Mass Building Mistake #1
Eating The Wrong Diet
Yep – good ol’ number one. Ever heard the expression, crap in, crap out. You simply can not build a lean, muscled body eating a burger and fries at every meal. This took me years to learn. Eat the right foods in the right combinations and you can place (and keep) your body in an anabolic state.
- No muscle shrinkage
- Increased muscle size
- Increased testosterone
- Increased “Free” testosterone
- Increased IFG-1 (Insulin Growth Factor)
Add special resistance training and you will grow muscle.
To be honest, we can make calorie and food ratios pretty complicated, but in the end it comes down to just 3 things: Essential Proteins, Carbs, and Essential Fats. Without going through all of the calculations, suffice it to say you need at least 2 grams of high quality protein, per body pound. Some peak performance athletes will eat up to 4-5 grams of high quality protein per body pound – and this includes Olympic Champions, NFL Stars and professional body builders.
I know, you will see a wide variety of information on this topic. Some people say 1 gram of protein per body pound per day. Others say 1.5 grams, some even argue that some prison inmates only get .3 grams of low quality protein per body pound and are still big. The truth is, every single human on the planet has a different set point and genetic markers – the big prison inmate likely has big parents, and he is genetically set to look like he does. For the average person – the ones that look like you and me, who have to work at building muscle, watch what we eat, and basically earn our bodies, then we need to eat least 2 grams of high quality protein per body pound.
But it doesn’t stop with just quality protein. You must eat foods at the proper times and in the proper ratios to keep your body in an anabolic state. Eat the wrong calories, or the wrong ratios of calories, and your body will release powerful hormones that literally stop the muscle building process – or even worse, use your precious muscle as fuel (as in a catabolic state). The most important part of gaining lean muscle mass is to use your diet to keep your body in an anabolic (growth) state.
No amount of training can overcome poor nutrition.
Mass Building Mistake #2
Overload your muscle to cause microtrauma to the fibers and begin the hypertrophy process, eat the needed nutrition to repair the damage, and give the body time to heal. Sure, that is a simplification of all the hormonal and metabolic processes, but that is the jest of it.
After the diet is correct, you must cause microtrauma to the muscle fibers to begin muscle growth. If you have been trying to build muscle for any period of time, you have probably heard you must have intense workouts. Well, not just intense, but muscle tearing (microtrauma) INTENSE.
In resistance training, intensity is inversely proportional to duration. Simply stated, the greater your effort, the less time you can sustain it.
That’s why a 100-meter sprinter can run faster than a marathoner. The tradeoff is the sprinter can only run all out for 10-15 seconds but the marathoner can keep running for 6 hours. Now take a look at their legs. The sprinter has the thick, powerful leg muscles and the marathoner has much thinner legs. And the sprinter builds those massive muscles using a “dose” of exercise that is 10-15 seconds or less. What do you think of that?
If you are going to build muscle mass, you must learn to apply muscle intensity to cause microtrauma to the muscle fiber. It is when your body repairs these microtrauma tears that you grow.
Keep in mind, our bodies our stronger than we mentally believe. For example, you may only be able to bench 145 lb. for 6-8 full range (up – down or positive to negative) reps. But you will likely be able to lower 185 lbs several times. You may not be able to lift it, but you can lower it. Even more fun is you can hold 225 lb. You may not be able to lower it safely, or even budge it to lift it, but for a short duration you can hold it.
It drives me nuts to be in the gym and see the same people, year after year, doing the same 3 sets of 10 exercises, then complaining they are a hard gainer, or they just can’t change. It’s about muscle overload, intensity, diet and recovery. Since intensity is so important in stimulating muscle growth, a study was created to see what would happen if bodybuilders used several exercises that completely overloaded the muscle. The study focused on bodybuilders that had already built impressive physiques and muscle size. They were put on a routine averaging just 2.1 workouts per week where subjects had an average total lift time of under 5 minutes per workout.
After just 10 weeks of these muscle overloading exercises, these subjects:
- Increased strength 51.3%
- Increased their full range 1-rep max 27.6%
- Increased their full range 10-rep max 34.3%
- Added 9.0 pounds of new muscle (one subject added 28.9 pounds!)
- Lost 4.9 pounds of fat
- Added .5 inches to their biceps
- Added 1.1 inches to their chest
Have you ever made gains like this?
Look at how much strength these athletes increased – 1-rep MAX UP 27.6% & 10-rep MAX up 34.3%. To get stronger, YOU, not the guy next to you, has to lift heavy weights. Now, assume “heavy” is a relative term. If you can only bench 145 lb for one rep (and just barely get that) then 145 lb is HEAVY for YOU.
As you gain muscle mass, you must keep adding intensity. You must keep forcing the muscle to adopt. You must have your muscle reach total failure and overload.
Failure (in this case) means it is impossible to lift the weight even part of the way. It means you have reached the point where you are about to be unable to even set the weight down in a controlled manner. You will be sweating. Your heart will be beating fast. You will be breathing fast as you try to get oxygen to your muscles. Failure is all out exhaustion. I don’t care how much weight you can lift, or what your maximum is. If you can do 5 reps, and you only do 3 because it is “heavy” – you have cheated yourself and you will not grow the muscle you want.
Mass Building Mistake #3
Training Too Often & Long
In part, this is related to intensity and I see it every time I am in the gym. Most days I will have completed my entire workout before the average guy completes even one body part – a heavy, intense workout that leaves me sore for 3-6 days. But the average person lifting will pound away with medium or light weights, letting gravity do half the work (the negative portion), trying to do 20 or 30 sets per body part. They are doing a large volume of work, but it is more cardio than muscle tearing, intense training.
You do want high intensity, but keep the idea of the sprinter in your head – high intensity workouts, short duration. To start with, you don’t want to be at the gym longer than 45-60 minutes. When you first start lifting, your body naturally spikes your testosterone. But after 45-60 minutes, your body starts to release cortisol, and that in part starts burning muscle as fuel. Not exactly what you want if you are trying to build that muscle.
Keep your gym time under 45-60 minutes, with a total actual lifting time under 15 minutes. The key is to train INTENSE for a SHORT DURATION and you won’t feel the need (or be able) to pound out 30 sets per body part.
You also may only need to work out 2-3 times per week. If you are taking your workouts to failure, and causing micro-tears in your muscle, you can bet it takes longer than 3 days to heal. Many people will lift less weight, with fewer intense reps just to make sure they can workout again tomorrow. If building a muscled body is part of your goal, you cannot be one of these people. You must push yourself to failure at every workout, but then you must rest. Rest could mean 7 – 10 days between workouts. For my extremely heavy weight and low rep days, I may have to wait 10-12 days for my muscles to fully recover before I exercise that same body part again. And this doesn’t bother me as I know, while I am resting, the muscle is growing.