Posts Tagged ‘Build Muscle’

A lot people would love to build muscle and burn fat at the same time. The problem that most but the genetically gifted few have, is that the surplus calories needed for muscle gain often leads to an increase in some unwanted fat. Or, on the other hand if you cut down calories too much and perform endless cardio in order to lose fat, you end up stalling muscle gains and in a lot of cases even lose muscle. One answer to this common conundrum is to add some high intensity conditioning work to your training program. Not only will this help you build muscle and burn fat, but it will also improve your power and strength, isn’t as boring as pounding away on a treadmill and doesn’t take as long!

Anyone that has had to help someone push a broken down car will testify that it’s a full body activity and after just a short distance of pushing,  it leaves the legs feeling pumped, the lungs burning and heart beating like crazy.  This is precisely what you need to be build muscle and burn fat. So why not use car pushing as a training tool to help reach your fitness goals.

I’ve started to include car pushing and sprint sessions into my workouts and have really started to notice an improvement in my overall strength and conditioning. I’ve even got a few extra guys from the gym interested and it’s starting to become quite competitive!

All you need is a car, someone you control the steering and brakes, and an open space! I use a piece of tarmac that runs adjacent to the 100 meter section of the local athletics track so it’s easy to mark out the distances. I’m currently using an Audi A4 estate, or ‘wagon’, if you’re reading in the USA.  It weighs about 1350kg but the aim is to eventually work our way up to something bigger! 

This is the routine I follow. I try to do it on a separate day to lifting weights but sometimes I just do shortened version immediately after a weights session.

Warning: The workout below is an example of what I do to help build muscle and burn fat and is for information only. Keep in mind that it is a really intense workout so if you want to try it out please ensure the following:

1) Do NOT do this workout if you have any medical conditions or injuries that could be adversly impacted by this workout.

2) DO consult a doctor prior to trying this workout.

3) Make sure you find a suitable and safe place to do the workout. It should on a quiet piece of tarmac and or field and shouldn’t be where there is other traffic. Ideally is should be on private land and you should have the landowners permission to use it. Make sure there isn’t any danger of a person, animal or property getting damaged!

4) Make sure the person controlling the car while you are pushing is able to do so and has a drivers licence.

5) After each length of pushing, you may need to start the car to prevent the brakes from ceasing up.

The Routine

1)      Warm up by going for a gentle jog for about 5 minutes or whatever works best for you

2)      Mark out your chosen distance. I use 50-60 meters.

3)      Start pushing the car, driving hard with your legs and aim to build up as much speed as you can. Keep driving right through to the finishing point.

4)      Once you get to the finishing point immediately walk round to the front of the car and push it back to the starting point. The push back to the start doesn’t need to be flat out but the aim is to push it all the way back without stopping

5)      By now you’lll be feeling shattered! So take a few minutes rest and repeat steps 3 and 4 till you have done it a total of 5 times.

6)      Once the car pushing is done, loosen up and then do three 50 meter sprints. These need to be flat out.

7)      By now your legs will be pumped and you lungs will be burning. It’s now time to go for brisk walk for about 10 minutes to warm down.  That’s it! It doesn’t take long but is really effective.

When you first start, you may not feel up to doing some sprints after the car pushing. Don’t worry about it and just build up to it. Feel free to change things up a bit. I’m thinking of adding some farmers walks into the routine and turning it into kind of a mini strong man medley!

So why not give car pushing a go. Get some friends to join in and turn it into a little competition. Start pushing cars and one thing is for sure, you’ll never worry about running out of petrol again!

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Whenever I get asked about a good exercise for the back, the first one I always suggest is the pull up. This is one of my favourite ‘go to’ exercises. Pull ups are great because, not only do they help you develop a muscular, strong and V-shaped back but they also hit your rear deltoids, blast your biceps and help your forearm and grip strength. They’re also brilliant because, providing you have a decent pull up bar, you don’t even need to go to the gym.

However, despite how awesome pull ups are for building upper body muscle and strength, I very rarely see people include them in their workouts. Now, if you are seriously heavy you’d be forgiven for using the excuse that your body weight is too much for you to lift. But even then, I don’t think body weight is really an excuse that most people should use. I’ve seen Olympic hammer throwers crank out 10 plus pull ups with added weights hanging around their waist. These are guys whose bodyweight alone is around 120kgs!

A lot of people obsess about how much they can bench press or bicep curl but many neglect the need to develop a strong back. A lot of guys will just do a few sets of half baked lat pull downs with a weight that is a fraction of their body weight. This isn’t going to help to build a strong back and arms.

But I can’t do pull ups, you say?

More often than not, when I suggest doing pull ups to build the back, the responses I get are “but pull ups are hard” or “I can’t do any pull ups” or “I can only do 3 pull ups”. Well, so what if they are hard or you can’t currently do any. That’s all the more reason to do them! Think about it, if you can’t do any now, but in a few weeks or even months have worked up to being able to do 10 or even more bodyweight or weighted pull ups, you’ll be much stronger and will have a strong muscular back and arms to show for it!

How to increase the number of pull ups you can

I’m pretty sure most of you know what a pull up is but just for clarity, I’m talking about the kind where you hang off a bar and pull your self up so that your chin is above the bar and your chest almost touches the bar. Use complete range of motion i.e. a complete rep is one where you start with your arms straight at the bottom postion and pull your self up so that your chin is above the bar and then back down again. The best way to increase the amount of pull ups you can do, and the technique I used is to do the following:

1)      Set your self a target such as 20 reps

2)      Start your first set and do as many pull ups as you can

3)      Rest for a minute

4)      Let’s say you performed 3 reps on the first set. You have 17 reps to go

5)      Continue to do more sets of pull ups until you have completed a total of 20 reps. Note down how many sets it took you to do 20 reps and how many reps in each set. For example you may do 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 which is 10 sets.

6)      The next time you perform pull ups, your target is to do the 20 reps in less sets than last time. You also want try and do more reps in the first few sets. So you might do 7, 3, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1. As you can see, while the sets have remained the same, you managed 7 reps in the first set so it’s still an improvement

7)      Keep doing this at least twice a week until you can 20 reps in 2 sets of 10 reps or even better. Once you get to that point you can start thinking about using a belt to add weight for increased difficulty.

Band assisted pull ups

If you currently can’t do any pull ups and have really tried to do one, I mean really tried, then you can start by doing band assisted pull ups. These are a bit difficult to describe and are best illustrated by the video below. That isn’t me in the video by the way, its just one that I found on YouTube and demonstrates assisted pull ups well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TindOf7zyXM

No more excuses

So now you have no excuse not to do pull ups. Include them in your workout and say hello to a bigger and stronger back coupled with bigger biceps, forearms and improved grip strength.

Muscle and Strength program for beginners

Starting out on the path to building muscle and strength can be quite daunting for beginners.  I was there myself once. There is so much information out there it’s hard to decide what program is best for you. A common mistake a lot of beginners make is trying to follow the workout programs of professional bodybuilders found in a lot of magazines. The problem with this approach is that the workouts of professional bodybuilders aren’t suitable for beginners for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that pro bodybuilders use a whole host of performance enhancing products that allow them to train and recover in a way a natural athlete simply couldn’t match.  In any case, even the pro bodybuilders themselves wouldn’t have started with these routines when they were beginners.  

Anyway, let me get to the point. Gaining muscle and strength for a beginner is pretty simple. You need a program comprising of the basic compound exercises, eat enough good food (proteins, carbohydrates and good fats) and get enough rest.

The Program

One of the most effective muscle building training programs for beginners and even more advanced trainees is a program that uses the 5×5 approach.  This approach is a tried and tested one that has been used by strength coaches with great success.  There are many variations of the 5×5 approach and the one below is a slightly adapted version of the routine used by renowned strength coach Bill Starr to help American Football players build muscle and strength. I can personally vouch for this approach as it’s helped me really increase my strength and put on quality lean muscle. I still run with this program from time to time to help increase strength.

So, the program consists of two full body workouts. Workout A and Workout B. It should be performed 3 times a week with a day of rest in between each workout and 2 days rest every 5 days.

Workout A

Barbell Squats = 5 sets, 5 reps for each set

Barbell Bench Press = 5 Sets, 5 reps for each set

Bent over Barbell Row = 5 Sets, 5 reps for each set

Optional assistance work

Pull ups = 3 Sets, 10 reps each

Dips = 3 Sets, 10 reps each

Workout B

Barbell Squats = 5 sets, 5 reps for each set

Standing barbell shoulder press = 5 sets, 5 reps for each set

Barbell Dead lift = 3 sets, 5 reps each. Ramp up the weight for each set with the aim of using the first 2 sets to warm up and the last set is going to be the heavy set.

Optional assistance work

Hanging leg / knee raises = 5 sets, 10 to 20 reps each

Example Schedule

If you train Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the program would be run as follows:

Monday – Workout A

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – Workout B

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Workout A

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Rest

Monday – Workout B

So, you get the picture. You train 3 days a week alternating workout A and B.  One week you will perform Workout A twice, and Workout B once and the next week it will be Workout B twice and Workout A once.

What weights should you use?

The whole aim of this program is to progressively allow you to get stronger and put on muscle. When you first start out you should use a weight for each exercise that you can easily do 5 reps on with perfect form. By this I mean that you should be able to do at least another 5 to 10 reps on the weight if you wanted.  For some people this may even mean starting with only the bar. Don’t be ashamed of this as the whole point is to gradually build your strength.

Each week, add a total 2.5kg to weight for bench press, shoulder press and barbell row. Add a total 5kg each week to the squats and deadlift.  The aim is to gradually increase the weight each week. You must complete all the sets and all the reps. If you fail on a set then don’t increase the weight next week. Only increase the weight if you can perform all the prescribed sets and reps.

To begin with, this program will feel easy. But in a few weeks, as the weights get heavy, you’ll really be feeling it by the end of the workout. Over time you will get stronger and as a result put on muscle.

Where are the bicep curls for big arms?

This is a full body workout. You’ll be using all the major muscles and you won’t need to do isolation movements like bicep curls. Your arms will grow big and strong as a result of the heavy pressing and pulling.

How long to use this routine?

I would recommend that you run with this routine for as long as you are making gains i.e. getting stronger. When you get to the point where you can’t increase weight each week, change it to increasing the weight every 2 weeks and eventually every month. Basically, stick with it for as long as you are getting stronger. After that you can start looking at other types of routines such and 3 and 4 day splits.

Key things to remember

1)      Make sure you use perfect form. Get instruction on how to perform the lifts properly if you need to. 

2)      Start light and gradually increase the weights. If you start too heavy you won’t make progress for very long.

3)      Make sure you are eating good quality food and getting enough rest.

Get Strong to Look Strong

I often get asked by people the best way to build a stronger, leaner and more muscular looking physique. It’s not just newbies but people who have been training for a long time with little success that often ask the same question. It’s worth noticing that in most cases the emphasis is always placed on the ‘look’ part. However, it’s surprising how often one simple fact is overlooked in the quest to look strong and more muscular. This simple fact is that, in order to look truly strong and muscular you need to first get stronger.

Now, you’re probably thinking that I’m just stating the obvious, and you know what? You’re right, I am. But as obvious as this is, I continue to see countless guys spending hours in the gym working on isolation exercises and machine weights. Don’t get me wrong, machine weights such as chest press and isolation movements such as bicep curls have their place in a well balanced muscle building routine, but relying on these alone will not allow you to develop a strong muscular body and burn fat.

So, what do you need to do in order to get stronger so that in turn you can build muscle, burn fat and ultimately look strong? Well, you need to have a muscle building routine that involves working multiple muscle groups. This means that the majority of your workout should consist of compound exercises using free weights. 

What are compound exercises and why focus on them?

Compound exercises are movements that require more than one joint and more than one muscle group to perform. They are the best way to build bigger and stronger muscles and are the most efficient use of your time the gym. For example, the barbell benchpress isn’t the just the best overall chest builder but also works your triceps, deltoids and requires stabilising from your back, biceps and abs.  So, if you have one guy who spends 1 hour doing bicep curls and tricep kickbacks and another guy who spends just 15 minutes performing barbell bench press, who do you think will make better overall gains? The guy doing the bench press of course! While the guy doing the bicep curls and tricep kickbacks might develop ‘big arms’, he won’t have the more complete development and strength as the one performing the bench press. The simple reason for this is that the compound movement works more muscles, causing more muscles to grow and get stronger.

So if you take the example above and apply it to the rest of the body and focus on getting stronger on the compound exercises, you’ll develop an overall stronger body that will inturn look more muscular, leaner and stronger.  I’ve listed the main compound movements below. Make these the main part of your muscle building routine and couple it with a good clean diet and rest, and you’ll be on your way to a strong, lean and muscular body.  In the following blogs I’ll include examples of routines that use these compound exercises to build strong lean muscle and burn fat.

Top strength and muscle building compound exercises to get strong to look strong

1)      Barbell Squat

2)      Barbell Bench Press / Dumbell Bench Press

3)      Barbell Bent over row

4)      Barbell Deadlift

5)      Barbell Standing Shoulder Press

6)      Pull ups (Body weight or weighted)

7)      Dips (Body weight or weighted)

One more thing to add is that if you look at the main exercises of any strong and muscular looking sports person, be it a pro body builder, rugby player or 100m sprinter, you will find that they prioritise the compound movements bacause these give the most bang for your buck and allow you to pack on the most amount of muscle in a shorter time.

Note: Please make sure you learn how to perform the above exercises with absolute perfect form. I can’t stress this enough as the last thing you want is to have an injury caused by bad form. Only use weights that you can perform the correct form with and don’t be afraid to start light and work your way up as you get stronger.

Good luck and get strong!