I wrote a similar article a few months ago. What are my top 10 keys to successfully getting bigger and stronger? 90% of guys who come in to the gym want to get bigger and stronger. The other 10% are CrossFitters. Lol I don’t mean that. Well, I’m not sure.
Getting bigger and stronger is applicable to most of us. It includes sportspeople who need to build a base and gym newbies who want to get big and strong.
I have listed my top ten keys to getting bigger and stronger below and expanded on each. These are all very simple.
1. Have a structure and don’t program hop!
2. Setting good goals.
3. Having a good training partner.
4. Train like a powerlifter, train like a bodybuilder.
5. Learn to eat every 2-3 hours.
6. Rest and recover.
7. Keep learning.
8. Train large bodyparts with big volume.
9. Have a passion for your pursuit.
10. Train around niggles, not through them.
1. Having a structure
The biggest issue I see in the gym is a lack of structure. These guys (and girls) seem to drift along without a real purpose and never seem to improve. By structure I mean something which gives you a plan or a pathway. Examples include Wendler’s 5-3-1, Westside, Sheiko, a three day split routine and an overall body workout. But these are just examples.
Having a structure gives us purpose. It enables us to track our progress and gives us a better chance of improving. 5-3-1 for example outlines your weights for your core lifts each week. It also provides a structure for your assistance work.
Another important point about structure. You need to stick with it for a good period of time and give it a chance to work. A good mate of mine insists on constantly changing his structure. This is as bad as having no structure. Choose a structure and stick with it. Otherwise you have no means of measuring success. Don’t be a program hopper!
Having a structure also stops us doing the same thing over and over again. Remember my term “gym dumb”. The number of people I see doing the same thing week after week amazes me. I see guys trying to break the 2 plate bench barrier. What do they do? They keep trying it every week. And guess what? They continue to miss it. Really? Gym dumb.
Another issue I have seen recently is mixing strength training with CrossFit training and this thing called metabolic circuits. Let me state my position before I get death threats from the CrossFit cult. I have no problem with CrossFit. But you need to understand that you will not get big and strong if you spend 3-4 days a week doing the CrossFit WOD (see, jargon!). If you want to get big and strong you need to be spending a minimum of 4 days a week lifting big weights in the gym. This will probably mean you are going to struggle to get time to go to CrossFit 3-4 times a week and do this justice. Make a choice. Big and strong or CrossFit? As for metabolic circuits, the tosser who said these were a means to get big and strong has no idea how to get big and strong. Lifting small weights and sweating will get you good at lifting small weights and sweating.
2. Setting good goals
Having a goal is closely linked to number 1. Having no goal is like going on holiday without having a destination. You will never know when you get there.
I have written an article on goal setting before.
Any goal needs to be SMART- specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. A good goal is:
“I am going to compete in the regional bodybuilding champs on 14 September 2012″.
A rubbish goal is:
“I want to get huge”.
Goals give us focus and motivate us. Set short term goals to achieve medium term goals and set medium term goals to achieve long term goals. I set goals for every workout. They drive me along.
3. Having a good training partner
Some guys and girls like training alone. I don’t understand this. I could never train with the same intensity if I did it alone. A good training partner motivates me and allows me to go heavy without fear of missing. I am over being nice with this one. Someone please try and convince me how they can train harder and lift more weight when they train alone?
I wrote an article on this previously.
Find a good training partner with similar goals and work together. Sure you may have to sacrifice some flexibility but this will be more than offset by being able to go harder and heavier.
4. Train like a powerlifter, train like a bodybuilder
Again, I have posted previously.
The first part of most workouts should be a core movement. For example squats, bench press and deadlifts. This doesn’t mean you have to max out on singles but it does mean you have to go as heavy as possible within your chosen rep range.
Then you become a bodybuilder and you fill in the gaps. Use a variety of machines, free weights and cables to work the muscles from a variety of angles. Train with volume and intensity to improve weak points.
5. Learn to eat every 2-3 hours
I’m not about to start dishing out nutrition advice. But I do have some commonsense here! We have all heard about intermittent fasting and other diets. The only way to get big and strong is to eat every 2-3 hours and to eat 3-4 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight per day.
No doubt I will get a barrage of emails from the IF movement. Save your 70 kg bodyweight efforts for someone who cares. If you really want to get huge and strong you need to learn to eat. Believe me it’s not easy.
6. Rest and recover
We grow when we are resting (or so my scientist friends tell me). Makes sense when you think about it. So we need to rest. Train large body parts once a week. Extra workouts are okay for smaller body parts.
Get 8 plus hours sleep a night. If you can nap during the day then do so. A nocturnal lifestyle is not a good one. I see young guys staying up all night and sleeping all day. This is not a quality lifestyle and it impacts on their eating. Eating properly is an important part of recovering.
Remove stress from your life as much as you can. Cortisol (google it) is a bad thing and it impacts on our ability to recover and gain muscle.
7. Keep learning
You need to be a student of the iron game. Read as much quality as you can. Not bodybuilding forums. Leave these to “broscientists” who feel the need to ram their lame views down the throat of fellow weaklings. May be a bit harsh but there are lots of people who know very little who want to use the internet to preach their views. If you can squat 250 kg, bench 180 kg and deadlift 250 kg then you are probably on safe ground. Otherwise breath through your nose and keep learning.
A good way to learn is to listen to others who you respect. I really made progress when I looked at the path that others had followed.
8. Train large bodyparts with big volume.
Bodyparts like back, legs and chest need to be hit with big volume. Don’t be fooled by small, weak people who will tell you that you only need to do 10 sets or you are overtraining. I believe you need to be hitting in the region on 20-25 sets for large bodyparts.
Use a variety of machines, free weights and cables. Vary your reps. Most importantly train with intensity and passion.
9. Have a passion for your pursuit
I see a lot of people going through the motions. You need to have a passion for what you do. Whether it be the gym, your career or your family. We only do well when we truly have our hearts in something.
I’m not saying stop training if you are not living and breathing the gym. But I am saying that you need to be realistic. If you want to be 120 kg and bench 250 kg, this requires a level of dedication and sacrifice. If you aren’t prepared to go down that path then you need to modify your expectations.
10. Train around niggles, not through them
We all have niggles. It’s the nature of what we do. The important thing is to know the difference between a niggle and an injury.
Getting good medical advice is often important. Being patient while we recover is also important. Rest and heed advice about rehabilitation.
Niggles are a bit different. I have had niggles in my elbows before and I have rested for an extended period and found that the pain actually got worse. At other times I have trained around the niggles and they have gone away. So it’s about being smarter. Of course you need to be careful not to self diagnose.
There you have 10 of my keys to getting bigger and stronger. Feedback welcome of course. I keep it simple because I am simple. I help lots of people for free and would be glad to help you also.