Whether you’re just getting into bodybuilding or have been doing it for a while, this guide is for you. We’ve put together the complete guide to bodybuilding for beginners to intermediates to show you the principles, exercises, meals and supplements you need to get big.

Let’s get started with an introduction to resistance training, the foundation of bodybuilding…

Resistance Training

Resistance training builds muscle. But what’s involved and more importantly, how can you ensure you get results with your resistance training program? To help answer these questions, let’s look at the process of resistance training and the many benefits it has to offer.

Step 1: The Overloading Stimulus

The first step is the basic overloading stimulus. This refers to the actual lifting of weight (or any form of resistance) and challenging the muscle in a way that it has not been challenged before.

If you want your muscles to grow stronger or larger, you need to push them to their limit, or more accurately, you need to ‘overload’ the muscle(s). If you simply lift a weight that you’ve have been able to do without any issue before, you will simply maintain the status quo.

While this isn’t bad – it’s good to keep your muscles strong, but you simply won’t see progress in terms of muscle or strength gains. Assuming you want to get results, you need to do more. This means reaching a point of maximum fatigue with your muscles.

Step 2: Muscle Fibre Tear

The next step is the muscle fibre tear. This occurs as a result of the overloading stimulus. As the muscles are being exposed to a weight they can’t handle, they will ‘break’ with tiny micro-tears being created.

Not to worry, this won’t hurt you like a cut would or anything like that, however you may feel slightly tight and sore in the days following your training session. These micro-tears however provide the foundation for results.

The soreness you experience in the days after a resistance training session is known as DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

Step 3: Muscular Repair

Which now brings us to our next step – muscular repair. After you’ve broken down those muscle fibres, now your body is going to want to repair the damage, building them back up stronger than they were before. This is where progress happens.

As you rest and fuel your body with proper nutrition after that resistance training session (remember that the food you eat provides the raw materials that are used during this repair process), your body will begin restructuring the muscular proteins so that they are able to handle that same stimulus again if they should encounter it. This is how you gain strength.

Your body always wants to maintain a state of homeostasis so if it’s been threatened by something (in this case, a heavy weight), it’s going to do its best to overcome that threat so that next time.

Step 4: Hypertrophy

Finally, the last step is hypertrophy (aka. Muscle Growth). If you take in more energy (in the form of food) than you burn each day, you will then begin to see hypertrophy taking place, which is the enlargement of muscle(s).

Note that this can only happen if excess fuel is being provided. If all you give your body is the building blocks necessary to maintain your current muscle tissue, no further muscle tissue can clearly be built.

Therefore, that calorie surplus, coming from a mix of proteins, carbs, and fats, is necessary to grow your muscles.

Also keep in mind that if you choose not to eat a higher calorie diet (or are even on a weight loss diet for instance), it will be impossible to grow larger. You may get stronger, but size gains will not take place.

Beginner Bodybuilding Tips

Bodybuilding is one of the best activities to get into if you want to be healthy and fit. Whether you decide to start a bodybuilding program to lose weight or gain weight, it all starts with one objective: Muscle Growth.

Putting on muscle not only makes you look good but it will help you lose body fat by increasing your metabolism or the body’s ability to burn calories.

So the question is how does a beginner build muscle? Because building muscle is not just about lifting heavy weights.

There are other factors to consider when designing a beginner bodybuilder’s program for muscle growth. These include…

1.    Mindset

Building your body starts in the mind. It takes hard work, sacrifice and commitment to undertake a program for building muscle.

You have to deal and overcome fears and self- limiting beliefs in order to comply with the demands of the program. The great thing about bodybuilding is that anyone regardless of age, gender or level of fitness will always get results. The key is consistency and patience.

Let’s say for starters, you were able to do 10 repetitions with 25 kilos in the bench press. If in your next chest session you were able to do 11 repetitions with 25 kilos in the bench press, you have already gotten stronger by 10%!

You can consistently improve from one workout to the next only if you believe in yourself. And if you don’t hit your target, understand that progress is a process in itself. You can fall short of expectations but never sell yourself short!

Use failure as motivation to get better and eventually you will reach your goals.

2.    Focus On Gaining Strength

Beginners who have never lifted a weight will experience immediate gains within a few months of training. This is because in theory, any resistance applied to a muscle will stimulate growth.

After a while, muscle growth begins to plateau because the body has adapted to the stresses of the program. The challenge therefore is to sustain muscle growth by periodically increasing the amount of resistance.

In other words, if you want to build muscle you must focus on getting stronger.

For beginners, an effective bodybuilding program for muscle growth is one that emphasises compound movements. These are exercises that engage several muscles at the same time during an exercise, and often these are the largest and strongest muscles in the body.

The most effective compound movements are the following:

  • Squats – builds legs, glutes, hip flexors, lower back, abdominals.
  • Bench Press – builds chest, upper back, shoulders, triceps.
  • Deadlift – builds entire back, legs, glutes, biceps, forearms, abdominals.
  • Overhead Press – builds shoulders, upper back, triceps, serratus, abdominals.

To fully maximise the benefits of these exercises, use free-weights exclusively (as opposed to machine-based and cable-based exercises). Free-weights force you to balance the resistance, focus harder to maintain form and use proper technique.

Coordinating the different muscle groups involved in the lift will not only make you bigger and stronger but more athletic as well. Machines and cables have their place in any workout program but free-weights will get you faster and more sustainable results.

Finally, before starting any exercise program always consult a certified Personal Trainer and seek professional medical advice to determine your current level of fitness.

3.    Diet and Supplements

Without a doubt, the nutritional aspect is the most difficult part of a muscle building program. The most successful trainers are those who are committed to their diet and meticulous about consuming the ideal type and amount of macros: carbohydrates, protein and fat.

If you have less than two years experience of consistent training, forget about using supplements. Focus on getting your macros from whole foods. Discipline is very important in building muscle and supplements are a short cut to getting your nutrition in.

Keep your meal plan simple. Ask the nutritionist in your gym to design a meal plan for you. He or she will get valuable information on your body type and medical history to make sure the food he recommends will ably support your training program.

A basic muscle building diet in bodybuilding will have the following principles:

  • Consume at least six (6) meals distributed every 2-3 hours throughout the day.
  • If you’re a beginner, start out with 1 gram of protein per 0.45 kilogram of bodyweight per day spread out with the 6 meals.

If you weigh 70 kilos, that would mean 155 grams of protein distributed as 25 grams of protein per meal. 25 grams is equivalent to 3 eggs, 2 pieces of chicken or a 170 gram burger patty.

As the training becomes heavier and harder, slowly increase the amount of protein you are taking in by increments of 0.25 grams every week. The amino acids in protein are crucial for repair and recovery.

  • Carbohydrates are important in replenishing muscle glycogen. For size and strength consume 2 grams of carbohydrates per 0.45 kilogram of bodyweight. Consume 65% of your carbohydrates with the meals AFTER training.
  • Your fat sources should only come from the food you eat. For example, if beef is your main protein staple then the fat in beef should account for your quantity of fat for the day.

If you want to gain size and strength, choose fattier protein choices such as beef, eggs, salmon, fish and chicken. Fat has twice more calories per gram than either protein or carbohydrate.

This is all about building muscle. You should not be afraid of looking smooth when you are training for muscle growth. In the same way that a sprinter cannot get faster by running long distances, you will not get bigger and stronger if you follow a calorie-restrictive diet.

4.    Rest and Recovery

Here is a principle that even the most advanced lifters fail to follow with consistency: you do not grow during training, you grow when you’re resting. When you train, you break down muscle protein which puts your body in a catabolic state.

The only way to bring it back to an anabolic or muscle-building environment is to feed it which is optimised during recovery. Muscle growth is also subject to the Law of Diminishing Returns where doing more will result in fewer gains until the entire program becomes counter-productive.

It takes discipline to stay away from the gym and rest. And the best way to accept the value of rest is to understand that in order to achieve goals you must be patient.

Getting adequate rest and recovery is the final component in your bodybuilding program. You often hear beginners in the gym say, “I want to lift weights but I don’t want to get too big.”

These are the ones who quit within a few weeks of training because they become impatient. Before you become “too big”, first you must achieve “some muscle” and this takes time and effort.

You have to set goals that are realistic without compromising your health and well- being. But every journey begins with that all- important first step. Take it and never look back.

It will be difficult and fraught with challenges. But it you believe in yourself and stay on course, you will succeed!

5 Laws Of Bodybuilding

To build some lean muscle mass it’s important that you take note of some of the proven ‘laws’ of the game. Far too many people approach their bodybuilding goal without a firm sense of direction or a program in place, only to find that they just don’t see the results they’re looking for.

Let’s look at the 5 laws of muscle building that you need to know to get things started off.

Law #1: Maintain A Calorie Surplus

If there’s one thing you absolutely must do to build muscle, it’s to eat in a calorie surplus. It’s really that simple. If you don’t provide extra energy over and beyond your normal requirements, you just can’t expect your body to build up new lean muscle mass.

Aim to eat anywhere between 200-500 calories more per day.

Law #2: Challenge Yourself With Weight

The second law to know is that you must challenge yourself with weight. While it’s great to do more reps, more sets, and take shorter rest periods between those sets as ways of boosting the intensity, nothing is going to help build muscle faster than simply raising the weight on the bar.

This needs to be number one. Focus on this first and foremost and you’ll be seeing greater success.

Law #3: Get Some Rest

The next law is to make sure that you honour your rest time.  Don’t skip rest thinking that hitting the gym for another session will get you further.  It won’t.

If you aren’t resting, you aren’t growing.  This is another rule just like the first one. You simply can’t grow if you don’t have that recovery time to build the new muscle.  If you’re working out seven days a week, when are you recovering?

You should have at least one full day off each week for rest, if not two or three. Learn your body. Some people simply need more rest time than others and it will pay to listen to what your body needs.

Law #4: Focus On Compound Movements

The next law that you need to know relates to the exercise selection you choose. If you really want to build maximum muscle, you’ll want to opt for compound exercises as often as you possibly can.

These exercises are going to allow you to lift more weight overall, seeing faster strength gains and muscle building success. This isn’t to say you can’t add in isolation exercises such as bicep curls, lateral raises, and leg extensions, but they should come as an afterthought, not form the foundation of your workout program.

Law #5: Be Patient

Finally, the last law is to make sure that you remain patient. Building muscle doesn’t happen overnight, as much as some guys would like to believe. Don’t let yourself get impatient if you aren’t up five kilos after the first week.

Most beginners would be lucky to gain 1-2 kilos of lean muscle per month with solid training and a proper diet. Some may get even less than this. That means you aren’t going to see a dramatic transformation in the mirror where it seems like you get larger almost overnight.

If you adjust your expectations so they are more in tune with reality, you won’t be as tempted to just drop off the plan entirely after the first week or two when you aren’t liking what you see. Persist and stay committed. If you work hard, the results will come.

Keep these muscle building laws in mind as you go through your program to help get the results you’re looking for.

Compound Exercises

As mentioned above, one term you’ll often hear thrown around in relation to bodybuilding is ‘compound exercises’. Let’s take a closer look at the main points to know and remember regarding compound exercises.

What Are Compound Exercises?

Compound exercises are any exercise that works more than one muscle group at a time. Basically, they are ‘multi-joint’ or ‘multi-muscle’ movements.

For instance, let’s take a look at two exercises – the bicep curl and the squat. The bicep curl works just your bicep muscle alone. It’s often referred to as an isolation exercise. The squat on the other hand works the quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, as well as the calves.

As you can see, it’s far from an isolation move. This makes it a compound exercise as it’ll hit all those muscles in each and every rep that you perform. Some compound exercises include:

•    Squats
•    Leg Press
•    Lunges
•    Deadlift
•    Bench Press
•    Push Ups
•    Pull Ups
•    Bent Over Row
•    Shoulder Press

If you stop and look at each of these exercises, you’ll come to see that each is going to be utilising more than one muscle group at a time.

What Are The Benefits Of Compound Exercises?

So what are the benefits to doing compound exercises? The first big benefit, as you might imagine is the fact that it’s going to save you time. If you can work three muscle groups at once, that saves you doing three isolation exercises for each of those muscles. Over the course of a workout, this really adds up.

In addition to that, because you have so many muscle fibres working hard whenever you do each lift, this means that you’ll be experiencing greater strength gains. You’ll be able to hoist more weight when doing a compound move compared to an isolation, which means greater overall strength progression.

Compound exercises are also going to provide better cardiovascular benefits to your workout routine as well. Doing a heavy set of squats or lunges for instance will quickly get your heart rate up and keep it there, providing you this cardiovascular conditioning.

Finally, compound exercises are also great for burning up calories quickly. The more muscle fibres you work in any given exercise you do, the more total calories you’ll burn. For example, which would burn more calories – picking a glass of water up off the table and taking a drink or walking into the kitchen to get a glass of water and drinking it there?

Clearly the latter would because it requires more movement and more muscles. The same goes for your workouts. The more muscles you can hit in every instant of that workout session, the more total calories you’ll burn.

So for those who are looking for weight loss or strength gains, compound exercises are essential for bodybuilding.

How To Include Compound Exercises In Your Workout Routine

So how do you go about including these compound exercises into your workout routine? Consider adding them in towards the start of the workout when you’re feeling at your most fresh. If you do isolation exercises first, you’ll find you aren’t as strong during those compound exercises and as such, see a decreased level of results.

Also keep in mind that since compound exercises are so intense, you can only perform so many per workout. Limit yourself to around 1-2 compound moves per muscle group and you should be setting yourself up perfectly.

These are some of the main points to know and remember regarding compound exercises. They can help you see great results when used correctly.

5 Powerhouse Exercises For Bodybuilding

With all this talk of compound exercises, it’s time to nail down the 5 best bodybuilding exercises you can do to build muscle fast, get stronger and increase mental strength and confidence.

Progressive resistance applied to muscle produces growth because the fibres have to adapt to handle heavier load over time. But not all exercises produce muscle growth at the same rate. There are exercises that result in greater gains in a shorter period of time.

These exercises are movements that utilise the largest muscles of the body. The more muscle fibres you use the more weight you can lift and consequently, the larger the muscles become. With this in mind, let’s get into the top bodybuilding exercises…

1. Squats

Many have referred to squats as the “King of All Exercises” because it supposedly generates the greatest amount of overall muscle growth. Although the squat is primarily used to target the lower body: thighs, hamstrings and calves, it has a secondary effect on the lower back and shoulders.

Of course balancing a barbell behind your back requires great core stability. Thus, the squat helps develop your abdominals as well. There are also studies that show the squats done in the 6 to 10 rep range can increase testosterone production.

2. Bench Press

What the squat is to your lower body, the bench press is to your upper body. The bench press is arguably the most popular exercise in the gym. Many people naturally gravitate to the bench press as if it were the ultimate show of strength. How often have you been asked, “How much do you bench?”

The bench press is known as a chest exercise with secondary effects on the shoulders and triceps. But a properly executed bench press can work the back, legs and hips as well!

While it is much loved, the bench press is also much maligned by its detractors who say it is responsible for the majority of rotator cuff injuries. What they don’t know is that by simply pulling your shoulder blades together and bringing the weight toward your back effectively removes shearing forces on the rotator cuff!

3. Deadlift

If there was an exercise that best exemplified “beauty in simplicity” it would be the deadlift. Despite its threatening sounding name, the deadlift is a very basic lift. All you need to do is pick up the weight from the floor. Sounds simple right? Yes, until you get to the heavier weight.

Then you will realise how important technique is in the deadlift. The deadlift uses just about every muscle in your body.

You start the pull with your hips, past your thighs to your lower back before locking out at the top with your shoulders and upper back. In between you will feel your abs, forearms, biceps and chest straining to keep the weight moving.

The deadlift is the ultimate show of strength simply because you are lifting a dead weight. Unlike the squat and the bench press where you initiate a kinetic chain by controlling the weight on the descent, with the deadlift you are initiating the lift with ZERO forces on the bar!

4. Overhead Press

When you think about strong men you imagine well muscled, powerfully built figures lifting heavy objects over their head. The completed position of two fully outstretched arms seems to proclaim “Victory!”

The overhead press is the best way to build shoulders. There are many variations of the overhead press but the safest is the standing barbell press from the front. If you have rotator cuff problems, it is perfectly fine to initiate the press with your legs.

After all, the shoulders come into play when the bar is at chin level. The overhead press also develops the triceps, upper back, lower back and abdominals. It is advisable to use a lifting belt when doing the overhead press because it exerts extreme compression forces on the lower back.

5. Power Cleans

If you want an exercise that will build power, strength and conditioning, then you should include power cleans in your program. This is an exercise that requires more technique and attention to form than any other movement because proper execution demands correct transition from one body part to the next.

The power clean involves the hips, legs, lower back, upper back, arms, abdominals and shoulders. The objective of the power clean is to lift the weight as fast as possible. It is an explosive movement that builds thick fast twitch fibres all over your body.

Because the focus is on technique and speed, you do not need to lift heavy weight when doing power cleans.

Can anybody regardless of age, gender or level of fitness do these exercises? Yes because these are all basic and functional movements. These movements follow a path that mirrors natural bodily functions such as squatting, pushing and pulling.

If you do not have training experience, consider hiring a certified Personal Trainer.

Finally, be patient. Rome wasn’t built in one day. As long as you are consistent with your training, remain disciplined with your eating and give your body enough rest, the gains should come.

Bench Press

Let’s investigate the main compound exercises in more detail so you get it right to build muscle and avoid injury.

Why are people so enamored with the Bench Press? The prevailing theory is that the chest has been identified as a symbol of strength and power.

It is the first body part you see because it is front and centre. If you’re a strong Squatter, no one can see your muscular legs when they are covered up most of the time.

If you’re a strong Deadlifter, no one will notice your wide, thick and muscular back unless you wear tight clothes. But no amount of clothing can hide a wide, thick and well-formed chest.

Even if you are wearing a suit and tie, the size of your chest will still be noticeable. Thus, many people naturally gravitate toward the Bench Press.

Despite all the criticisms it has received, the Bench Press remains one of the most popular exercises in the gym. The best way to gain size is to gain strength. Thus, if you want a bigger chest you must have a bigger Bench Press.

So how do you get your Bench Press numbers up?

First, you have to work your form and technique. Trainers who criticise the Bench Press say it causes shoulder problems, leads to torn pectoral muscles and doesn’t result in complete development of the chest.

Trainers who experience these problems do so because of 3 factors:

1. Poor technique
2. Extra-large ego
3. Lack of variety

As popular as the Bench Press is, it is easily the most abused exercise.

Here are 5 common mistakes in Bench Press form and technique:

1. Flaring of elbows;
2. Shoulders rise off the bench;
3. Bringing the bar only halfway;
4. Unstable feet position or placing of feet on top of the bench;
5. Buttocks rising off the bench.

These are only 5, there are at least 10 more mistakes people make when Bench Pressing. Just one of these mistakes can setback your chest development or result in injury. So if you want a big Bench, perfect your technique first.

Your Chest Building Program

This 8-week program will require you to Bench Press twice a week. Each workout must be spaced 3 days apart. The first bench Press day is called the “Speed Day”.

You will focus on developing power while maintaining proper technique. You will only use 50% of your 1-rep maximum in the Bench Press and the rest period between sets is only 1 minute. Press the weight as fast as you can.

The second Bench Press day is called the “Strength Day”. You will progressively increase the amount of weight while decreasing the number of sets and reps every week. The rest period between sets is 3 to 5 minutes.

Week Speed: Sets: Reps: Strength: Sets: Reps:
1 50% 9 3 77.5% 6 6
2 50% 9 3 80% 5 5
3 50% 9 3 82.5% 5 5
4 50% 9 3 85% 4 4
5 50% 9 3 87.5% 4 4
6 50% 9 3 90% 3 3
7 50% 9 3 92.5% 2 2
8 50% 9 3 95% 2 1

These are your assistance exercises for your Speed Day. They will remain constant throughout the 8-week program.

1. Push Ups –     2 sets x 20 reps
2. Face Pulls –     2 sets x 10 reps  (Face Pulls are used as a Rotator Cuff strengthening exercise)
3. JM Press –     4 sets x 6 reps

For your Strength Day, you will include an Overload exercise after Bench Pressing:

Week # Overload: % of Max: Sets: Reps:
1 Reverse Grip 60% 4 8
2 Reverse Grip 65% 4 6
3 Floor Press 70% 4 6
4 Floor Press 72.5% 4 6
5 Floor Press 75% 4 4
6 Pin Press 80% 3 5
7 Pin Press 82.5% 3 3
8 Pin Press 85% 2 2

Then you will follow up with these assistance exercises:

1. Incline Dumbbell Press – 2 sets x 12-15 reps
2. Chest Dips – 2 sets x 10 reps

If you don’t know your maximum Bench Press, get the heaviest weight you can do 3 reps with then multiply by 3. Then multiply the answer with 0.033. Add the figure back to the heaviest weight you can do for 3 reps.

For example:

Heaviest weight for 3 reps = 90 kilos
90 kilos x 3 = 270
270 x 0.033 = 8.9
90 kilos + 8.9 = 98.9 kilos

Your theoretical max in the Bench Press is 98.9 kilos. You can round this off to 95 kilos to be more conservative. It is very important to hit every set and rep in the program.

On the 9th week, try to surpass your maximum Bench Press. You should be able to exceed it by 5 to 10 kilos. But more than that, your chest should be looking bigger, more defined and shaped.

Deadlift

The Deadlift is as basic and functional as an exercise can get. All you need to do is walk up to a loaded bar and pull it from the floor. Sounds easy enough right?

If the bar was loaded with 60 kilos, anyone could probably pull it from the floor anyway they want to. But what if the bar was loaded with 120 kilos? Try pulling it with a rounded back and you may find yourself in the hospital.

For many, the Deadlift is the ultimate test of strength. You are literally pulling dead weight off the floor. Every muscle in your body comes into play when you are Deadlifting.

How To Deadlift Correctly

It may be basic and functional, but it is probably the most challenging of all exercises. Unless you put more work and effort behind it, your Deadlift will lag behind.

Here are 5 tips on how to get stronger in the Deadlift:

1. Get Strong In The Squat

The biggest mistake you can make in the Deadlift is to initiate the pull with your lower back. You can see who these people are in the gym. At the set up position, their hips are at the same level as the upper back.

When they start the pull, all of the effort is coming from the lower back and hamstrings which is asking for trouble. Your legs should get the bar moving. This is why the hips should be lower than the shoulders but higher than the knees.

Think about pushing your heels through the floor as you would in the Squat. Thus, if you want to get stronger in the Deadlift you should get strong in the Squat as well.

2. Utilise Variations

There are 3 stages in the Deadlift. If you want to get stronger, you should utilise variations of the Deadlift to improve your strength in the 3 stages.

Here are a few variations you can use:

Deficit Deadlift – Deadlift while standing on a 10cm box. This will strengthen your hips and legs for the first pull. Use 75% to 80% of your 1-rep Deadlift max.

Rack Deadlift – Set the pins on a power rack approximately 10cm below your knees and pull from there. This will improve your pull from the hips when the back finally comes into the lift. Use 110% to 120% of your 1-rep Deadlift max.

Deadlift Holds – Set the pins on a power rack above knee level and pull from there. At the top position, hold the bar for 10 to 20 seconds. This will work your lockout and strengthen your grip. Use 120% to 150% of your 1-rep Deadlift max.

Snatch Deadlift – Deadlift with a wider than shoulder width grip. This will build your upper back and work your lock out. Use 75% to 80% of your 1-rep Deadlift max.

3. Strengthen Your Grip

Many people fail in the Deadlift not because their backs and legs were weak but they lacked grip strength.

Here are tips on how to improve your gripping power:

  • Train your forearms 2-3 times a week using 12-15 reps per exercise.
  • Include Barbell Grip Holds; grab the middle of a barbell and hold it for as long as you can.
  • Include bodyweight Dead Hangs; after training forearms hang from a pull up bar with your feet off the ground for at least 30 seconds.
  • Use a thicker bar for Deadlifting.
  • Minimise use of lifting straps when training back.

4. Switch Stance

There are 2 stances in the Deadlift:

  • Conventional – Hip width stance; hands are outside the thighs.
  • Sumo – Wider than shoulder width stance; hands are inside the thighs.

The Conventional Deadlift has a longer bar path while primarily using the back. The Sumo Deadlift has a shorter bar path and uses the hips and legs more.

If you are stronger in the Conventional Deadlift, you should also train in the Sumo Deadlift to strengthen your hips and legs. The same goes for those who prefer the Sumo Deadlift. Training occasionally in the Conventional Deadlift will strengthen your back muscles.

5. Focus On Technique

It will not matter how much time or effort you put on your Deadlift if your form and technique are wrong. Good technique will put your body in its strongest positions mechanically to build a powerful Deadlift.

Proper body alignment will also make the Deadlift a safer exercise and reduce the risks of injuries. When you get stronger in the Deadlift, it will carry over to your other exercises and will also improve your performance in various sports. This is why for many people, if they could only do 1 exercise, it would be the Deadlift.

Squats

It’s a Monday morning. You decide to head off to the gym to get your week started on the right foot with a solid, productive workout. The thing is, you’re not the only one who thinks this way.

Monday will always be one of the most crowded days in the gym, especially in the morning. People want to atone for what they ate and drank over the weekend by working off the calories in the gym.

Exercise is also a great way to get your focus up for the new work week. If you want to get a good workout on a Monday, train your legs. No one wants to train their legs on a Monday because it’s too hard.

They’ll work their upper body and abs but not the lower body. Now if you want to make sure you have equipment to train with, start off your leg workout with Squats.

It’s bad enough that training legs is hard. Squats will make your leg training harder and that’s why it works. A person who does Squats will have fuller, more complete leg development. They will also be stronger than someone who doesn’t.

Ask the guy who leg presses 10 plates per side how much he squats. Chances are all you’ll get are a litany of excuses of why he doesn’t Squat.

The Squat should be the main arsenal in your leg development program. But like all weapons, you should first know how to handle it in order to maximise its benefits.

If you have not done squats before, spend time learning proper form and technique. Start out with an empty bar and work through the motions before adding weight. Take your time because for the Squat to be productive, your form and technique must be spot-on. Repetition leads to developing good habits.

If you Squat with sloppy technique or if you focus too much on the amount of weight instead of the quality of the rep, you will undermine your progress and expose yourself to injury.

The Squat Program

In this program, you will only Squat. No Leg Press, no Lunges and especially no Leg Extensions.

However, you will do 4 variations of the Squat as “Intensifiers”. The purpose of the Intensifier is to help you develop strength along different points of the Squat.

These are the 4 Squat variations:

1. High Rep Squat – This will help you build mobility, flexibility and confidence in achieving a full range of motion. Performing high reps will also stimulate muscle growth.

2. Pin Squats – Set the pins of the Power Rack at a height slightly below parallel.

Position the bar on the pins, go underneath it and start the Squat from the bottom position. Pin Squats will help you develop strength at the mid-point.

3. Pause Squats – Hold the bottom position of the Squat for 5 seconds. Pause Squat will build explosive strength from the bottom. It will also develop your gluteus muscles and hamstrings.

4. Box Squat – Place a box on top of a flat bench. The height should be such that when your glutes touch the box, your hips still remain higher than your knees.

This is like a Quarter Squat; it builds the top of your quadriceps and strengthens your lower back. Because the range of motion is limited, the weight you will use is 110% to 120% heavier than your 1-rep max.

Week# % Max Sets Reps Intensifier % Max Sets Reps
1 0.75 5 5 High Rep 0.50 1 20
2 0.775 5 5 High Rep 0.55 1 20
3 0.80 5 5 Pin .60 2 5
4 0.825 5 5 Pin 0.65 2 5
5 0.85 5 5 Pause 0.70 2 4
6 0.90 8 3 Pause 0.75 2 4
7 0.925 8 3 Box 1.10 2 3
8 0.95 8 3 Box 1.15 2 3

The Intensifiers are done after your regular Squat work sets. The 5 sets x 5 reps scheme is one of the most effective programs for building strength and muscle size. It works best with compound exercises.

You start out with 75% of your maximum 1-rep Squat then add 2.5% to the weight every week until Week #6 where the increment goes up by 5%. Start using a lifting belt when you get to 90% of your max.

If you notice the total reps for your working weight will average 24 to 25 reps. Studies have shown this volume of work is ideal for building size and strength.

If you don’t know your 1-rep max, you can use this formula from the National Strength Coaches Association or NSCA:

Best weight for 3 reps x 3 reps = Y;
Y x 0.033 = Z
Z + Best weight for 3 reps = Estimated Best 1-rep max

For example, if the best you can rep for 3 is 100 kg then:

100 kg x 3 = 300;
300 x 0.033 = 9.9
9.9 + 100 kg = 109.9

Your estimated 1-rep maximum in the Squat is 110 kg. Give this “Squat Only” leg program a try for 12 weeks. Once you see the results, you will no longer be interested in any other leg equipment except the Squat rack.

Back

If you’re getting ready for a back workout in the gym, there are a few things that you should know before you get started. Training back is a very intense day as these are large muscles in the body that account for a great deal of your total upper body area.

Most people are not giving back the attention that it deserves in the gym, so it’s critical that you ensure this doesn’t happen to you. As you get started, let’s go over four tips that you should remember about training back. Incorporate these in and you’ll be seeing optimal success.

Train Horizontal And Vertical Movements Equally

The first thing to note is that it’s critical you have balance in your back workout program. For example, if you are doing 6 sets of moves that have you pulling on a horizontal plane of motion, make sure that you also have 6 moves that have you pulling on a vertical plane of motion.

This will create better muscle symmetry and balance in the body, preventing certain muscles from being stronger than others.  When that occurs, it can quickly lead to injury. The only exception to this rule is if you are already suffering from a muscular imbalance and are simply trying to fix it.

Avoid Momentum

Next, make sure that you avoid momentum as you go about your workout sessions. As most moves are pulling in nature, it’s easy to get the whole body into it, helping you hoist the weight. The minute momentum comes into the picture though is the minute that your progress will fly out the window.

You want to keep your body as stable as possible, only moving the muscles that are working. If you can do this, you’ll be placing far more stress and tension on the target muscle group, seeing better results because of it.

Mix It Up

It’s also essential that you mix up your back workout routine as well. For instance, if you are always doing pull-downs, consider doing some pull-ups for a change of pace. This will challenge your body in a new manner, allowing you to see ongoing results.

Remember that your body adapts quickly, so if you’ve been doing the same workout over and over again, this isn’t going to lead to results any time soon. Aim to change something about your workout at least once every 2 weeks, whether it’s an exercise, lifting in a different rep range, performing more sets, or otherwise.

Vary Your Grip

Finally, one last thing to remember is to consider varying your grip as you go about the exercises you’re doing. For instance, doing a pull-down with a wide grip is going to be very beneficial for increasing the thickness of the back, while if you do a pull-down with a narrow grip, you’ll be hitting your mid-back to a larger degree.

Likewise, doing a pull-up with an overhand grip is going to hit your back well, however if you flip your hands around and use an underhand grip, you’ll be working your biceps to a larger degree.

Small changes like this add up and can also keep you more mentally interested in your workout program, which can also be beneficial for seeing ongoing results.

Building a great back takes a high amount of time and effort, so be sure that you get started off properly so that you can see optimal results in the future.

Biceps

The biceps are one of the most coveted muscle groups for many men because few things will show off your arm muscles like a good bicep flex. A few small tricks and techniques, you can go from good to great.

Arm training needs to be specifically planned in your workout routine. Too many people make the mistake of thinking that they can simply perform set after set of curls and you’ll magically be seeing excellent gains.  This isn’t quite how things work however.

Too much direct bicep training is actually undesirable because it means you’ll be taken away from the training that can also help grow your biceps – heavy compound back work.

So this said, let’s go over four secrets that will help you take your biceps to a whole new level.

Focus On The Squeeze

The first and possibly most important thing you need to do if you are going to see excellent biceps is to make sure that you are focusing on the muscle squeeze. Too many people rush through the movement and while they are recruiting their muscles, they aren’t doing so to maximum effect.

When doing any sort of curl, imagine in your mind how the muscle is shortening with each and every muscle fibre contracting fully into a tight ball. At the very top of the exercise, the ball should be feeling extremely tight and hard.

If someone was to touch your bicep at this point, they should feel that muscle cramped up under your skin. If you don’t focus on this very last squeeze at the top of the exercise, you’re really missing out on the great benefits your arm training could bring you.

Control The Eccentric Phase

Next, after coming out of the top bicep curl position, you’ll want to ensure that you lower the weight down as slowly as possible, maintaining a high level of tension on the muscle at all times.

Lower the weight too fast and you’re essentially robbing yourself of half the benefits that the exercise would otherwise bring. Slow and steady should be the name of your game here. Lower the weight down to the same count, if not longer than you used to raise the weight up to start with.

To produce optimum muscle building, you’ll want to be aiming for a tempo of around 3 seconds to curl the weight upwards and then another 3 seconds or so to lower the weight down. If you like, you could even extend that to four seconds.

Much of the results that you see are going to be attributed to that eccentric portion of the exercise so be sure that you are not skipping over it.

Get Seated

Another quick tip to consider as you go about your arm workout is to move your curls to the seated position. By doing your regular bicep curls seated against a fully upright incline bench, you’ll virtually be minimising the amount of momentum that you can use as you perform that exercise.

Those who do this exercise in the standing position often get into the habit of swinging the weight up, minimising how much actual muscle tension is being experienced.

Going seated prevents this entirely provided you make sure that you keep your arms in the locked position at the sides of the body.

Change Your Hand Position

You’ll also want to consider changing your hand position during your bicep curling exercises. Be sure that with each workout that you do, you perform some standard bicep curl movements with the palms facing toward the ceiling and likewise, also perform some hammer curl bicep curls with the hands facing in towards each other.

Having both of these varieties in the program will help target both heads of your bicep effectively, ensuring that you see optimal results. Incorporate these principles into your workout routine and you’ll have unlocked the secret to optimal arm growth and development.

Gains In Bodybuilding

You might be wondering how often you should be working out. What’s the best frequency to hit each muscle group so that you see results, but don’t end up overtraining? Let’s take a closer peek into this topic as it’s not a black and white answer.

Your Experience Level

The first thing to consider is your experience level. It’s easy to assume that the more experienced you are, the more often you can hit each muscle group. This isn’t always the case.

More experienced individuals will typically hit their muscle groups with a higher intensity per session, and this demands more rest in between workouts. So while a beginner may be able to squat three times per week for instance, a more advanced lifter may be better off squatting just once or twice per week.

This said, beginners will typically spend less total time in the gym over the course of the week. So while they may hit each muscle group three times with a full-body-workout program, they’ll need the other four days off in between workouts to allow their body to recover.

Someone who is better trained and more advanced may be able to workout four to five days per week as their body is better adapted to handling the stress of the workouts.

Your Body Type

The second thing to consider is your body type. If you are a pure Ectomorph, that is someone who struggles to put on muscle mass, you’ll want to workout less frequently than someone who packs on muscle relatively easy.

This might seem counter-intuitive as well. If you struggle to build muscle, wouldn’t you want to workout more frequently – you might think?  Not so. Those who are naturally thin need more time resting and recovering.

If they spend too much time in the gym, they’ll just burn up precious energy that could have been spent building lean muscle mass. Ectomorphs tend to have a very fast metabolic rate and already struggle to eat enough. Add multiple workouts per week to this and it just amplifies the situation.

Your Primary Goals

Also consider your primary goals. If your goal is strength above muscle size, you’ll want to train less frequently as your training will be more intense and therefore more demanding on your central nervous system.

You’ll likely be training using sets of 5-6 reps, lifting as much weight as possible. If you are doing this too often, burnout and overtraining are likely to occur.

If you are training for muscle gains however, you’ll typically be working in the rep range of 8-12 reps, therefore will be using a slightly lighter weight. As such, it’s not as taxing on your central nervous system, therefore you may not need quite as much downtime for recovery.

Your Training Volume

Finally, consider your training volume. Are you doing 15 sets per workout or are you doing 30 sets per session? The more overall volume you have in your workout protocol, the more time you’ll need to recover from that volume.

So you have a choice – more frequent workouts that are shorter or longer workouts that happen less frequently. Most people will respond better to the former. Keep your workouts short and simple but get into the gym as often as you can to train hard.

Overall, you’ll be best served by hitting each muscle group one to two times per week, with the exception of beginners who can often hit each muscle three times per week as they use less volume and weight per session.

If you follow these guidelines, you should be hitting your sweet spot for lean muscle mass gains.

What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced trainer, pain and soreness come with exercise. Every time you subject your body to varying degrees of forces, it will try to adapt and accommodate the amount of resistance.

As a result, muscle fibres are torn down. This pain or soreness is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). This is why it is important to get enough rest after exercise. Your body needs time to heal.

The best way to manage DOMS is to come up with a program that lays down your preparation before, during and after exercise.

Before

The first item you have to address is your training program. If you want to improve performance, you must periodically increase resistance or intensity. The keyword is “periodically”.

While increased work load is absolutely important to build stronger muscles and better conditioning, you should not maintain a prolonged period of progressive resistance. As your work load gets heavier, it takes the body longer to recover. Eventually, it will just give out. The end result could be serious injury.

You must vary your exercise work load. If you have been progressively increasing the amount of weight you have been lifting for the past three weeks, cut back the work load by 25% on the fourth week.

During

One of the long held beliefs in the gym scene is that stretching before exercise prevents pain and soreness. Not only is this not true but stretching before exercise could actually cause injury.

When you stretch, you are elongating the muscle which decreases its rate of contraction. Muscles need to contract in order to accommodate resistance. Stretching can manage pain and soreness if done after exercise.

Instead of stretching, prime your body for the work load ahead by performing dynamic movements such as two minutes on the exercise bike, or even a few minutes of light weights to get your body warmed up and your blood flowing before you start lifting heavier.

Pain and soreness can also be caused by dehydration and lack of electrolytes. Make sure to remain hydrated during the water. Take sips of water in between sets. A good rule to follow is to take some form of electrolyte an hour into your workout.

You can use sports drinks but a better alternative could be natural coconut water. Coconut water has 294 mg of potassium and only 5 mg of natural sugar.

Commercially available sports drinks have less than half the amount of potassium and more than double the amount of processed sugar!

After

Most of the work to manage DOMS happens after training.

Here’s a brief outline:

Light Cardio Work – We always hear the need to warm down after training but most of us are probably not sure why. The primary purpose of warming down is to slowly get your heart rate back to normal.

This is especially true when performing high-intensity conditioning activities such as sprinting or interval training. But a lesser known benefit of warming down is that it helps flush out toxins and lactic acid.

A 10 minute light walk on the treadmill at a pace of 5 kilometers per hour is enough to warm the body down and begin the recovery process.

Stretching

As mentioned earlier, stretching is best performed after exercise. Stretching elongates the muscle which helps fibres to relax. One of the most effective ways to stretch is called Fascia Stretch Training.

The fascia is a tough web-like covering that protects muscle fibres. Theoretically, if you can stretch the fascia you can improve mobility and flexibility.

To do a fascia stretch, flex the muscle as hard as you can for 30 seconds. Then follow with a 30 second static stretch for another 30 seconds. By using Fascia Stretch Training, you are stretching the muscle from inside and outside its fibres.

Massage

This is a good way to flush out lactic acid from the body and improve blood flow. While you could book a session with a Physical Therapist, a cheaper alternative would be the use of a hand held roller, a foam roller or a simple tennis ball.

Simply run the roller or the tennis ball on top of the sore muscle several times. You need to put in more effort to make sure you get the deeper fibres of the muscle.

Post Workout Nutrition – Studies have shown that proper post workout nutrition can significantly alleviate the onset of DOMS. It is important to get in your carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes after training.

The best type of carbohydrate to ingest is a simple carbohydrate like an over-ripe banana, watermelon juice or water mixed with glucose powder.

Take the carbohydrate with a fast acting protein such as whey or cooked egg whites. The simple carbohydrate will trigger your pancreas to secrete insulin which creates a spike in blood sugar.

The spike drives the protein straight into depleted muscle tissue to enhance recovery. The ideal ratio for post workout nutrition is 2 grams of carbohydrate to 1 gram of protein.

Rest and Recovery

Finally, nothing speeds up recovery more than getting a good night’s sleep. Make it a point to get at least seven hours of good quality sleep every night. You will be surprised how less sore you feel every morning.

Some people automatically reach out for the pain reliever after exercise. While this is certainly an option that ultimately becomes a matter of choice, it would be more advisable to use natural remedies to manage DOMS. Popular pain relievers like Ibuprofen can have health consequences if used long term.

Finally, be honest with yourself and park your ego at the door. If the type of pain or soreness is unusual and causes great discomfort, put off exercising and see your doctor right away.

What To Do If You Hit A Muscle Building Plateau

If you get to a point where you’ve been putting in the effort in the gym and making sure to get your meals in but yet are still not seeing the mass gain results you desire, it’s time for a check-up.

Don’t let yourself go longer than two weeks without seeing some sort of progress. Too many people stick with a program that isn’t delivering for months on end, without giving thought to changing their program around.

To help get you back on track, here’s a quick muscle building diet checklist. Go through this checklist and ensure your diet is optimised. If it’s not, make some changes so you can start seeing results moving forward.

Your Calorie Intake

First assess your calorie intake.  The number one reason most people run into issues with progress when building muscle is due to lack of total calories. Check this and I promise it’ll help you get on track.

If you haven’t gained any weight in over 2-3 weeks, you simply aren’t eating enough. Add 10% (or 200 calories, whichever is greater) to your total daily calorie intake.

Eat at this level for two weeks and then re-assess. If you still aren’t gaining, bump it up more. The calories you consume provide the fuel and building blocks to generate new muscle mass, so it’s critical for your success.

Your Carb Timing

If your calorie intake is correct but you still aren’t seeing lean muscle mass gains, it could be that your carb timing is off. Carbs provide the fuel the body uses to generate more lean muscle, but if those carbs come at a time when muscle doesn’t need to be built, they can readily be stored as body fat instead.

So look at your diet. Are you putting your carbs primarily around the workout period? Or, are you eating them at other points in the day when you’re mostly sedentary (such as while watching TV)?

If so, that could be your issue right there. One simple change may do the trick to get you on track again. About 60% of your total carb intake should come in the meals right before and right after your workout period.

Then place another 20% of your intake at breakfast and the remaining 20% should be spread out over the course of the day. Carb timing can really impact how lean you stay during your muscle building phase, so don’t overlook this element.

Your Food Tracking

Another step to take is to address recording of your food intake each day. What are you doing to ensure you stay on track? Do you have any way to determine if you are in fact eating exactly what you think you are?

While most people think that calorie counting is for those looking to lose fat, it’s just as important for those who are hoping to build muscle. It’s the best way to ensure you are getting what you need.

Check out one of the many phone apps or websites that offers calorie and macro-nutrient tracking and start doing that. These are the three big steps to take if you find that your progress has stalled on your muscle building program.

Often the problem has nothing to do with what you’re doing in the gym, but far more to do with what you are doing out of the gym. Get your diet lined up and you’ll be on track to success.

Fast Metabolism Weight Gain

If you’re looking for information about fast metabolism weight gain, it’s important that you first realise that you are different from most people who set bodybuilding goals.

While some people can simply hit the gym and focus on eating a bit more food and gain muscle easily, you will need a more specific protocol. As a ‘hard gainer’, when you attempt to start building muscle, your metabolic rate just speeds right up, making it nearly impossible to gain weight.

Fortunately, there is a way around this.  Let’s look at some of the best tips and tricks for fast metabolism weight gain.

Get A Good Calorie Tracker

The very first thing that you must do is get yourself a good calorie tracker. If you are going to see weight gain, you can’t be guessing as to how many calories you’re consuming. You need to know for certain what your body is taking in.

A good calorie counter will allow you to enter what you eat on a day to day basis so you know exactly where you stand. Then if needed from there you can begin adding more food into your diet until you see the weight gain that you desire.

Drink Plenty Of Liquid Calorie Shakes

One of the best ways to start adding more calories to your day is to prepare very calorie dense shakes. The great thing about liquid calories is you won’t register them like you do solid calories, meaning you can drink energy and still go on to eat your meals.

This makes getting in say 4000+ calories that you’ll likely need, much easier. Blend up your own weight gainer shakes using protein powder, whole milk (or coconut milk) nut butter, avocado, frozen bananas, as well as chia or flaxseeds.

You can quickly get up to 400 calories per shake or more, so if you drink two of these per day, it’ll put a huge dent in your total daily calorie intake target.

Sneak Calories Into Your Meals

Along with your beverages, also focus on sneaking calories into your meals as well as often as you can. Try adding nut butter to everything whenever possible or alternatively, sprinkling nuts and seeds into your dishes. Likewise, you can add dried coconut flakes to many foods including your breakfast cereal or pancake recipe.

Melting cheese over top main meals can also be a fast and easy way to add in more calories, as can using salmon over white fish or beef over chicken.

Just do be sure that you try and stick with wholesome natural foods as you work to get your calorie intake up as this will help ensure that you are optimising your health along with that calorie intake.

Minimise Cardio Related Activity

Finally, the last step for fast metabolism weight gain is minimising cardio related activity. Basically, the more you move, the more you’ll burn and this will then be calories that you need to replace through more food intake.

As someone with a fast metabolism, you simply don’t need cardio training to keep fat at bay, so lay that to rest. If you are doing intense enough strength training workouts, you’ll be getting all the cardiovascular conditioning that you need, so there’s just no reason to be doing that as part of your protocol.

Rest after each session is done and you’ll minimise your calorie burn while optimising your recovery. With consistent weight training in addition to a high calorie diet, you’ll be on your way to those gains you’re after in no time.

Bodybuilding Nutrients

With a good workout in place you just need to look after your nutritional needs. Eating the right foods on a day to day basis could make or break the success you see, so it’s not something that you should take lightly.

In fact, you can workout as hard as you like in the gym, but if you are not eating the proper bodybuilding foods, you won’t see any weight gain. So this said, let’s talk about how you can put together your own bodybuilding diet plan.

Know Your Calorie Intake

The very first thing you need to do is figure out your target calorie intake. You should be aiming to eat around 250-500 calories more per day than what you maintain your body weight on.

Not sure what this is? Most people will need to consume around 35-40 calories per kilo of body weight to see muscle gain taking place. If you are someone who is naturally quite thin, you may need to go higher, up to 50 calories per kilo instead.

Set Your Protein

Once you have your target calorie intake set, you next need to figure out your protein intake. You should be aiming for around 1.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight.

As long as you are eating sufficient total calories, you don’t need more protein than this despite what some people believe. This protein should be spaced out throughout the course of the day, eating some in all meals as well as snacks.

Add In Carbs And Fats

To the protein, you then need to add some carbohydrates and healthy fats. There is no specific set amount for these two foods, but do keep in mind that they will have a direct relationship with each other.

The more carbs you eat, the fewer fats you’ll consume and vise versa. This said, don’t eat any fewer than 150 grams of carbs per day and 0.7 grams of fat per kilo of bodyweight per day. Consider this the bare minimum your body needs to optimise muscle building.

Choose Calorie Dense Foods

Finally, you need to choose high quality, calorie dense foods. This means opting for those foods that provide you with more calories per gram of food consumed. Stick with natural foods as this will ensure that you are not just getting enough calories in, but micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well.

Some good calorie dense food options include beef, chicken, salmon, whole eggs, milk, whey protein powder, pasta, dry oatmeal, nuts, nut butter, and oils. Still do add some fresh fruits and vegetables into your plan for nutrition sake, but don’t go overboard with those.

Bodybuilding Diet Sample Menu

To help give you a better idea of how this is going to look, let’s show you a sample day in a bodybuilding diet plan.

Breakfast
2 eggs plus 4 egg whites scrambled together with diced vegetables
1 cup raw oats with milk poured over top and a cup of fresh berries with 2 tbsp. slivered almonds

Mid-Morning
1 banana with 2 tbsp. peanut butter
1 scoop whey protein powder mixed with water, rice milk or almond milk

Lunch
170g chicken breast served with 2 cups brown rice and 1 cup steamed broccoli on the side.

Mid-Afternoon
1 can of tuna with ½ sliced avocado, 2 tbsp. salsa, and ½ cup brown rice.

Dinner
120g grilled salmon served with 1 cup mashed sweet potato and 1 cup spinach salad with 1 tbsp. olive oil dressing

Before Bed
1 cup cottage cheese with 1 tbsp. peanut butter stirred in

Eating To Build Mass

Before anything else, let us differentiate between “mass” and “weight”. People often associate “mass building” with “weight gain”. This is not necessarily true. “Mass” refers to the amount of matter an object has while “weight” measures the force of gravity that acts upon mass.

As an example, when Chris Hemsworth prepares for his role as the thunder god “Thor”, he packs on plenty of muscle mass. Hemsworth normally weighs 91 kilos but bulks up to 107.5 kilos as “Thor”.

On the other hand, “Moneyball” actor Jonah Hill reportedly weighs in excess of 137.5 kilos. Hemsworth looks bigger because he carries more muscle mass than Hill but weighs much less.

Hemsworth reportedly eats a total of 6,000 calories every day to fuel his intense workouts. He followed a basic bodybuilding diet consisting of several, well-spaced meals of mostly protein from red meat and supplemental powder.

For Jonah Hill, weight gain has been a constant problem. He admits to a life of indulgence and excess. Although “Moneyball” co- star Brad Pitt did succeed in getting Hill to exercise for some time, weight gain remains a struggle.

In theory, putting on quality muscle mass seems easy. Pack on the calories from healthy choices and put in gym time.

But it reality, it takes dedication and a rock- solid commitment to adhere to a strict eating schedule plus the mindset to be consistent inside the gym. But people differ in their ability to put on muscle mass.

The rate at which you put on muscle mass will depend on your somatotype or body type:
•    Ectomorphs – Naturally lean; difficulty in putting on muscle mass
•    Endomorphs– Naturally heavy- set; can put on mass but also gain body fat
•    Mesomorphs– Naturally muscular; great ability to put on quality muscle mass.

Before starting a diet program, seek professional medical help from your doctor or nutritionist to get clearance and to arrive at the correct macros based on your somatotype.

But generally, following the key principles of a bodybuilding diet can help you pack on quality mass in a good amount of time.

Key Principles Of A Bodybuilding Fast Mass Diet

1. Pound away on those calories!

A calorie is a unit of energy.When you’re trying to gain lean mass, it is expected you will be lifting heavier and harder to put that extra weight to good use. The harder you train, the more energy you will need.

A good baseline measurement is to consume around 35 calories per kilo of bodyweight. For a person who weighs 82 kilos, this means consuming around 2,870 calories per day.

2. Eat 4 to 6 meals per day

When trying to lose weight, Personal Trainers commonly advise us to spread our meals throughout 6 to 8 meals per day. The purpose of having frequent meals is to keep your body in an anabolic state while raising your metabolic rate.

It takes calories to burn calories. So the more meals you consume, the more calories is required to burn them and the higher your metabolism. In a mass gaining diet, you have to control your metabolism by cutting down on the frequency of meals while maintaining the ideal calorie count.

3. Know your macros

Bodybuilders are meticulous in breaking down their macros to the last gram. When trying to build mass, the ideal macro-nutrient ratio would be:

•    Carbohydrates = 40% of total calorie count
•    Protein = 30% of total calorie count
•    Fats =  30% of total calorie count

Carbohydrates and protein each carry four (4) calories per gram while fat has eight (8) calories per gram. Thus, for the 82 kilo bodybuilder in our example who is trying to build mass, his macro-nutrient breakdown based on the ratio will be as follows:

•    Carbohydrates =  306 grams
•    Protein = 230 grams
•    Fat = 115 grams

4. Sources of macros

If you want to put on size, look good and feel healthy, you should always choose cleaner sources of macros.

•    Carbohydrates: Wild rice, quinoa, sweet potato, vegetables and fruits.
•    Protein: Beef, chicken, fish, pork, lamb, turkey and eggs
•    Fats: Beef, dairy, salmon, olive oil, nuts, avocados and seeds.

If you’re someone with less than two years of training under your belt, you don’t necessarily need to use supplements and instead focus on getting your macros only from whole foods. Building quality mass is all about discipline.

5. Timing

The most successful muscle-builders are the ones who strictly adhere to their meal schedule. It is absolutely important to get your required macros in at the right time.

•    Breakfast – Start you day with a protein rich breakfast consisting of eggs, some lean protein source like white fish or chicken breast and slow digesting carbohydrates such as sweet potato.

•    Lunch – Continue to focus on lean protein sources such as fish or chicken. Best choices for carbohydrates that don’t cause inflammation in the body are sweet potato, quinoa and wild rice.

•    Post workout – This is where you start ingesting faster digesting carbohydrates to initiate the recovery process along with lean protein. Best combination would be ripe bananas and egg whites.

•    Dinner – Steak would be the best protein choice because of its high fat content.

The fat in beef is predominantly saturated which helps stimulate production of testosterone. For carbohydrates, choose sweet potatoes, wild rice or quinoa.

For some, eating can be the most difficult part of following a bodybuilding diet. There will come a point during the program that eating every two to three hours becomes a struggle.

But the diet usually becomes the differentiator between attaining and missing goals. If you want to put on serious muscle size, you have to train to get stronger.

The fuel that will help you lift heavier or handle the volume of work to stimulate growth will come from food. Stay focused on your goal of gaining high quality muscle mass by following a well structured meal plan built on the basic principles of bodybuilding.

It may not be the most enjoyable part of your program but the effort and sacrifice will be worth it.

Will A High Carb Diet Help Build Muscle?

One of the best options for rapid results in bodybuilding is a high carb diet. This said, you can’t just go off eating any food rich in carbs and expect ideal results.

If you are going to use a high carb diet, you need to have some guidelines in place. Let’s look at the best way to see results from your high carb diet plan.

Choose Smart Carbohydrate Sources

The very first thing you must do if you are going to begin a high carb diet is make sure that you select smart carbohydrate sources. This means steering clear of baked goods as well as any refined sources of carbs.

Put these into your body and you are consuming food that contains very little, if any nutrients, so all you’re getting is empty energy. What’s worse is they spike insulin immediately after consuming them.

While post-workout high insulin can be a good thing, you do not want this 24 hours a day or you will be quickly gaining unwanted body fat. Instead, your primary carbohydrate intake should come from fresh fruits, sweet potatoes, wild rice, as well as quinoa.

These are all natural, full of nutrients, and will provide stable, long-lasting energy.

Overload Carbs Around The Workout Period

Speaking of insulin, one thing that you do want to do is load up on those healthy carbs before and after the workout session. On your high carb diet plan, you should aim to have around 60-70% of your total carb intake in the meal before the workout, right after, and in the one that follows that.

Then the rest of the day, you’ll focus on carbohydrates coming in strictly from vegetables along with the odd piece of fruit. The meals that remain should center around lean protein and healthy fats as these are what will keep insulin stabilised, ensuring you stay lean.

Reconsider Your Off Day Intake

The next step to take as you use a high carb diet is considering your day off intake. While you will need some carbs on the day off for recovery purposes, you don’t need to overdo your carbohydrate intake.

Lower your consumption by around 30-50% or so on the off days you have in your program. Aim to consume 120-150 grams or so (which will help you stay anabolic) but beyond that, leave the high carb days to the days that you workout.

Of course if you are mostly concerned with maximum muscle gain and don’t mind if you put on body fat while doing so, then you can keep the carbs on the off days higher.

You need to think about what your top priority is – developing strength and size as fast as possible or staying lean while building muscle. Once you know this, adjust your plan from there.

Evaluate Progress Regularly

Finally, don’t forget to evaluate your progress regularly. Every few weeks, look at how your results are stacking up. Are you building muscle at the rate you want to be? Are you gaining fat faster than you had anticipated?

If you use these tips as you carry out a high carb diet for building muscle, you should be seeing excellent results in no time.

High Protein Diet to Build Muscle

If you keep an eye on the serious bodybuilders at the gym, there’s a good chance you’ve seen them pounding back a protein shake right after the gym. If you’re close friends with someone who is well developed, you’ve also likely seen them feasting on multiple meals per day, always including a protein source such as chicken, fish, or beef.

Is this all really necessary? And, can’t too much protein harm you? Let’s get these questions answered as we look at how much protein you need to build muscle.

Your Baseline Level Requirements

The very first thing that you’ll want to take into account is baseline protein requirements. In general, the average person who is not working out will require around .75 g/kg (for a woman) and .84 g/kg (for a man) each day.

If you calculate this out based on your own body weight, you’ll quickly come to see this isn’t really all that much. A 68kg individual would only require around 54 grams total, which would easily be consumed with a serving of chicken breast, a steak and a morning omelet with a cup of egg whites per day. Nothing too serious there.

Now, as soon as you add weight-lifting into the picture, your protein requirements will go up. Weight-lifting is going to place physical demands on the body as you’ll be continually breaking your current muscle tissue down and then building it back up again.

The end result?  Greater demand for this nutrient. Because protein is the raw material that muscle is made of, as you can see, your body will need more of it.

Just as if you were going to build an addition to your house, you’d need more building blocks, here again, you need more building blocks over and beyond that of what you normally need.

How much?

Again, not too much more.  One thing that many people overlook in the process of bodybuilding is the fact that when it comes to getting bigger, carbohydrates and dietary fats play just as important of a role as protein does.

This is where many mistakes are made because you’ll find people only boosting their protein intake up (often in great amounts), while keeping their dietary fat and carbohydrates constant.

Remember, protein only provides the building blocks to form these muscles with. It’s the energy that you take in from carbohydrates and dietary fats that ‘make the magic happen’, so to speak.

Carbohydrates are what your body will use to fuel each and every workout you are doing, ensuring that you’re putting forth maximum effort. Likewise, they are also what the body will use to assemble the amino acids into muscular tissue.

Without those carbohydrates, your body will have a hard time using the protein you have provided.

On the other hand, dietary fats can also provide some energy as well, but more importantly, they are going to come into play to help ensure that your hormone levels are where they need to be for optimal muscle growth.

Dietary fats are heavily connected to testosterone development, and the more testosterone you have, the faster you will build lean muscle mass. So don’t just think that eating as much protein as possible will get you on the road to gains. It won’t. You need to attend to all areas of your diet.

Which brings us back to the original question – how much is enough when it comes to protein and building muscle mass?

Generally, you’ll want to shoot for 1.2-2 grams per kilo of body weight.  (ausport.gov.au)

Your Body Type

Now, another thing that you will want to take into account with these recommendations is your specific body type.

As mentioned above, there are three main body types: ectomorph, endomorphs, and mesomorphs.

An ectomorph is someone who can’t gain weight no matter how hard they try.

The ‘tall and rail thin’ type, if you will.  For these individuals, their calorie intake is going to have to be sky-high if they hope to gain any muscle mass at all, so it may be beneficial for them to take protein to the higher end of the scale.

The primary reason is because their calorie intake is so high, this added dose of protein will help to balance out the increased dose of carbohydrates and dietary fat they will also be adding to their diet.

Remember, not only do you need to meet your nutrient recommendations, but it’s also important that you have a good balance between the nutrients.

So for the naturally skinny guy, 2 grams per kilo is ideal.

Next you have the mesomorph. This is the individual who seems to gain muscle just by looking at weights.

He’s naturally well-built and has likely always been athletic.  This individual will do just fine taking in 1.5 grams per kilo a day.

His/her body will react very well to the stimulus of strength training and as long as they are eating a higher calorie mixed diet, they’ll see good results.

Finally, the last body type is the endomorph. These are your typical ‘fat gainers’.

The individuals who seem to gain weight just by looking at food on the other hand.  They put on excess body fat very easily, so need to tread carefully when aiming to build muscle mass.

If they take in too many calories, they’ll just be quickly adding excess body fat. These individuals will want to err on the higher protein side as well.  1.5-2 grams/kg. of body weight will be perfect.

The reason for this is not because they have a sky-high metabolic rate like the ectomorph’s do, but rather because protein is one nutrient that can help you stay leaner in the face of a higher calorie diet.

So for them, boosting up protein a little more and being more moderate with their carb and fat increases may help keep them leaner over the long run. This can then mean better overall rates of progress.

These are the key points to know and remember about how much protein to take in to build muscle. At these levels, it will be a safe level provided you ensure you stay adequately hydrated.

Remember that increased protein does have a dehydrating effect on the body, so down a glass or two extra of water each day. Consistency in diet and training will lead to the best results.

Benefits Of A High Protein Diet

Lean Mass Retention

The first benefits of a high protein diet is that it’ll help you retain your lean muscle mass. When you are using a lower calorie diet plan, there’s a greater chance that your body will start utilising incoming protein as a fuel source, meaning there is less left over to sustain your lean mass stores.

This in turn could lead to a loss of muscle mass if you aren’t careful.

By consuming more protein in your daily diet, you’ll ensure you keep your muscles ‘topped-up’ with protein rather than your body using it from your muscles as a fuel source.

Hunger Control

The second reason to use a high protein diet is for hunger control. If you seek fat loss, hunger is the one factor that can completely throw you off your game.

Protein rich foods take longer to digest than carbohydrate rich foods, so adding them to each meal can help prolong the feeling of satiety you get, decreasing the chances you snack between meals.

This in turn may help you stick with that reduced calorie intake, yielding faster fat loss. If you feel hungry 24 hours a day on your diet, check your protein intake. It may not be high enough to curb these hunger pains.

Faster Recovery

For those concerned with performance, protein can also help improve your overall recovery rates. By taking in protein immediately after a workout session, it’ll help you bounce back quicker between each session.

Consider purchasing a whey isolate protein powder for this purpose as it’s designed to be the fastest digesting protein.

Metabolic Management

Finally, a high protein diet is also important for helping you master your metabolism. If you feel like a sluggish metabolic rate is preventing you from seeing the fat loss results you want, adding more protein to your diet will help.

Protein rich foods require more energy to break down and digest, thus some of the energy contained in the foods is used for this process. As a result, you ‘net’ fewer calories overall.

To put this into perspective, if you have two people, each eating 2000 calories per day but one is eating 150 grams of protein and another just 100 grams, that person eating 150 grams will net around 50 calories less per day simply due to their higher protein intake.

While this seems small, at the end of a month, that’s an added bit of fat lost despite eating the same total number of calories per day.

So how much protein should you eat? To put a high protein diet to work in your life, aim to include around 1.5 grams per kilo of body weight of protein per day.

A more intense bodybuilding program may require you to take this up slightly higher to 2 grams per kilo per day for a period of time.

High Protein Foods

As we discussed above, protein rich foods will not only help to provide the raw materials that are needed to rebuild and repair muscle tissue, but they’ll also help increase your metabolic rate, decrease hunger, and help you sustain optimal health as well.

Let’s look at some of the best protein options that you should be making an effort to eat.

Chicken

As far as high protein foods go, you simply can’t beat chicken. It’s versatile, it’s relatively cost effective, and it’s low in both fat and carbs.  Meaning, it’s a terrific source of quality protein.

When choosing your chicken, just be sure to choose white chicken breast meat without the skin for the best nutrition.

Turkey

Just like chicken, turkey is another great protein booster. White turkey meat is even leaner than chicken and also contains a high dose of the amino acid tryptophan, which can help induce a feeling of calmness in the body.

It’s a great protein source to eat before bed or at any other point during the day when you may be feeling a little stressed out. As turkey is often a bit on the dry side, just be sure that you avoid serving it with high calorie condiments like gravy.

Instead, try a low sugar tomato sauce or some salsa to add more moisture if needed.

Grass-Fed Beef

Grass fed beef is the next food on our list of high protein foods. It’s rich in quality protein and will also provide a source of CLA fatty acids, which can help increase the rate of fat burning taking place in the body.

Beef is also a terrific source of iron and zinc, two minerals that are key for those leading an active lifestyle. Choosing grass fed beef over grain fed will help ensure that you get the highest quality of protein possible, so be sure to buy this whenever you can.

Salmon

Salmon is the next high protein food that should be on your weekly list to buy. Salmon will not only provide all the essential amino acids you need, but in addition to that, will also give you some omega-3 fatty acids.

Most people are not taking in enough omega-3 fatty acids and instead over-consume omega-6 fatty acids, which can lead to inflammation over time. By adding more salmon into your diet, you help tilt the scale in your favour and may also help to combat against conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

It’s a very healthy fish variety and one that you should aim to eat at least twice per week.

Eggs

Finally, don’t overlook adding eggs to your diet plan. And, don’t be too quick to toss out the yolk either. Eggs are rich in a number of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, zinc, choline, and protein.

They’ll also provide a small dose of cholesterol, which is important for the regulation of the hormones in the body. While you don’t want to overdo cholesterol, you don’t want to completely eliminate it from your diet either.

Protein Bars

Protein bars have become a popular option for bodybuilders because first, they provide more satiety than drinking a protein shake would, and second, they can be quite tasty. The right bar can taste very similar to one of your favorite chocolate bars, so it’s a quick way to satisfy cravings.

But, you do need to be careful because if you choose the wrong bar, you won’t be getting much more nutrition than what you’d get in that chocolate bar. Let’s go over what you need to look for in any protein bar you’re considering eating… 

Calorie Content

The very first thing to check out is the calorie content. How many calories are in this bar? You should aim to find one with around 200-250 calories.  Leave the higher calorie ones for those who are looking to gain weight.

If that’s your goal, go for it, but if you are aiming to maintain or lose body fat, you don’t want to go above this.

Protein Content

Next, consider the protein content. A good protein bar should contain around 20 grams of protein for every 200 calories in the bar. If you are aiming to gain weight and eating a bar that contains 300-400 calories, you’ll now want it to come in at around 25-30 grams of protein instead.

Protein is your sole purpose for eating this bar, so make sure it’s not falling low. If the bar only contains 5-10 grams, it’s more of an energy bar than it is a protein bar. This might be fine if you’re gearing up for a very intense cardiovascular training session, but for all other times, you simply need more protein.

Sugar Content

Next, also consider the sugar content.  How many grams of sugar are in the entire bar? Make sure that the ingredient panel does mention the entire bar as well – not just half.

Unless you plan on only eating half that bar, you need to consider the whole thing. Ideally, keep your sugar intake to fewer than 5 grams total.  If it contains more, you are verging on eating something that will spike insulin levels and potentially cause fat gain.

Too many protein bars are full of sugar and will have very similar impacts on your body composition as that chocolate bar. This must be avoided.

Sugar Alcohol Content

The sugar alcohol content is also something to look at. Sometimes you will see that the bar contains very little sugar, so it seems great, but the sugar alcohol content is sky-high.

For some people, this may be no problem as they tolerate sugar alcohols well. For others, it can lead to a serious case of diarrhea. Try and keep the sugar alcohol content as low as possible.

Dietary Fibre

Finally, you’ll also want to consider the dietary fibre content. Dietary fibre is important for slowing down the digestion process and ensuring that any carbohydrate in the bar do release more slowly in the body.

You should aim for a total dietary fibre content of at least 5 grams per bar, preferably higher. Just do be careful as some bars on the market will contain up to 20 grams of fibre, which is fine, but if you already eat a high fibre diet, could potentially lead to some gastrointestinal issues. See how you react and cut back as necessary.

So keep these quick points in mind when searching for your own protein bars. When you choose the right bar, these can make for an excellent option to fill your nutritional needs.

Muscle Building Supplements

Building muscle is not simply a matter of lifting heavy weights or doing physical activity several times a week. Of course, muscles respond to stimuli. If you get stronger, it follows that your muscles should grow bigger.

But lifting weights is just one part of the muscle building equation. If you want to build and maintain muscle, you must adopt a holistic approach that includes nutrition, rest and supplementation.

Of these, supplementation is regarded as the most controversial. There are many studies that prove supplements work as well as research papers that debunk supplements as a waste of money.

But the fact remains that supplement manufacturing is a billion dollar industry. In Australia, the supplement industry averages $1.5 Billion in revenues and has a stable annual growth rate of 6.7%.

This supports the contention that majority of Australians believe supplements work. One of the most popular reasons for bodybuilders using supplements is to build muscle.

Keep in mind that the main purpose of supplements is to support a health and fitness program.

If you want to build muscle, your program should be based on the following principles:

•    Higher weight loads in terms of total kilos lifted or volume.
•    High calorie count; 30 to 35 calories per kilogram of body weight.
•    Macronutrient ratio of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat.

Your nutrition will play a big role in accomplishing your goal of building muscle. And while whole foods provide natural, organic sources to get your daily macros, supplements are an easier and more convenient way to ensure you stay on the ideal ratios.

There are also supplements that can enhance your performance at the gym which could lead to more strength and ultimately bigger muscles. Before you start any supplement program, always get medical clearance from your doctor or a licensed health professional.

The Best Bodybuilding Supplements For Building Muscle

Whey Protein

This is the mainstay for every muscle building program. Weight-lifting breaks down muscle fibers and you need the amino acids from protein to start the re-building process.

Whey is the fastest acting protein source. Your body will assimilate whey a few minutes after ingesting it. In addition to amino acids, whey contains important peptides which increase blood flow. And as you know, blood carries vital nutrients to your various organs.

Casein Protein

Casein is a slow- burning protein because it carries more milk fat than whey. This makes casein valuable before bedtime because it releases amino acids at a much slower pace than whey.

Studies show that casein can sustain amino acid release within a seven to eight hour window. Casein also makes you feel full. Thus, it can be an ideal meal replacement drink if you feel hungry during the day.

Creatine

Supplement users love Creatine because it can result in immediate strength gains shortly after ingestion. Creatine works by producing adenine tri-phosphate or ATP which acts as a quick energy source for your muscles.

Creatine creates a forceful contraction of muscle fibers which theoretically can help you lift more weight. But there are people who do not respond to creatine because of the absence of another amino acid, glycocyamine.

BCAA’s

Muscles grow when they are at rest and in the process of recovery. BCAA’s or branched chain amino acids refers to leucine, isoleucine and valine; the three most important aminos for recovery.

Leucine is the most important of the three as it can stimulate protein synthesis by itself. Whey protein contains BCAA’s but not in enough quantities or specific doses to stimulate recovery as effectively as a BCAA supplement.

Beta Alanine

This is an amino acid that when combined with histidine produces carnosine which can improve strength and endurance. Beta alanine has been shown by studies to have the ability to generate greater muscle contractions and stave off muscle fatigue.

The best known trademark of beta alanine is the tingling sensation you get almost immediately after taking it.

Nitric Oxide

This is a molecule which has been found to dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow to the muscle. Increased blood flow means more efficient delivery of nutrients, oxygen and water resulting in more energy during workouts.

People who have taken nitric oxide also report greater focus during training.

ZMA

Many people are deficient in zinc, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6. These are the primary components of ZMA which work to maintain hormone levels and provide restful sleep.

People who have taken ZMA claim the supplement can induce uninterrupted deep sleep which is crucial for recovery.

Carnitine

Although more popularly known as a fat burner, recent studies have shown carnitine can increase nitric oxide production and testosterone levels. Having these two benefits along with its fat burning properties means carnitine may help you build quality muscle.

Should you use all of these at one time? Unless your profession requires it and you have the financial resources to support an extensive supplement program, the answer is “no”.

Some of these supplements have similar functions. For example, BCAA’s and ZMA are used for recovery. Casein protein has its greatest value at night because it sustains the release of amino acids over a seven to eight hour time period.

But you can delay the absorption of whey protein for up to three hours by simply adding a fat source such as natural peanut butter or ground flaxseed.

You can get good results with a basic stack of whey protein, creatine and BCAA’s. If you’re a creatine non-responder, you can switch to beta alanine or a nitric oxide supplement.

Keep in mind there are nitric oxide supplements that contain beta alanine. The key to getting the most of supplements is knowing when to take them.

Here is a standard guideline on the best times of the day to take your bodybuilding supplements:

Upon Waking:  Whey Protein
Before Training:  Beta Alanine, Nitric Oxide, Carnitine
After Training:  Whey Protein, Creatine, BCAA’s
Before Bedtime:  Casein Protein, ZMA

Finally, read the supplement labels carefully and follow directions to the letter. Do not take more than the recommended dosage.

As a matter of fact, it would be advisable to take less than the minimum dosage to assess your tolerance.

Pre-Workout Supplements (PWO’s)

Does a magic potion really exists that can make your bodybuilding goals come true? One such “magic potion” is the Pre-Workout Supplement which has become increasingly popular the last few years.

If you search the Internet for the top selling supplements in the market, chances are a pre-workout supplement will be at number one.

Over the last few years, more supplement manufacturers have been producing pre-workout supplements with features that are designed to differentiate them from the rest of the market.

It is clearly an in-demand product but it has had its share of controversies.

What Is A Pre-Workout Supplement?

A pre-workout supplement of PWO is designed to give your workout a boost by enhancing mental alertness, focus and muscle contraction.

The typical PWO includes the following ingredients:

  • Beta Alanine – Increases the production of carnosine, an intra- cellular buffer that delays the onset of fatigue.
  • L- Arginine – Increases the production of nitric oxide in the body and results in greater vasodilation which is more popularly referred to as “the pump”.
  • Caffeine – In high doses or above 225 mcg, caffeine can increase mental alertness, focus and increases metabolism for fat burning.
  • Creatine – Produces Adenine Tri- Phosphate or ATP; the body’s immediate energy source which causes forceful muscle contractions.
  • Taurine – An amino acid that fights oxidative stress.
  • Tyrosine – An amino acid that could enhance focus and improve physical performance.

After a rundown of the key ingredients in a PWO, it would seem from the outset that it is a safe supplement for everyone and does not have side effects.

But there have been reports of health issues from using PWO’s. If you plan to use a PWO, be aware of its Pros and Cons.

Pros of PWO’s

Increased Alertness – Anybody who has taken a PWO supplement will tell you that upon 30 minutes of ingesting one scoop, listening to Barry Manilow music would not deter you from hitting the gym with all out fury.

If you review the ingredients, you will notice that a number of them are designed to increase mental focus and alertness. Many users of PWO will comment that they feel more “aggressive” when they take it.

Increased Strength – There have been several studies that show taking a PWO supplement could result in immediate strength gains.

If you’ve read many of the supplement review forums, a good number of community members report massive strength gains by Day One. The combination of Beta Alanine and Creatine is known to possibly increase strength. Then you have L-Arginine which induces vasodilation.

Greater blood flow brings more nutrients to the muscles and increases its ability to contract.

Lower Incidence Of Fatigue – People who use PWOs claim they can work out longer without easing up on the level of intensity. Again, we point out to Beta Alanine and its ability to produce carnosine as the main culprit.

When you take Beta Alanine, you feel its effects right away. You will feel a tingling sensation all over your body.

Increased Fat Burning – When you have a supplement that makes you workout harder for longer periods of time and increases your level of metabolism, then you have a product that can possibly burn fat while you are building more muscle!

Cons Of PWO’s

Elevated Heart Rate – Taking a supplement that has a high dosage of caffeine, L-Arginine and Beta Alanine may increase your heart rate to a level that it may lead to an irregular heartbeat.

Affected Sleep Patterns – It takes a few hours for the PWO to leave your body after training. If you take the PWO six hours before bedtime, the high dosage of caffeine may disrupt your sleep patterns.

Adrenal Fatigue – Imagine driving your car at full speed; the engine revving on high for two hours straight. Your car may blow a gasket.

The same thing applies for the human body that is highly revved up by Beta Alanine, L-Arginine, Caffeine and Taurine. Some users have complained of the “crash” hours after taking a PWO.

Risk Of Failing Drug Test – Years ago many PWO’s contained an ingredient called DMAA or 1.3 dimethylamylamine. It was supposed to be a powerful stimulant that could increase mental alertness, promote fat- burning and enhance strength.

But some studies said it had a “steroid-like” effect in that it increased testosterone levels. Competitions that are under WADA or World Anti-Doping Agency randomly test people for elevated testosterone.

Many of today’s brands have removed DMAA to comply with WADA regulations.

To Take Or Not To Take

Your decision to take a PWO should rest on these factors:

Are You A Health Risk?

Before taking any supplement, vitamin or mineral, you should have yourself medically cleared by your doctor or a licensed health specialist. If you have pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and irregular heartbeat, it would be advisable to forego the PWO.

What Is Your Purpose?

Why do you want to take such a powerful supplement? If you have a big competition coming up in 12 weeks, you could take the PWO for 20 days then go off on it for one week before starting another cycle.

But if you have no plans to compete then regular brewed coffee should do as your Pre-Workout drink!

How Long Have You Been Training?

If you have been training for fewer than two years and are below the age of 18, please stay away from PWO and supplements that contain stimulants. It may cause dependency on the supplement.

As with all supplements, please read the instructions on the label carefully and strictly follow directions. Most PWO’s are so concentrated all you need is one small scoop. There are trainers that take five scoops before workout. Definitely, that is not advisable.

Finally, if you are planning to use a PWO before your training session, cut your average daily consumption of coffee in half. Better yet, don’t drink coffee at all. You may have sleepless hours ahead of you.

Creatine For Bodybuilding

Let’s now take a look at one particular supplement that’s popular among bodybuilders… Creatine.

Creatine was introduced during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. It was advertised as the first supplement that could immediately enhance strength.

One year later, EAS produced the first commercially available Creatine supplement in the market in its monohydrate form.

Creatine is composed of 3 amino acids: Arginine, Methionine and Glycine.

Its primary function is to support Adenine Tri-Phosphate (ATP) which is stored muscle energy. ATP helps you accommodate resistance but it can only sustain energy for 10 seconds.

Creatine can help extend your effort once ATP stores run out. This is why people who take Creatine claim it helps them lift heavier weight or add 1 more rep.

What Does Creatine Do?

Creatine basically increases the contractile force of your muscles. Stronger contraction means more muscle fibres are recruited. Today Creatine remains one of the most popular and sought after supplements in the market.

Its popularity has spawned different types of Creatine; each one promoting its unique advantage over the other. But is there truly an advantage of one type over the other? Given all of these types of Creatine, which one should you take?

Here are 7 types of Creatine currently popular in the market:

1. Creatine Monohydrate

The original Creatine recommended a 5-day loading phase in order to fill out muscle stores. You also had to ingest this type of Creatine with a simple carbohydrate for faster absorption. Among common side effects reported by users were bloating and cramping.

2. Ethyl Esther

Unlike monohydrate, Creatine Ethyl Esther does not require any simple carbohydrate or a loading period. There have also been no reported side effects. It is recommended that you take 2-3 grams of Creatine Ethyl Esther twice a day for best results.

3. Tri-Creatine Malate

This type is made by combining 3 molecules of Creatine with malic acid, a substance used for immediate energy production.

Tri-Creatine Malate is water-soluble which addresses the bloating effects of Creatine monohydrate. Studies have also shown Tri-Creatine Malate as being highly efficient in prolonging the ATP cycle.

4. Buffered Creatine

One of the most innovative forms of Creatine in the market is also one of the most expensive varieties. Buffered Creatine claims its product does not convert to creatinine which is a waste by-product.

There have been no reported side effects from users of buffered Creatine. The recommended dosage is 1-2 grams in the morning and another 1-2 grams before training.

5. Micronized Creatine

Micronized Creatine is just Creatine monohydrate manufactured into smaller particles for faster absorption. Similar to monohydrate, you still have to take micronized Creatine with a simple carbohydrate.

It also involves a 5-day loading phase where you take a heaping teaspoon 406 times a day plus a maintenance phase of 1-2 teaspoons for the next 21 days.

6. Liquid Creatine

This type of Creatine was created to improve the rate of absorption but has grown less in popularity and relevance as it has proven to be highly unstable.

7. Conjugated Creatine

Conjugated Creatine is the most popular type of Creatine and certainly the most expensive variation in the market today. Conjugated requires the least amount of Creatine per serving; only ¼ teaspoon!

Conjugated Creatine claims to have the fastest absorption rate and even benefits those who are traditional non-responders. There are no reported side effects to using conjugated Creatine.

So which type of Creatine should you take?

If you experienced good results with Creatine monohydrate and if you have the budget, you should try Creatine Ethyl Esther, Tri-Creatine Malate, Buffered Creatine or Conjugated Creatine.

These types do not seem to cause bloating, stomach discomfort or cramping and are more quickly absorbed compared to monohydrate. Speed in absorption is essential to minimise conversion to creatinine.

In terms of value for money, Creatine Ethyl Esther might be your best option. It is the least expensive of the new varieties and has received many good reviews from regular supplement users.

Regardless of the type you choose, use Creatine judiciously. Follow the instructions carefully and cycle off it once you have finished your container.

Common Bodybuilding Mistakes

Once you’ve been hitting the gym for a while, you may think that you have your workouts under control. You know just what to be doing and when and figure that you will constantly be seeing progress.

But, could you be making a few mistakes and not even realise it?

Sadly, many people do just that and it can cost them lots of progress over time. By going over the following errors that some experienced bodybuilders make, you can ensure that you are doing everything right and are on track to optimal results.

You Neglect Form Check-Ups

The first mistake that too many advanced lifters make is not doing form check-ups. Every few months or so, back off the weight and simply focus on form. Do this for one week (or at least one workout for every exercise session).

By checking your form like this, you will ensure you aren’t building any bad habits without realising it. Remember, if you don’t use proper form as you go about each lift, you aren’t going to see the benefits that you should be.

In addition to that, you are also going to be at a greater risk of injury as the amount of weight you lift continues to increase.

You Let Your Ego Get In The Way

It’s also important that you never let your ego get in the way. If you head into the gym with the mindset that you need to show-off and lift as much weight for everyone to see and ‘admire’, chances are you are not doing the exercise correctly.

Too much weight will almost always cause you to sacrifice good form.

While it’s one thing to cheat your form slightly to squeeze out your very last rep before you hit the point of full fatigue, it’s quite another to be using poor form right from the start because the weight you’re lifting is just too heavy for you.

You Program-Hop

The next critical error that you want to avoid is program hopping. Some advanced lifters figure if they aren’t seeing results in a week or two, that’s a good sign that program just isn’t for them. Next thing you know, they’re off and onto another program instead.

Don’t let this happen to you. It’s a must that you give every program you do a chance to deliver results. Even if you are very experienced, at times, you may not see results for two or even three weeks once starting a plan.

And, if your diet isn’t up to par, you may never see results. Be sure that you are keeping check of that and being patient. Of course this doesn’t mean you should sit on a program for months on end that you aren’t seeing results with, but don’t be too quick to hop on and off plans.

You Don’t Periodise Your Plan

Finally, don’t forget to periodise your training. You can’t be pushing to 100% each and every workout all year long. You do need to take a break here and there and have a deloading week or simply focus on another element of your training.

Change is good when it comes to bodybuilding because with change often comes results. Get out a full year’s worth of program planning before you even begin to ensure you don’t get caught up in this trap.

These are some of the main points to know and remember regarding mistakes advanced lifters are making. Do you see yourself in any of these?

Squat Myths

Speaking of mistakes, let’s discuss some of the myths about one of the best bodybuilding exercises, the squat.

The Squat is one of the best exercises you can do not just for your legs but your entire body. It is often referred to as “The King of Exercises”. You will be hard pressed to find anyone who did not get great results from proper Squatting. But other than the Bench Press, the Squat has its own share of detractors.

Here are 5 myths that refuse to leave the Squat rack in peace…

Myth #1:  You Don’t Need To Squat To Build Good Legs

Trainers who discourage Squatting say there are safer alternatives to working your legs that give better results. The usual “Exhibit A” is the 45 degree Leg Press which is basically a plate loaded sled.

The 45 degree Leg Press will help you build a good pair of legs. But if you want a great pair of legs, you must Squat! The 45 degree Leg Press is an ego booster. Trainers prefer it over the Squat because you can load it up with hundreds of kilos and impress everyone in the gym.

Here’s the thing: trainers who load up the 45 degree Leg Press with ten 20 kilo plates per side probably can’t even do full, butt-to-floor Squats with two 20 kilo plates per side!

Even with the adjustable seat back, the range of motion of the Leg Press will not compare with the Squat. Second, the Squat requires balance and stability which brings even the smaller, less visible muscles to play.

Ever hear of the Sartorius muscle? You’ll see it when you Squat.

Finally, the Squat will make you work. A set of full range Squats with one 20 kilo plate per side will make you work harder than Leg Pressing ten 20 kilo plates per side and bringing it down only a quarter of the way!

Myth #2: A Full Squat Will Wreck Your Knees

People who develop bad knees will attribute the condition to full squatting. Several studies have been done since the 1960s to dispel this myth yet it keeps coming back.

Your knees have an average flexion of 140 degrees. So why should you Squat to a knee flexion of only 90 degrees? Research on ordinary people and athletes has conclusively shown that those who Squat between 110 degrees and 140 degrees have fewer knee problems than those who Squat 90 degrees or less!

When you do a full Squat, your large gluteus muscles, hamstrings and calves help distribute the pressure at the bottom position from your knees. As you press your heels through the floor, the gluteus muscles and hamstrings contract and support the knees as it transitions to full extension.

On the other hand, if you stop at 90 degrees, all of the pressure and shearing forces will be on your knees. So ditch this rumor, face your fears and Squat until the crease of your hips is below your knees.

Myth #3: Keep Your Knees Behind Your Feet

Trainers will regularly correct your form in the Squat if they see your knees tracking over your feet. Effective and safe Squatting is all about adopting natural movement.

How do you walk? What is the position of your knee when you run or jump? During these activities, you may not notice it, but your knees naturally track over your feet. Notice the position of your knees when you’re standing up from a chair.

The position of your knee in relation to your feet involves different factors. What type of Squat are you doing?

If you’re doing a Front Squat, it is natural for the knees to track over your knees. Otherwise, you may find yourself pinned on the floor with a barbell on your neck.

Other types of Squats such as the Bulgarian Split Squat will place your knees past your feet. Your natural bio-mechanics will also determine if your knees will track over your feet. If you have long femurs then expect your knees to extend past your feet unlike a Squatter with short femurs.

The important thing to remember is to Squat according to what comes naturally to you. If your knees go past your feet, don’t sweat it. Your knees can take it.

Myth #4: Low Bar Squat Is Better Than High Bar Squat

The difference between a Low Bar Squat and a High Bar Squat can be measured in a few centimeters but it could mean a significant difference in terms of total kilos lifted.

A Low Bar Squat has the bar positioned on your upper shoulders, right below your traps. A High Bar Squat has the bar positioned on the traps. Because of the lower position of the bar, a Low Bar Squat has your body angled forward compared to the more upright High Bar Squat.

The forward angle of the Low Bar Squat allows you to lift more weight because it distributes the load between your thighs, lower back, gluteus muscles and hamstring muscles.

With the High Bar Squat, the thighs carry the brunt of the load. The distance travelled is also comparatively shorter. But is Squatting more weight necessarily better?

In the end, the type of Squat you use will depend on your goals. If you want more quadriceps development, you should opt for the High Bar Squat. If you goal is to develop more hip and leg strength, emphasise the Low Bar Squat in your training.

Myth #5:  Squatting Is Bad For The Back

Do you know why people use lifting belts? The reason is to support the lower back but not according to how most people believe lifting belts work. A lifting belt supports the lower back by giving your abdominals resistance to push against. It makes the abdominals contract harder to stabilise the lower back.

Squatting does the same thing for your lower back. With a barbell on your back, you have to contract your abdominals very hard to maintain the correct angle throughout the entire exercise.

You have to imagine pulling your upper abdominals toward your ribcage and pushing your navel toward your spine to achieve a tight midsection. When you are Squatting the abdominals ensure the stability of the lower back. Thus by engaging the abdominals, Squatting strengthens your lower back not weaken it.

People who complain of lower back pain from Squatting probably got it from one of 2 things:
1. Poor Form
2. Using Too Much Weight

The Squat is a difficult exercise and that is why it produces the greatest results for your leg development. There is no other leg exercise that comes close to the Squat in terms of building strength, power, mobility and flexibility for your lower body.

Summary

Bodybuilding is as popular as ever thanks to the internet and social media. And with so many people into it, there’s bound to be mis-information and advice thrown around, and depending on what stage of your bodybuilding journey you’re on, you could fall victim to the wrong advice and either setback your growth or worse, have an injury.

The information in this bodybuilding guide is a combination of years of experience in the gym, training clients as well as through research.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide and more importantly, we hope you implement the advice to reach your bodybuilding goals and turn weight lifting, healthy eating and fitness in general, into a lifestyle for the duration of your life.