Stimulus is the determining factor when it comes to changing body shape. If you are eating right, and resting right and still not continuing to change, the answer can lie with your Training Approach. A fault in training approach is fundamentally the number one reason why people fail to change their physiques. No matter where you are in your training you should expect to improve indefinitely, and your training must reflect this. Make sure you are not making these mistakes:
Before reading please familiarise yourself with the 5 Factors of Muscle Growth to ensure you first understand the basic requirements of training.
"Exercise is King, Nutrition is Queen - put them together and you've got a Kingdom"
- Jack LaLanne (Find out more about Jack LaLanne here)
1. Too Short Sets
We actually know with 100% certainty that the optimal length of a set for maximum growth is 30-40 seconds - and in some cases up to one minute. Trusting that you are able to retain maximum tension on your target muscle throughout the entire set, you should work up to performing the exercise for at least 30 seconds at a time. Lactic Acid build up is vital for muscle growth to occur, due to its stimulation of Growth Hormone (GH) and indication of muscle exhaustion and potential damage. GH then stimulates repair of damaged muscle, which results in the muscle growing. It might mean reducing the weight to make the set longer, aim for 4 sets per exercise with 10-15 Reps. In time this range can reduce to 8-12 but only once you have mastered prolonged muscular tension - so you know how to induce the build up of Lactic Acid in the target muscles.
2. Poor Form
If you aren't recruiting the target muscle fibres and damaging them, they will never grow. The very best bodybuilders in the world will be able to stimulate muscle growth with very light weights, due to their ability to contract the correct muscles through optimal range and tempo. If you cannot grow a muscle and you are using heavy weights, try this; Reduce the weight by half, and perform the exercise as slowly as you can through both positive and negative portions of the rep, perform as many reps as possible without resting at the top or bottom. Concentrate on flexing the target muscles constantly, and learn to cause them maximum tension. Then continue with this approach indefinitely, increasing the weight only when necessary staying in a 10-15 Rep Range to begin with. Click here to learn about Proper Technique for Bodybuilding Exercises.
3. Accidental Rest Periods
This is a silent killer of gains, as it is very easy to do without realising. Therefore, it can also be quite difficult to self diagnose as a problem in your training approach. Rest periods should be maximum 30-45 secs for upper body and calves, and 60-90 secs for Legs. It is too easy to rest much longer i.e. 2-3 mins between sets, thus vastly reducing Intensity, Volume and Lactic Acid build up. This is only half the story though, the real killer is rest periods actually during the set itself. At the top and bottom of each Rep there is a tendency to want to relax or 'lock out' for a second (or less), when this happens tension is lost due to resistance falling mainly onto your joints. Your muscles must be under tension for literally the entire Set, and must be trained Intensely.
4. No Game Plan
Most people workout sporadically and with differing strategies, lacking any specific goals or training approaches at all. This attitude does not stimulate long term improvement. You need to set a strict schedule with a strict set of exercises that target specific areas of your body, and then stick to it for many weeks in order to see change. Start with a 3 Day Split, Chest and Arms - Day 1, Legs and Abs - Day 2, Back and Shoulders - Day 3. One rest day in between each training day, 4 Rest Days per week. For the more advanced, a 4 Day Split: Chest - Day 1, Back - Day 2, Shoulders And Arms - Day 3, Legs - Day 4. There are fewer rest days with a 4 Day Split so make sure you do not train more than 2 days in a row. Click here to learn the factors involved in muscle growth.
5. Poor Exercise Choice
If you are continuing to perform exercises that cannot induce change in your body, even if you are doing it all correctly, you will not get bigger. We must focus on the largest muscles, and the muscles that have the most capacity to give us the illusion of size. Exercises that target the largest muscles from as many different angles as possible is the approach needed. E.g. For Chest, we must target upper, middle and lower chest appropriately. For the muscles that give the illusion of size (width) e.g. Medial Deltoids, they must be stimulated through side lateral raises and upright rows. The Back must be hit with 4-5 exercises from overhead pulls and rowing variations. You cannot do 1-2 exercises on arms and expect your Chest, Back, Shoulders and Legs to grow. To grow we must stimulate the muscles that can get big.
NOTE: No Training Approach is complete without an affective Diet. Please click here to learn more about correct dieting for muscle growth.
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