Every month you make your ritual pilgrimage to the local newspaper store to pick up your copy of the latest muscle building and fitness magazines. Every month they tell you the same things, hammering home what you need to do to build a lean, muscular physique. Every month you follow these guidelines right down to the very last detail.
Every month you stay exactly the same.
What’s happening? It’s not your fault – you’re doing everything right, supposedly, so where are these promised bulging biceps, freaky calves and gigantic chest?
Perhaps what the magazines are telling you isn’t right. There are many common myths perpetuating the bodybuilding industry and magazines thrive on majoring in the minor – picking out the tiny, insignificant details and offering them up as advice. In reality, these myths don’t help you at all. You need a solid muscle building plan and the know-how to tell fact from fiction.
You don’t need to eat five, six or seven times a day to build muscle. Sure, most 300 pound pro bodybuilders with five percent bodyfat do eat this many times, or even more perhaps. But they do this because with the amount of calories they need to consume to maintain and build size (usually around 6,000 to 8,000 per day) they need this many feedings, otherwise each meal would be the size of a small child!
If you’re comfortable eating three times a day, stick with it and don’t worry about eating every two or three hours.
You Need to Train One Muscle Group Every Session
This again relates to professional bodybuilders who will dedicate a whole session to their triceps, forearms or traps – tiny muscle groups that for the average person don’t need much stimulation at all to grow.
You need to remember that the guys competing at the Mr Olympia or Arnold Classic have been training for decades and exhausted all the results from conventional weight training programs. They often need a huge amount of volume for every single muscle group which requires super-long sessions. Don’t forget, it’s highly likely they’re on performance-enhancing substances too, which will mean their bodies can cope with the higher volume.
You Can Build Muscle and Burn Fat at the Same Time
The only people who can successfully do this are the aforementioned professionals using anabolic steroids and complete beginners for whom training is so new for them that their body responds incredibly well and can build muscle and burn fat simultaneously.
For everyone else the two don’t mix. Building muscle requires you to eat more calories than you burn, while it’s the opposite for burning – you need a calorie deficit. While your training won’t train from one goal to the other, your diet will drastically.
You Need Supplements
Supplements are just that – supplements! The clue is in the name – they should supplement a good, healthy diet, not be a main part of it, or the thing you rely on for your results.
Supplement companies pay huge amounts of money to advertise in magazines, so don’t be surprised if their claims are over exaggerated and don’t give you the results they promise.
The Myth-Free Plan
If that’s completely turned everything you thought you knew on its head, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with some simple steps to building muscle.
This is the most important thing to consider. As mentioned, calories determine whether you lose or gain weight. To build muscle you need to eat more and to burn fat you must cut your intake.
There’s no need to go crazy and eat 6,000 calories a day in mass-gain mode and drop right down to 500 for a fat-burning phase though. Use a calorie calculator to work out your maintenance calorie allowance and then add 500 to it for building muscle, or subtract 500 from it for burning fat.
Once you’ve stuck with these figures for a few weeks, check your progress and see what you need to do. Increase them further if muscle building is slow and drop them a little to speed up fat loss.
Each meal should contain a hefty portion of protein – chicken, beef, pork, cottage cheese, milk, eggs, etc. In fact, you need to aim for around one gram of protein per pound of body-weight each day. The rest of your calories should be split evenly between carbohydrates, from oats, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables and bread, and fats – nuts, olive oil, butter, avocado, oily fish, etc.
Eat as often as you like, just make sure you get the correct number of calories over the whole day.
By far the best approach to training is to keep it simple. The split you follow is up to you – any sensible program followed with intensity and consistency will deliver results. If you’re unsure what to go for though, you can’t go wrong with an Upper-Lower split, with the upper workouts performed on a Monday and Thursday and lower On Tuesday and Saturday:
Bench press or incline press – 5 sets of 6 to 8
Barbell or dumbbell row – 5 sets of 6 to 8
Shoulder press – 4 sets of 8 to 10
Chinups or pulldowns – 4 sets of 8 to 10
Biceps curls – 3 sets of 12-15
Dips – 3 sets of 12 to 15
Back or front squats – 5 sets of 6 to 8
Deadlifts – 5 sets of 6 to 8
Leg Extensions – 4 sets of 8 to 10
Leg curls – 4 sets of 8 to 10
Calf raises – 3 sets of 12-15
Reverse crunches – 3 sets of 12 to 15
Stick to the basics – there’s absolutely no need to spend your hard earned cash on the latest fancy products promising fantastic gains.
There are certain products that have been around for years and are tried and tested. Best of all, they’re all pretty cheap too. You don’t need supplements, but they can be a useful addition. Try any of the following –
Whey protein – a convenient way to get extra protein on the go.
Creatine – an amino acid associated with increased production of ATP (your muscle’s main source of energy for strength training.)
Fish oils – decreased inflammation and joint pain.
Multivitamin – just to top up the essential nutrients you may not get in your diet.
Stick with these no nonsense, myth free tips and you won’t go far wrong.