Around January 10 or so this year I decided I wanted to gain 10 pounds of solid muscle, primarily on my arms and upper body, but also on my legs. I have already been going to the gym consistently for about 2 years, but I haven't really gained any weight, I've just maintained a fairly healthy build.
I set my goal as something very achievable yet still worthwhile. I said I am 6' and weigh 160lbs now and I want to weigh 170lbs by January 1, 2009. But I also wanted to make sure the weight came from muscle and not fat.
So I set out to educate myself on the best way to do this. My friend had been recommending the Encyclopedia of Body Building by Arnold Schwarzenegger to me for a few months so I decided to start there. I was also recommended by a friend to try out protein powder. I thought that sounded like a reasonable thing to try.
My current weight has been around 160 pounds for the past 2 years or so. I think this is a healthy normal weight for my height (6') although I thought it would be nice to have some extra muscle, and I also really wanted to just see if it was possible. I have always been able to eat lots of food and never put on much weight. I have a fairly fast metabolism and a normal/thin build (the technical name is ectomorph). I am also 22 years old which means my body is still somewhat growing and hasn't slowed down by any means.
My old routine consisted of hitting the gym about 3 or 4 days a week. I would work out my upper body one day, do abs the next day, do my legs the next day, and then abs again. This routine was a bit unbalanced, but it still did an okay job for me.
I would do 3 sets of each exercise and spent probably 30 - 45 minutes for weightlifting. One of the things to note here is that I would also do 1 set of each body part and then repeat it 3 times, rather than doing all 3 sets at once. I would also run 1-2 miles after each lifting session and swim for about 10 minutes.
I now weight 170 pounds and have gained 10 pounds of solid muscle. My stomach is just as tight as it used to be and my upper body and legs have a bit more mass than they used to, just as planned. So how did I accomplish this?
I think the diet was one of the key parts to gaining muscle. As most of you are aware, protein is one of the key components to building muscle mass so I made sure to take this into account.
I purchased some EAS Premium Protein powder from Costco for $30. It recommends you to mix 2 scoops of powder into 8oz. of water or milk 1 to 2 times a day, and preferably once after your workout. Each serving accounts for 27g of protein. I decided to up it a bit and do 3 scoops twice a day. I figure if my body needs it it will use it otherwise I'll just crap it out. I'd rather be on the heavy side with this.
In addition to the protein drink I also try to maintain more calories. Calories are very important when trying to put on weight. Since I also don't want to get fat, I make sure to still eat healthy foods that provide the needed nutrients and no extra fats or sugars.
And then I drank 2 protein shakes a day. One in the morning and one post-workout.
For my new workout I bumped it up to 6 days a week, Monday - Saturday, with Sundays off. I had it broken down like so (as recommended by Arnold):
I switched from doing 1 set of each exercise to doing all the sets for each exercise one after another with less than a minute of rest in-between each set. I also went from 3 sets to 4 sets. I also gradually increased the weight and brought my reps down. For some exercises my last set would only be 4 reps of heavy weight. On barbell curls for instance I would do something like:
I basically did this same routine for 2 months. I switched the order up a little bit a few times but for the most part I stuck to this routine.
I also made sure never to stop a set until I couldn't lift anymore. If I counted out 10 reps but was able to do 20 I would do 20 and increase the weight to keep me down to around 10 or so on the next set. After a few days I got my weight figured out better to where I was burning out at around 6 - 10 reps for each exercise.
As you can see I also cut back on my cardio a little bit. I read that I wanted to be sure not to burn off all my calories so I tried to keep the cardio down a bit. I would much rather put my calories to my muscles rather than just burning them off.
I also upped my sleep to about 8 hours a night. I used to be a huge fan of as little sleep as possible (5 - 6 hours) but I just can't hang with that anymore. The new workout routine almost demands more rest as my body seems to need it pretty bad. So I upped my sleep a few hours a night. I have to say it seems like a pretty good move.
I am fairly confident pretty much anyone can put on some muscle if they follow something similar to the recommendations outlined here.
I have heard many people tell me that it is best to only work out a body part, like your biceps for instance, once a week to allow for lots of resting time. While it is true your muscles do need to rest, I think a week is a bit long, especially if you are serious about building muscle. Yeah, you may be sore for up to a week your first few times working out, but eventually your muscles will adjust and so should your routine.
Arnold's Level 1 beginning workout routine is the one that I listed above, where you are basically working the same muscle twice a week. Once you bump up to his Level 2 routine you are now working out the same muscle 3 times a week (I haven't gotten to this one yet). And these are still his beginner workouts. His advanced workouts talk about working out 2 times a day but I won't even go there yet.
So I ask the question, who would you rather listen to, everyone else or Arnold?
I beg to differ. I actually think that without cardio, strength training alone is almost useless. Think about it, lifting weights isn't even that healthy and does very little for your heart and longevity of your life. You're basically putting on muscle, which just because it's perceived as being healthy, doesn't mean it is. Sure muscle is better than fat, but if you're not replacing your fat with muscle then all you're doing is putting on excess weight. It is much healthier to be skinny and in shape than it is to be muscular and out of shape. Even while putting on weight I would still recommend a minimal cardio regime, and once you have reached your desired weight I would pump that cardio back up to a maximum.
Since I have already achieved my new years resolution I am probably going to bump my weight up a bit more to 175 lbs. Once I get there I am going to focus much more on cardio and getting ripped. I will probably do the same workout routine and diet, but also bump running up to 1-2 miles everyday. I will also swim everyday as well. I figure if I up my cardio I will probably drop a bit of weight and may even out at a healthy, cut 170 lbs.Filed under: Health / Fitness, Gym, Weight Training