Building muscle with or without supplements?

July 18, 2009 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug

mens workout without body building supplementsThis is a question i had always asked myself ever since i started to workout. And i was always a firm believer in taking the ‘grow slow’ approach to building muscle (or anything else in life in-fact). Taking supplements in return for short term results will usually always give longer term side effects. And if that has been you, i am sure at the end of it all you probably asked yourself ‘was it really worth it?’. You will be better off by implementing the following, which will allow you to build muscle with the patience of a tortoise, but at the speed of a Hare!

Lift heavy, Lift slow, Lift less

The key to building more muscle mass out of every workout is to lift enough weight to cause muscle failure in only 3-5 reps (repetitions of the movement). Rather than burning calories and creating lean muscle by doing many reps with lighter weights, you’re taking just a bit of time to literally tear your muscle fibers apart, preparing them to build mass and strength when they receive protein from your next meal.

Big multi-joint compound exercises

Make sure that 95% of the exercises you perform regularly in the gym are big multi-joint compound exercises. It doesn’t matter if your goal is fat loss or building muscle… big multi-joint exercises should comprise 95% of the exercises you do in your workouts if you want to get lean, ripped, and powerful.

It’s easiest to think of it in terms of the major movement patterns such as these (focus 95% of your workouts on these):

  • upper body horizontal press (bench press, pushups, dips),
  • upper body horizontal rows (1-arm dumbbell rows, seated cable rows, bent over barbell rows),
  • upper body vertical pull (lat pulldowns, pullups, chinups),
  • upper body vertical press (overhead dumbbell and barbell presses, barbell or kettlebell clean & presses)
  • lower body squatting movements (front squats, back squats, overhead squats, bodyweight squats, etc)
  • lower body deadlifting movements (regular deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts)
  • lower body single leg movements (lunges, step-ups, jump lunges, etc)
  • abdominal and core exercises (these are important, but still are 2nd priority after all of the major upper body and lower body multi-joint movements… your abs and core will be worked from most major multi-joint exercises anyway)
  • abdominal and core exercises (these are important, but still are 2nd priority after all of the major upper body and lower body multi-joint movements… your abs and core will be worked from most major multi-joint exercises anyway)

The other 5% of your exercises can focus on single joint exercises (isolation exercises) such as bicep curls, tricep presses, calf presses, shoulder shrugs, shoulder lateral raises, pec flyes, etc, etc. However, these exercises are only accessory exercises to do after the main focus has been the multi-joint drills.

Eating clean, eat quality

The quality of protein (and additional nutrition from vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) are best injested by the body from real whole food such as eggs, meats, dairy (preferably raw), fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc. instead of from processed protein powders, chemical-laden bars, and meal replacements.

Train hard

Of course, all that i mentioned above is irrelevant unless you put the work in.

Train hard and intensely 3-4 days/week for 45-60 minutes per weight training workout. Keep your workouts to no longer than 60 minutes as training too much beyond this point can trigger excess catabolism. You want to stay anabolic, but you still need to train your body hard and intensely enough to trigger muscle growth.

Try a super-set style of workout program to maximize the intensity that you can train.  My favorite combinations are opposing upper and lower body movement patterns that don’t interfere with each other, such as squats coupled with pullups as a superset, or bench press coupled with deadlifts as a superset.

Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of these types of upper/lower body supersets done with heavy weights at a high intensity. My most significant muscle mass gains happened when I started doing these types of workout combos regularly (although still mixing up my training variables).

These are methods that have stuck with me till this day. Caloric intake can simply be adjusted whether your goal is fat burning or gaining muscle mass.

To conclude

Implement the above and you will be rewarded all without the use of supplements. However, i do realize that from ‘real life training experience’ there will be times you cannot keep this up (see my first post ‘Stay-fit bug’ ). If you do include supplements into your workouts, be specific on which ones you use and how you use them. But the fact is, unless you are a body builder, you won’t really need them.

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