Mass-Building Mistakes

February 3, 2014

By Hidetada Yamagishi, IFBB Pro; Photography by Paul Buceta; Model: IFBB Pro Hidetada Yamagishi

[Q] Hide, people tell me that everything works for beginners, but the opposite seems true with me ⎯ I must be a hardgainer. My workouts usually involve several sets of heavy bench presses, barbell curls, pressdowns and leg extensions. Am I doing something wrong?

[A] This is very hard to answer without seeing your full routine, but my advice is that you should do more basic compound exercises. Include bent-over rows, chin-ups and deadlifts for back and bench presses and incline presses for your chest. Also, multiple exercises from different angles work the target bodypart more completely. In addition to your leg extensions, you should be doing squats and leg presses to build a better foundation for adding size. Of course, if you’re a true beginner, you can do a full-body workout three days a week. Then after a few months, you can split your routine by bodypart ⎯ upper body and lower body or some other specialized split. Remember to use a weight that causes muscle failure at about 8–12 reps for best results.

[Q] I’ve been training for a few months now and I’ve seen some good gains in strength. I feel like I’m ready to try some advanced techniques ⎯ which do you think work best for adding size?

[A] If you have someone to spot you, a good advanced technique for adding size is forced reps because you’re able to break your plateaus. If you train by yourself and you’re doing bench presses for 8-10 reps, when you get to failure, you have to stop or you’ll drop the bar on your neck! But if you have somebody helping you get a few more reps, you can hit the muscle more effectively and more intensely to trigger growth. Another technique that’s easy to do for beginners or intermediates is drop sets. Once you hit failure on a given set (usually your last set of an exercise), immediately reduce the poundage by about 25% and continue to failure a second time. This technique allows you to continue a set where you’d otherwise have stopped and racked the weight.

[Q] I’m desperately trying to add a foundation of mass fast. What’s the best exercise for total body muscle?

[A] My choice would be the deadlift. It uses most of the major muscle groups of the body. You have to use your lower and upper back, arms, quads, glutes, hamstrings and traps, and it requires you to have a strong grip. With other exercises, you only use certain muscles, but the deadlift involves the whole body. If you’re just starting out with this move, learning the correct form is difficult but imperative, so start out with light weights till you get the form down right. Once you know the proper execution, start adding weight. I’d do four sets: The first set is a warm-up of 12 sets, not done to failure. On each successive set, add some weight and decrease your reps, doing 10, eight and then six reps.

[Q] Hide, I’m just starting out and I need all the help I can get. Besides protein, what’s the one supplement I should be taking?

[A] For adding size, my go-to supplement is Gaspari Nutrition’s SizeOn. This is a creatine and amino acid drink you can take during your workout, which can help you add size quickly. I’ve been training for more than 20 years and I’ve tried most of the supplements on the market and I’ve never had results like this. I’d recommend it to anyone who trains seriously.

Hide's Beginner Mass Routine

For those just starting out, Hide recommends this combination of basic exercises to start adding mass in a hurry, which he considers among the best mass builders a bodybuilder can do. These aren’t easy lifts to master, but once you get the form down, you can start adding challenging weights.

Deadlift - 3 Sets x 12, 10, 8 Reps

Bench Press - 3 Sets x 12, 10, 8 Reps

Barbell Squat - 3 Sets x 12, 10, 8 Reps

Military Press - 3 Sets x 12, 10, 8 Reps

Barbell Curl - 3 Sets x 12, 10, 8 Reps

Triceps Pressdown - 3 Sets x 12, 10, 8 Reps

*Hide recommends adding weight and decreasing reps on each set to build strength (called pyramid training).

*Rest 90–120 seconds between sets (longer on heavier sets and multijoint exercises).

After four weeks, increase the total number of sets per exercise to 4–5.