Five times a week, two hours each visit. You’ve been more faithful to your gym schedule than you’ve ever been to any girlfriend you’ve had. And for a while it paid off, those muscles started rippling and the girls started paying attention.
But then, like a bad dream you wake up from, your muscles suddenly stopped developing as they used to do. Your muscles stop responding to your heavy workout no matter how intensely you’ve been training. So you said to yourself, now I will train harder. So now you put in three hours a session and but even as you upped your gym dosage, horror of horrors, your muscles are actually shrinking.
Ahhhhh, the Gym Plateau. It afflicts all of us and few of us ever gotten out of it. Obviously when it comes to building muscle there is a tremendous amount of science involved. Anatomy, physiology, metabolism, biology, catabolic, and anabolic etc, the technical terms just keep on coming. However, there is some great news for all you non-scientists out there. There are a number of remarkably simple changes you can make that will make huge differences to your gains, and will see you busting out of the dreaded plateau. The great news is that you can implement them straight away.
1: Take Less Time
This is a great little tip when it comes to developing your lean muscle mass, or indeed whatever your training goal happens to be. If you can perform more work in less time you will be upping the intensity level and improving your cardiovascular conditioning. This leads to an increase in your metabolic rate and an increase in lean muscle mass.
Do more reps with more weight in less time and just watch your lean muscle mass and your muscular development go through the roof. Try to take much shorter rest periods and don’t worry if you feel totally shattered to begin with, that’s exactly how you are supposed to feel!
If your workout is currently taking over an hour then take a step back and examine just how much of that time is spent in recovery. If you can halve your recovery time you will massively increase the intensity of your workout and supercharge your metabolism. This is such a simple tip, but one that has proven to be massively effective. Try it today.
2: Work On Your Mindset
It is vital that you keep a positive mindset in place. You have to be disciplined, focused and goal orientated. Have you noticed that the most successful people in any field tend to be positive, and will always have a specific set of plans in place. They very rarely blame others for their shortcomings and regularly step out of their comfort zone in order to develop themselves.
Building a ripped and muscular physique with ripped abs, huge biceps and massive triceps, or indeed any form of muscular development plan is no different, and if you truly want to develop your perfect physique then you will have to do the same. If your training plan isn’t working then don’t blame your trainer, change your training plan. If you are not losing enough fat then don’t blame your diet, change your diet. You, and only you, are responsible for you! Quit finding excuses for your own shortcomings and take responsibility right now.
3: Change your Grip!
This is a small change compared to most of the others you can do, but one way to spice up your workout from time to time is to change the way you’re gripping the bar when doing barbell or machine exercises. One of my favourite grips is the palm grip. In fact, I’ve read several articles from fitness trainers and other professional athletes that suggest that on exercises like the bench press, you should only be using a palm grip.
So what is a palm grip? Let’s use the bench press as an example for the palm grip. Many of us have been guilty of using a standard grip on this exercise. A standard grip would be where you wrap your hand around bar as if you were holding a baseball bat. If you want a more effective bench press, try not wrapping your thumb around the bar. You might think that you’ll lose some stability by doing this, but I’ve never had that problem.
You might have to bend your wrist a little more to compensate, or lower the weight just a little bit. The main benefit to using a palm grip on this type of exercise is that by putting your thumb in this position, you are reducing the amount of effort that your forearms will put into the exercise. Therefore, you chest and triceps will have to work even harder to do the lift. Try this, and I’m sure you’ll notice a difference the next time you perform a bench press.
It’s such a simple little tip but over the years it has proven to be extremely effective when it comes to getting some great gains from your training. So give it a try.
4: Give Tri-sets A Go!
You’ve probably heard of super sets, where you do two exercises consecutively without resting in between. Have you ever tried doing three different exercises? This works extremely well, and really helps to build muscle fast. The benefit to doing a tri-set with a biceps workout for example, is that it allows you to hit the biceps really hard in three different ways.
Here’s an example of a bicep tri-set: standing barbell curls, hammer curls, reverse barbell curls. You’ll also notice in this sequence that you have to change your grip with each set of the tri-set. This is far and away the best way to utilize a tri-set. It’s such a simple little tip but over the years it has proven to be extremely effective in shocking up the muscle and powering through the plateau. So give it a try.
Here’s an example of a triset with triceps: straight bar cable push downs, rope cable push downs, reverse cable pushdowns. Again, the key here is to change the grip on each exercise. Give these a try, and I’m sure you’ll feel a new pump in whatever body part you utilize them with!
5: Change your Split!
Have you been following the same split routine for two long? Has your split routine consisted of chest and triceps, back and biceps, or something similar for several months? Try reversing your split or doing a 5 day split instead of a 3 day split. Do chest and biceps, back and triceps just to mix it up a little.
These are just a few basic ideas, but it’s always a good idea to mix up your routine on a continual basis. That way you can keep your body guessing and growing to adapt to the changes in stress that you place on your muscles.
The human body is fantastic at adaptation. So whatever routine you are on, your body will get used to it. So do change your routine every 6-8 weeks. For example, instead of working out your chest muscles at the start of your workout, work your back muscles instead. You can reverse your whole routine or change the variations of your exercises or add new ones and take away some old ones. By changing your routines, you not only shock your muscles to new growth, it will also prevent boredom by doing the same thing all the time.
6: Take A Break
This tip is easy to comply with for most of us but very difficult for some gym rats. Simply take a break from your workout. Do not step into the gym or do any workout for 2 weeks. Its time to let your body recover from the punishments you are dishing out to your muscles. Some bodybuilders may find this difficult to do because working out is addictive. You produce endorphin when you workout and endorphin is also known as happy hormone. The same hormone you produce when having sex.
Professional bodybuilders take a break after every 4-5 months of hard training and when they are back in the gym, they shock their well rested but complacent muscles back into massive muscle gain.
7: Stop Training Every Day!
Wow, this one is going to freak a lot of you out. The fact is that you don’t have to spend 2 hours a day 7 days a week at the gym. In fact you will probably be doing untold damage to your body if you are, not to mention the damage you are doing to your social life!
If your exercises are intense enough, you need only to train each muscle group once or twice a week. Your training schedule shouldn’t repeat muscle groups in the same week. Every time you train, you do your muscles damage. Muscles need time to repair and it does so in the after your training when you are resting. This means that if you lift weights on consecutive days, there isn’t sufficient time for the body to recover. Try to have one day rest between each weight lifting day.
If your routine requires intensive weight training, remember not to prolong your gym time longer than an hour. This is because your cortisol, a muscle eating hormone level will be elevated and thus will be counter productive to your efforts. It eats your muscles.
Most of all, you must sleep! Eight hours or even better, go for ten hours. Muscles do not grow in the gym; they grow when you sleep. When you sleep, you are secreting growth hormones for many bodily functions and one of those functions is to build muscles. That is why they called it beauty sleep!
8: Work On Your Lifting Technique.
If your technique or form is incorrect, not only is your training retarded, you are also inviting injury. Don’t laugh. But when you exercise you must think and focus, instead of mindlessly repeating the motions, do take note of how you perform each exercise and rep. Do so with deliberation and at the beginning and end of every lift, pause and squeeze the muscles you are exercising. Mind and muscle must connect! Never use the momentum of the swing to lift the weights and let gravity pull the weight down. That is why you must lift slowly and lower slowly feeling the tension in your muscles and resisting the load all the time.
In order for muscles to want to grow, you have to stress them to the maximum, and then further. Do enough repetitions until you feel you cannot go any further using good form. You must then either increase the weight or the number of repetitions at the next session. This is called progressive overload, and progressive overload is what forces your muscles to grow. As a general guide, if you can lift more than 12 reps the weight is probably too light and it is too heavy if your muscles fail you in less than 5 reps. You may wish to consult your physical fitness trainer on the correct form and technique for each exercise.
9: Work Your Legs!
Your body is programmed to grow proportionately with only slight variations. If you do not train your legs, your upper body mass will stop growing before it becomes large. Surely, you’ve heard of chicken legs! Just because leg training can be brutal, it doesn’t give you reason to hide your legs in your pants. To get that super hero X-frame, pepper your routine with squats. If you are in the middle of a stall in your muscular development, take a step back and work out a new routine basd entirely on squats, deadlifts and pull ups. try a compound only workout for a while.
Compound exercises, such as the squat are exercises that involve 2 or more joint movements and thereby employing bigger and more synergistic muscles. Bench presses, dead lifts, and barbell curls amongst others are fantastic examples of compound exercises. When you squat, all the muscles in your lower body get a workout and that alone is about 60 percent of your overall musculature. Squats also work your back and abs too. To add icing to the cake, because of the massive utilization of your muscles, you will pant, huff and sweat more. That means your routine also has a cardio effect and you will burn calories even hours after you stepped out of the gym .
A word of caution though: compound exercises such as dead lifts, squats, and bench presses must be done in excellent form and a spotter is highly recommended. This is where your physical fitness trainer will come in handy as your spotter. If not, injuries are bound to happen and that may put you permanently out of the gym.
10: Eat More & Eat Often
This is perhaps the most basic requirement and yet seems to the main area where most people fail miserably on their mission to get ripped. You simply have to focus on proper nutrition. Training with weights is only half of the equation! You break down your muscle fibres in the gym, but if you don’t provide your body with the proper nutrients at the proper times, the muscle growth process will be next to impossible.
If you have stalled on your curent eating plan, then take a step back and examine what changes you can make. Follow these basics to start with and see where you go from there.
You should be eating anywhere from 5-7 meals per day, spaced every 2-3 hours in order to keep your body in an anabolic, muscle-building state at all times. Each meal should consist of high quality protein and complex carbohydrates. Also eating properly is imperative when it comes to the fat loss required to actually see the muscular development you have been working so hard on.
Muscle building requires protein – the more, the better. Meat, especially red meats and fish, are the best source. It is in your food that your body will draw nutrients from, for strength and necessary fats for joint and organ protection.
To have massive muscle gain and help in muscle preservation , you need about 2-3 grams of good protein per kilogram of your body weight . If you want to get serious about muscles , you may need to supplement them with protein shakes . Eating a meal and having a protein shake immediately after your workout also maximizes the window for rapid absorption of nutrients. This is important as you need to feed the muscles now that you have damaged them. This will help rev up your metabolism to burn fat too. This will tremendously help you in your muscle building program. Remember to take your protein shake half an hour before you workout too.
Water is essential. It is the most underrated macronutrient. You need at least eight glasses of water every day but when you exercise , you lose even more water because of the sweating. So drink before, during and after your workout. Weigh yourself before and after the workout, and compensate for the loss by drinking at least 16 ounces of fluid for every pound or half a kg lost.
How about Carbs?
Glycogen is the main energy source for any muscle-building exercise. The body stores whatever carbohydrates you eat as glycogen and muscles use it to give you energy during your workout. After an intense workout, do consume carbohydrates immediately to replace the used glycogen. You can even indulge in high glycemic carbs such as ice creams and white bread as these will turn into insulin and shuttles nutrients such as protein to your muscle cells quickly.
Yes, your body do need do need fats . But try to avoid saturated fats such as animal fats or worse, trans fats which are artificial fats found in pastries, confectionaries and preserved food. Consume healthy unsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil, fish oils, flax seed oil.
While meats are the best source for creatine, which is a nutrient that helps speed up muscle gain and power you up during workouts, those who do not get enough from their regular diet must be supplemented. Creatine puts volume into your muscle cells and gives you that muscle pump thus your muscles feels tighter, look bigger and overall illusion of superb muscularity . It also helps to prevent muscle breakdown.
Stalling comes to us all and it can be frustrating. However, it is a basic fact that it is impossible to just keep making gains on a weekly basis for the rest of your life. If it were that simple then the world record for the deadlift would be 20 tonnes! The reality is that if you find yourself hitting the plateau then you just have to deal with it and do something different.
Muscle building is a long term process and ultimately, as with most things in life, you only get out what you put in. Work hard, train hard and you will build a huge physique – eventually!