[For MEN Only] REAL Answers about Muscle, Strength & Nutrition
What HOLDS men back from getting BIGGER & Stronger?
Wow, that’s a LOADED question! Let’s start with FOUR key factors holding men back from muscular greatness.
In my opinion, the first key limiting factor is Stress. Constantly putting our body through periods of stress greatly reduces our body’s ability to release natural growth hormone while at rest. It becomes the silent BURGLAR of testosterone like a thief in the night. If we honestly focus on reducing stress in our lives, we increase our body’s potential for gaining muscle mass and strength.
Another HUGE hurdle for many men in America today and the world over….TIME. There is a lack of time to squeeze everything into our super busy schedules. We try to please so many others in our lives that we often times forget to please…wait for it….OURSELVES.
Being selfish to a degree and making the time for yourself to exercise is paramount. You can’t have excuses, you must have action! Take time away from other LESS important things (TV, Internet) and make the time for the gym.
One of the most overlooked KEYS to muscle and strength are the ‘S’ word and the ‘N’ word.
Sleep & Nutrition of course…..
Why, what were you thinking I meant?
Sleep like a baby and EAT like a warrior…somebody said that once I think (me?). Getting those essential Zzzz’s at night and consuming the proper calories everyday on a consistent basis lead to a nice physique with “limited” time devoted to exercise. Imagine then if you actually follow my second KEY factor holding you back….whoa!
Lastly (and this is a BIG one), stick with LARGE, complex lifts that maximize time and muscle response. Don’t follow the teenager workout model of biceps, chest, and abs FIVE times per week and, “oops, oh yeah, I should do some Leg Presses every other Tuesday.”
C’mon man! Haven’t we learned anything by now? The more time we give to the ‘heavy-hitters’ the more we will see that reflect in the mirror and on the scale.
Devote your time to pushing and pulling with a majority of your attention on movements like squats, deadlifts, overhead press, rows, chest press and planking until your abs quiver and your knees buckle.
Follow those 4 points and results won’t just come, they will come ROARING!
What Are the Most Common Mistakes Made in the Gym Inhibiting Strength Gains?
Number one has to be too much focus on aesthetics and not enough focus on strength. The side effect of getting stronger with the right exercises is…you got it, looking good!
Most men spend far too much time curling and doing chest exercises while neglecting the posterior chain, barbell squats and other more challenging lifts.
Secondly (and I’m 100% serious) is guys taking advice from people (other guys) that don’t know what the heck they’re talking about…even if they look good. Decent genetics can fool the average guy into thinking he knows more than he does. Do your homework first and confirm that “Joe” at the gym really does know what the heck he’s talking about before following his instructions.
Thirdly…”Did somebody say Groundhog Day?”
Let me explain. If you’re doing the SAME exercises in the SAME order w/ the SAME frequency, using the SAME weights, while doing the SAME reps and SAME sets year after and year and never seeing the results you want, you’re doing it WRONG!
Know anyone like that? Yup, me too. Variety is the spice of life gentlemen. Learn to shake things up every 2-3 months and watch the GAINS come much faster.
And lastly, spending FAR too much time doing treadmill/recumbent bike/elliptical cardio machines. I’m not saying to stop doing cardio machines, it just shouldn’t be your only form of cardiovascular activity. It typically gets you moving in ONE gear for a prolonged period which has diminishing returns for hard earned muscle and strength.
Adding in some resistance conditioning is so much more effective metabolically speaking. It allows our body to burn fat effectively WHILE adding on quality muscle mass. (E.g. sprints, plyos, jump rope, box jumps and broad jumps to name a few.) Plus, doing exercises like those listed takes less time, you can mix a few together and the level of enjoyment goes up considerably.
What Are the BEST Programs to Follow to Get Bigger, Stronger and Leaner?
The 5×5 method is the most effective way (in my humble opinion) to gain Size and Strength simultaneously. When you gain muscle size, you increase your body’s “internal furnace” allowing you to burn calories better while at rest.
It’s simple, muscle consumes more energy than fat while at rest so by increasing muscle mass your body will burn unwanted body fat without even focusing on it. Getting leaner becomes a bi-product of focusing on gaining size and strength. It’s literally a Win-win-win situation for all THREE goals.
With the proper warm-up and occasional de-load weeks, the 5×5 Method can be buried treasure for men searching for muscle gains.
I do also highly recommend some programming with 8-10 rep work mixed in with this approach. Heavy all the time can be VERY hard on the body, joints, tendons, ligaments, nervous system etc. Having some workouts each week dedicated to hypertrophy (the muscle pump) targeting more volume, more reps and more muscle fatigue can be very motivating for most men.
‘Burning out’ can be more fun and in several ways with less wear and tear on the system as a whole. Having fun while working out can certainly keep a guy coming back for more!
I HATE Cardio But I Know I Need Something More Than Just Weight Lifting….
Well, we kind of touched on this point already but let’s dig a little deeper.
I definitely find interval training, slow-med-fast (Fartlek, HIIT) to be the way to go with a bulk of your cardiovascular workouts. I DON’T recommend long distance at all since it totally works against muscular development. If your goal is MASS & STRENGTH, miles of running will not help your efforts!
Jumping rope is amazing at slashing calories, building a strong foundation (calves) and helps improve explosive power along with several other leg exercises like box jumps, broad jumps, jump squats, jump lunges and so on.
I do however feel a water rower or rower machine to be tremendous for short distance sprints. A rower is super challenging and the total body impact is AMAZING. They have been around for decades and recently I’ve seen them come on strong at places like Orange Theory Fitness. Nothing pushes you harder when going for 300-800 meters (depending on your level) in only a few minutes. They are phenomenal at attacking the entire body for short, high octane bursts.
Now I can’t leave out one of my favorites, Jumping Jacks. Simply mix jumping jacks into your routine with sets of 25-50 between other exercises. This adds to your calorie burning potential and they’re not too fatiguing. JJ’s benefit all kinds of muscles and keeps the HR elevated while your muscle get a break from the weights.
Nutrition Can MAKE or BREAK Our Efforts in the Gym…What Are the KEYS to Get the Most From my Diet?
I approach it this way, [What SHOULDN’T I eat?????] If we look at what we consume each day that is artificial versus what the earth provides naturally for us, it’s unbelievable. I try to all but eliminate the stuff that I know is harmful to my health: fast food, sodas (club is fine), chips, candies, cookies and cakes are the WORST offenders.
Moderate stuff like ice cream (buy ones w/ FEWER ingredients), drastically reduce bread intake, be super strict w/ juices (maybe a 4-6 oz. glass at breakfast), cut way back on cereals (most are crap-shredded wheat and cheerios are better than starving) and remember most prepared foods are outrageously high in bad fats and simple carbs (there are some exceptions that aren’t so high in sodium, trans fats and empty carbs).
By analyzing WHAT I eat, making smarter choices and substituting, I have made drastic improvement in my own physique just this year….dropping 5-8% BF in the past 6 months and holding!
EAT BIG in the morning and after workouts, drink a ton of water, eat at least 1 big salad every day and use spinach and kale instead of regular lettuce or mix them together. Remember, you want nutrition not just a big bowl of empty calories. Be careful with the dressing too!
Try to cut out the starchy carb at dinner unless it’s following a workout when you could use it. Lean meats and vegetables pretty much whenever you want. Fish, eggs, chicken, some red meat and protein shakes should satisfy the bulk of your protein needs. Adding beans to salads is always great, control your dairy intake (some milk and cheese is fine) and watch your portions. However, breakfast and post workout meals can be exceptions to portion control. “Breaking the fast” with a big breakfast is fine with quality calories and consuming high calories after a workout can be super helpful more muscle mass gains.
Are Any of the Popular Supplements Useful or Just a Waste of Money?
Amino Acids are useful, no doubt about that. They are the building blocks of muscle so adding those in pre/post workout can benefit muscle gains. A quality whey protein powder is good to go for on the go and as a replacement when food isn’t available but don’t rely on it. Try first to eat clean foods and drink water as your main source of calories and fluids. Hey, it’s worked for THOUSANDS of years pretty darn well.
Juicing (with vegetables and fruits) is fantastic. Is it time consuming and costly up front YES, but well worth it in the long run when you buy organic fruits and vegetables. In terms of vitamin & mineral potential and freshness, there is NO substitute to juicing….natures ENERGY food! It might be the best pre-workout you can have!
In recent years, Fish oils certainly have become popular and for good reason. The benefits for the blood and heart are well researched and studied. Many cardiologists today recommend them to their patients if dealing with heart issues. Omega 3 (and 6) fats are SUPER beneficial to the body and proper brain function.
There are so many others out there, it would be hard to name them all if I had an hour. Much of what’s out there is marketing and fluff. If you find you are deficient in some things after getting some blood work done, supplements can certainly help. The more important aspect to consider is WHO you are getting the supplements from. Do your research and find reputable companies that manufacture and distribute quality supplements.
The most important nutrition takeaways: Have a diet very high in leafy greens (dietary fiber), eat tons of vegetables (fiber/vitamins/minerals), moderate fruit intake (fiber/vitamins/minerals) consume quality, edible protein (shakes are good but not the best) and get essential fats from meats, fish, eggs, nuts and healthy oils. You can only IMPROVE your health by sticking to these guidelines and using the 90/10 Rule. If 90% of the time you are good, the other 10% you can enjoy some “victory” meals without ill effects.
Consistency and dedication are the only things holding you back from seeing miraculous results!
We Live in a World of INSTANT Results and QUICK Fixes…How Long Should it Take to SEE Improvements?
Okay, with 30 days of consistency and effort you can BEGIN to reveal actual results…HOWEVER…
Most people in this day and age require ‘Quick FIXES’…..that’s what our country wants today. Stuff like 7 day diets, abs in minutes, instant internet access….the list goes on and on.
If people actually give themselves realistic goals when trying to CHANGE their bodies, say 90 days as the overall goal w/ 30 and 60 day progress reports, that’s how you can see REAL, lasting results.
But many people want the NEW body 100X FASTER than it took for them to get OUT OF SHAPE. Ten years of ZERO focus on being healthy and NOW I want to look like Brad Pitt in the next few weeks because I was a good little boy…WAKE UP Man!
We need to BUILD on little victories and substitute bad habits with good ones. The key is to ONLY do it one habit at a time, don’t overwhelm yourself or it will never stick. Lots of inspirational and motivational books talk about this KEY ingredient to making change a reality in your life.
Have the mindset of a champion. Know that progress is hard work and self-discipline comes with sacrifice. If your mind is right, it can demand so much from the body and you will amaze yourself at what’s possible with a winning attitude!