Archive for the tag - muscle building

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?


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.


5 Creative Drop Set Techniques.

Use these creative drop sets to up your workout game - and gains!

As I’ve mentioned before, drop sets just might be one of the most effective muscle-building techniques around.

Drops sets are a strength training technique wherein you perform a set of any exercise to failure (or just short of failure) for between 8 and 12 reps – and then drop some weight (usually 15%) and continue for additional repetitions with the reduced resistance. Once failure is again reached, additional resistance is dropped and so on.

But even standard drop sets can get old and stale, so try switching things up with the following five variations:

  1. Zero Rest Drop Sets. To perform a good drop set, it’s important to minimize rest time. Less than 10 seconds is ideal. To perform a true zero rest drop set, you’ll need two spotters. As you finish the last repetition in the set, the spotters can remove the appropriate weight from the machine. For example, you may load a leg press machine with 25lb weight plates. After each set, your spotters can remove one weight plate. You’ll be amazed at the difference a few seconds can make!
  2. Tight Drop Sets. While the typical drop set involves a 15% reduction in resistance, try something smaller - like 10% or even 5% reductions. For example, you could move from 50lb dumbbells immediately to 45lb dumbbells, and then 40lbs, 37.5lbs, 35lbs and so on.
  3. Grip Change Drop Sets. As you change your grip (i.e., wide grip vs. narrow grip, etc.) or adjust your stance (i.e., shoulder-width, feet together, toes pointed out, etc.), you place emphasis on different muscles. Try alternating between different grips or stances as you move through your drop sets to really hit each muscle.
  4. Wide Drop Sets. Instead of removing the typical 15% of resistance, opt for larger weight decreases of 20% or greater. Wide drop sets are used because they allow for a greater number of repetitions until muscle failure.
  5. Power Drop Sets. While typical drop sets require starting with an amount of resistance that allows for 8 - 12 repetitions, six is the magic number for power drop sets. Start with a 6-rep max, and then decrease the weight by 10% or 15% so that you can perform exactly six more reps at each drop. Since you’re using higher resistance levels at 6 reps (vs. 8 - 12), it’s a great way to build muscle mass.

While “enjoy” might be the wrong word to use, I hope you’re able to make the most of these creative drop set variations.

Week 4: Final Thoughts About Creatine.

This week marks the fourth and final week of my month-long creatine experiment. Starting in early April, I started my first cycle with creatine, and alternated between 5 gram and 15 gram loads each week thereafter.

Creatine is a popular supplement that aids in muscle function. Contrary to popular belief, it’s neither a steroid nor illegal in collegiate, professional or Olympic sports. Creatine simply flushes the body’s muscles with water, and often results in strength and muscle mass gains.

Many claim that creatine results in a 10 pound weight gain within the first month. Though I’m sure there is a basis for this assertion, I experienced none of that; I am at the same weight today as I was on April 1. My body looks slightly different, though I’m currently leaning up for the filming of an upcoming fitness video. I don’t think much of the difference can be attributed to creatine so much as my modified diet. I had some minor strength gains at the gym, though I suspect I may have experienced those gains even without the creatine.

The bottom line is that I didn’t see or feel much of a transformation, even after trying some creatine tips and tricks. It doesn’t discount creatine or its potential, but it does put emphasis on the reality that all of our bodies, circumstances and situations are quite different. It stresses that importance of finding out what works best for you, and recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to health, nutrition and fitness.

If you are curious to try creatine, go for it! Your results will likely differ from mine. And so long as you are between the ages of 18 - 60, looking to increase your muscle mass or improve your strength, strength training regularly and don’t have kidney concerns, liver issues or diabetes, creatine may be a good fit for you.

Top 9 Strength Training & Lifting Mistakes.

Improper form is just one of the many mistakes that exercisers tend to make.

I’ve been going to the gym long enough to have seen it all. And though I often have the urge to point out the mistakes of the gym-goers around me, I resist the urge to be that guy. But since you’ve actively solicited my advice, there’s certainly no reason to hold back.

Here are 9 of the most common strength training mistakes that I’ve encountered.

  1. Using momentum. This is huge, and I see it all the time. When you perform a movement for an exercise, it creates momentum. When reversing directions, this momentum can be used to cheat. Unfortunately, it’s not using muscle power - and so this type of cheating should be eliminated. A simple trick is to pause for a second or two before reversing directions - this will absorb the momentum.
  2. Wrong number of reps. The number of reps that you perform for an exercise is entirely dependent on your fitness goals. If you want size, you should probably aim for 4 - 10 repetitions of each exercise. If you want definition, increased endurance or strength (and not size), then you should probably shoot for 10 - 15 repetitions. Whether you are going for 4 or 15 repetitions, you should be fully fatigued on your last rep. And that brings us to our next mistake…
  3. Improper weight. Using the right amount of weight is important. Unless you are just looking to maintain what you’ve got - and not progress - then you should be fully fatigued on your last rep. If you feel like you could do another rep or two, then the weight is too light. Bump it up.
  4. Not progressing. If you’re looking to increase your size or strength, it means you’re going to need to progress to higher levels of resistance over time. Muscles don’t grow unless they are forced to grow - and doing more of the same will only get you more of the same. I recommend the 2 for 2 rule to help know when it’s time to increase the weight.
  5. Doing the same workout each day. A lot of exercisers try to train every muscle group each time they hit the gym. While this is an especially poor practice if you go to the gym often (it can result in over-training), all people will benefit from focusing on different muscle groups on different days. Instead of trying to train every muscle in 45 minute (and not really hit any of them hard), focusing on just a muscle group or two can give you an effective, deep workout.
  6. Not adding variety. Many of us get into workout routines that we like, and then we stick to it. Unfortunately, our muscles adjust to our routines - and stale routines make plateaued results more likely. Try switching things up - change the base of stability, order of your exercises or even try something new.
  7. Improper form. Improper form goes beyond the momentum-based cheating mentioned above. It covers anything from incorrect postures to not using a full range of motion. Compromised form means compromised results. If you think you may be using improper form, then work with a personal trainer - or, at the very least, perform an internet search to see the exercise performed properly.
  8. Resting too long. For most of us, 45 - 60 seconds of rest in between sets does the trick. But those seconds tick by quickly, and it’s easy to take a bit of a cat nap. Watch the clock to make sure you’re not resting too long - it will make your workout much more efficient.
  9. Exercising during pain. If it hurts, stop! Delayed onset soreness is good and healthy - but if you’re experiencing pain while lifting, something isn’t right. Continuing to exercise while in pain is a recipe for serious injury. Moreover, if a muscle is still sore from a previous workout, then it is too soon to train it again. Hold off until the muscle heals.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!