How To Get Big Muscles by Big Al Fortney, www.criticalbench.com
I think one of the most commonly asked questions posed to me is how did I become so big? The next question of course is "How much do you bench press?". I think gaining quality muscle is a combination of several things: proper nutrition, plenty of rest and a quality workout program. I have been lifting for several years starting out in a homemade gym my friends and I built on my grandmother's porch. Over the years I have learned that there is more to building quality muscle than just lifting as much weight as you can. Technique, planned workouts, proper nutrition and being committed to becoming the very best that you can be are integral factors to building hard, ripped muscle. I have listed below a sample week's workout that I employ along with a couple of my training partners. While workouts should be personalized, I hope that you can take some hints that have helped me to get to the level that I am at and incorporate them into your workouts to come up with the very best program to assist you in making the gains that you desire.
Big Al's Workout
Monday - Chest
135 lbs 12-15 reps (warm-up)
225 lbs 12-15 reps (warm-up)
315 lbs 10-12 reps
405 lbs 8 -10 reps
495 6-8 reps
On occasion, I will go heavier, such as 550 lbs for a few reps.
Incline Dumbbell Bench
120 lbs 10 reps
150 lbs 10 reps
185 or 200 lbs 6-10 reps
For a finishing exercise, I will do either an incline hammer or incline smith machine for high reps.
Tuesday - Back and Hamstrings
I always start with pull-ups as I think they are a great way to not only warm-up your entire back, but to also build thick muscles.
3 sets 10-15 reps
Strongest Range Dead Lifts
I will normally start with 495 lbs on the bar and progress up to ten 45 lbs plates on each side.
3 sets - as heavy as I can handle that day for 10-12 reps
As a finishing exercise, I like to use a single-arm movement such as a one-arm cable row or a Hammer machine.
Stiff-Legged Dead Lifts
I will warm-up with 135 lbs and progress up to 405 lbs for 10 reps. I prefer to work only 3 sets of this exercise, as I don't want to over train my hamstrings. I think people tend to hit hamstrings during a back workout and over training hamstrings will only lead to injury or muscle atrophy.
Lying Ham Curls
Keep in mind that when you work quads, you also fire the muscles of the hamstrings. It is virtually impossible to isolate your quads (other than leg extensions) when you are working out. I like to keep this movement at a high rep range, such as 10-12 reps, for a maximum of 4 sets.
I like to use this machine to strengthen my squat and leg press. The abductors act as stabilizers and by strengthening these muscles, I find my squat and leg press improves. I can lift more weight. Keep this exercise at 3 to 4 sets for 10 - 15 reps. Don't believe the hype! This isn't the toning machine that you once thought it was!
Wednesday - Day Off and a Day of Rest!
Thursday - Shoulders and Calves - "My Favorite Day"
60 lbs 10 reps
80 lbs 10 reps
100 lbs 8-10 reps
40 lbs 15-20 reps
will either do Upright Rows or Front Dumbbell Raises for 3 sets to hit the front deltoid muscle.
For the rear delt, I will perform Bent-Over Lateral Raises using 80-120 lbs for 3 sets.
I will start this exercise using two 45 lb plates on each side of the bar. I will add 45 lb plate to each side for each set. I will work up to 8 plates on each side. I think this is one of the exercises that has contributed a great deal to my thick traps.
I prefer to do two different exercises for these muscles so I can activate the muscles in different ways. I like to use a Seated Calf Machine to perform 4 sets. I will add on as many 45 lb plates as possible and still be able to complete 10 reps. I will then move onto Standing Calve Raises or Straight-Legged Toe Extensions on the leg press and complete four sets going as heavy as I can.
Friday - Triceps and Biceps
I like to train these muscles together as I find that I have a better workout on the rest of my body parts throughout the week because your bi's and tri's get hit when training your larger muscle groups.
I will usually perform 4 or 5 sets to really get my elbows warmed-up. My first two sets are usually light so that I can perform 15-20 reps.
I will perform four sets of this exercise, increasing the weight with each set. Rep range should stay around 10-12 reps.
Behind the Neck One Arm Dumbbell Extensions
This is one of my favorite exercises for triceps. I feel as though I can isolate the triceps and since each arm gets its own workout, develop strength evenly in my arms. I will use 65-75 lbs for 3 sets, 10-12 reps.
I love these because they burn! I like to perform 3 or 4 sets using light weight for 10-12 reps.
Standing Barbell Curls
I hate these, but my partners seem to love them. I will start light and work up to about 155 lbs on my 4th set.
Standing Dumbbell Curls
I don't use a lot of weight on this exercise because I really want to isolate the bicep muscles. I don't believe in having to use your back to lift the weight. I will perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
Dumbbell Preacher Curl or Biceps Preacher Machine
I consider this exercise to be my "finishing" movement. 3-4 sets, 10-12 reps.
Saturday - Quads
This is the day that my training partners and I go into the gym and take over the leg area; very few people dare to enter this area when we're there. The most important aspect to remember when training legs is to WARM UP! I have seen many guys go in and start squatting right off the bat; using a weight they have no right using and tear a muscle. Leg injuries take a while to recover from. Proper warm-up and stretching is essential to preventing injuries.
This exercise is my meat and potatoes. Squatting is difficult for me as I have limited flexibility in my shoulders and have a hard time holding the bar on my back to squat. My gym has a Nebula leg press and I have found it to be one of the best pieces of equipment I have used. Not many leg presses allow you to load 2000 lbs and have a person stand on top! I prefer to keep my feet high on this exercise and close together. I'm never sure how many sets we perform. We normally start with 600 lbs on the machine and then add 100's to each side on each exercise until we reach 2000 lbs. We then lighten the load and change feet position to the lower part of the platform for a full leg press. Keeping your feet low incorporates your glute muscles and helps to build a power base. We perform 3-4 sets.
I will then move over to the Smith Machine for squats. I can squat easier using the Smith Machine because I don't have to hold the bar on my back. One of my partners just ensures that the bar is turned so it does not hook on the base. I'll start at 135 lbs and go up to 405 or 495 lbs for 10 reps unless one of my partners starts talking trash.
By this point, my legs are pretty exhausted and I will finish with leg extensions using either a drop set or single leg method, all for 10-12 reps. My partners will keep going doing hack squats, vertical leg presses or plie' squats. I find that by keeping my leg workout short and simple, my legs grow much more. Doing a lot of exercises and reps just burns my legs out and they tend to shrink.
There it is - my secret to building thick muscles. Don't get me wrong - none of this it set in stone. My training partners and I change our routine constantly. We will even change the days that we train. Lifting should be about challenging yourself and having fun. If you are in the gym and not having fun and constantly worn out, try changing things. Do nothing but a workout of squats or challenge your partner to a dead lifting contest - heck, hit an aerobics class - just do something to have fun! Remember, the key to building muscle is not about how long you are in the gym daily, but the quality of your workouts !