As you progressed in school, you likely found that
the required reading was becoming more and more cumbersome. More books, more
pages, less time. In your search for some relief, you found Cliffs Notes — the
almighty timesaving redeemer of many a student’s report card. These condensed
reads offered a quicker way to get through the diffuse material of Melville,
Hemingway and Shakespeare by highlighting the main points and trimming out the
Think of this list in the same
way, as a summation of the volumes of literature that have been written on
muscle building over the years. The 101 tips, presented by section but not in
any particular order of importance, encompass the broad spectrum of areas that
require your attention for gaining mass: training, nutrition, supplements and
equipment. No philosophical debate, no hidden meaning, no tidy denouement of
narrative — here, you’ll just find the most authoritative, scientific and
time-proven methods for packing on pounds of lean muscle, ready for you to put
to use and ace your physique-transformation test.
NO. 1: TRAINING
up properly. As you gain experience, your
muscles, tendons and ligaments will be subjected to much more stress than when
you first started. To reduce the chance of injury, increase your warm-up time
proportionally. As you advance from beginner to intermediate status, three to
four light and medium warm-up sets of your first weightlifting exercise of the
day, after five to 10 minutes of a general warm-up on the bike or treadmill,
can help adequately prepare muscles for the heavy lifting ahead.
abs for last. “Training abs before your
major bodypart work can result in compromises to strength and put you at
increased risk for injury,” says clinical exercise physiologist and celebrity
fitness adviser Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS (jimmypena.net). Instead, train your abs
last or alone in a separate workout. To save time, you can also insert ab
exercises between exercises for other bodyparts as you near the midpoint to end
of your workout.
the real stairs. Abandoning the gym for a
real set of stairs can change your perspective, refresh your motivation and
help spark new fat loss. The variety in the scenery may also help you workout
longer, which means more calories burned.
on the tunes. Research suggests that
listening to your favorite music while lifting will help you complete more reps
as compared to not listening to any music or music you don’t enjoy. Plus, your
headphones are a good deterrent to workout-killing conversation.
your rep ranges. You may think that lifting
heavy all the time is the best way to build muscle, but going through phases of
lighter work has its place, as well. Different weight loads and rep ranges
emphasize different muscle-fiber types, helping you to achieve better overall
Partner up. A reliable training partner can
spot you and assist with forced reps and partials to help you gain after you’ve
hit failure. Is your partner stronger than you? Good. “You might also get a
mental boost from observing your buddy’s lifting ability as your competitive
juices kick in,” Peña says.
the exercise order. Gym-goers are
creatures of habit. A good way to keep gains coming, however, is to do your
normal routine in the reverse order. After a good warm-up, start with what’s
normally your last exercise — you’ll be stronger this time through because the
muscle won’t be pre-fatigued, thus enabling you to handle slightly heavier
weights for more reps. You’ll work the target muscle in a way it’s unaccustomed
to, touching off new growth.
on compound moves. If you’re looking to build
serious muscle, make sure the majority of your moves in the gym are compound in
nature. Compound exercises — which incorporate multiple muscle groups into a
lift, such as chest, shoulders and triceps for bench presses, or the glutes,
quads and hamstrings during a barbell squat — allow you to move more poundage
and train more efficiently than isolation moves, which essentially target only
one muscle group at a time.
Isolate in moderation. Isolation
moves, which require movement at only one joint, are great for helping to shape
muscle and have a place in any routine, but they should be used more sparingly
than compound exercises. The best way to use them is near the end of a routine.
both feet. The trend of training bodyparts
while standing on one leg has, inconceivably, taken hold in gyms across the
country, but if you’re looking to maximize muscle, keep both feet on the
ground. Bringing additional body balance into the equation when it’s not
necessary detracts from the bodypart you’re focusing on.
your set tolerance. Most
mass-gaining guidelines recommend 12 to 16 sets for larger muscle groups like
legs, back and chest and nine to 12 sets for smaller groups like arms, calves
and shoulders. However, you have to learn how your body responds. Sticking to
these guidelines may cause some to overtrain while keeping others
under-stimulated in the gym.
correctly. Standing exercises such as
squats, overhead presses and straight-arm pulldowns require you to adopt an
athletic stance. To do this, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes
pointed slightly outward, knees slightly bent, torso erect, maintaining a
slight arch in your low back, and your eyes forward.
Change grips. As you gain experience,
your body will start to resist growth on familiar exercises. One way to keep
things fresh is to experiment with different grips. On exercises such as bench
presses, lat pulldowns, barbell rows, barbell curls and pressdowns, you can
force your muscles to work in uncomfortable ways by flipping your grip or using
close and wide grips, as well as neutral (hands facing each other) or mixed
(one hand up, one hand down) grip positions.
14. Create the illusion of size. By
accentuating your shoulders, upper chest and upper back through specific
training, you can make your waist look smaller. Aesthetically, this V-taper
look gives the appearance of greater overall size. And by bringing up your
outer quads, you can complete the look with what’s called an X-frame physique.
15. Train instinctively. It’s good
to have your workouts plotted for the next several weeks — that approach breeds
accountability. But some days, your quads just may not be up for a heavy squat
session or may still be reeling from the last workout. Or maybe your shoulders,
still a few days from their next dedicated workout, feel fresh and are ready to
train again. Listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to modify your approach
according to what it tells you.
16. Select the optimal weight. “Gaining mass isn’t about maxing out
every lifting session,” says Shane Domer, MS, CSCS*D, the strength-and-conditioning
coach for the U.S. Speedskating team. “Although heavy loading has been reported
to be effective for increasing size, research suggests using a six- to 12-rep
loading range at 70 percent to 80 percent of your one-rep max (1RM) will
provide the optimal combination of load and volume, which will result in an
increase in size.”
17. Vary your workouts. “Research has
consistently shown that systematically varying volume [repetitions], intensity [load],
exercise selection and other variables is most effective for a continual
increase in muscle mass,” Domer says. “The human body is very good at adaptation
and must be shocked if continued progression is to be achieved.”
18. Mind your rest. “If you’re looking to build lean muscle mass, rest periods between sets
and exercises must be strictly monitored,” Domer says. “Short rest intervals (one
to two minutes) stimulate anabolic hormone production, local blood flow and
result in significant lactate accumulation. All three of these byproducts
contribute to an increase in protein synthesis (i.e., hypertrophy) within the
19. Focus on progression. “Each workout, you must increase the demands placed on the
muscles,” says Jim Ryno, CPT and owner of LIFT Studios in New Jersey
(insidelift.com). “This is accomplished by either increasing the amount of
weight lifted or by increasing the number of reps in the set.” Plot small
goals, like adding 2.5-pound plates to each side of the bar each time you bench-press,
squat or deadlift.
enough shut-eye. “Getting enough sleep is
probably the most overlooked part of growing big muscles,” says Los
Angeles-based trainer Eric Fleishman (ericthetrainer.com).
“Sleep is when the body changes and grows, so embracing the time spent under
the covers may have an amazing effect on the way you look.”
a journal. Write down as much as you can
about each workout — exercises, sets, reps, weight used, intensity techniques
used, how you felt, how much you rested between sets, etc. — so that you can
undertake a quick progress check from week to week.
Employ pyramid training. Starting a
weight-training program, you’ll find that everything works — but nothing works
forever. Try pyramiding the weight up using progressively heavier weights with
each set of an exercise (as the number of reps necessarily drops, as well). The
heavy sets are better to build strength, while the moderate-weight sets
maximize muscle building, thus allowing you to gain size and strength in the
chains and bands for strength. Chains and
bands add a different kind of resistance called LVRT, or linear variable
resistance training. These implements add progressively greater tension as the
range of motion increases in a movement. Using them is one way to overcome a
sticking point, especially those that occur toward the bottom of the range of
opposing bodyparts. Training
opposing bodyparts superset style — such as chest with back, biceps with
triceps or hamstrings with quads — gives one bodypart a chance to rest while
the other is working. This can also add to the intensity of your workouts while
limiting the time you need to spend in the gym to get the same benefits.
into the rack. To stop the barbell from
crushing you on a hefty squat, use a power rack. Many squat racks have a set of
pins that you can set just below your maximum squatting depth. If you fail on
one of the reps, simply let the weight drop to the safety pins and walk away.
unilateral. By training only one side, you
can generate more force and recruit more muscle fibers, which leads to more
strength and size. Try single-arm overhead presses, single-leg presses, one-arm
pulldowns and single-arm bench presses on a machine to start using this
technique to your advantage.
exercise, along with the squat, is responsible for the greatest amount of
hormone release, which is very crucial for your muscle growth,” Ryno says. The
deadlift, which involves pulling a loaded barbell from the floor to a standing
position, recruits almost all your major muscle groups and provides a great
base of strength and size. Gains typically come quickly for first-time
deadlifters, so if you master your technique, new size is sure to come.
Squat. Like the deadlift, the squat
calls several muscle groups into play. It’s not just about your quads and
glutes — your lower back, shoulders, calves, hamstrings and core are
significantly taxed during this move. Learn how to perform the standard barbell
squat with a good, deep range of motion for maximum gains.
29. Row. Most guys train what they can see in the mirror and, as a result, have
well-developed chests and lagging backs. This one-dimensional look can be
corrected by doing more barbell rows. The barbell allows you to maximize the
amount of stress you place on the muscles of your middle back. Complement your
barbell rows with dumbbell, cable and supported rows for best results.
your weight to work for you. Don’t overlook
the importance of bodyweight exercises in your routine. Dips, push-ups,
pull-ups, step-ups and lunges work significant amounts of muscle and can
contribute greatly to your cumulative gains in muscle and strength.
Incorporate plyometric exercises. Training
for power with plyometrics helps you better develop your growth-prone
fast-twitch muscle fibers. Plyometrics, similar to ballistic-type moves, have a
key element of acceleration. For example, with plyometric push-ups, you allow
your hands to leave the floor, exploding as high as possible.
and start. Try benching and squatting the
same way you deadlift . . . from a dead stop. “Try movements like the squat and
bench in the power rack, with the safety bars set at the point where the bar
would be in the bottom of both moves,” Peña says. “The key is to allow the bar
to settle on the safeties each rep. This removes elastic tension, helping you
develop strength at your sticking point when you return to standard training
wisely. Occasionally using a little
momentum or body English to get an extra rep or two at the end of a set is a
good way to increase your workout volume. It’s important to use a strong and
controlled rep speed when you begin a set, but generating an extra bit of
momentum as you begin to fatigue can get you over a sticking point when
correctly and judiciously applied.
with a pump. A Japanese study concluded that
you can increase strength and muscle-cell size slightly farther by flushing
more blood and water into working muscles with a very high-rep set done after
your normal working sets. Aim for a set of at least 20 reps and as many as 100
reps of a final isolation-type exercise following your heavy work.
Volumize. “One way to thoroughly bully a
muscle into responding is by using German Volume Training, which calls for you
to do 10 sets of 10 reps of only one exercise — ideally, a compound movement
for maximum growth — which generates a muscle group,” Peña says. On top of the
increase in muscle fibers you hit as a result of the constant stimulus, your
workout will require less equipment, too.
Superset. By performing two exercises
consecutively, without rest, you place a greater demand on working muscles.
Typical supersets involve opposing muscle groups, such as biceps and triceps,
but by performing a major compound exercise followed by an isolation move for a
single muscle group, you can encourage growth, too.
tri-sets. As the name suggests, you group
three exercises together and perform them in a row, sans rest. They are a great
way to shock a muscle that has plateaued and needs a good wake-up call.
Occasionally use giant sets. Performing four
or more exercises for a muscle group in succession (without rest) is referred
to as a giant set. Try doing one or two giant sets for a muscle group to shock
the muscle into new growth. For smaller muscles like the biceps and triceps,
one giant set is more than enough for a complete workout.
partial to growth. The advanced technique of
partial reps was popularized by California bodybuilding guru Vince Gironda. As
the name indicates, these decreased-range-of-motion reps, sometimes also
referred to as “pulse reps,” are performed at the end of a regular set when you
hit initial failure. Though you may not be able to do another full rep, going
through a sequence of partials until reaching failure again places additional
demand on the working muscles.
40. Do a
double-split. If your schedule allows, you
can use a pro-bodybuilder approach and break up your workouts into two sessions
in one day. For instance, instead of training chest and back together every
Monday, you can hit chest in the morning, then come back in the evening and
give your back your full attention. The rest in between allows for more acute
recovery and replenishment of your energy stores, so neither bodypart suffers
from going second in a session.
Strip. Performing reps to failure, then
reducing the weight 20 percent to 30 percent and continuing to failure again,
can help you coax new growth out of stubborn muscles. Performed with a barbell,
“stripping” simply requires a partner or partners to remove an equal amount of
weight from each side after you hit initial failure. With cables, you reset the
pin to a lighter weight. With dumbbells, grab a lighter pair. You can perform
multiple drops in succession, as needed.
yourself. Most people focus on weight,
reps and rest during their workouts but few, if any, consider total workout
time. By trying to do the same number of sets and exercises in a shorter time
or more sets and exercises in the same time, you get out of the gym faster and
can increase the intensity of your workouts.
buddy system. This challenging technique
forces you and your training partner to push one another in a unique way. One
of you completes a set of an exercise and then passes the bar or dumbbells to the
other. There is no rest in between, except for the time you’re waiting for your
partner to finish his or her set. Barbell curls are a great exercise to employ
this technique on.
Stagger your sets. This is a great way to
bring up smaller muscle groups, such as calves or forearms, which may be
lagging. To use staggered sets, perform extra sets for these smaller groups
while you are resting between sets of larger muscle group exercises. For
example, you can do standing calf raises between sets on the bench press or
behind-the-back barbell wrist curls between bouts on the leg-press machine.
Incorporate rest-pause. The rest-pause
technique is based on the physiological fact that a muscle will usually regain
90 percent of its strength in as soon as 10 to 20 seconds. To do this
correctly, select a heavy weight that brings about failure at a certain rep
range — six to eight, for example — and stop a few reps short of that. Rest 10
to 20 seconds, then continue performing reps. Continue in this fashion until
you’ve completed the total desired number of reps. This will add to the
cumulative number of pounds you move in a workout, meaning more overall
stimulation for the target muscle groups.
Pre-exhaust. Pre-exhaust is one way to get
around limiting muscles with some exercises. For example, on rows, the smaller
biceps may fatigue before your lats do. The fix? Perform an isolation exercise
like straight-arm lat pulldowns, which place little stress on the biceps. This
will “pre-exhaust” the lats. Because the back has already been engaged, by the
time you do your rows, the biceps should no longer be the limiting strength
factor that halts a set.
through your heels. When doing
squats, leg presses, lunges or deadlifts, it’s important to “press through your
heels.” This mental trick keeps the weight over your hips, where it should be,
and allows you to press (or pull) more weight without jeopardizing the
stability of your knees. If you feel like you are on the balls of your feet,
your form is off and you need to readjust.
for better biceps. “Typically during a biceps
curl, you don’t get the most out of the upper portion of the curl because you
failed to move the bar past the parallel point,” Peña says. “However, the
strongest portion of the curl is the top half, where the biceps brachii
dominate, while the lower half of a curl is predominantly the brachioradialis.
So why not spend some time up high where the biceps brachii can be fully
activated? Practice seated barbell curls to maximize the upper portion of the
Thicken your triceps. Cable
pressdowns are great, but for real triceps mass, you need to focus on overhead
movements. “By raising your arms overhead, you stretch the triceps long head,
meaning it can contract more strongly than when your arms are fixed by your
sides,” Peña says.
engage your delts. Wider, thicker shoulders
come as a result of well-developed middle deltoids. But you may not be getting
the most out of your current training regimen. “Take your lateral raises above
parallel,” Peña suggests. “The delts are highly engaged, even up to 130
degrees. Also, start your laterals a few inches from your hips to reduce early
involvement from supporting muscles like the supraspinatus.”
51. Thump your upper chest. The upper chest
is a weak area for most guys, but this issue has an easy fix. In addition to
just adding more incline movements, you should pay attention to how you’re
doing them. “During incline barbell bench presses, you’ll want to spread your
grip wider than usual, allowing for greater range of motion in the bottom of
each rep,” Peña explains. “The narrower your grip, the less able you are of
bringing the bar to the very upper portion of your chest at your clavicle
52. Mix your grip for your back.
“Use a staggered, or mixed, grip for deadlifts and rack pulls for greater
strength,” Peña says. “With an overhand grip, the bar can roll out of your
hands, which becomes a problem with heavier weight. The staggered grip helps
prevent this through the physics of reverse torsion. That means that the
overhand grip is twisting the bar in one direction while the underhand grip is
twisting the bar in the opposite direction, preventing the bar from rolling in
wisely. Lower the bar on your back, to a
point more near the middle of your traps, during squats,” Peña instructs.
“Doing so will shift the emphasis more toward your hips, glutes and hamstrings,
allowing you to squat more weight.”
off flagging forearms. To build bigger
forearms, you can do hammer curls, wrist curls and reverse curls. But if total
body gains are important, try adding farmer walks. Pick up a heavy pair of
dumbbells and take long, slow steps — about 20 total, more if you can stand it
— which overloads your forearms isometrically with max weight.
Deadlift Romanian style. Hamstring curls
are the go-to for this muscle group, but they only require movement at one
joint. Romanian deadlifts, on the other hand, allow you to use more weight and
work across the full length of your muscle belly, getting up into your
glute-ham tie in at the hamstring’s origin.
Experiment with your calves. Calves are
traditionally a stubborn bodypart, reluctant to grow, but if you try a few
different training approaches, you’ll likely find one that works well for you.
First, try experimenting with heavier weight and lower reps, in the six to 10
range. If that doesn’t work, try super-high rep ranges of 15 to 25 or more,
drop sets, single-leg variations, and even holding the peak contraction longer
on each rep.
Challenge your core. “Core training”
has also become a hot trend in gyms. To have a truly strong core, however, you
need to do more than exercise-ball crunches and wobble-board balancing moves.
One great option to introduce into your repertoire is the overhead barbell
squat, a very difficult exercise that places heavy demand on your entire core
musculature because of the position of the weight. Mastering this move will
help you lift more on your other major exercises.
NUTRITION & SUPPLEMENTS
your protein. This is probably the most
important aspect of muscle-building nutrition. And you, as a dedicated gym rat,
need more of it than most. To build muscle, try to get 1 gram of protein per
pound of bodyweight per day, spaced out over the day. For a 180-pound person,
that’s 180 grams of protein in a day.
protein early in the day. To ensure that
your muscles aren’t being cannibalized for energy, make sure that you have 20
to 40 grams of fast-digesting whey protein first thing in the morning. This
puts a halt to the muscle breakdown that occurs during your nighttime fast,
when your body is seeking fuel for organs.
protein often. To meet the aforementioned
protein requirement and to make sure that your recovering muscles are receiving
the amino acids needed to repair and grow, try to include 20 to 30 grams of
protein per meal each day. If you eat six meals, that nets the 180 grams
mentioned in Tip No. 58.
protein preworkout. Drink 20 grams
of whey protein immediately before your workouts to get a jump-start on muscle
recovery and to reduce the chance that muscle would be used for fuel.
protein postworkout. This is the
most crucial anabolic (or muscle-building) window in your 24-hour cycle. Right
after a heavy lifting session, your muscles are starving for some protein to
start the rebuilding process. Down a shake immediately — and after no longer
than 60 minutes — that contains 20 to 30 grams of whey and 10 to 20 grams of casein
powder. This combination has been shown to lead to greater gains than whey
addition to a protein shake, eat real food after your workouts. “Have a protein-packed small meal 30 to 60 minutes postworkout, when
muscle cells are most sensitive to uptake protein,” says nutritional consultant
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC of Dana White Nutrition and Healthyeats.com. “
You’ll want some healthy carbs along with it — a grilled chicken sandwich on
whole-grain bread will cover it.”
Protein late is great. Just because
you’re sleeping doesn’t mean you can’t be building muscle. At night, growth-hormone
levels peak, meaning your body is in a position to build muscle. To take
advantage of this — and to reduce muscle catabolism — take a scoop of casein
protein just before you hit the sheets every night. This slow-digesting protein
provides a trickle of aminos to your muscles while you snooze.
Protein later is good, too. Though it’s not
really advised for those looking to be strict with their calorie consumption,
some elite bodybuilders set their alarms again for the dead of the night so
that they can down yet another protein shake to continue bathing their muscles
in amino acids.
your days. You’ll stoke your metabolism all
day by consuming larger amounts of calories early in the day. This also helps
to ensure that you don’t store excess calories as body fat. Just make sure to
taper off your calorie intake by the end of the day, when your energy
expenditure is typically ebbing.
fats in your diet. Fat is a great source of
energy and helps your body to metabolize many vitamins and minerals. Consuming
unsaturated fats like avocadoes, nuts, seeds and olive oil is a crucial part of
helping you grow muscle, especially if you are on a low-carb diet and need to
make up for lost calories. Stay away from saturated and trans fats, which have
no real nutritional value. Try to get 0.5 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight
per day, or 90 grams for the 180-pounder.
out your pantry. If it’s not in the house,
there’s less chance you’ll eat it. Junk foods not only can sabotage your
midsection but also can reduce the amount of muscle you’re able to build. These
empty calories should be kept out of your home altogether if you’re serious
about gaining clean mass.
ignore carbs. Carbohydrates may be taboo
to physique-minded individuals because they can affect body fat when consumed
in excess or when the wrong types are eaten too often. But to gain mass, you
have to train hard, and this is much tougher without enough muscle glycogen
(which is carbs in stored form). To gain mass, aim for 2.5 to 3 grams of carbs
— upward of 540 grams — per pound of bodyweight per day.
Ingest enough calories. You can’t really
gain appreciable muscle without calories. A good target range for the 180-pound
lifter is 22 to 25 calories per pound of bodyweight per day. That’s about 4,500
calories at the top end.
fast carbs. Though fast-digesting,
high-glycemic carbs aren’t ideal for keeping lean, there are two times during
the day when you should make sure you have them: first thing in the morning and
postworkout. During these times, your body needs a quick spike in insulin to
fill glycogen stores. (Actually, good postworkout carbs can be as simple as
white bread or Gummi Bears.)
chocolate milk. A little bit of chocolate
syrup mixed in with your low-fat or skim milk postworkout is as good, if not
better, than refueling with a sports drink because of its ideal protein-to-carb
ratio. The fast-digesting sugars in the syrup also helps to quickly pump
glycogen stores back up to snuff.
Hydrate. No matter your goals, getting
enough water is a vital part of athletic performance. Because every body
function — including anabolism — requires water, you should aim to consume half
of your bodyweight in ounces per day. A 180-pounder needs at least 90 ounces,
especially if his workouts are
intense. Your urine should be pretty close to clear; if it’s dark yellow or
cloudy, you may be dehydrated.
right. You may not be able to microwave
a chicken breast every two to three hours at work or school, which is why you
should keep healthy, muscle-friendly snacks handy. Almonds, jerky, protein
powder, fruit and protein bars are easy-to-store items that can be accessed
skip breakfast. Eating a breakfast heavy in
quality protein, carbs and fat is a good way to ensure that your day starts off
on the right foot anabolically. This meal gets your body back into muscle-building
mode after sleep and provides energy for the rest of the day.
creative. On a get-lean diet, people can
go mad eating plate after plate of chicken and broccoli. Same can be said for
those on a mass-gain plan — no one wants to eat egg whites and bell peppers
every day. It gets boring. Instead, find new recipes that help satisfy your
nutritional needs while also providing a welcome switch in the menu.
miss meals. When you get busy, food and
water always fall by the wayside. However, with each missed meal, you’re
missing out on an opportunity to grow. Instead, prepare all your meals for the
day in advance and pack them in individual containers. This makes them easy to
access for meals every three hours, as is ideal, and prevents you from heading
to the vending machine when four to five hours have elapsed since your last
at night. Casein isn’t the only way to grow
at night. “Eat a large amount of lean protein and some fish oil right before
bed,” says Sean Waxman, CSCS, a former national-level Olympic weightlifter and
president of Pure Strength. “The protein will give the body the amino acids it
needs to grow, and the fish oil will slow the absorption to maintain positive
nitrogen balance longer through the night.”
your muscles with protein powder. As you
read earlier, protein is a must for maximum muscle and powders are a quick and
convenient way to make sure that you’re getting enough. Stock your cabinet with
fast-digesting whey for morning, midday and preworkout protein, and add casein
for your postworkout and nighttime shakes.
Increase your strength and size with creatine. Next from protein, creatine is the MVP in the mass game. Creatine adds
strength and size — as much as 5 to 10 pounds in the first few weeks of
supplementation — by helping you to get more reps with heavier weight. Take 3
to 5 grams preworkout and postworkout for best results. Creatine monohydrate,
the simplest and cheapest form of the stuff, is perfectly effective at helping
you gain muscle, but new studies are showing that creatine hydrochloride might
be absorbed better by muscles, even in lower doses.
up with Tribulus terrestris. This testosterone-boosting supplement can boost muscle growth and cause
acute improvements in muscle strength. Research shows you should take 250 to
750 milligrams twice a day, with one dose coming an hour before your workout.
(If you buy a specific testosterone-boosting product, follow the label
Branch out. Branched-chain amino acids, often
referred to as BCAAs, include leucine, isoleucine and valine. These aminos help
manufacture and repair damaged muscle tissue, as well as provide energy during
workouts. Leucine in particular has been shown to drastically increase protein
synthesis. Take 3 to 5 grams with breakfast, preworkout and postworkout, and
before hitting the sheets at night.
HMB. Just starting out? Try taking
HMB, or beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate. A metabolite of leucine (see above),
HMB helps prevent muscle breakdown, particularly beginners who are exposing
their bodies to new stress. Try 3 to 6 grams two to three times per day with
up your workouts with arginine. Using arginine
for size is becoming as much of a no-brainer as the use of creatine. This
compound, which enhances your body’s nitric-oxide production, improves blood
flow to working muscles, which means more nutrients, oxygen and hormones get
where they need to go. It has also been shown to raise growth-hormone levels,
which leads to greater strength and size over time. Try 3 to 5 grams before and
after workouts, but make sure your postworkout dose is stimulant free if you
Recover right with glutamine. Don’t skimp on
this crucial amino acid, which can decrease muscle breakdown, delay time to
fatigue and increase levels of leucine in muscle fibers. As a bonus, glutamine
enhances immunity, which keeps you training at a high level year-round. Take 5
to 10 grams four times per day, including before and after workouts.
the tank with taurine. Taurine helps
you produce more force during workouts and can help you improve your endurance
and recovery. Take 1 to 3 grams of taurine preworkout and postworkout.
room for a multivitamin. If you’re not
already taking a multivitamin, the question is, “Why?” Hard-training
individuals can suffer from nutritional deficiencies, and a multivitamin helps
to correct that. Pick a complete multivitamin and take daily as directed, with
Supplement with extra vitamin D3. This under-the-radar
vitamin is being shown to help increase muscle growth and strength through its
interaction with muscle fibers. It can be taken supplementally, but it can also
be found in food. “Good sources include milk, salmon, tuna, eggs and fortified
orange juice,” White says. In
supplement form, aim for 1,000 IU, one to two times daily with food.
Fortify your health. In addition to
a daily multi and extra vitamin D, it’s recommended that you supplement with
essential fatty acids, calcium and probiotics. All three have demonstrated
numerous health benefits in clinical studies. Essential fatty acids support the
cardiovascular, immune and nervous system. Calcium helps bone strength and is
involved in muscle contraction, and probiotics augment the digestive system.
Believe the buzz on caffeine. Caffeine is
gaining a reputation as a perfect preworkout addition to your usual supplement
stack. Taken as caffeine anhydrous in a dose of 200 to 500 milligrams, 30 to 60
minutes before your workout, caffeine can help delay your time to fatigue and
cause an immediate increase in strength. One study showed that lifters gained
an immediate 5 pounds on their bench press when supplementing with caffeine.
green. Often found in weight-loss
formulas, green-tea extract is a great supplement for general health, too. The
active constituents in green tea have strong antioxidant properties, most
notably epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG for short. Green tea has been shown
to stabilize cell membranes in the body, lower LDL cholesterol (i.e., the “bad”
type of cholesterol), help prevent inflammation, and has positive effects in
the battle against cancer growth.
abreast of the latest supplement research. Every
day, scientists and researchers are hard at work in labs nationwide looking for
new compounds and ingredient combinations that can help bodybuilders build
muscle and athletes get bigger, stronger and faster. Take advantage of this
continually growing wealth of information by keeping on top of it, through this
magazine and other reputable outlets. Then put that knowledge to use by
shopping at The Vitamin Shoppe.
Master the barbell. The barbell has
always been — and will always be — the primary implement in the gym for
building strength and mass. Perfect your technique on exercises such as the
squat, deadlift, bench press, incline bench press, overhead press, upright row
and bent-over row, and you’ll be well on your way to new muscle.
Master dumbbells. While barbells reign
supreme as the No. 1 mass builder in the gym, dumbbells are a very close
second, and major muscle makers in their own right. Dumbbells call smaller
stabilizer muscles into action because each side of your body is forced to work
independent of the other. This greater demand on muscles triggers new growth,
not just in the muscle you’re targeting but in the supporting muscles and
tissues, as well.
machines. Machines should never be the main
player in your mass-gain plan, but they have their place. Machines allow you to
safely overload muscles, even though it’s through a predetermined range of
motion, without you needing to worry so much about balance or weights dropping
cables. Cables are mainly used to “shape”
existing muscle but actually provide great muscle-building benefits because of
constant tension. Unlike barbells or dumbbells, which usually have an “easy”
portion of an exercise, cables keep your muscles working hard from point A to
point B. Choose challenging resistance, and cables become a reliable way to
to know the Smith machine. The Smith
machine, which has a barbell contained in a straight, smooth-running vertical
track, allows you to perform your heavy barbell work without necessarily having
a spotter around. The safety hooks allow you to rack the weight with a flick of
the wrist whenever you hit a sticking point. You don’t want to become
over-reliant on the Smith, but it’s good to augment an otherwise free-weight-centric
98. Strap up. When your grip begins to
fail during your back workout, throw on a set of pulling straps. Don’t worry
about the effect on your grip or forearm development; worry about your back
first. (Back first, grip later.) If your forearm development is a concern, it’s
better to add in specific work for them at the end of the workout than
compromise the weight you can handle on your back exercises.
you have access to them, try kettlebells.
Kettlebell exercises, such as swings and snatches, are a great way to break up
the monotony of typical gym training and can help you build more power and
Limit belt use. Weight belts help, if you
use them sparingly. Wearing a belt at all times never allows the lower-back
muscles to strengthen. We suggest that you use one only if you really need it on your heaviest sets including squats,
deadlifts, barbell rows and standing overhead presses, in which you require
lower-back protection. Skip the belt on other sets so your lower back has to
work and can therefore grow stronger.
Increase your intensity on bodyweight moves. Dips and
pull-ups are two of the best bodyweight exercises you can do for getting bigger
and stronger. But when you can manage 10 to 12 good reps on your own, it’s time
to add weight. To do this, you can either hold a dumbbell between your feet or
wear a dipping belt, which allows you to really pile on the poundage.