Archive for the tag - strength

10 Commandments of Building Muscle.

davey wavey gymLike many gym goers, you’re probably looking to add some bulk in the form of muscle.

It’s true that all of us have different bodies and have experienced different fitness journeys – but there are some common threads that can help create an effective foundation for building muscle.

  1. Thou shalt perform 8 – 12 repetitions of each exercise. Different repetition ranges target different goals; for purposes of building size and strength, most trainers recommend a rep range of between 8 and 12. Lower ranges target strength and higher ranges target endurance.
  2. Thou shalt perform each set until failure. Simply put, this means that you’d be unable to perform an additional repetition at that resistance level without compromising form. If you are targeting 10 repetitions, this would mean that you couldn’t do an 11th. If you can, increase the resistance.
  3. Thou shalt use an overloading stimulus. This means subjecting the muscles to more than they’re capable of handling. When you do that, you’ll be creating tiny tears in your muscles, which then must be rebuilt back up stronger than they were before.
  4. Thou shalt progressively overload. Keep in mind, your overloading stimulus won’t be so overloading after a few weeks or a month. As your muscles grow, you’ll need to up the resistance to keep your muscles growing. You’ll need to continue doing this until you reach your goal.
  5. Thou shalt use free weights. If you’re just getting started with building muscle, you can get great results with your body weight (i.e., push-ups at home) or by using machines. But to really progress to create athletic-level muscle size and strength, you’ll need to hit the free weights. They allow you to progress to higher levels of resistance without the balancing assistance and limitations of strength training machines.
  6. Thou shalt eat before and after exercise. Before your workout, consume some sort of complex carbohydrate to ensure a steady release of energy during your workout. It will help you power through the routine. After your workout, consume simple carbohydrates (the resulting spike in your blood sugar will quickly get the glucose from the carbohydrates into your muscle cells where they’re needed) and protein.
  7. Honor thy body with rest and recovery. After you’ve created the tiny tears in your muscle, you must back off and allow your body a chance to rebuild them. This process makes the muscles stronger and bigger.
  8. Thou shall still do cardio. The truth is, cardiovascular exercise is great for all people, regardless of their goals. Because you don’t need the additional calorie burn, you’re doing cardio for the overall health benefits; as such, limit cardio to a handful of sessions per week that last less than 30 minutes. High intensity interval training is best-suited for individuals looking to retain and/or build muscle.
  9. Thou shalt consume sufficient calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat. Remember, you can’t build something out of nothing! To add any type of mass, you must consume more calories than required to maintain your body weight. Most trainers recommend a calorie surplus of 250 – 500 calories per day. Proteins provide the amino acids that muscles need to generate new tissue. Carbohydrates and dietary fats, on the other hand, provide the energy for the process to occur. Without these in place, your results will be hampered.
  10. Thou shalt assess progress. Every few weeks or perhaps once a month, look at your progress. Take measurements including muscle size, waist size and so on. Compare pictures. And then adjust your program accordingly. If you notice that you’re gaining fat, for example, decrease your calorie surplus accordingly.

Do you have any additional commandments for building muscle size? Share them in the comments below.

P.S. If you’re looking to add muscle mass, download Davey Wavey’s Foolproof Guide to Building Muscle. It’s a guaranteed, step-by-step guide to achieving your size and strength goals.

Lifting To Fail: You’re Stronger Than You Think.

strong-smurf-713x534When we talk about failure, it’s usually not a good thing. An important exception is your strength training program. In fact, training until the point of failure is crucial if you’re looking for gains in strength and size.

As I’ve said before, your body is an incredibly efficient machine. It’s not going to build new muscle mass unless it’s really necessary; doing so would be a waste of energy. So… in order to stimulate new muscle growth, you have to prove to your body that you need it.

How do you do that?

By demonstrating that your current muscle mass isn’t enough for the job. When you train to the point of failure, you send a very clear signal to your body that more muscles are needed. Provided other elements – like adequate rest and proper nutrition – are in place, those muscles will grow.

Here’s the problem: Most people don’t train until failure… even though they think they do.

When training for muscle growth, most individuals will target a range of less than 10 – 12 repetitions. On the last rep, you should be completely unable to do another rep without compromising form or reducing the resistance. You might think that you’re doing that and training to failure, but you’re probably not.

Perfect case in point. The other day, I was working out with a friend. We were doing shrugs. He usually uses 75 pound dumbbells for the exercise. I reached for the 90 pound dumbbells and he decided to give them a try. To his surprise, he was able to complete the set. In fact, he probably could have done more.

My point is that you really need to push yourself to find your limits. You’re probably a lot stronger than you think. Opt for heavier weights and more resistance. Give it a try. Sure, it will make your workout harder and more intense. But it will also get you the results you really want.

Muscled Boys Live Longer. [Study]

A strong, muscular physique isn’t just for show. As it turns out, stronger boys were found to live longer – even if they later became overweight as adults.

In a recent study, Swedish researchers tracked more than one million adolescents from ages 16 to 19 over a period of 24 years. Scientists used various exercises – like leg curls and push-ups – to determine each adolescent’s strength level.

Over the course of the study, 26,145 of the men died. The leading causes of death were accidental injury, suicide, cancer, heart disease and stroke.

According to the data, those teenagers who scored above average in terms of muscle strength had a 20% – 35% reduced risk of early death. When risk factors like obesity and high blood pressure were taken into account, the link between early death and adolescent muscle strength remained. Indeed, strong teenagers lived longer – even if they grew into overweight or otherwise unhealthy adults.

In the data, researchers found that strong adolescents had a 20% – 30% lower risk of suicide over the course of the study. Interestingly, strong teenagers were up to 65% less likely to have any psychiatric diagnosis including depression. In other words, it appears that physically weaker people may be more vulnerable when it comes to mental health.

On the flip side, the teens with the lowest level of muscular strength were the most likely to die before reaching middle age.

Researchers stressed that their findings don’t mean that building muscle – in an of itself – extends your life. Instead, muscular strength can be a good indicator of overall fitness levels.

Creatine Trial Week 1: Everything You Need to Know.

It's important to have a complete understanding of creatine before deciding if it's right for you.

There’s a lot of information – and misinformation – about the supplement known as creatine.

I’m very careful about any supplements or medications that I take, and I refuse to ingest anything without fully understanding its function and consequences. So when I became curious to try creatine, I knew I’d have to dig deeper.

Turns out, creatine is one of the most popular and researched supplements available. In a nutshell, creatine is involved in making the energy your muscles need to work. For most people, taking additional creatine enables you to lift heavier weights or complete additional repetitions – which, in turn, builds additional muscle.

The biggest misconception is that creatine is a steroid. It’s not. In fact, it’s allowed in professional sports, the Olympics and the NCAA. Creatine is a chemical that is manufactured by the body – and it is naturally consumed through meat and fish.

Moreover, creatine is generally safe. It’s possibly unsafe for people with existing kidney or liver concerns or diabetes, though more research in this particular area is needed. Creatine is less effective for older populations over 60, and it should be avoided by people ages 18 and under as additional research is needed to determine safety in younger populations. As with many things, ingesting massive amounts of creatine may be dangerous, so consume it responsibly.

Creatine is probably a good fit for people:

  • Between the ages of 18 – 60 and who
  • Are looking to increase muscle mass or improve strength and who
  • Exercise regularly with free weights and/or machines and who
  • Have no kidney concerns, issues with the liver or diabetes.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor or health professional before trying a new supplement like creatine.

After doing my research, I decided to give creatine a try – and to document the experience here. As carnivores tend to see less dramatic results from creatine (creatine is found in meat), I wasn’t really sure what to expect. One thing seems quite certain: Most creatine users see a dramatic increase in their weight – and it usually happens fast. Many articles claim 10 pounds of weight gain in the first few weeks of use – though most of the initial gain is additional water weight in the muscles (for this reason, it’s especially important to stay hydrated while on creatine). It’s not fat – and it doesn’t make you look flabby, etc.

Creatine is usually taken in cycles called “loads” or “loading”. For the first 5 – 7 days, people take as much as 20 grams (or 4 teaspoons). And then for the next 5 – 7 days, they take 5 grams (or 1 teaspoon). After a few cycles, people generally come off creatine. A few weeks later, they may start up again depending on their individual goals.

To be cautious, I spent my first week taking just 5 grams. I wanted to see how I felt, and how my body reacted. More than 7 days later, I haven’t really noticed many changes. My weight is fairly steady – though I may be a pound or two heavier according to the scale… but that could be anything. I did feel a bit stronger at the gym, and was able to increase my weights on a few exercises. Nothing dramatic or unusual, though.

For week 2, I’ll try my first loading of 15 grams per day (I’m weary to try the full 20!), and I’ll let you know how it goes.

I plan to continue the cycle through week 4, and probably come off the creatine for good. It’s more an experiment and learning experience than anything else – getting much bigger isn’t a goal of mine. But I’ll keep you posted on the results!

Have you ever tried creatine? If you have, share your experience in the comments below.