscle pain. If you experience these symptoms and if overtraining is to blame, take a week or two off to recover – and then reassess the situation. By getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night, taking at least one day off per week from exercise, eating properly and by minimizing life stress, overtraining is easy to avoid.

Caloric Intake

Second, take a look at your calorie intake. Though I recommend using the Harris Benedict Calculator to determine your calorie requirements, a good general guideline is 14 – 16 calories per pound of bodyweight for active individuals. For example, at 155 pounds, I’d need to consume about 2,480 calories to maintain my current body weight. To build muscle and mass, you need an additional surplus of 250 – 500 calories a day. In other words, assuming that I’m following a nutrition and exercise plan to targets muscle growth, I’d want to aim for about 2,750 calories per day. This will result in a few additional pounds of mass per month.

Nutrients

Third, look at what you’re eating. To build muscle mass, you’ll need the fuel your body with the right ingredients. Very general guidelines (these can vary from individual to individual) include a gram of protein per day (per pound of bodyweight) from lean protein sources. It’s also recommended that you consume at least 100 carbs on non-workout days and 150 carbs on workout days – with a strong preference for complex, natural carbohydrates like those found in brown rice, quinoa and whole wheat breads. Include foods rich in heart-healthy dietary fats like nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado.

Train for Hypertrophy

Fourth, consider your workout. Are you following a workout plan that targets muscle growth? When you lift weights, they should be heavy – and your rep ranges should be low. I generally go for 8 reps, and I’m fully fatigued on my last repetition. Ensure that you’re not using low levels of resistance and performing 12 or more repetitions. Lighter weights and high repetitions are great for endurance training, but they’re not well suited for gains in mass.

Avoid Excessive Cardio

Fifth, moderate your cardio. Cardiovascular training offers great benefits – but don’t overdo it. If you have a naturally thin body type, a few sessions of high-intensity interval training or steady-paced cardio each week should be plenty. Limit cardio times to 15 minutes so that your results aren’t cannibalized.

Certainly, you’re not destined to be a skinny guy for life… so long as you follow these steps. With some effort, energy, dedication and know-how, you’ll be bulking up in no time!

How to Get Bigger Arms.

Are bigger arms one of your fitness goals?

When most people aim to increase the size of their arms, they often focus on the bicep. And while the bicep muscle is important, it’s not the biggest muscle in the arm.

If you really want to develop bigger, fuller arms, then watch this video from the Davey Wavey Fitness YouTube channel.

How to Bulk Up & Gain Mass Fast.

Dear Davey

I just recently began going the gym. I am 6 ft tall and 135 lbs. I’m 18 years old and really have been working hard to see results. I recently started creatine for an extra boost because it was hell trying to lift weights. What are some tips you can give me to gain weight in muscle and get a more cut look?

From,
Joey

Dear Joey,

It sounds like you’re ready to make the transition from twinkville to beeftown.

You’ll want to pay careful attention to your diet. For a week or two, keep tabs on what you typically eat. If you can, count the calories to give yourself a benchmark. Since you want to gain muscle mass – and since you’ve already taken the important step of hitting the gym – don’t be afraid to crank up your intake.

When someone is looking to lose weight, we tell them to create a calorie deficit. That is, they are taking in fewer calories than they are burning. For you, it’s just the opposite. You’ll want to take in more calories than you are burning. It doesn’t need to be dramatic; even a 10% or 20% increase will make a difference. If you find that you are gaining weight too quickly – or it is coming on as fat instead of muscle – you can always scale back.

Having said that, it’s not a free pass to eat cheese puffs, bonbons and make frequent visit to McDonald’s. You’ll still want to eat healthy foods including lean meats, healthy fats (i.e., nuts and avocados), fruits, beans, veggies and the like. You’ll just be eating more of them – and perhaps more frequently – than before.

When it comes to exercise, focus most of your efforts on strength training. While it’s still fine to perform some cardio (definitely no more than 30% of your gym time), acquaint yourself with the free weights. Since you’re looking to build muscle, you’ll opt for a low number of repetitions of very heavy weights – and you’ll target muscle failure. Here are some more muscle-building tips.

And yes, you may find that the creatine will help. Many individuals report significant weight gains in just the first month. Ensure that you are cycling the creatine (i.e., one week of 20 grams followed by one week of 5 grams, and an occasional week off) for best results.

Also, be realistic: As a skinny guy, you probably don’t have the frame to look like a muscle daddy. But embrace and rock what you do have – and know that many of us would give our right testicle to have your metabolism.

Love,
Davey

Increases in Muscle Mass May Lower Diabetes Risk.

Muscles aren't just about looking sexy - they're good for you, too.

Admittedly, many people seek to add muscle mass for superficial reasons. But as it turns out, bulking up is about much more than just looking “good.”

Increasing muscle mass has a number of benefits – not the least of which is a huge boost to your metabolism. Adding muscle burns more calories; it’s one of the most effective ways to create a calorie deficit when it come to weight loss. Muscles also make you stronger (duh!), so it can improve your performance in any number of activities ranging from the mundane and ordinary (like housework or heavy lifting) to sports and competitions.

But a new study, soon to be published in the September issue of of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found that increases in muscle mass may be linked to decreases in diabetes risk. The study looked at data from 13,644 adults and concluded that a 10% increase in participants’ skeletal muscle index resulted in a 11% decrease in insulin resistance and a 12% decrease in pre-diabetes.

Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, lead researcher, noted:

Our findings suggest that beyond focusing on losing weight to improve metabolic health, there may be a role for maintaining fitness and building muscle mass. This is a welcome message for many overweight patients who experience difficulty in achieving weight loss, as any effort to get moving and keep fit should be seen as laudable and contributing to metabolic change.

While the finds are important for all of us, they’re especially important for people with pre-diabetes who have difficulty releasing extra body weight. Yes, losing weight does reduce the risk for diabetes – but, according to the research, so does adding muscle.

What Are Drops Sets & How Can You Use Them?

For serious muscles like these, drops sets are an effective strength training technique.

Drops sets are a strength training technique wherein you perform a set of any exercise to failure (or just short of failure) – and then drop some weight and continue for additional repetitions with the reduced resistance. Once failure is again reached, additional resistance is dropped and so on.

Drop sets are great for bodybuilders or individuals looking to make gains in muscle size. Simply put, few other training techniques can break down muscle fibers as effectively as drop sets – so if you incorporate drop sets into your routine, you will see significant gains in mass. However, drop sets are not advised for athletes or people looking for gains in strength. Moreover, most athletes want strength or speed without the bulk – and so drop sets will be at odds with their goals.

To perform a drop set, select an amount of resistance that will result in muscle failure after 8 – 12 reps. While you’ve reached failure, you haven’t reached absolute failure; quickly decrease the amount of weight by about 15% and continue. After 8 or so reps, you’ll hit failure again. Reduce the resistance by another 15% and continue. Keep going.

Obviously, drop sets require some planning. Since rest time should be between zero and ten seconds, they’re most popular on machines; adjusting the weight is as quick as changing a pin. If you do drop sets on a barbell, you may need to work with a spotter and/or load the barbell with lots of small weight plates for faster adjustments. If you work with dumbbells, line them up on the floor in advance – and simply work your way down the line.

If you’re purely looking for gains in mass, then drop sets are a great technique to try occasionally try out and incorporate! I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

So You Want to Make Your Ex Jealous With a Sexy New Body, Eh?

Dear Davey,

I was en route to work this morning and I bumped into my ex. He cheated on me every week for a year and I was dumped over the phone just before Christmas last year.

Anyway, where you come in… Looking at myself in the mirror, I think I have all the makings to have a fantastic body. I want to gain some muscle (but not too much!) and get as close as I can to a body like yours.

I promised myself I would look amazing if I ever bumped into him again and, well I failed. I am now giving myself untill the summer (not expecting miracles but a definite improvement) to look great.

What is the best way for me to gain muscle mass fast… and which exercises will give the best and quickest results?

I cannot bare to feel like I did this morning again. He looked great, and I looked… well, not.

Sincerely,
Man-On-A-Mission

Dear Man-On-A-Mission,

On one hand, I want to tell you that exercising to make another person jealous or envious isn’t a sustainable motivator. And it’s not coming from a place of true power. I want to tell you to spend your energy looking at today and moving forward, rather than looking back an a relationship that lacked fulfillment. I want to tell you that the time you spend in the gym should be an investment in yourself and an improvement to the quality of your life.

But on the other hand, who am I to talk? When I first started working out, my motivations weren’t the purest. I wanted to look like the Abercrombie & Fitch models that I saw at the mall. I wanted a hard stomach and bulging muscles. It was only months (or perhaps even years) into my exercising that I came to appreciate the much larger, non-superficial benefits of an active lifestyle. Today, it is those benefits (like better health, increased energy, improved sleep, etc.) that are my primary motivators. The muscular physique, is still nice, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now that I am done preaching, I’ll tackle your question. Building muscle mass quickly involves lifting free weights (dumbbells and barbells) in the low-rep range (usually 4 – 8 repetitions of each exercise). The weights should be heavy, and your muscles should be completely fatigued on your last repetition. Moreover, you’ll need to push yourself to constantly progress to higher amounts of resistance in order to increase the size of your muscles. Keep your sessions short – generally 45 minutes or less of lifting – and never train a muscle that is still sore from your previous workout (it makes sense to do different muscle groups on different days). Combine your strength training with a moderate amount of cardiovascular exercise.

Squat, barbell bicep curls, dead lifts, chest presses or other exercises that make use of free weights are where you’ll want to spend the bulk of your time. I generally do 4 sets of each exercise, but you’ll get most of the benefits from just one or two sets. So do what works best for your schedule and time commitments.

Know that you’ll need to increase the amount of food you consume, and especially increase your protein intake. Whey protein isolate is the best for muscle growth.

Since it’s the start of a new routine for you, you’ll probably want to limit yourself to 3 or 4 workouts per week. Over time, you can increase that – but don’t overdo it or else you may burnout.

For additional reading and details, check out my 8 tips for gaining muscle fast.

I’d say good luck but it’s really more science than luck!

Love,
Davey

8 Ways to Gain Muscle Mass Fast!

Hi Davey,

I’m in shape, 5’11 145 lbs, and toned. I work out about 4-5 times a week with a combination of weights/cardio as well as a controlled diet. I do want to gain some muscle mass, but not sure how to go about without getting too big. Any suggestions?

– Brian

Hey Brian,

First things, first: I generally recommend an 8-step approach to increasing muscle mass. It’s important that you follow all 8 steps, and not just a few of them.

  1. Lift weights. There’s no way around it. In order to stimulate muscle growth, you have to hit the gym. For best results, stick mainly to free weights (instead of machines). They’re far more effective at building muscle.
  2. Train for hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is increasing the volume of your muscles, and in order to do this, you should train with heavy weights at a medium/low number of repetitions. I generally go for 8 repetitions, but anywhere in the 8 – 10 range is ideal.
  3. Train until muscle failure. On your last rep, your muscles should be totally fatigued; it should be impossible for you to do another rep. If you feel like you could do another rep, you need to increase the weight.
  4. Keep pushing. Your muscles will only build when forced to adapt to a heavier weight, so constantly progress to higher levels of resistance. It’s called progressive overload, and it’s exactly what you need to be doing.
  5. Keep your body fueled. It takes a lot of calories to maintain muscle. As you increase your muscle mass, you need to increase your caloric intake. If you fail to bump up the number of calories you consume, then your body will be unable to maintain your muscle and your gains will cease. I recommend using the Harris Benedict calculator as a starting point. In addition, muscles require water to grow – make sure you’re staying well hydrated!
  6. Eat enough protein. There are a lot of calculations for protein consumption. Since you’re very active and increasing your muscle mass, you’ll want to eat just over a gram of protein per day per pound of lean body mass (lean body mass is your body weight in pounds – pounds of fat on your body). It’s not an exact science, but at 145 lbs and with a lean build, I suspect you’ll need around 175 grams of protein per day – no small feat!
  7. Don’t overtrain. You shouldn’t be hitting the weight room for longer than 45 minutes (and in fact, training longer may be counterproductive). Also, ensure that you are resting sufficiently in between workouts, and that you aren’t training muscles that are still sore from a previous workout.
  8. Continue with moderate cardio. Almost no one should be doing cardio for durations in excess of 45 minutes (it starts breaking down muscle at around that point – which can actually slow down your metabolism), but especially someone looking to increase muscle size. I’d recommend doing short but powerful 15-minute interval sessions. Don’t overdo it, but don’t skip it either.

For further reading, check out my top 6 reasons why a muscle-building workout might not be building muscle.

You also mentioned that you don’t want to get “too big.” Fear not. If ever you think your muscles are too large, just ease up on your workout and stop increasing the amount of resistance. And don’t worry – getting too big doesn’t happen overnight, and looking like a body builder isn’t easy.

Happy exercising to you, Brian. And please keep us posted on your results.

Use Drop Sets to Increase Muscle Size.

The future governor of California says hasta la vista to stubborn muscles.

Bodybuilders love drop sets, and though you might not be competing or the next Mr. Olympia competition, they’re useful if (muscle) size is your thing. Drop sets tear deep into muscle tissue, thus causing explosive growth; use this technique to target muscles that are particularly stubborn.

A drop set is a technique wherein, after completing a set of a given exercise until failure, you drop down the weight and immediately continue the exercise with reduced poundage.

Let’s use the bench press as an example. I could do 10 reps at 220lbs before I hit failure. The 10th repetition would be very hard for me – there’s no way that I could go for an 11th without cheating or dying. My muscles have hit the point of failure for that weight – but not absolute failure. I could do additional repetitions at a lower weight. With drop sets, I’d quickly reduce the weight by 15%-20% – perhaps down to about 180 lbs – and then keep going until failure. I’d repeat this process for a number of sets.

For an extra challenge, workout with a buddy or two and try a “zero rest set.” Stopping and changing the weights takes a bit of time. But with a zero rest set, you have a workout partner quickly switch the weights for you. The difference – even if it’s just a few seconds – is substantial!

Arnold Schwarzenegger, by the way, was a huge fan of drop sets. So, if you’re looking to say “hasta la vista” to small or stubborn muscles, drop sets could just be your new best friend.

6 Reasons Why Your Muscle-Building Workout Isn’t Building Muscle.

You're welcome.

Increasing strength and building muscle mass is a common fitness goal. But often, guys and gals aren’t seeing the results that they had hoped for. Here are 7 reasons why:

  1. You aren’t sleeping enough. It’s 5am as I write this post, so I feel a bit like I’m throwing stones in a glass house. But it’s true: During sleep – especially deep sleep – the body is able to repair and rebuild the muscle fibers that are destroyed during exercise. 8 hours is the recommendation.
  2. You aren’t getting enough protein. Diet is important. Protein is the building blocks for muscles; if you’re not getting enough of it, then your muscles won’t be able to rebuild after they broken down from exercise. Find out how much and what kind of protein you should be taking.
  3. You are over-training. Your muscles need time to recover; if you train the same muscle groups each day, then you’re not giving them enough time to rebuild. Therefore, it makes sense to break your workout up. Do legs one day, arms another, and so on. Need help? Check out my fitness routine for ideas.
  4. You are consuming too much alcohol. Don’t tell the boys of Jersey Shore, but alcohol abuse has a negative impact on muscle growth. Technically, alcohol slows down protein synthesis, lowers testosterone (a muscle building hormone), leads to dehydration (water is needed for muscle-building!), drains your body of vitamins and increases fat storage. Yikes!
  5. You aren’t progressively overloading your muscles. If you’re not increasing the weight or number of reps, of course your muscle won’t grow. Keep pushing yourself. If you’ve done 8 reps at 45 lbs for three weeks, go for 6 reps at 50 lbs. Then 8 reps at 50 lbs. And so on. Remember, if your goal is to build muscle, you want to do low reps of heavy weights.
  6. Your workout is stale. Remember: Your muscles adapt to a routine, and if you’ve been doing the same thing over and over again, it’s possible that your muscles have just adjusted accordingly and are no longer challenged. In addition to progressively overloading your muscles, switch up your exercises.

Are you not seeing the muscle-building results that you’re trying to work towards? Let me know in the comments below.