Achieving goals when it comes to gaining weight and strength usually requires a lot of work. The formula is fairly simple, of course, but it is a matter of repetition and determination. But the easiest way to divide the idea of creating a good weight and strength plan is to simply divided into three strong concepts.
Principle #1: Work It!
If you want to build muscle, you are going to have to overload it is much as possible. Weight training is key in this scenario, as it is one of the few activities that will truly bring your muscles to their brink.
The weight lifted creates the tension in the muscles, provided it is heavy enough, lifted with good form, lifted under control, and lifted enough times (repetitions) over the designated time period. The end result is, hopefully, muscle fatigue.
A fatigued muscle (or group of muscles) means that it was properly overloaded during the exercise. Maximum fatigue, in short, is produced by maximum overload When fatigue sets in, making the exercise difficult to do, the athlete should concentrate on good form to push through the discomfort of those last few reps — as those are the reps that produce maximal strength gains.
Motivating maxim: When in doubt, always go for that last rep … and then go for another one! (Using a spotter, of course.)
Principle #2: Food, water, and more food.
Now that the muscles have been properly overloaded, the athlete must feed them. Every day during the weeks he is lifting (that means both lifting and non-lifting days), the athlete must eat nourishing foods and drink plenty of fluids to nurture his muscular growth. This must be done four or five times a day in order to maximize growth potential.
Why must the athlete deviate from the traditional three meals per day? For thre reasons:
First, the athlete burns a lot of calories while lifting weights to create overload. This energy must be replenished before the athlete can begin to grow stronger. A healthy snack consumed within an hour of completing the workout will help to replace the energy burned and get the body started on the road to recovery.
Second, along with the above, the muscles must constantly be nourished in order to become larger and stronger during the off days.
Point: Growth does not occur during the workout, but 24 to 48 hours later, depending upon the intensity of the overload. Whatever the time frame, the athlete must feed his muscles and allow time for them to grow.
Third, it is unwise to go without food for long periods of the day (i.e., over six hours). This is why the athlete must never skip breakfast. Remember, whenever a person eats his evening meal at 6:00 p.m., goes to bed at 10:00, wakes at 7:00 a.m., skips breakfast, and then eats lunch at noon, he has gone 1 hours without food!
A body cannot build muscle and strength that way. The athlete must try to eat a healthy snack at night and be sure to eat breakfast the next morning.
The bottom line is this: If the athlete does not eat enough, he will not have the energy to perform his daily tasks at maximum level or achieve his maximum growth potential.
Why fluids? The point to remember is that the body is made up of 60 to 70% water. The chemical reactions needed to build muscle require water. The athlete who fails to drink enough fluids cannot expect to get bigger and stronger. Another point: He should drink water and/or other desirable fluids as often as he can, not just at meals.
Principle #3: Rest & Recovery:
Let us assume the workouts are perfect and the athlete is eating, drinking, and eating more. Fine, but he must allow time for growth to occur.
He must develop good sleep and relaxation habits — try to get 8-9 hours of sleep a night, even on weekends when he isn’t lifting.
The goal should be to conserve as much energy as possible, saving it for the all-important growth that takes place after the lifting is completed, and for the other training components such as running.
Other ways to conserve energy:
1. Lie down instead of sitting. 2. Sit instead of standing. 3. Walk instead of running (except for the required running). 4. Relax instead of worrying. 5. Bottom line: Conserve as much energy as possible through the day… save it for lifting and running, not other activities that bum a lot of calories like two hours of pick-up basketball or hanging out until 2:00 a.m.
Sit down and read a book… you’ll be doing yourself a big favor in more ways than one!
The formula in review: Overload your muscles, eat properly, rest & recovery. Result: maximum strength & size potential.
Athletes who fail to grow and gain strength should look for simple explanations Growth and strength potential are not only influenced by the three requirements previously listed, but also by the natural body structure, muscle-fiber types, and nervous system (the natural ability to contract muscle mass).
Some people who are naturally thin have a difficult time adding body weight and strength. Other people are just not born with the kind of muscles that are goin to get big and strong.
But no matter what a person has to work with, he can — if willing to sacrifice and work — make improvements. The young athlete in training must realize that he is still growing and that he will naturally become stronger as he continues to mature, whether he lifts weights or doesn’t. He simply has to be patient.
In many cases, however, progress may be impeded because of other reasons, such as:
1. Not obtaining maximum overload — failing to work for the hard reps at the end of a set.
2. Performing too many sets and exercises — doing too much work and, consequently, burning too much energy.
3. Inconsistent training — missing workouts.
4. Not allowing enough recovery time between sessions — lifting five or six times a week will not allow for maximum growth potential.
5. Poor nutritional habits — failing to eat the right foods, not eating enough of them, and not drinking plenty of fluids.
6. A general failure to follow the program — not recording the workout data an not increasing the weight load when necessary.
7. Following an unbalanced program — doing only the “fun” exercises (i.e., bench press, curls). The athlete must work his total body over the course of th training week (squats, leg presses, leg curls, shoulder presses, rows, pulldowns, etc.), remembering that progress in one exercise may be limited because of not working the total body.
8. Apathy toward training because of a lack of variety in the program or because of a failure to understand the benefits of lifting. The use of a variety of exercises and knowing why you are in the weight room will prevent injury and improve muscular size and strength!
Anyone who has weight-trained for an extended period of time can look at this list and discover at least one factor that he was guilty of at one time or another. And it isn’t a coincidence that this can be traced back to a time when gains were hard to come by. The solution to plateauing usually lies in one or a combination of the above neglected factors.
The athlete’s weight-training program should be designed to provide the proper amount of exercise, recovery, and variation. The athlete must learn how to trai hard, how to record his workout data for progression, and how to eat right. This will minimize any major problems he may encounter with plateauing.
The athlete should also remember that over the course of his athletic career, his growth and strength increases will begin to level off. He should not allow himself to become discouraged by this because it happens in every program.
As long as the athlete makes a concerted effort to train hard, train consistently, and recover properly, he will achieve his maximum potential.