If you’re like most bodybuilders, you’re far from satisfied with the body you see in the full-length mirror in your underwear. You’d love to be bigger, leaner, or both. You don’t understand why you’re not, since you feel you’re doing everything right. The harsh reality is, whatever you’re doing either never worked for you, or is no longer producing results. You need to make some changes if you want to see any real difference in your physique. Luckily, MD has some great ideas for things you can change right now to get things moving in the right direction again. What can you change? Read on.
There are a lot of reasons why you might want to change where you train. The most compelling reason for a bodybuilder would be to move to a gym with superior equipment and atmosphere conducive to doing what we do. If you’re working out at a place where the dumbbells only go to 80 and you get disapproving glares if you dare to flex a biceps after a hellish pump has been achieved, it’s time you found a new gym. It may or may not be worth it, depending on how close or far the better gym is to you. I wouldn’t expect anyone except someone with zero job or family responsibilities to spend a couple of hours every day driving to work out. Another factor to consider about a new gym is that you won’t know anyone. And if you keep your headphones on and get in and out of the place, it will stay that way. Why be so antisocial? Any of you who know everyone at your gym understands how much time you waste talking to people when you should either be training or well on your way home. There’s also that psychological advantage of being “the new guy.” You know all eyes will be on you, so you will be far more likely to give 100 percent effort on the gym floor.
How many times a week do you train? More to the point, when was the last time you tried training either more or less often? Even if it’s not practical to train more frequently on a regular basis, there is a surprising effect when you do ramp up the frequency for two to four weeks and then back it off again. Your body will struggle to adapt, and you will notice new gains. Sooner or later, usually sooner if you’re over 30, you will start to overtrain hitting the weights five to six days a week. That’s when you cut back to three to four for a spell and let the muscles recover and grow. Or, you might be someone who trains too much either out of sheer enthusiasm, or you subscribe to the “more is better” philosophy. It’s likely that you’re chronically overtrained and ignore all the signs. You would benefit from more rest days. Try training every other day for a couple of months. If you can’t bring yourself to that, do two days on, one day off. More rest is often the missing piece of the puzzle when your body has stalled out.
Let’s continue that conversation thread and apply it to your training volume. If you’re a high-volume trainer, try adopting a briefer, higher intensity style for a few months. If you’re one of those guys who hasn’t done more than three to four work sets for a body part since Dorian was Mr. Olympia, double or triple your workload for a while and give larger body parts like back and legs 25-30 work sets, with everything else being treated to 12-16. Once again, it’s all about hitting your muscles and nervous system with something they aren’t already accustomed to.
Now we turn to rep ranges. Very often, I see people who identify as bodybuilders rarely doing more than three to five reps per set. A lot of them train more like powerlifters, hitting maximum weights for a couple of reps and then resting for a few minutes before their next attempt. The muscles are never put under enough time under tension to elicit a growth response. If this is you, and you are trying to get bigger and not simply stronger, bump the reps up. Do sets of 8-10, 10-12, 12-15, even 15-20. For legs, you can go up to 50 or 100! Rest only long enough between sets to catch your breath. If you’ve been training with low reps for a long time, the pumps will be so severe you’ll hardly be able to move. If you’re already a repper and no stranger to the pump, work on your strength for a while with sets of three to six for the upper body and five to eight for the lower (warming up properly, of course). You will build strength that will carry over to the higher-rep work when you return to it.
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