Getting Strong vs. Getting Big vs. Getting Lean (Part 2 - Getting Big)
For the mass of young men that flood into the gym day in and day out there is only thing they want. Bigger muscles. Many men will kill themselves in the pursuit of a bigger chest, shoulders, and arms. Unfortunately for many this goal will never be realized because beginners and novices really have no idea what the hell they are doing. Let's start with some common misconceptions.
Getting big, or muscle hypertrophy, is all about getting the muscle cells to grow. The principle sounds simple enough. Lift weights and gain muscle. It is all about how you lift the weights however that dictate how your muscles will grow. We have already covered the getting strong portion of lifting weights. Lift heavy weights for low reps. Getting big is all about lifting moderate weights for moderate reps. The reason we lift this way for hypertrophy is because muscle growth is all about getting the muscle to fatigue. When I say fatigue I don't just mean tired. When lifting for muscle hypertrophy you need to push yourself to the point where you cannot lift for even one more rep. You need to push past the muscle burn to reach your goals.
So what do I mean by moderate weight and moderate reps? As I touched on in part 1you need to start with finding your rep max. This will help you get into a range for the amount of weight you should lift. Moderate weight will usually fall into the 60%-80% range of your 1RM. Moderate reps will fall between 8-12 reps. A good program will vary between these ranges week to week and workout to workout.
So now some helpful tips:
1) When lifting for hypertrophy pick 3-4 different exercises for a body part and work within the rep and weight ranges, making sure you vary the weights and reps.
2) Split your workouts with at least 2 days rest between body parts. When lifting for hypertrophy you will work each body part or region once a week. When starting out I always recommend something similar to the following:
Day 1 - Chest
Day 2 - Back
Day 3 - Legs (Quads, Hams, Calfs)
Day 4 - Rest
Day 5 - Shoulders/Traps
Day 6 - Biceps/Triceps
Day 7 - Rest
3) Consume adequate protein. Muscle growth is basically about protein growth. Just like you can't build a house without wood. you cannot build muscle without protein. Muscle cannot be built with carbs or fat, just protein. Aim for at least 1 gram per pound of body weight.
4) Use good form! Form is always important when lifting weights, but when trying to grow muscle always use strict form even if it limits the amount of weight you are lifting.
5) Pre and post-workout meals are essential. Pre-workout you want to consume about 20-30 grams of protein along with a source of complex carbohydrates such as a a piece of fruit. Immediately post-workout consume around 30-50 grams of protein and around 30-50 grams of simple carbs. Limit fat post-workout because it can inhibit protein uptake. Use this to your advantage! This is the time when you can actually have sugar! Some of my favorites include gummy bears, chocolate milk, and angel food cake. Consuming simple sugar after a workout will help to push the protein into the muscle cells where it can be used for building muscle.
6) Log your lifting. Just like logging your food, writing down your workouts will make you more aware of what you are doing. This will allow you to see the progress you are making, but it will also allow you to see if you are doing the same lifts over and over again (which is a no-no!) Variation is king when it comes to lifting weights. Remember the principle of progression. By varying the lifts you do you will prevent the body from getting accustomed to the lifts and hitting a plateau.
So there are the basics of getting big. Keep reading future posts to get more helpful hints and tips on advancing your program.
Stay healthy my friends!