Building Muscle Archives


Category Archives for "Building Muscle"

Out of the Box Muscle Building

Change is hard. But you can do it with some out of the box thinking.

You CAN change yourself.

When I first started weight training at 12, I was a fanatical football fan. I'd watch all day, gorge myself on protein shakes and snacks, and workout between games and during halftime breaks.


When I finally stopped training like a madman, I started making gains.

Huge gains.

The less I trained, the more strength and size I added.

Life is a big conflicting and confusing and counter-intuitive thing, right?

When I was a skinny hardgainer, I was lifting every day, doing many sets of many exercises. I ate all damned day long.

After all, that's what all the bodybuilding mags said to do. Hell, “hardgainer” wasn't even a thing back then – you were just an ectomorph.

After years of frustration, I took a different approach.

  • I cut out cardio.
  • I lifted 3x a week.
  • Heavy.
  • Few sets.
  • Low reps (3-6) for upper body.
  • High reps and HEAVY weights for legs (15-25), like Tom Platz.

That year I did that, I gained 60 pounds and was still under 6 percent body fat.

Don't ever let anybody tell you that's impossible. I did it. I know you can, too.

No steroids, either.

If you want to – but you must think out of the box.

Like I did.

If it ain't working, stop doing it. Try something else.

After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Ain't. Gonna. Happen.


Building Muscle is the Name of the Bodybuilding Game

bodybuilding is all about building muscleOr Is It?

Everybody knows that bodybuilding is all about building muscle, right? Getting ripped is only done so that spectators and fans alike can see the muscle beneath the skin.

There are a lot of ripped guys and gals in the world. Just look at so-called “fitness models.” They're very lean and sport very muscular bodies.

However, they're not bodybuilders. Nor do they want to be.

When I was growing up, guys like Franco, Arnold, and Louie dominated the bodybuilding scene. Building the biggest muscles possible is what they wanted to do and they did it. However, they built their massive size to go along with the other, more aesthetic appeal of bodybuilding, which was symmetry, balance, proportion, striations, and a relatively healthful appearance.

However, times have changed and today's champions are truly comic book here HUGE. Guys like Cutler and Coleman are bigger than what most of the super heroes of my time could ever dream. If Arnold imagined his biceps to be mountains, then Coleman must imagine his arms as Mt Everest on HGH, steroids, and TNT.

I'm not knocking these guys (and gals). They are pursuing the near-impossible and succeeding. They are not trying to impress anyone but themselves. To take your body from “normal” to “para-normal” is a feat in and of itself. They are truly giants of the sport and deserve at least kudos for blazing a trail that most of us would never even try to undertake.

But I'm also not saying that I like the look. I don't. I like the rugged look, where the bodybuilder not only looks strong and tough, but also athletic.

I don't know for sure, but I doubt any of these guys could beat Franco Columbu in a WSM competition. But I could be wrong. I remember thinking – when I first saw him – that there was no way Tom Platz could touch his toes, but then I saw not only that but he could touch his elbows to the ground.

What a flexible specimen. And have you seen those legs? Out of this world, even by today's standards.

Nope, when people talk about competitive bodybuilding, they're talking extreme cases where the individuals involved are not typical human beings. These folks are into building muscle on an extreme basis. They don't want to be better than the old-timers; they want to be HUGELY BIGGER than these guys and for the most part, they've been wildly successful.

I won't get into the drug aspect of all of this. It's hard for me to believe that any of the top professional bodybuilders in the world are drug-free. But I don't know for sure. And I certainly blew it when making predictions about flexibility and tremendously huge thighs!

No, I won't travel that path again! Undoubtedly some do, some don't. I have no idea who's who though. I do know this:

Building muscle is what bodybuilding is all about. Always has been. Always will.

If you want to learn more about building muscle, then look no further than!


What Is the Best Way to Build Muscle and Burn Body Fat?


With all the recent talk here and everywhere else about The Holy Grail (building muscle and burning body fat simultaneously), you'd think that perhaps that was ideal, right?

I mean, who doesn't want to build muscle and drop body fat at the same time?

I know I do!

However, it may be the slower route to go. Let me explain.

There is a large body of evidence on building muscle. Same goes for losing fat. Conceptually, doing either is really quite easy. The effort is difficult, but the idea is pretty simple.

If you want to build muscle, you have to have a calorie surplus.

If you want to shed body fat, you have to run a calorie deficit.

It's really very simple and just boils down to a math problem. Indeed, aren't many of life's problems just math problems?

Back to the real story. What is the best way to get totally buffed? I mean big like Jay Cutler and ripped like Clarence Bass?

Based on years of personal experience as well as the collective knowledge of thousands upon thousands of personal trainers, bodybuilders, and other fitness athletes, it's clear to me that there is a better, more effective approach.

Now, I'm not saying that what's in The Holy Grail is wrong. It's perfectly correct. You most definitely can gain muscle and lose fat within the same time period. All I'm saying is you can get big and ripped faster if you take a different approach.

And that approach is to “zig zag” or take a “stair step” approach to your fitness goals. Why not take 2-3 weeks to build muscle, then maintain for a week, and then take another 1-2 weeks to drop whatever fat you build up in your “bulking” phase?

In a month's time, you will not have gained a significant amount of body fat, but you could certainly pack on 2-4 pounds of pure muscle. So every 8 weeks, you could add 2-4 pounds of quality muscle to your frame. That means there is the potential for adding between 12 and 30 pounds (give or take) a year while not increasing your body fat. In fact, even if you maintained your fat poundage, you will have lowered your body fat percentage significantly because you've added so much lean mass.

I will tell you this is the better, faster way to the body you want. Yes, you will gain some body fat in the first phase, but you'll lose it all and more in the last phase. In that third phase, you're not even trying to add muscle; you're only seeking to maintain it.

So your body doesn't go on overload, get overtrained, and you will never lose muscle mass. The third phase is all about losing body fat while maintaining muscle mass.

It doesn't sound as good or sexy as “build muscle and burn body fat simultaneously,” but it sure works better.

Bodybuilders for decades have used this very system to fashion their championship bodies. The results come whether you take steroids or not, though I will say that “chemical enhancements” will certainly speed your progress. In the short term.

Nobody really knows the long-term effects of competent steroid use. You know, the kind administered by a doctor and followed to the “T” by the user.

Bottom line: Bulk up, maintain (or plateau), and then shed body fat. It works. Really really well.


My Top 3 Chest-Building Exercises


What is Monday?

It's National Chest Day.

Having a big chest is awesome.

The great news is is that it's not complicated to build one.

It's actually quite simple.

Select just a few compound exercises and get really strong in them in the 8-12 rep range.

The following are 3 awesome chest-building exercises.

Again, focus on 1,2, or all 3 of them.

Add weight when you can.

90% of the work you do should be in the 8-12 rep range.

1. Push Ups (weighted)

I am convinced that push ups are the best mass builder for your chest.

I do not know why competitive bodybuilders do not make them a go-to exercise.

I think it's because they are viewed as a sissy exercise or something you warm up with.

If you took 2 people and had 1 of them perform barbell bench presses for 3 sets of 10 reps and you took the other person, placed a 45 pound plate on their back and had them do 3 sets of 10 of push ups, over time the push up person would have a bigger chest.

My #1 tip is that if you want a big, awesome chest then get really good at weighted push ups.

2. Dips

Dips are freakin' amazing.

My favorite exercise of all-time is the dip machine.

You sit down and select a weight and it simulates a dip as if you were doing them on bars.

Unfortunately, dips are also a very risky exercise for your shoulders.

If you have bad shoulders or have had shoulder issues I would stay away from them.

If you love them like me, then what you should do is to do them at the end of your workout.

Pre-exhaust yourself.

For example, do 200 push ups over X amount of sets.

At that point you are pretty tired.

At that point you can bang out a couple sets on the dip machine.

You would be using a much lighter weight yet it would feel much heavier, therefore, reducing the risk of injury.

3. Dumbbell Bench Press

When bench pressing, ditch the barbell.

Your chest is not optimally targeted when performing barbell bench presses.

In addition, there is a huge risk of injury.

Use dumbbells.

Dumbbells allow you to form the mind-muscle connection.

They are also much safer.

Here is a Chest Specialization Split (follow for 3 months)


1) Push Ups 7 x 8-12 reps

2) Seated Cable Rows 4 x 8-12 reps

3)  Alternating Dumbbell Curls  2 x 15-20 reps

Tuesday – Cardio or Off


1) Dips  7 x 8-12 reps

2a) Triceps Pressdowns 2 x 15-20 reps

2b) Lateral Raises  2 x 15-20 reps


1a)  Hack Squats  4 x 15-20 reps

1b)  Hamstring Curls  4 x 15-20 reps

2)  Standing Calf Raises  4 x 15-20 reps


1) Dumbbell Bench Press 7 x 8-12 reps

2) Lat Pulldowns  4 x 12-15 reps

Saturday & Sunday – Cardio or Off

Weekly Totals:

Chest – 21 Sets

Back – 8 Sets

Quads – 4 Sets

Hamstrings – 4 Sets

Calves – 4 Sets

Biceps – 2 Sets

Triceps – 2 Sets

Shoulders – 2 Sets


Should You Bulk or Cut?


Let me preface this by saying that “bulking” means putting on 1 or 2 pounds a month.

The 5-10 pound-a-month bulks are dumb as hell.

That said, dudes are either bulking or cutting.

Am I right?

You are either trying to add muscle mass or lose fat.

There is no “maintaining” when it comes to bodybuilding.

So, how are you supposed to know which to choose?

Bulk or cut?

I have 3 keys when it comes to making this decision.

3 keys for making the ‘bulk or cut' decision

1.  The 15% Body Fat Rule

This is something I came up with.

I tell guys that if they are at or above 15% body fat then they should cut.

If, on the other hand, they are under 15% body fat then they should bulk.

Under 15% —> Bulk

Over 15% —> Cut

There are several reasons for this.

The leaner you are, the easier it is for you to build muscle.

The fatter you are, the more likely it is that excess calories will be stored as fat.

Insulin sensitivity is also negatively affected the fatter you are.

2.  The time of year

Normally, guys bulk during the winter and cut during the summer.

The reasoning is that you can put on some fat and cover it up with sweaters during the winter and then you cut the fat and show off the abs during beach season.

This makes sense.

You can do it this way or switch it up and do something that hardly anyone does.

You can cut during the winter and bulk during the summer.

I've been meaning to do it that way just out of curiosity.

 3.  Personal Preference

Look, I can tell you why you should bulk or should cut, but what it really comes down to is personal preference, i.e., what do you want to do?

So, if you're at 20% body fat and love eating and gaining muscle, then go ahead and bulk.

If you are 6 feet tall, weigh 160 pounds with 8% body fat and want to cut, then go ahead and cut.

After all, you have to enjoy what you do or what's the point, right?


So, hopefully this helps you make the ‘bulk or cut' decision a little easier.

I have given you guidelines, not rules.

Just out of curiousity, how do you decide when to bulk and when to cut?


Photo credit:  Anton Mukhametchin

bodybuilder guy

Want Faster Results?

Look, I know how hard it is to build muscle. Trust me when I tell you it took me 20+ years to figure it out. But once I did--BAM!--muscle appeared almost overnight. Give me your email address and I'll send you the keys.