March 31, 2017

Gain Weight and Muscle

A 4-Day Strength Training Routine That Will Help You Gain Weight and Muscle

With the popularity of full body weight lifting routines for beginners and body part split plans for more advanced bodybuilders, the time-tested upper body / lower body regimen often gets neglected as a method to gain weight and muscle. This is unfortunate because lifters of all backgrounds and experience levels have long used this kind of routine to add massive amounts of strength and muscle mass. Here is one variation of this effective plan that will help you gain weight and muscle.

Gain Weight

Like many good training plans, this one focuses on gaining strength in the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, and a few other compound movements. Each day has a primary lift followed by several of the most important auxiliary lifts. Go through this rotation once per week on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday schedule. If these days do not work well, just make sure you do not have more than two days of training in a row, and that you have an off day between Bench Press and Deadlift days.

Lower Body 1 - Squat 
  • Squat - Use a strong, medium-width stance. 
  • Dumbbell Split Squat - place one foot on a bench behind you, and squat down with the other leg while holding dumbbells to your sides. 
  • Weighted Sit-ups - Keep the weight behind your head. 
  • Calves - Pick one calf exercise, and stick with it for this day.

-Tip- Gain weight and muscle with the squat: The best way to squat for building muscle is the method that allows you to use the most weight (while still getting a good range of motion). At the start of the movement, push your hips BACK, and THEN sit down into the hole. Keep your lower and upper back tight, and explode back to the standing position once you get low enough.

Upper Body 1 - Bench Press 
  • Bench Press - Use your strongest medium or wide grip, an arch in your back, and a full range of motion. 
  • Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press - Use a moderate weight and a range of motion from your ears to lockout. 
  • Decline EZ bar extensions - Use only a moderate decline. Lower the weight over your eyes while keeping your elbows in. 
  • Pullups - Pick one variation, and stick with it for this day. 
  • Chest-Supported Row - To keep your lower back out of the movement, use any apparatus that lets you row with your chest against a pad. 
  • Curls - Pick one variation, and stick with it for this day.

Lower Body 2 - Deadlift 
  • Deadlift - Use a narrow stance and an over-under grip. Do not use straps for your heaviest set. 
  • Leg Press - Place your feet as high and wide as possible without hurting your hips. 
  • Calves - Pick a different calf exercise from the first lower body day. 
  • Standing Cable Abs - Using a rope attachment, brace your back against the cable attachment and crunch away.

-Tip- Gain weight and muscle with the deadlift: The best way to deadlift the most weight is to do a somewhat similar motion to the squat. Get into position so that your shoulders are over the bar, and your shins are close. Keeping your back tight, pull the weight BACK and UP, and drive your hips FORWARD.

Upper Body 2 - Military Press 
  • Military Press - Use a medium stance and minimal hip or leg drive. Make sure your shoulders are doing most of the work. 
  • Dips - Use a medium grip that taxes your chest and triceps. Dip at least low enough so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor. 
  • Cable Pressdowns - Use a bar attachment and a slight swaying motion to help. Add weight to the stack if necessary. 
  • Barbell Row - Use a medium-width grip and straps for your heavy sets. Use a little bit of cheating in the motion to help you lift more weight. 
  • Pullups - Pick a different variation from your first upper body day. 
  • Curls - Pick a different variation from your first upper body day.

Sets and Reps - Minimal Volume, Maximal Intensity 
If you follow what the biggest guys in the gym are doing, you will notice that they often focus on performing a few, very hard sets of a few heavy exercises. To best gain weight and muscle, you will perform two main sets per exercise. After doing whatever warm-ups you need to get your body ready for heavy weights, do one set of 4-6 reps and one set of 10-12 reps (in that order). The first set will be your main "strength-builder," while the following, somewhat lighter set will further tax your muscles and stimulate growth. For some exercises, such as dumbbell overhead press, sit-ups, and extensions, you will need to up the rep ranges a bit for joint safety and consistent progression.

Making Progress - Increasing Your Weight and Reps 
No matter what the bodybuilding "gurus" continue to write about drop sets, super sets, or whatever fancy techniques are in vogue, the only way to make long term progress and gains huge amounts of muscle mass is to get much stronger on all of your key exercises. You should strive to add more weight and / or more reps for every exercise, every training session. Keep a log of your exercises, weights, sets, and reps, so you always know what you must do to surpass your previous records.

Eating for Massive Gains 
No matter how hard you push yourself in the gym, you will not gain weight and muscle mass if your diet is not up to par. Make sure you are putting your body in a caloric surplus all day, and that 30-40 percent of your calories of coming from sources of complete protein such as beef, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. You will need to work just as hard in the kitchen as in the gym.

Sticking with the Plan for the Long Haul 
Whether you are just starting out lifting weights, or you are changing your current program, stick with this plan for several months before even thinking about switching things up. Following the teachings of so-called "experts" and switching up your workout routine every few weeks to "keep your body guessing" will leave you with no progress and a lot of wasted time and energy. As long as you are eating enough to gain 3-4 pounds per month, you will almost certainly be gaining strength on your lifts and adding some serious muscle mass.

March 11, 2017

Pectoral Exercises - 3 of the Best Pectoral Exercises That Will Help You Build a Massive Chest

Building a huge chest is one of the biggest goals for many weight lifters and aspiring bodybuilders. Unfortunately, the best, most basic pectoral exercises, such as barbell bench presses, incline presses, and decline presses do not work for some trainees. Some lifters find that these exercises don't do a good enough job of specifically working their chests, while others have problems with their shoulders and rotator cuffs that prevent them from using a barbell for pressing movements. If you are one of these trainees, you don't need to worry; here are 3 unconventional pectoral exercises that can effectively work your chest while keeping your joints safe.
Pectoral Exercises

Chest Dips

Though people most often use dips as a triceps-building exercise, I have found them to be one of the best pectoral exercises out there. Many dip stations have angled bars that allow you to grip narrow, wide, or anywhere in between. If you are looking to work mainly chest with this movement, take a moderately wide grip that doesn't hurt your shoulders. You should also try to dip down to a point at least a little bit lower than where your upper arms are parallel to the floor. You will have to experiment to find the best range of motion for yourself.

You can perform dips with just your bodyweight, but you should focus on gradually adding external resistance. Most gyms have dip / pull-up belts that you can use at no extra cost. Aim to increase your strength on a heavy set to failure of 4-8 reps each time you do this movement. You can also follow this heavy set with one of bodyweight reps to failure.

Dumbbell Floor Press

You may have heard the merits of using different types of dumbbell presses as your mainstay pectoral exercises. While they certainly can work wonders for people struggling with chest development from barbell movements, they do not allow you to use nearly as much weight. One way to solve this problem is to do floor presses with dumbbells instead of the normal flat press. Unless your arms are very short, pressing from the floor will shorten the range of motion of the press by several inches, while still providing great stimulation for your chest.

The difficult thing about this exercise is getting the dumbbells into position. The best way is to stand them upright on the floor next to where your thighs will be. Sit on the floor, and hoist the one on your non-dominant side up onto your thigh. Either get a spotter to hand you the other dumbbell, or find the best way for your body type to get it up onto your thigh. Once both dumbbells are resting on your legs, simply lay back and press. You may need to situate your upper back properly once you get the first rep up. Work your way up to two top sets of 8-10 reps.

Suspended Push-Ups

There are many devices you can use for this movement, but the basic idea is to do push-ups from an unstable set of handles. Many people use two loops of chains suspended a few inches from the ground. There are also special handles made for this exercise that you can hang from a power rack or smith machine. Suspended Push-Ups are not only one of the best "hidden" pectoral exercises, but they will improve your coordination and stability by challenging you to remain in the correct path while pressing from an unstable "surface."

You can have someone add external resistance by placing weights on your back, but I have always preferred to do this movement with just my bodyweight at the end of a training session. If you do the same, perform 2-3 sets of as many reps as you can get. When this becomes too easy, start having a spotter add a 25 or 45 pound plate to your back.