Advanced Bodybuilding Techniques

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You're bustin' your butt in the gym and you've made some great gains. You've been on a beginner program (for a minimum of four months) and intermediate program (for at least five months) and by now, you've got a good understanding of the basic movements. You've established your own workout style and have set workout goals based on the body you want. You now know which bodyparts grow fast and which don't. After nine months of training, you've had some exposure to intermediate intensity-training principles.

They say patience is a virtue, and this is never truer than in bodybuilding.

And if you're like most intermediate bodybuilders, these principles have helped produce some dramatic changes in growth and strength. Now it's time to learn the training principles and philosophy of an advanced bodybuilder.

We've got to get back to what this sport has always been about -- pure bodybuilding.

Doing Less to Gain More

A strange bodybuilding phenomenon occurs after you've been training for about six months -- the rate of growth slows down. When you began bodybuilding, your body grew and seemed to change overnight. Talk about excitement! Yet, after you continued to train and get stronger, your body grew but not nearly as fast. In fact, you probably had to work more to get less. That's no fun. But they say patience is a virtue, and this is never truer than in bodybuilding. A lot of people quit once those incredibly fast gains start to slow down.

For most bodybuilders I've talked to, strength and muscle mass gains slowed down the most after three years of conventional sets-and-reps training. However, when those same lifters reduced the number of sets, exercises and training days and increased the rest time between workouts, muscle mass and strength continued to go up steadily -- regardless of how many years they had been training.

What these successful bodybuilders discovered was that as they grew stronger, their ability to generate an effective workout intensity increased. In other words, it took less time to produce better workouts. Instead of taking 12 sets to fatigue the chest, they could now do it with six. This accomplishes two things:

  1. Less workout time is needed to produce better results.
  2. Any effort beyond that which is required to stimulate growth and strength is considered overtraining.
For the smart bodybuilder it all boils down to experimentation. For some, if six sets can stimulate growth, what about four? If four sets can do it, how about three all-out sets?

The Importance of Forced Rest Breaks

So if you, as an advanced bodybuilder, can now generate greater power and intensity much more quickly, then your workouts should be better and take less time. The question is what do you do with all that "free time" away from the gym? Rest and enjoy your life!

The greater physiological demands in training intensity require that you give your body more rest. Hard workouts tax your central nervous system along with your muscles and connective tissue. World-record bench presser Ken Lain once told me that his body needs 21 days to recover after an all-out lift! And I know some weight trainers who think they're ready to hit the iron and work the same bodypart again two days after a hard workout. "I'll lose strength and get small," they tell me.

Not so. The truth is, they'll get small and lose strength because they haven't allowed enough time for recovery! I caution you not to wait until you stop growing or stop getting stronger or have an injury before you take a lay-off. Take an extra day off from training any time your body is still sore from a previous workout. And take a complete week off from training every six weeks.

If you think you'll get weak or out of shape, you won't. Remember, you control your body. Your body doesn't control you unless you give it that power!

The Nutrition of an Advanced Bodybuilder

To review from the June Bodybuilding 101 and without delving into specific nutrition requirements for the endo-, ecto- or mesomorph, let me just make a few nutritional observations for any advanced bodybuilder. Eating 4-6 small meals per day, every three hours, works well for increased metabolic response and optimum nutrient absorption and utilization. Be sure each meal consists of roughly 60% calories from complex carbs, 30% protein and 10% fat.

The post-workout drink and meal are critical for maximizing your bodybuilding gains. Be sure to have a carb drink -- at least 50 and as high as 150 grams of carbs -- within 30 minutes after your workout. Have a high-quality protein meal within 90 minutes after training.

The following supplements should be considered if you really want to maximize your training gains. In order of importance, they are:

  1. Vitamins and minerals
  2. Protein/weight-gain powders
  3. Creatine monohydrate
  4. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)

The Low-Down on Creatine and Aminos

Good research data are coming out on the benefits of creatine monohydrate on muscle storage of creatine phosphate. This helps increase energy for greater muscular contractions and strength. And creatine can help draw water into your muscle cells, which, of course, translates into bigger, fuller muscles. Always look for 99% pure creatine monohydrate. Follow label directions.

Another supplement I recommend is BCAAs. If you train hard and your diet lacks sufficient protein or carbs, your body may be forced to feed off its own lean tissue for sustenance. It can do this because three amino acids found in muscle -- L-isoleucine, L-valine and L-leucine -- can be used for energy. To counter this, many bodybuilders supplement with BCAAs.

Many of the top pro bodybuilders tell me they use BCAAs before and after their workouts. You may want to experiment and see if they can work for you. For more information on supplements, refer to Dr. Bob Lefavi's and Sandy Streater's article, "Building the Ideal Nutrition Program," in the May 1995 issue.

And, of course, don't forget the water! You should drink at least 80 ounces each day. Replace those soft drinks, alcoholic beverages and coffee with pure, clean water. Hydrate your cells all day long. You will feel the difference and your body will love you!

Going Back to Old Routines That Worked

Remember that workout logbook I told you about last month? Well, the more advanced you get, the more you'll find yourself going back to it for routines that worked. In fact, you'll find that using beginning and intermediate workouts alternately with your advanced training will produce excellent gains. Forget about "going heavy" all the time. For growth and strength -- without the wear and tear on the body -- you simply don't need to. Cycling your workouts with excellent beginner, intermediate and advanced routines will pay the greatest bodybuilding dividends.

Tips to Help Your Body Grow and Get Stronger Year After Year

Every 10 weeks, pick a bodypart that you would like to improve. Train that bodypart -- and no other -- every day for seven days. At the end of the seven days, take five days off from working that bodypart. After the rest period, resume training the bodypart using your regular routines. This will allow one week of specific-bodypart-only training for each of the five major muscle groups (chest, back, legs, shoulders and arms) in a one-year period. A great way to jump start some serious gains!

Want to blast out of the training rut? Do weak-link training. Specifically, train the weakest point in any given exercise. For example, let's say your squat poundage won't go up. What can you do? Two things:

  1. Use a power rack, adjust the rack pins and do sets of quarter- and half-range movements.
  2. Without using the power rack, do a regular squat, but stop each rep at the bottom position for two seconds, then come back up and repeat.

These dead stops will give you incredible power from the bottom position. You can also do power-rack and dead-stop training on presses and deadlifts with equally great results. I suggest doing dead-stop and power-rack training once every two weeks.

A good beginner program will allow you to make consistent, excellent gains. As an advanced bodybuilder, going back to single-exercise heavy-basic movements will work wonders after you've been doing workout after workout of multiple exercises, isolation movements, cables, etc. Simply pick one basic movement for each bodypart. Use only that exercise on the day you train that bodypart. Do six sets of six reps, but go heavy. Do this every sixth workout and watch what happens!

You know by now that if you constantly shock the body with new exercises, sets, reps, weights, rest periods and angle combinations, you will grow. No two ways about it. Play around with different rep variables in your workouts. One workout, go heavy and do triples (3-rep sets). Next workout, go light and do high reps with minimal rest between sets. Always change the variables in your training. Never, ever do the same thing twice.

A Final Word...

You probably know someone who has decided to get bigger, stronger and leaner faster by getting on "the juice." Yeah, I mean steroids, GH (growth hormone), clenbuterol and whatever else is the current rage. Years ago, bodybuilders were interested in basically one thing: bodybuilding. They experimented and developed new exercises, routines and nutritional strategies that gave them great results without drugs.

They did it all naturally. Being striated or having 6% bodyfat wasn't what real bodybuilding was about. It was a lifestyle, a philosophy, almost a religion and a way to be healthy -- both inside and out.

It's quite a changed scene now. Sure, the majority of bodybuilders train and get great mass and strength results naturally. But for those who choose drugs, it's mental torture to see themselves get incredibly huge and strong so fast, only to know that if they want to continue to be that big and strong, they've got to stay on the crap indefinitely. I've seen this lead to drug addiction -- especially Nubain for pain relief -- and many other neuroses.

So many potentially great bodybuilders have given up or have become permanently injured because of what the drugs have done to them. That's only the tip of the iceberg. You wouldn't believe the mental hell, ruined relationships, bad business decisions and spiritual deprivation these people experience.

Not to mention that possession of these drugs is a felony in the U.S. What many also fail to realize is that a large percentage of these drugs on the market are counterfeit, with no active ingredients. These people are playing Russian roulette because no one knows for sure what substances they really contain! Can you imagine putting stuff into your body and not knowing what it is? It's time for this to stop!

We've got to get back to what this sport has always been about -- pure bodybuilding. We must become experimenters and trailblazers again. To be different from what everyone else is doing. To not be like sheep. To take a stand and be able to look at yourself in the mirror each night and say, "Yes, I did the very best I could today and I did it naturally." Only then will you be able to believe that you are a rare person indeed -- a real bodybuilder!

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