Process #2 for Gaining Weight: Resistance Training (Building)
Process #1 (nutrition) provides the environment for weight gain but without adding exercise to the equation, you're going to resemble a puff pastry more than a solid muscle machine. With that in mind, we need to give your body a reason to grow, and that of course is progressive, resistance training (process #2).
Most beginners make the mistake of jumping into a routine with high expectations only to be let down by poor results. The source of this mistake is failing to understand the fundamentals of choosing and implementing an intelligent and progressive weight training program. This understanding is critical to your success Let's go over the fundamentals.
Body Synergy VS Singularity
The first thing you must understand about building muscle is that the body prefers to work its muscles as a single unit. For example, when you pick up a book off the floor the body uses its legs, back, calves, butt, lower back, biceps, forearms, and shoulders to perform this relatively simple movement. It uses a system of muscles and this term is often referred to as body synergy.
The body prefers synergy over singularity and is why multi joint movements such as the squat, dead lift, bench press, shoulder press and others are so effective at building muscle. Body synergy is the key opening the first door of the muscle building process. The more muscle groups you involve with each exercise movement, the more efficient and effective the muscles will be at moving weight and hence, building muscle.
At the other spectrum, we have singularity. Singular movements are those exercises that isolate individual muscle groups such as a concentration curl or seated cable laterals. The biggest problem with these types of movements is that the body considers them unnatural. Going back to our book example, the body just doesn't use one muscle to pick the book up; it uses a system of muscles .
Understanding the importance of multi joint movements and body synergy is step one in understanding the muscle building process.
When putting together a weight training plan, always remember to prioritize multi joint movements. Examples include:
Chest: Bench press / Incline press
Back: Dead lifts / chin up / barbell bent over rows
Shoulders: Dumbbell/barbell shoulder press
Legs: Squats / lunges
Hamstrings: Stiff leg dead lifts
Now that you understand the importance of multi joint exercises, it's time for you to understand the use of simplicity and energy output.
Simplicity and Energy Output
The body prefers simplicity. Using our book example above, the body will use a system of muscles in order to accomplish this very simple task, picking up a book. It will expend a certain amount of energy, using a system of muscles in order to efficiently complete this task. There is absolutely no need for the body to complicate this task.
The body is most efficient when it performs a simple, multi joint movement such as picking up a book or performing a squat. Performing one, multi joint exercise repetitively over a period of time while adding additional intensity factors (such as additional weight) will force the body to expend more and more energy. This will potentially result in more strength and muscle strength that will span over a system of muscle groups. For example, ever see a guy with a strong bench press? His entire upper torso is huge. Not only are the chest muscles well developed but in addition, the triceps and shoulders are also huge. This is due to the nature of the bench press exercise; it uses a system of muscles to complete the movement which are the chest, triceps and shoulders.
However, the body doesn't have unlimited energy resources. Over the course of a workout, it can only expend so much energy up until it is drained. It is because of this that we must expend as much energy as possible on those exercises that produce the best results. Since multi joint exercises require a huge amount of energy expenditure, and produce the best results, it only makes sense to use as much energy on those movements.
What do you think will produce the best results?
Performing multiple exercises for the same muscle group expending a declining amount of energy with each exercise; Or
Expending all your energy on one super exercise that uses a system of muscle groups
If you picked number 2, give yourself a pat on the back. This is where a lot of beginners go wrong. Most beginners will choose a routine that uses too many of the wrong exercises that targets the same muscle group expending a declining amount of energy with each additional exercise.
The trick is to pick one multi joint exercise, per muscle structure (IE: back) and expend as much energy on that exercise that will allow you to IMPROVE from one workout to the next. This often leads to what I refer to as the muscle snowball effect and why using multi joint exercises are so effective. As you slowly improve, the muscle building effects of multi joint exercises compound over time. It is because of this that no other forms of exercise are as effective at vastly improving strength and building muscle.
Remember, choose one multi joint exercise per body part and expend as much energy as you can on that exercise.
For a more detailed discussion about compound exercises, please see this page here .
What we need to do is prime your body for accelerated muscle growth and the only way to do that is with a weight training routine that:
Is fast, effective and efficient
Primes the body for strength
Provides a path for progressive intensity
Is very simple to follow and implement
When it comes to gaining weight, the key is simplicity . There is simply no need to design an overly complex routine The simpler the better. With that in mind, let's design a weight gaining power routine that will sky rocket your strength and pack on some muscle mass.
Before we get into designing a routine, let's go over a few important points.
Free weights only : We are going to use strictly free weights and absolutely no machines. Free weights are much more effective at building strength and muscle mass No question.
Compound exercises only: These types of exercises use a system of muscle groups as opposed to individual groups. This allows you to pack on the weight and primes the muscle groups for maximum muscle growth. Certain free weight exercise, such as the squat and bench press are called "compound exercises". By using these types of exercises, you will force your body to work harder, which will employ the use of more muscle fibres.
Also, these exercises use both, targeted and supporting muscle groups. For example, the squat not only uses the thigh (Quadriceps) muscles to move the weight up and down but it also relies on the mid and lower back, glutes, calves, and hamstrings. Always remember this very important point - The more muscle groups and muscle fibre you use for an exercise, the better and more effective it's going to be for building raw muscle mass.
Here is just a short list of compound exercises:
Barbell Bent Over Row;
We'll be choosing one or two exercises from a list of compound movements for each muscle group. For a more detailed discussion about compound exercises, please see this page here .
Use progressive style training: Our goal is to improve from workout to workout using compound movements. Improving on a compound movement such as the squat, from workout to workout, will skyrocket your muscle building efforts. This is no joke . Progressive resistance has been proven to be one of the number one ways to gain muscular strength and size. Simply put, in order to get stronger, you must keep pushing the body with higher and higher intensity ranges and this means adding more and more weight.
More is not better: We don't need to add any unnecessary exercises that will take away from our ultimate goal which is to get strong and pack on some serious muscle size. Keep it very simple one or two exercises per body part. The most important element is to keep getting stronger in each of the compound movements.
Cut down on the cardio: We need to store calories for our heavy compound exercises, not expend them on those exercise that don't contribute to our ultimate goal. If you must perform cardio, keep it to two times per week and no longer than 30 minutes per session. Remember, you need those additional calories to get big and strong - not to run 5 miles per day.
Step 1 Choose the routine and exercise types
We need to keep our routine very simple so there's no need for any rocket science here. To start, we need to set up a basic routine designed to improve strength and gain muscle mass. Here's a simple mass gaining routine:
Day 1 (Monday) Upper Body:
Day 2 (Tuesday) Rest
Day 3 (Wednesday) Lower Body
Day 4 (Thursday) Rest
Day 5 (Friday) Upper Body
Day 6 (Saturday) Rest
Day 7 (Sunday) Rest
Day 8 (Monday) - Repeat cycle but start with the lower body.
This type of routine will allow for a proper rest and recovery schedule while targeting all of your muscle groups.
Choosing your exercises
Choose one exercise per body part. It doesn't sound like much but it's not the quantity were after here, it's the quality. Your only goal for the next 15 weeks is to get stronger, week after week in each of the compound movements. Here are the exercises I recommend for each body part:
Chest: Bench press
Back: Barbell bent over row
Shoulders: Seated barbell shoulder press
Biceps: Standing barbell curl
Triceps: Close grip bench press
Hamstrings: Stiff leg dead lift
Calves: Standing calf raise
Abs: Weighted incline sit ups
The routine will now look as follows:
Upper Body :
How Many Sets to Use
I recommend using 4 sets for each exercise, including a warm up. There's really no need to go any higher because we are only concerned with one thing and that's our final set. Each exercise will have what is called a work set and it's this set you need to really concentrate on. Your goal is to improve on that final work set, each and every workout, week after week and month after month. This is how you get big and strong. The work set will be the final set in each of your compound movements.
To really understand the power of this concept, please read this page here .
How Many Repetitions to Perform
Since we are performing 4 sets per body part and using a progressive style routine, our repetition scheme will be performed in a pyramid style fashion. That is, each progressive set will use less and less repetitions. Remember, our goal is to conserve our energies for the final set (work set). We can't do that if we expend all of our energies on the sets working up to it. Here's an example of a pyramid style repetitions scheme:
(Warm up): 20 repetitions
Set 1: 12 repetitions
Set 2: 8 repetitions
Set 3: 6 repetitions
Set 4 (Work set): 6 repetitions
How Much Weight to Use
Since we are using a progressive style program, you will need to start use light weights for the first week or two. We need to set up a starting point and the only way to do this is by using light weights for the first week. The trick is to use progressively more weight with each passing week keeping all sets and repetitions the same. Remember, you want to keep everything the same with the exception of the last set, which you want to progressively add heavier and heavier weight.
To understand this concept, please see this page here . Each set will need progressively heavier weight to work up to the final work set. However, you don't want to over exert yourself before you get to the final set. Here's what I recommend:
(Warm up): 20 repetitions: 30% of your one repetition maximum
Set 1: 12 repetitions: 40% of your one repetition maximum
Set 2: 8 repetitions: 50% of your one repetitions maximum
Set 3: 6 repetitions: 60% of your one repetitions maximum
Set 4 (Work set): 6 repetitions: 75% of your one repetitions maximum
If you are new to weight training, start with the bar. Better yet, see our beginners section to weight training . Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to go to muscular failure to build muscle mass. Don't get me wrong, there are times when you will go to muscular failure but it won't be the reason why you get strong and build muscle. The only time you may go to muscular failure is on your last set (work set). However, your number one goal is to improve on the last set of each of your exercises, week after week and month after month and this may or may not mean approaching muscular failure on the final work set. For a more detailed discussion about going to failure, please read this article here .
I strongly recommend you record your workout progress using weight training logs. You can get your logs here .
Our goal is to improve our strength. The stronger our muscles get, the bigger they'll get. Remember, a strong muscle will always be a bigger muscle (All things being equal). In order for our muscles to remain strong, they need to be well rested. I recommend resting your muscles at least one minute in between each set. For the final set, I recommend resting two minutes. Here's a sample rest schedule:
(Warm up): 20 repetitions: Rest 1 minute
Set 1: 12 repetitions: Rest 1 minute
Set 2: 8 repetitions: Rest 1 minute
Set 3: 6 repetitions: Rest two minutes
Set 4 (Work set): 6 repetitions
Rest at least two minutes after each exercise before proceeding to the next exercise.
The workout routine has now been constructed and is ready. Let's take a look at the entire program.
Upper Body :
(Warm up): 20 repetitions: 30% of your one repetition maximum - Rest 1 minute
Set 1: 12 repetitions: 40% of your one repetition maximum - Rest 1 minute
Set 2: 8 repetitions: 50% of your one repetition maximum - Rest 1 minute
Set 3: 6 repetitions: 60% of your one repetition maximum Rest two minutes
Set 4 (Work set): 75% of your one repetition maximum 6 repetitions
What about the pump? Don't need it. Your only goal is to improve from workout to workout on the very last set of your compound movements. The pump doesn't indicate whether or not your building muscle, improvement does. However, that's not to say you won't get one.
What about confusing the muscle? You want to do the exact opposite. You want your muscles to get comfortable with each compound movement. In doing so, your body will become accustomed to the movements balance. Read this article Patterns build muscle to get a better understanding
What about going to failure? Going to failure has its place in building muscle but it's not needed to build muscle. Failure is not an end all when it comes to building muscle. Your ultimate goal is to improve on the last set of your compound movements from the previous workout. This may or may not mean going to muscular failure. Never use muscular failure as an indication of muscle growth. In addition, if used incorrectly, going to failure on your movements can have an opposite effect, negative growth (and possible injuries). Read this article Do you need to go to failure to build muscle to get a better understanding.
So there you have it, a muscle building weight training program designed to accommodate your weight gaining diet. It's a very simple set up but very effective if you remember to stick to the compound movements and improve with each passing workout (adding additional weight to the last set of each exercise).
For additional workouts and ideas, please see this page here .
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