Lifting to grow: the philosophy...

Harsh opening sentence: while you're gaining weight, you will have no social life whatsoever and contribute absolutely nothing to society. This isn't exaggeration by any means. This is a critical part of muscular growth. If you don't go through this, you won't grow enough to notice anything. On the bright side, you shouldn't let this actually stop you from trying to put on size because it's just a phase and therefore is temporary. You just have to put up with it for a little while and then it's over. But yeah, you will do nothing but lift, eat, sleep, and perform poorly with little to no focus in work and/or school.

Your day will look like this: wake up, eat, rest, eat, nap, eat, nap, eat, rest, lift, eat, do nothing, eat, eat, sleep. Repeat. There's not much room in there to be a contributing member of society. The better you are at being a useless human being, the quicker you will grow. It's a linear relationship and it's really important that you do it right. My apologies go out to your friends. It's not that bad though, and pretty easy to get used to. And once you hit the size you want, you can start being a regular person again.

Okay, one last thing before we begin... If you're reading this section prior to reading the introduction articles, don't. People who want to put on size are usually overly goal oriented- and that's fine. But they skip everything that doesn't directly apply to increasing the overall volume of their bodies. And that's less fine. So stop it. It's not helping you. If you can't read, you can't grow. So hit the introduction articles first. This little writing's bunch is important, but the other ones are fundamental. This builds off of those, so go read them first. And in the case that you are already well-read, understand that lifting is useless if you have a poor diet. So learn the diet too.

Okay, now we begin... And we begin with the fundamentals. I can say with pretty good faith that I think everyone reading this section is pretty likely to already know just about every effective movement that builds muscle mass. I say this because the "fundamental exercises" exist. And there's a reason they're refered to as "the fundamentals." They're the most effective. They wouldn't have that title if they weren't. Is it not obvious that this general rule governs everything associated in any way with the universe? I don't understand how people don't understand this. I'm mainly referencing the guys who constantly look for some new unique way to work their chest or biceps. If you're that guy, stop it. Please. I hate this. I promise you it's not working and it's in your best interest to just cut your losses and stop now. Believe me when I say that if some obscure bicep movement was discovered and it worked better than standing barbell curls, it would immediately become one of the fundamentals. But in the mean time, you and everyone else already knows the most effective movements. Use them.

We'll look at the actual exercises at the end, because it's not as important as what comes before it, so don't go skipping to the end. In the mean time, if you're doing your own non-fundamental exercises and it's working better than the fundamentals, you're terrible at lifting. We'll get into form immediately so we can appropriately address this issue.

Your lifting form is important for two reasons: 1) injury prevention, and 2) the generation of muscular tension. More muscular tension causes further muscular damage, which signals the fibroblasts, and fibroblasts create new muscle. So to sum up, your lifting form determines your muscle's injury susceptibility and growth potential.

Segment one regarding form: eccentric. Because the eccentric phase of every exercises produces the greatest amount of tension, maximal growth would logically be derived from increasing the amount of weight used and the time spent during this phase. If you can contract the same number of fibers eccentrically as you do concentrically, and go slowly during this portion of the movement, you'll grow more. How do you do this? Cheat a heavy weight up and slowly control it down, have a spotter help you on the concentric and make it harder on the eccentric, flex the antagonist muscle (muscle that does the opposite function) on the way down as well. Do things like this while increasing the time spent in the eccentric phase. Maximal time spent under maximal tension produces maximal results.

Keep in mind this greater level of tension can also lead to greater incidence of injury, and injured muscles are not growing- so avoid this. Here's how to avoid it: don't overtrain. There's a fine line between undertraining and overtraining and you need to be in it. If you're undertraining, you're not getting your results, and if you're overtraining, which is just as common, you're diminishing your muscle's functional capacity. Even if you don't end up injured, you still won't grow. Watch the guy who works out for three hours every day and never gets any bigger. Learn from him. Don't do what he does. You grow when you rest. So go rest. Lift for an hour max three to five times per week- no more, no less- then rest every other day.

And while you're in the gym- realize that in addition to overall rest, you can't bench press four days per week. I don't know why people does this. Give yourself five to seven days of rest between every time you hit your chest. Same goes for most bodyparts. You can hit your arms a little more frequently if you want, but no obligation on that. And another thing as far as overtraining goes... If you're one of those guys who goes to failure on the bench, then hassles the spotter for like four more reps, all you're doing is pissing people off. Besides the fact that you're now spotting someone on barbell curls, you're never going to grow doing that. Even if it was a valid exercise, it won't help you. You're just fatiguing yourself with concentric reps so that the rest of your sets will be really weak. In terms of concentric repetitions, one forced rep tops. No more.

Segment two regarding form: range of motion. The farther the muscle is stretched while under a state of activation, the more tension is created in the muscle and muscle tendon junction. You want this, so lift with a full range of motion. Please, please don't get under a bench press and bend your elbows twenty degrees then push it back up. A six-inch-stroke does nothing to cause any form of growth anywhere. The bench press does nothing to cause any sort of growth anywhere, but lifting with a constricted range of motion is even more useless. As full of a range of motion possible without ever locking out your joints. If you're doing biceps, don't lock out your elbows, if you're doing legs, don't lock out your knees. Cut the range of motion an inch or two short of that point. Aside from that little portion, the weight should travel the whole distance.

Segment three regarding form: speed of your reps. Some people say you should lift slowly and controlled, others say fast, others say train isometrically. All of those have some level of justification, and really, you should incorporate all of them at least a little bit so that your muscle doesn't end up adapting strictly to a single one. However, the slow rep one is the most popular method right now. And concentrically, the tension is greater in slower reps. But it doesn't really matter how much tension you generate concentrically since your results are coming eccentrically. And remember that we're trying to achieve maximal time under maximal tension- so speed up your concentrics, momentum it up if you need to, then slow down the eccentrics. Isometrics are pretty good mechanically as well, but it's a little different physiologically, so feel free to include some isometric work every once in a while, but mainly stick with the whole eccentric focus thing.

Segment four regarding form: general rules. Make sure you're using good form every repetition of every set. I know you think your form is perfect. Everyone does. Everyone lifting thinks their form is perfectly fine, otherwise they would have corrected it already. But if you're not seeing the gains you want, consider that maybe your form isn't quite as good as you think it is. Using good form, although maybe damaging to an ego, will build more muscle for your body. Nobody can see your ego. They can see your arms. So be selective in which one you're building. A huge ego isn't going to fill your sleeves quite like your arms would if your ego wasn't so huge. Keep that in mind and be critical with your form.

Okay that's it for form- we'll move on to general rules in general now. These are just as important though, so pay attention.

General rule one: consistency and changes. During the course of your training, understand that the body responds to change. That's how it works. This doesn't imply you rapidly changing everything because of boredom or you make modifications every time a girl is looking. It just means don't get stuck in a rut. Don't do the same crap every time you come in for eight months. Rather, spend a while doing one thing, then change it up. And if you're one of those poor fools who jumps on the bench whenever a girl could possibly have the ability to see you, that's not switching up your workouts. That's you being a moron. Being a moron isn't the same thing as making effective changes. Furthermore, changing your approach because you're bored of lifting heavy isn't helping either. If you start getting sick of doing large compound exercises after a couple weeks and revert back to doing reverse forearm curls at the end of a bench because you like getting a forearm pump, you're better off just quitting entirely. Same rule applies for cable bicep curls with the single arm grips, heel walks, or any other isolation exercise. These arenít adding any size. By "any", I don't mean small amounts. They're adding none whatsoever. It's a complete waste of time. Furthermore, don't be one of those guys who skips legs. I don't care what your goal is. If all you want to do is build up your upper body, work legs. Compound leg movements create gains clear across your body. Do them. You don't have to focus on them to the same extent as your arms or chest, or whatever your goal is. But if you skip them, you're not growing as fast as you could be. So be consistent with the fundamental mass building exercises, including the leg movements, every week.

General rule two: restrictions. The only time you shouldn't be pounding out these movements is if you're injured or some body part is bothering you. If something hurts, stop it. Don't do movements that irritate a joint or tendon or anything. If something is in pain, don't work through it, find something else that works that doesn't hurt. If you keep lifting through pain, you'll develop chronic injuries that won't let you put on muscle anyway. Rest isn't going to hurt you. But once you're healed, it's back to the fundamentals.

General rule three: training partners. It helps quite a bit with motivation to workout with someone bigger than you. Just don't listen to them as far as telling you what exercises to do- not a word they say- trust me on this. Chances are they'll injure you bad. But having them around is motivating. So do it if you can.

General rule four: order of exercises and which body parts on what days. This doesn't matter. Your body won't really respond all that much different by you stacking biceps with shoulders instead of chest, or chest with shoulders instead of triceps, or doing each of them in their own separate workouts. You might care somewhat, but your body doesn't so long as you're getting them all in. So get them all in. Never skip one. Ever. Quads, hammies, shoulders, back, chest, biceps, triceps, and abs. Every week. Order them however you want.

General rule five: sets. If you're doing only one bodypart, you should do about 15 sets on it. If you're doing two bodyparts, do about 10 sets on each. Realize that a set where you don't go to failure doesn't count as anything. It can count as a warm up set, but those don't matter to the totals. And if you feel like doing alternate exercises that aren't in the list of fundamentals, those don't count either. As in you can feel free to do all the pushups you want, but they won't subtract from the total sets in the day.

General rule six: specificity. There's a huge difference in training for strength and training for size. If you want to train for strength, read that section. Size isn't strength. So don't ask me how much the ez-bar weighs, or how much the starting resistance is on the hammer strength bench press is. Your muscle cares way less than I do and I care absolutely not at all. And in that same respect, it doesn't matter how much you can lift. Size and strength are two different things and they don't particularly reflect each other that well. Don't test your max on anything either. The physiological result of the set and the knowledge gained added together equals a positive outcome of zero good. Lift for size and ensure that you have no idea what you can bench. People will ask you. Give them a number. Sometimes make that number 100 pounds, other times 1100. Just be really sincere when you say it and it's vastly better than actually knowing what you can bench. Just please don't dwell on your capacity to press an incredible amount of weight one time. A. you can't see that maximal strength capacity in a mirror, and B. if you're big enough, they're going to believe whatever number you give them. So stay focussed on building size.

General rule seven: rest. Get as much sleep and rest as you're capable of. Not a minute less. Any time you're not lifting, you should be doing nothing. Rigorous dreams are too strenuous of an activity. If you're walking or riding your bike to the gym or jogging for a warm up or cool down, or playing basketball from time to time, or anything active, your calories aren't working for your growth. Don't go to bars, don't shop, and never perform any form of dancing. Any activity resembling any of those severely interrupts growth. And in those same respects, if you're stressed, you're not growing. Emotional stress, physical stress, psychological stress- I don't care what it is. If it's stressful to you in any way, it's hindering your growth. In this way, a high maintenance girlfriend is death. If she wants to go out and do things, I promise you will get smaller. Just explain to her that it's a temporary phase and something about Conan O'Brien. Anything that makes no sense. Just keep her confused about the whole issue until it's over. If you don't have a girlfriend, or you have one that's a sloth, this helps. Rest.

Next section: Exercises...

Chest: Incline and flat dumbell presses and flies, standing cable crosses, incline ball or bench cable crosses, strait arm fly machine. Notice there's no barbell stuff in there. Barbells are a waste of your time. Just use the exercises I listed, get your form down perfect, and keep up with the heavies. Use a good pretty full range of motion, strait-arm in the front of the movement, bent elbows in the back. Medium pace.

Upper Back: V-bar lat pulldowns, neutral grip-width pull-ups, 2-arm machine rows or low rows, dumbell pull overs. That's all. Nothing else counts as sets. Use some momentum, a good amount of speed, and a lot of weight. Your main width-building movement is the V-bar pulls. Do tons of them.

Shoulders: Barbell, dumbell, or machine overhead presses, dumbell and cable laterals. Do a bunch of those. Do your overhead presses at a fairly slow and controlled pace, and your side raises at a more medium pace.

Biceps: Standing barbell curls, preacher curls, seated incline dumbell curls, straight bar cable curls, and hammer curls with the rope or dumbells. Concentration curls and single grip stuff doesn't count. Go slow and go heavy. Low reps. Slow eccentric especially.

Triceps: French press (i.e. skull crushers), free or machine dips with elbows in, tricep pressdowns, rope or machine overhead extensions, incline elbows-under-you pushups, parallel bench dips. Do a little faster than biceps, but still heavy while emphasizing control especially during the eccentric phase.

Glutes/Quads: Free weight, hak, and smith machine squats, leg press with good back posture, and lunges. No leg extensions. Good back posture, medium pace.

Hamstrings: Seated, lying face down, and body weight hamstring curls, and sprinting. (Body weight hamstring curls: on your knees- line your feet up about 6 inches apart, parallel legs, hook your feet under something, and control your body down as your legs bend, catch yourself on the ground, push yourself back up just enough to allow your hamstrings to bring you up the rest of the way.) For the machine hamstring curls, medium-fast pace.

Calves: Nothing.

Abs: Hanging knee raises, ball crunches, rope crunches, and machine crunches if it's a new machine. Medium-fast pace and no more than 20 reps per set.

Low back: Roll out on ball on stomach and balance with minimal foot/hand ground contact, lay on back on floor with your feet on the ball and elevate your body, supermans, and stretch your hamstrings. These are not adding size to your low back. They're protecting your back from injury. If you don't do them, and go through the growth phase intensely, you will end up with back pain. You don't want this. Do these exercises. Especially the hamstring stretch. You having a messed up back doesn't assist your wanting size.

That's pretty much it for everything. Itís not that complicated. You do the fundamental movements, you lift with good controlled form, and you lift heavy. If you could get big lifting little weights, I would search the gym for the smallest weights I could possibly find. It's so much more comfortable that way. But because you won't get any bigger that way, lift as heavy as you can without sacrificing form. In the fundamentals. They wouldnít be fundamental if they werenít the most effective.

Remember to eat.

Question: Is there anything else I can do to speed up the results at all?

Answer: Either your food intake and rest are insufficient, or you're just like everyone else who thinks their results are coming too slowly. Realize that you're not going to be huge this weekend. You can put on twenty to thirty pounds in the first few months, but doubling your bodyweight isn't happening any time soon. Especially if you're not eating and resting enough. If anything in the world offers you growth faster than me, I promise you it's offering you severe heart and possibly liver and kidney trauma. I promise.