Muscle Building Q & A
Q. I can’t get enough of a pump in the gym. It’s starting to frustrate me; I want a huge pump for huge gains! What can I do?
A. The first thing you should understand is what a pump really is. Contrary to popular belief, it is not caused by a flow of blood into a particular area of the muscle. Instead, it is the result of blood that has been “trapped” inside. This results in a hard, full feeling inside the muscle. However, a pump is most certainly not an indicator of a successful workout. Although it feels great, we should never use this as a guide to whether or not we are having a good workout. Use progression as your guide for success in the gym, not the pump. You would get a huge pump by doing 50 reps with a 10 pound dumbbell, but do you think this would be effective for muscle growth? There is your answer right there.
Q. I want to dramatically increase my arm size. What are the best arm exercises for accomplishing this?
A. There is no “magic” arm exercise that will yield incredible gains. Arms really don’t require a lot of direct work as they get hit very hard in all of your big compound movements for your chest and back. The key to arm size is to increase your overall size. You should be devoting most of your energy into your larger muscle groups, like chest and back. Your arms will grow along with the increased poundages in your compound lifts (heavy presses, dips, rows, overhead presses, rows, chins etc). Obviously you won’t find 18 inch arms on a 160 pound bodybuilder. Some arm work is necessary, just not very much. I usually do 3 sets total for biceps and triceps. Don’t get too fancy and instead focus on basic, proven lifts. Barbell curls, dumbbell curls, pushdowns and close grip benches should be the cornerstone of your arm workouts.
Q. How long should I rest between sets?
A. This varies from person to person. The bottom line is to rest until you are fully prepared for the next set and can give an all out effort. Never start another set unless you feel that you have fully recovered from the previous one and that your strength will be at its peak. This will usually be anywhere from 2-5 minutes.
It also differs from lift to lift. After an all out set of deadlifts or squats, I’ll usually need about 5 minutes to be ready for another set. On the other hand, I could be ready for another set of tricep pushdowns in as little as 2 minutes.
Q. I just started working out a few weeks ago. Roughly how long will it take before I am able to gain a decent amount of muscle?
A. There are too many factors involved in this one to give a straight answer. It will largely come down to your training intensity, diet, supplementation, rest, and most of all, your genetics. I don’t care what anyone says, the fact of the matter is that genetics do play a very large role in bodybuilding.
One’s ability to increase their muscle size and strength is largely controlled by what is, to us, uncontrollable. Don’t get me wrong, anyone can get huge and look great, but the rate at which this occurs is not the same in everyone. In my case, I was able to gain a decent amount of muscle after about 6 or 7 months of training. For someone else, that same amount of muscle may have come in 2 years. Some people could have gained that much in 3 months. Some people don’t even lift weights and are big! Don’t obsess about it. Pour your heart and soul into your training and good things will eventually happen.
Q. What approach is better for increasing lean mass: eating 3 larger meals a day, or 6 smaller meals a day. Contrary to what people have told me, it seems to make more sense that eating 3 larger meals would be better for gaining mass since one could eat more at each sitting and thus obtain more nutrients. Which is better and why?
A. Eating 5-6 smaller meals a day is a much better approach to gaining muscle and keeping body fat off. Why? By eating smaller meals spread throughout the day you will allow your body to always remain in an anabolic state. You see, after going 2-4 hours without protein the body switches into “starvation mode” and the green light for muscle growth quickly turns red. Through thousands of years of evolution our bodies have learned to slow down the metabolism in order to conserve nutrients, thus preventing starvation. So by eating more frequently throughout the day, your body will always remain anabolic and the metabolism will stay raised. Also, smaller meals are more easily digested than larger ones. The number 1 mistake people make when trying to gain mass while staying lean is not eating frequently enough!
Q. Is alcohol really that harmful to bodybuilders?
A. Yes! Contrary to what some may tell you, alcohol consumption will have quite a negative impact on your bodybuilding goals. Why? Let’s look and see…
- It is extremely high in empty calories, yielding 7 calories per gram.
- It disrupts the Kreb’s cycle, which will in turn slow down the metabolism leading to increased fat storage.
- It slows down protein synthesis by up to 20%.
- It dehydrates the muscle cells.
- It blocks the absorption of many critical nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and potassium.
- It lowers testosterone levels and increases estrogen production.
- It reduces insulin like growth hormone by up to 42%.