BUILDING SIZE & STRENGTH (PART ONE)

Last week we talked about the main three fitness goals I’ve seen—toning up a bit, losing a little weight, or losing lots of weight—along with a basic game plan for each goal. But there are some other goals that people often have, including gaining size and strength; getting ripped; and training for specific events. This week I’d like to focus on Gaining Size and Strength.

This is a very common goal, particularly with men. Gaining size and strength is not all that difficult to do, especially for someone just starting out. At that point, most anything will work, and it really comes down to just adding more calories to your diet, and getting to the gym often, hitting the weights.

You need to make sure the calories are high quality, with lots of protein for building muscle and bone. That protein can come from low-fat dairy products, lean meats, nuts, peanut butter, and often, protein shakes.

Your protein shakes should also contain glutamine, and some carbs, both of which help your recovery. The better ones have several different types of protein which have different absorption rates, and they often taste better too. Several reputable online stores include: http://www.gnc.com , http://www.bodybuilder.com , and http://www.nutritionexpress.com , which is where I get my shakes.

You’ll also need some quality carbs like whole grains and fruits to fuel your workouts. You can even purchase different workout shakes that can help you fuel up before your workout too. Personally, I just have a good breakfast with some fruit, whole-grain waffles, and some yogurt.

Weight-lifting routines for beginners often focus on all the major muscle groups and are called whole-body workouts. Typically, you’ll start with weight machines, doing a circuit which hits all your muscle groups in a sequence. The machines will help learn different exercises and how to use your muscles in a pretty safe manner.

As you advance, however, you’ll probably want to replace many if not all of the machine exercises with free weights. While machines are great for isolating muscle groups, free weights require you to balance and control the weights yourself, which uses more stabilizer muscles. You also won’t have the leverage advantage machines often provide, so you’ll be doing more work, which gives you a better workout.

At that point, you’ll probably also want to start splitting things up into different workouts (workout splits). Then, you might do only Pushing exercises one day (Chest Shoulders & Triceps), Pulling exercises the next day (Back & Biceps), and Lower Body exercises (Legs & Abs) the next.

After that, you’d either start over, or take a rest day. Since you’re limiting your workout to fewer muscle groups, this allows you to do more exercises for each area, working those particular muscles harder. This is called a 3-Day Split Routine.

If you do Pushing on M, Pulling on T, and Lower Body on W, and then go right to Pushing on TH, Pulling on F, and Lower on SA, you might want to hit things a little heavier or do more in the workouts earlier in the week. Then when you hit them again, later in the week, go a little lighter, or do fewer exercises. This will help you recover for the following week.

Advanced body-builders often do 4-Day and even 5-Day Split routines. A common 4-Day Split routine is Chest & Triceps-M, Back & Biceps-TU, Legs & Abs (W), and Shoulders (TH).

A 5-Day Split could include Chest-M, Back-TU, Legs & Abs (W), Shoulders (TH), and Biceps & Triceps (F). In each case, these advanced splits allow you to pull out a specific area that you’d like to focus on, so you can do more exercises that hit that exact muscle group.

These aren’t the only ways to do it. I know some really successful guys who split it up in different ways. One does Chest & Biceps, Legs & Shoulders, and Back & Triceps, throwing in some Ab exercises every other time.

This is the big picture—the overall plan of action. For more specific information like exercises, sets and reps, you need to dig deeper. Get with a trainer or someone in your gym that looks like they know what they’re doing.

Be careful though. Don’t think that just because someone looks great and got great results with a program they did, that it’s right for you. Everyone’s different and the real fun comes from figuring out what works best for you.

I’m convinced that most programs will bring results, at least for awhile, if you’ll just stick with it. After awhile, it’s good to change things up. This makes your workouts fresh and interesting, and also keeps your body guessing.

One good resource is http://www.bodybuilding.com . You’ll find lots of article detailing specific routines, including all the exercises, number of sets and reps. Or you can pick up a recent copy of “Muscle & Fitness”, “Men’s Health”, or “Oxygen” (for ladies).

Next week I’ll give you some sample workouts I like for each routine we looked at today. Don’t forget, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tomdolanfitness !

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