The Everyman Guide to Bodybuilding

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The desire to build an impressive physique still holds true for a lot in the fitness world. Yes, being functional and practical have their places, but we all want the byproduct to be a nice looking, muscular, strong body to showcase all our hard work.

 

 

There is no better way to highlight these goals than to adopt a hypertrophy-based resistance training program. This type of training, also known as bodybuilding (referring to actually building the body’s musculature, not the sport), has ebbed and flowed over the years. Functional cross training, weightlifting, and even powerlifting have stolen the spotlight as of late. But bodybuilding is making a comeback, and for good reason.

 

With the goals of building muscle, increasing strength, and stripping away body fat, there is no better method of training than bodybuilding to restructure your physique. This guide will provide the foundation and building blocks regarding these goals. Whether you’re a newbie, or someone who simply wants to clean the proverbial slate and start anew, this is for you.

 

What Is Bodybuilding?

There are many meanings of the term bodybuilding. One that comes instantly to mind is the sport. Big, enhanced mass monsters that tremble the ground they walk on, lift tons (literally), and get winded going up a flight of stairs. Of course, there are other areas of the sport such as natural bodybuilders, physique competitors, and pro and amateur levels of contests.

 

The other side is the noncompetitive, recreational enthusiasts. Even within this niche, you have those who simply love training and the challenge while you also have those who use it as a viable tool to reshape and re-sculpt their bodies.

 

This guide is dedicated to those who want to naturally reshape their bodies by building solid, quality muscle and either maintain or lose body fat in the process. Hypertrophy style resistance training is the most efficient, optimal way to achieve reengineering your physique and transform your shape.

 

Part 1: Workouts to Build Muscle Mass

The first item on your to-do list will be to jump straight into a kick-off training plan to get you accustomed to this type of training. No, this shouldn’t be something only for those who live in the gym. Consider it your break-in plan for your first four weeks of training under this style.

 

Some things to consider before starting:

 

  • This program mainly focuses on hypertrophy (building muscle mass). This will be a different practice than one of building pure strength or power.
  • You’ll need to keep a keen eye on the clock regarding rest periods between sets. They will be shorter than you’re accustomed to.
  • Proper form will be a must in order for the program to be successful. No jerking, bouncing, or heaving the weight up just for the sake of finishing a lift.
  • Don’t think of this as a program where you’re lifting weights. Think of it as a muscle training session. Focus on working your muscles rather than lifting from point A to point B.
  • Don’t keep a lift in the program because someone said you needed to do it if it causes pain or injury. Not everyone is built the same, so feel free to substitute where necessary.
  • Perform the following plan for four weeks on nonconsecutive days such as Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays or Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Take a rest day between each training day to give your body time to rest, recuperate, and build muscle.

 

The 4 Week Kick-Off Training Plan

  Warmup sets Working sets Rest in seconds
Flat bench barbell press 2 x 12 3 x 10-12 60
Chin up 2 x 12 on pull down 3 x 10-12 60
Barbell back squat 2 x 12 3 x 10-12 60
Standing dumbbell shoulder press 3 x 10-12 60
Barbell curl 3 x 10-12 60
Parallel bar dip 3 x 10-12 60
Standing calf raise 1 x 12 3 x 10-12 60
Floor crunches 3 x 20 30

 

After you complete the kick-off plan, you may either want to continue with that plan for an additional four weeks or have the desire to move on to something a bit more intermediate in nature and adopt yet another program. The key, however, is to coax your body into adapting to a new program without pushing beyond your limits, overtraining, and burning out. Additionally, there are a few important things to keep in mind when building out your program.

 

How to Build Your Mass Training Program

Let’s take this step by step. I’ll also present an example as we go along to illustrate an effective training program you can use immediately.

 

1. Choose how many days per week you will train. One of the best schedules is to train four times per week. With that in mind, shoot for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday with Wednesday and the weekend off.

 

2. Use a simple split routine. Keeping with the basics theme, train your entire body twice per week with a simple split routine. So, for example, that means chest, back, and shoulders on Mondays and Thursdays, then arms and legs on Tuesdays and Fridays.

 

3. Exercise selection is next. You will want to choose no more than two exercises for larger body parts such as chest, back, and legs and no more than one for smaller areas such as arms, shoulders, and calves. Just be sure you use exercises from the mass builder list instead of smaller, isolation moves.

 

4. Determine the volume (sets). Your total amount of volume need not be too high. We tend to do a little more where we excel and cut back on what is hard. Conduct an even playing field and shoot for four to five sets per exercise. That should have you in and out if the gym in about an hour.

 

5. Choose a rep range. Traditionally, pure strength training lends to a lower rep range of two to four or six reps, while hypertrophy (muscle mass) tends to sit in the six to 12 range. Depending on your goal, anywhere from four to 12 reps will be ideal for either goal.

 

6. Don’t forget about rest periods. As a long, forgotten practice lost in this world of mobile technology distraction, this factor is one of the most influential in your training. For example, if hypertrophy is the goal then rest periods of 45 to 90 seconds are best. Resting too long allows for less fatigue and more time wasted in the gym.

 

7. Commit to it. Lastly, you will need to commit to your plan. Without commitment, all of the planning you painstakingly endured will be for naught. Make a six month promise to yourself that you will see this through.

 

When you’ve developed some semblance of strength and coordination you can advance onto the program below for 12 weeks. You’ll notice that this plan is split into two main days. One in which your chest, back, and shoulders are trained on one day and your legs and arms on the next. Here, you’ll train no more than two days in a row before taking a rest day for repair and growth.

 

The 12 Week Plan

Day 1 (Monday) Warmup sets Working sets Rest in seconds
Incline bench barbell press 2 x 12 4 x 6-8 90 sec
Flat bench dumbbell press 4 x 6-8 90 sec
Medium or wide-grip pull-up (add weight if necessary) 2 x 12
(pull-downs)
4 x 6-8 90 sec
Barbell or two-arm dumbbell row 4 x 6-8 90 sec
Standing barbell military press 1 x 12 4 x 6-8 90 sec
Dumbbell upright row 4 x 6-8 90 sec
Hanging leg raise 3 x 10-15 30 sec
Floor crunch 3 x 10-15 30 sec

(Optional) Interval training –

choose any form of cardio for a total of 14 minutes

2 min

1 minute of high intensityand 2minutes oflowintensity(4rounds)

 

 

Day 2 (Tuesday) Warmup sets Working sets Rest in seconds
Barbell curl 1 x 12 4 x 6-8 90 sec
Close-grip bench press 1 x 12 4 x 6-8 90 sec
Leg press 2 x 12 4 x 8-10 90 sec
Barbell squat 4 x 8-10 90 sec
Dumbbell Romanian deadlift 1 x 12 4 x 8-10 90 sec
Seated calf raise 1 x 12 4 x 8-10 90 sec
Incline sit-up 3 x 10-15 30 sec
(Optional) Interval training – choose any form of cardio for a total of 14 minutes 2 min 1 minute of high intensity and 2 minutes of low intensity (4 rounds)  

 

Day 3 (Thursday) Warmup sets Working sets Rest in seconds
Incline bench dumbbell press 2 x 12 4 x 8-12 60 sec
Flat bench barbell or machine press 4 x 8-12 60 sec
Inverted row 1 x 12 4 x 8-12 60 sec
Machine row or close-grip pulldown 4 x 8-12 60 sec
Seated dumbbell side lateral 1 x 12 4 x 8-12 60 sec
Seated dumbbell shoulder press 4 x 8-12 60 sec
Incline crunch 3 x 15-20 30 sec
Hanging knee-ups 3 x 15-20 30 sec
(Optional) Interval training – choose any form of cardio for a total of 14 minutes 2 min 1 minute of high intensity and 1 minute of low intensity (6 rounds)  

 

Day 4 (Friday) Warmup sets Working sets Rest in seconds
Incline bench dumbbell curl 1 x 12 4 x 8-12 60 sec
Lying two-arm dumbbell nosebreaker 1 x 12 4 x 8-12 60 sec
Bulgarian split squat 2 x 12 4 x 8-12 60 sec
Barbell squat or leg press 4 x 8-12 60 sec
Lying or seated leg curl 1 x 12 4 x 8-12 60 sec
Standing calf raise 1 x 12 3 x 8-12 60 sec
Hanging leg raise 3 x 15-20 30 sec
(Optional) Interval training – choose any form of cardio for a total of 14 minutes 2 min 1 minute of high intensity and 1 minute of low intensity (6 rounds)  

 

* Note: The HIIT cardio can be performed either after your training session on an off day (Wednesdays and the weekends).

 

Teens Versus the Over 40 Crowd

If you’re reading this and happen to have a 1 as the first number in your age, then start here. As a teenager, you’re new to training. Instead of going straight in head first, you’ll need a break-in period of practice. Your nervous system isn’t quite ready to go all out and liftin the gym. Instead, you’ll need to put in the work, build pathways, and correct your form and function for the basic lifts before moving on to something advanced. Here are a few timeless principles to adhere to from here on out:

 

1. More Compound, Less Isolation
Yes, this sounds like a broken record and straight out of the “no duh” handbook, but it needs to be stressed again and again. As so many lifters migrate to concentration curls and machines that meticulously isolate every muscle fiber, I feel the message of compound, multi-joint exercises has gotten lost.

2. Progression Is King
This principle is key when you want any change to occur. Utilize progressive overload with moderate weights and reps. It’s fine to go heavier or lighter some days as long as you’re moving the needle forward.

3. Practice Form and Function
As another simple, but seldom followed, rule practicing correct form is one thing but the act of executing the proper function is new to many. This is the ability to brace, contract, and move certain areas of the body as it pertains to the movement. For example, the deadlift has many things that need to take place other than just lifting the bar off the floor. Hips, core, shoulder girdle, and other key components must take place.

 

Rules to the Teen Training Program

Perform the following program three non-consecutive days per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday). Feel free to perform cardio or other recreational activity on non-training days.

 

  • Pay attention to warm up periods to include general warm-up (walk, jog, jump rope) and specific warm up sets for each area trained.
  • Pay close attention to rest periods. This is one of the most abused aspects of training but has a major impact on progression.
  • Remember to practice both proper form and function. Take your time to do it right.
  • Feel free to switch up exercises when you need to. The simplicity principle still applies regarding avoiding overthinking.
  • Stay on the program for at least four weeks, preferably six. This will enable your body to adapt and see results. After four to six weeks, take a few days off from weight training and then run the program again if you prefer.

 

Day1 Warmup sets Working sets Rest in seconds
Flat bench barbell press 2 x 12 4 x 8-12 60
Medium or wide-grip pull-up 2 x 5 4 x max reps 60
Barbell back squat 2 x 12 4 x 8-12 60
Barbell Romanian deadlift 1 x 12 4 x 8-12 60
Floor crunch 3 x 15 30
Lying leg raise 3 x 15 30

 

Day 2 Warmup sets Working sets Rest in seconds
Barbell deadlift 2 x 12 4 x 6-8 120
Standing barbell shoulder press 2 x 12 4 x 6-8 60
Parallel bar triceps dip 1 x 8 4 x max reps 60
Barbell curl 1 x 12 4 x 8-12 60
Standing single-leg calf raise 1 x 12 4 x 8-12 30

 

Day 3 Warmup sets Working sets Rest in seconds
Incline bench barbell press 2 x 12 4 x 8-12 60
Barbell bent-over row 2 x 12 4 x 8-12 60
Barbell front squat 2 x 12 4 x 8-12 60
Kettlebell reverse lunge 4 x 8-12 60
Hanging leg raise 3 x 15 30
3-way sit-up 3 x 15 30

 

The Over 40 Crowd

If you’re the typical 40-year-old, you have a full-time job, a family, and other social obligations that preclude you from attending to training as you once did in your teens. You now have a busier lifestyle and unpredictable schedule complications. There’s a good chance that what you want to accomplish with your training has shifted, as well. You no longer wish to be the biggest, “baddest” dude in the gym. You simply want to add some muscle, lose some fat, and do it all pain free.

 

Comparing yourself to (potentially much younger) fellow gym members is a potential pitfall. The onslaught of gym bros on social media can play with your head. You were once young, too, and got away with doing sketchy things in the gym. Allow the wisdom of your age to overpower your ego and nostalgia. Don’t go down the black hole of following others as they throw caution to the wind—especially those 20 plus years your junior.

 

We all know (and bemoan) that our metabolisms slow as we age. Beyond putting on a few pounds, this will have a direct effect on your recovery ability. But that isn’t a death sentence. You can still practice habits to get optimal results and improve metabolism, recovery, and progress. If you’re the seasoned lifter, you’ll have the advantage of only needing to tweak a few things, since you’ve built a solid foundation. On the other hand, if you’re a newbie, you’ll need to develop healthy and effective habits from the start, so that you can reap some big rewards and stay injury-free.

 

The 40 Plus Training Plan

This program can easily fit into four days out of every week—Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. You can either treat Wednesdays and the weekends as rest days or partake in recreational activity or active recovery such as walking, jogging, swimming, or biking, for example. You can choose any schedule you like, just make sure you aren’t training more than two days consecutively.

 

End each day with a thorough stretching session and perform the program for four to six weeks. After that either take a week off from training, but remain active, or cut back on volume and intensity for a week before restarting the program.

 

Warm-up

  • Perform two rounds 10 reps each of the following warm-up circuit:
  • Squat jump
  • Push up
  • Alternating lunge
  • Inverted row
  • Bicycle crunch

 

Mondays & Thursdays Warmup sets Working sets Rest in seconds
Incline bench dumbbell press 2 x 12-20 3-4 x 10-12 60
Flat bench dumbbell press or machine press 3-4 x 10-12 60
Chest-supported dumbbell row 2 x 12-20 3-4 x 10-12 60
Inverted row 3-4 x max reps 60
Single-arm dumbbell side lateral raise or cable side lateral raise 3 x 10-15 60
Arnold press 3 x 10-15 60
Superset: Hanging leg raise and floor crunch 3 x 20 each 30 after each superset

 

Tuesdays & Fridays Warmup sets Working sets Rest in seconds
Seated dumbbell curl 1 x 12-20 3 x 8-12 60
Decline bench close-grip bench press 1 x 12-20 3 x 8-12 60
Single-leg dumbbell calf raise 1 x 12-20 3 x 10-15 Alternate each leg without rest
Rear foot elevated dumbbell Bulgarian split squat 2 x 12-20 3 x 10-15 each leg 30 after each leg
Exercise ball lying leg curl 3 x 10-15 60
Reverse dumbbell lunge 3 x 10-15 each leg 60
Bicycle crunch 3 x 20 30

 

Do Women Need to Train Differently?

In a word, no. Muscle is muscle. The main difference between men and women is hormones—with men obviously possessing more testosterone than women. With testosterone being the driving force enabling one to put on muscle and increasing strength, women are at a slight disadvantage when it comes to limits of development.

 

With that said, regarding exercise selection, programming, and set and rep schemes, there really is no reason to differentiate programs for men versus women. Basic resistance training should be geared with everyone in mind and to draw a line between genders just isn’t necessary when looking at the big picture.

 

Part 2: Nutrition to Build Muscle Mass

Nothing is as complicated as the diet marketing landscape that seems to rear its ugly head around every corner. Every few months there seems to be a latest and greatest diet plan guaranteed to give you the results you’re after. These plans always seem to be rather narrow-minded in that they eliminate certain foods entirely or have you only eating at certain times of the day. Some will even go as far as letting you eat what you want after a specific time.

 

At the end of the day, a balanced diet that includes nutrient dense proteins, plenty of vegetables and fruits, and some healthy fat sources is always the answer for long-term health benefits and muscle building purposes. If the latest craze seems too good to be true, it probably is.

 

How to Build Your Mass Eating Plan

Let’s also take your eating plan step by step. As with the training plan, I’ll also provide an example eating plan so you have a real takeaway to put into action.

 

1. Determine how often you need to eat. Gone are the days of eating every two hours on the dot. That only creates too much stress and, not to mention, you become a slave to your schedule. At the very least, make sure you are getting in three solid meals with a pre and post-workout snack.

 

2. Start with protein. No, you don’t have to eat a whole chicken or 12 ounces of beef with every meal. Also, don’t rely too much on protein powder, either. Getting in about one gram per pound of body weight will do the trick. If you go slightly below, don’t sweat it. Get protein from chicken, lean beef, ground meat, fish, cheeses, eggs, protein powder (for post-workout), and Greek yogurt.

 

3. Don’t be afraid of carbs. The bottom line is that you need carbs if you want to build muscle. Be sure they are of the complex kind and avoid any added sugars. Go with rice (white and brown), potatoes (sweet and white), oats, green vegetables, fruits such as apples, bananas, and berries, and whole grain breads and pastas. Start with two grams per pound of bodyweight and then adjust as necessary.

 

4. Include the right kind of fat. It’s a no-brainer that you need healthy fats to balance out your mass gaining diet. Oils naturally found in fish, fish oil supplements, avocados, nuts, and nut butters are great choices. Shoot for around 0.5 grams per pound to start.

 

5. Pre and post-workout nutrition. It’s important to get in a little something prior to training, especially if you’re the nine to five type. This should include a lean protein and a complex carb to get you through your workout. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have some post-workout nutrition on hand for immediately after training which should include a fast-acting protein source and some quick digesting carbs to help the recovery process.

 

6. Schedule cheat days. What’s a mass gaining eating plan without a cheat day? If your diet is relatively clean and full of the good stuff, take a few meals on a weekend and have anything you want. Not the entire day, but just for a meal or two. It will give you something to look forward to by the end of the week and give you a much needed mental break.

 

7. Stay consistent. As with training, you will need to stay consistent with the eating plan, as well. A good day or two each week won’t cut it. If you want to pack on some serious muscle, then every day counts.

 

Sample Basic Muscle Mass Nutrition Plan

The following eating plan is adequate for the average 180 pound lifter wanting to gain lean amounts of muscle mass. This is only an example and can be adjusted to fit your specific needs.

 

Training Days

Meal 1 (breakfast)

  • 3 whole eggs scrambled or omelet-style
  • 2 slices of wheat bread (toasted) with low-sugar jam or jelly or ½ cup (dry) oatmeal mixed with skim milk

 

Meal 2 (lunch)

  • Chicken breast salad with ½ avocado, vegetables, and an oil-based dressing
  • 1 small baked potato, sweet potato, or 1 cup rice, cooked

Or

  • 2 slices wheat bread, 4 ounces of deli meat, slices of deli cheese, low-fat mayo or mustard, and 1 piece of fruit

 

Pre-workout

  • 1 apple or other of fruit, such as blueberries or banana
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt or 1 scoop of whey protein powder
  • Handful of mixed nuts

 

Post-workout

  • 1 cup of blueberries, medium banana, or other fruit
  • 1 scoop of whey protein powder

 

Meal 4 (dinner)

  • 4-6 ounces of fish, chicken, ground meat, or turkey, as many green vegetables as you want, salad, 1 small potato, or 1 cup rice, cooked

 

Non Training Days

 

Meal 1 (breakfast)

  • 3 whole eggs scrambled or omelet-style
  • 2 slices of wheat bread (toasted) with low-sugar jam or jelly or ½ cup (dry) oatmeal mixed with skim milk

 

Meal 2 (lunch)

  • Chicken breast salad with ½ avocado, vegetables, and an oil-based dressing
  • 1 small baked potato, sweet potato, or 1 cup rice, cooked

 

Or

 

  • 2 slices or wheat bread, 4 ounces of deli meat, slices of deli cheese, low-fat mayo or mustard
  • 1 piece of fruit

 

Meal 3 (snack)

  • 1 apple or other fruit such as blueberries or banana
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt or 1 scoop of whey protein powder
  • Handful of mixed nuts

Meal 4 (dinner)

  • 4-6 ounces of fish, chicken, ground meat, or turkey, as many green vegetables as you want, salad, 1 small potato, or 1 cup rice, cooked

 

Part 3: Exercises and Variations

Now that you have a solid foundation of training and nutrition in place, it’s time to get a quick primer on the exercises included and their variations. Of course, feel free to replace certain exercises with ones that you deem more effective and that pose less of a potential risk of injury. As stated earlier, some exercises are just more comfortable than others in regard to your own specific body structure, limb length, strengths, and weaknesses.

 

Now, let’s break down each body part into groups and mention a few tips and techniques to look out for.

 

Chest

  • Flat and incline bench barbell presses: Grasp the bar a few inches beyond shoulder width with an overhand, closed grip (thumb around the bar). Lower the bar slowly to around mid-chest level and pause at the bottom without bouncing. Press the bar back up until your elbows are just about to lock out. Keep your elbows slightly bent at the top and then return back down under full control.
  • Dumbbell press variations: You can also perform chest presses with dumbbells on either the flat or incline bench. The same rules apply here, only now you’ll have the added challenge of controlling two independent dumbbells. Lower them by the sides of your chest and then press back up and in without clanging the dumbbells together.

 

Back

  • Chin ups and pull ups: There are many variations of each of these back exercises, however, a simple chin up is one where you’ll take an underhand grip and pull your chin up and over the bar. For pull up variations (wide, medium, and close grip) take an overhand grip and pull your chest toward the bar pulling with your elbows.
  • Inverted rows: For those who have trouble with traditional chin ups and pull ups, this row variation will serve as a nice substitute. Adjust a parallel bar around hip height and take a lying position underneath. Grasp the bar just beyond shoulder width with an overhand grip and keep your entire body rigid from head to toe. Pull up until your chest touches the bar maintaining that rigid body line and then lower yourself slowly back down.
  • Barbell and dumbbell rows: For barbell rows, position your upper body in a 90 degree angle to your legs until it’s parallel with the floor. Pull the barbell to your midsection while maintaining the bent-over position. For the dumbbell version, either grasp two dumbbells and execute the same as the barbell version by pulling the dumbbells to your sides or try the single arm variation. Bend over and grasp a dumbbell with one hand and hold onto a stable structure with the other. Perform as you would with the double arm version and switch back and forth between sides.

 

Shoulders

  • Barbell and dumbbell presses: In an upright seated or standing position, grasp a barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder width overhand grip. Start with the barbell just under your chin and press straight up. Once you’ve cleared your head, push your head through so that the barbell ends up overhead. For the dumbbell version, position the dumbbells on either side of your head to start just above your shoulders. Press up and overhead without clanging the dumbbells together. Return slowly.
  • Upright rows: Grasp a pair of dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing back. With your elbows, pull the weight up along your body until your elbows are above your hands and the weight will now be under your chin on either side of your face. Return slowly and repeat.
  • Side and bent-over lateral raises: For side lateral raises, grasp a pair of dumbbells hanging by your sides. Lift each dumbbell to your sides until they are straight out to each side at shoulder level. Return slowly and repeat.
  • The Arnold press: This unique exercise starts with a pair of dumbbells in the up position of a dumbbell curl—the weight curled up close to your shoulders. Press up and simultaneously rotate the dumbbells from a knuckles forward to a palms forward position as you press overhead. Reverse the movement on the way down and repeat.

 

Legs

  • Back squats: With a loaded barbell on your back, descend with the weight as if you were going to sit on a low stool below your hips. Keeping your back straight and your core tight, pause at the bottom and then press back up using your hip and thigh power without locking your knees.
  • Leg presses: Affix the leg press seat so that your upper body and legs form a 90 degree angle. Lower the weight sled down just before your hips come off the seat and torque your lower back. Press back up in a controlled manner without locking your knees.
  • Bulgarian split squats: This unique exercise with relieve those who find back squats to be problematic for their backs.
  • Lunges: With a loaded barbell or dumbbells in each hand, step forward forming a 90 degree angle with your knees and then drive your body back up to the upright position. Either perform reps for alternating legs or for one leg at a time.
  • Romanian deadlifts: With a loaded barbell, or a pair of dumbbells, and with unlocked but rigid knees, hinge at your hips and keep your back as straight as possible. Feel a deep stretch in your glutes and hamstrings. Reverse direction, keeping rigid knees to the starting position.
  • Lying leg curls: Lie down on the lying leg curl machine with your knees in line with the cam of the rotating arm. Curl the weight up slowly and under control while resisting the urge to swing it up. Lower back down slowly and under control.
  • Standing calf raises: Once under the shoulder pads of the machine keep your knees slightly bent but rigid. Lower your heels down for a deep stretch. Pause for a moment before lifting back up for an intense contraction. Resist bouncing.
  • Seated calf raises: As with the standing version you’ll perform these in a similar way, however your knees will be in a fixed bent position. Again, resist bouncing.

 

Arms

  • Barbell and dumbbell curls: Hold a barbell with an underhand grip shoulder width apart with the bar in front of your thighs. With your elbows fixed to your sides, curl the weight up until you achieve full contraction before slowly lowering the weight back down. For the dumbbell version, hold each dumbbell against your sides with palms facing in. Begin curling the weight up while simultaneously rotating your wrists forward (supinating them). Come up toward your shoulders for a contraction before reversing the motion back down.
  • Incline dumbbell curls: Perform this the same way as dumbbell curls above except that you’ll be sitting back on an incline bench with your arms hanging down on each side for a biceps stretch.
  • Parallel bar triceps dips: Use a parallel bar set up and take an overhand neutral grip on each bar. Start in an upright position with your elbows locked and straight upper body. Lower your body while keeping the upright position until your elbows make a 90 degree angle. Reverse direction and repeat for reps.
  • Close-grip bench presses: Lie down on a bench and take a shoulder width grip on a loaded barbell. Lower the weight with your elbows by your sides the entire time. Touch your chest (don’t bounce) and reverse the movement.
  • Lying triceps extensions: Lie down on a flat bench holding a loaded barbell or two dumbbells directly overhead. Bending only at your elbows, lower the weight toward your forehead. Stop just before the bar touches, then reverse the movement to the starting position.

 

Put It to Practice

Packing on lean muscle mass isn’t rocket surgery. It’s rather basic, really. All it takes is a commitment from you, some discipline, and the practice of day-to-day consistency. In time, you will have built an impressive foundation and, more importantly, a sense of how your own body works and what you need on your personal journey for a better physique. Pick a plan, stick with it, and reap big rewards.



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