So you want to beef up and get stronger? It won’t be easy – you’ll need mental strength and determination, but it’s possible to reach your goal if you follow good advice.
The three fundamentals of getting bigger and stronger are weight-training, a calorie-surplus diet and plenty of rest.
Extra calories and protein will provide the raw fuel required for training and adding weight, and sleep will allow your muscles to grow. That’s pretty much how it works – simple in theory, but so is flying an aeroplane!
If you can’t seem to gain weight, then here’s why: you are burning more calories than you’re eating. To gain weight you need to have surplus calories each day – so eat more.
First, work out what your current calorie intake is and then increase it by around 500 to 1000 calories. Basically, you need somewhere between 2500 to 4000 calories and around 150 to 200 grams of protein per day, but this can vary depending on the speed of your metabolism.
Here’s the healthy way to increase your intake: eat lots of oatmeal, brown rice, chicken, almonds, avocados, eggs, fruit and vegetables. These foods will provide a balanced and affordable diet with a high protein and calorie content. However, to reach your intake targets, you might need some help, so it’s highly advisable to invest in some weight-gain supplements. These will give you the boost you need and allow you a break from preparing food all day.
Here’s a useful tip – you don’t need to train a muscle directly to see it grow. So instead of doing loads of isolation exercises like dumbbell curls, master the fantastic four compound exercises: squat, bench press, dead lift and shoulder press.
These four compound exercises are the core exercises for building up your strength, working the muscles close to your trunk as well as your limbs at the same time. Bear this in mind: by the time Arnold Schwarzenegger entered bodybuilding he was simply stronger and bigger than everybody else. The reason? He concentrated on compound exercises for years and even competed in powerlifting competitions. He was a strong man and stronger means bigger.
With compound exercises you’ll be working multiple muscle groups at once, which will achieve a balanced physique. Try to increase the weight you lift each workout, being careful not to lift too much, too soon, and taking professional advice on your technique.
Cardiovascular activities like swimming, rowing and jogging are fantastic for conditioning, fitness and fat loss. So avoid these at all costs. Remember, you’re trying to gain weight and strength, not get the physique of Mo Farah. For you it’s about lifting heavy weights at low reps to build power and muscle.
Free weights are your friends – those fancy machines at your local gym tend to isolate certain muscles, as well as doing most of the stabilisation work for you. But when you lift free weights, you’re working your core muscles to stabilise yourself.
Training every day isn’t recommended as you need to give your muscles time to grow bigger. Resting is when your muscles grow, not when your training – so sleep is hugely important. If you have an effective training routine in place and you have a good, protein-rich diet with a calorie surplus, don’t ruin it all by skimping on sleep.
Training, eating and sleeping – think of them as the three legs of a tripod: if one point is weaker than the other two, then the tripod collapses. At least eight hours’ sleep per night is what you need to for optimal muscle building. Sweet dreams.