One of the most common questions I get asked from my Personal Training clients is, "How do I get bigger _____?" Whether it's bigger biceps, bigger shoulders, chest, or legs; my answer is always LIFT HEAVY and LIFT OFTEN! However, most people are not in peak physical condition and ready to jump right into an intense bodybuilding routine. To them I impart these seemingly obvious words of wisdom... focus on GETTING STRONGER first. Looking big may be the goal, but what's the point If you don't have the foundation to back it up? The reality is you need strong muscles to build big muscles and to build strength you have to challenge your muscles and think outside of the box.
So the next obvious question is "okay smart ass, then how do I get stronger?" Now you're asking the right questions!
Here are a couple of great tips to get you started:
1. Crunch the numbers to Gain Strength.
Your number of reps directly influences your body's response to your training. For gains in strength you want to work with sets of 6-8 reps at no less than 70% of your 1RM (1 Max Rep). Your 1MR is the most weight you can lift for one repetition. For example if 40lbs is the most weight you lift for one dumbbell curl, 40lbs is your 1RM. 70% of that would be 28-30lbs. After 6-8 reps at 30lbs you should almost be at muscle failure. Use this same equation to determine your working weight for any muscle group you're training.
2. Choose proper exercises to Gain Size.
To provide your muscles with the necessary attention to grow, you want to increase the amount of time these muscles are resisting tension, or working. Super setting is an exercise technique that combines two exercises back-to-back with little to no recovery time and a great strategy for gaining size.
An example of a Super Set could be Heavy Front Squats for 6-8 reps followed immediately by Single Leg Step Ups for 15-20 reps using only body weight. In this pairing, the front squats are the primary exercise whereas the step-ups are the auxiliary exercise. The goal of maximal time under tension would be accomplished here by first requiring the use of the large legs muscles as the primary movers for both exercises, followed by recruiting smaller stabilizer muscles to assist movement in the second exercise. You should notice at the end of each pair that your heart is beating faster than it might after simply performing a set of front squats. This is the result of getting the most out of your body's short term energy stores (Adenosine Triphosphate and Creatine Phosphate).
As your physical fitness improves and your workout intensity increases, your goals will likely change as well. By following these two basic bodybuilding tips you'll be on your way to gaining muscle strength and gaining muscle size.
Corey White (CB) is a Personal Trainer in Los Angeles as well as an elite Professional Track and Field athlete. He is NASM and NCSF Certified, and specializes in Strength Training, Balance and Coordination, and Creative and Dynamic Circuit Training.