Looking for a fast way to pack on some mass? Look no further, I have a great routine right here!
Any good mass routine will center around the big basic or compound exercises like bench presses, squats, deadlifts, etc. Why are these exercises so important as opposed to more isolation type movements? Compound movements involve more muscle groups than isolation exercises, allowing you to lift more weight. Squats alone, for example, involve some 200 muscles and actually work the whole body. In fact, it's been suggested squats can cause a 10% increase in upper body size! This is partly because compound movements cause a natural hormone release in the body, namely testosterone and GH, two powerful anabolic hormones produced by the body. If you are a natural lifter, this is important because you want every advantage you can get. Gains are harder to come by for the natural, manipulation of your body's own hormones are critical to success. Don't let the anabolic term mislead you – it merely refers to the positive, constructive phase of metabolism.So we see that, along with hormonal manipulation, compound exercises allow for more weight to be used which is the primary form of progression when lifting. A stronger muscle becomes a bigger muscle. Now, what type of routine are we looking at? Many times in cases like this you'll see a full body type routine suggested, you know, the typical 3 days a week set up with 10 or more exercises listed and usually at 3 to as many as 5 sets each. Unless you're a beginner working with light weight and learning your form, this type of routine is not your best choice. Why? It does not allow for enough work per muscle group nor enough recovery between workouts. Let's assume you work a routine like that hard on Monday, you will need be back on Wednesday to do it all again.
"Do you really think you will be recovered enough after only one full rest day? If you are, then you didn't train hard enough on Monday!"
If you are not, then you need more recovery time. Additionally, when you know you're doing 10 or more mostly compound movements in one session for 3 sets each (at least), it tends to be human nature to hold back until your last few sets, this takes away from the effectiveness of the routine. Now, a well thought out full body routine can have it's place, meaning one that focuses on only about 6 key exercises allowing you to work each one much harder, and that also allows more recovery time. Looking at recovery more closely, it's to often overlooked in favor of more time in the gym– more is not better! Training 6 days a week does not mean you will grow faster! You grow when you recover, not because of how often you train. Patience is required when building muscle, it does not happen overnight. I can see, however, where the "more is better" thinking comes from – most activities we engage in allows for improvement if you do them more often. So it's natural thinking to transfer that to training. The difference is you have to let your body catch up. The process of repairing and rebuilding the muscles takes time. So, hitting each muscle once per training cycle is ideal for the natural bodybuilder. I say training cycle instead of week because you don't have to tie yourself to a typical 7 day week. You can train when you have recovered which may mean your "week" is a little shorter or a little longer. Recovery is dependent on numerous factors some of which include such things as your nutrition which begins as soon as you are done training, your sleep and rest habits, your age, how hard you train, the type of job you have, how active you are, all these things play a part in your ability to recover.
So, getting back to the routine choices, I advocate a basic push, pull, legs 3 day split. This type of routine fits in perfectly with how your body functions: pulling muscles one day, pushing muscles the next and legs the third. Training in this manner makes a lot of sense because you can train each muscle more completely than with a typical full body routine. The one adjustment I always suggest is, if you have time, move deltoids to their own day making it a 4 day routine. This allows you to just work chest and tris on pushing day, then have several rest days before working delts. Most people work traps with shoulders so it now becomes a more involved training day. The 3 day fits in well for busy people as it can be adjusted to fit almost any personal schedule. The 4 day is more tricky but it's a great split setup. To insure variety you can mix up your body-part groupings, which I do advocate but as a basic template, these splits are hard to beat.
Let's take a look at some of the routines:
This routine fits well with a 7 day week and is set up to promote recovery. Remember, this just an example, it can be adjusted to fit your needs.
Again, either of these splits can be adjusted to include more rest days and can be adjusted to fit virtually any schedule. Two important points: if you notice, I separate similar muscles by several days - delts are on day 4 while the other two pushing muscles are on day 1. Legs, which involves the lower back, is separated from back day by several days as well. Also, the day after leg day should be devoted to rest and ideally you should only train two days in a row, otherwise you will overtax your nervous system and compromise recovery.
Here is the actual 3 day routine:
Training day #1 - Legs, abs
|3 warm up sets, 15 reps. Use a weight that's about 50% of your 1rm, don't add weight.
Working sets – 3 sets with a weight that will allow you to fail at 6 reps.
For your final set, lighten the weight to about 70% of your 1rm, do 10 reps, rest pause for 10 sec, do 10 more reps, rest pause again for 10 sec and try for 10 more. This approach covers progression three ways: by using a heavy weight for your main sets – and you should add weight as soon as 6 reps becomes easier – and by manipulating both reps and time allotted to perform those reps. You won't be able to hit 10 reps each time, once you do, add weight. This approach works different aspects of the muscle fibers allowing for full development. While I personally prefer the lower range reps, I understand the importance of using higher reps.
|Leg curls||3 sets of 8-10 reps, use 30 sec rests on these|
|Calf raises||1 set of 6 reps using a weight that allows you to fail at 6
1 set of 10 reps done 3 times as with squats – I refer to these as the "10's"
|Crunches||3 sets of 35 reps|
|Oblique twists||3 sets of 20 reps|
Training day #2 - Back, biceps, forearms,abs
|3 warm up sets, 3 working sets of 6-8 reps, fail in this range.|
|Bent rows||do the "10's" on this exercise as with squats|
|Lat pull-downs||also do the "10's" as above – this exercise also lends itself well to static holds so on all working sets, on the last rep, hold the weight at the bottom for a 5 count, then release slowly.|
|EZ curls||3 sets of 6 reps, failing at 6|
|EZ curls, 1 set of 21's, an Arnold favorite||by using this approach, we're manipulating techniques.|
|Hammer curls||3 sets of 10 reps using a weight that lets you fail between 8 and 10|
|Reverse crunch||3 sets of 25 reps|
|Oblique crunch||3 sets of 25 reps|
Training day #3 - Chest, deltoids, triceps, abs
This is the routine for a 3 day split:
Here's the routine for a 4 day split: Chest, triceps, abs
Performance notes – use a weight that allows you to fail at the prescribed rep range. Reps are performed explosive up, slow and controlled down. The slow and controlled really means negative emphasis, so no dropping the bar or whipping it back to the start position! When it says "same as with squats", I mean 3 working sets followed by the "10's" as I laid out for squats. Progression is the name of the game so remember to either add weight or where noted, add reps. There's a lot going in in this routine, from exercise selection to split layout to training to failure and extended set techniques to weight progression to time manipulation, not to mention rep execution – pay attention to each detail! It's the combination of all these factors that make this an effective routine.
Nutrition and supplements are two key components that are critical to your success. When it comes to gaining lean mass ( as opposed to "bulk" which really just means fat) you want to increase calories but in a manner than minimizes any fat gain. To do this, I suggest a high protein intake ( 1.5 grams per pound of body-weight, at least) and a carb cycling approach – more carbs on training days, less on off days.
Since we're trying to gain mass, there's no reason to go to low, so the lowest I'd suggest would be 1 gram per pound of body-weight, and on training days I would go no higher than 2 grams per pound of body-weight, with most of that in the hours leading up to and surrounding the workout. So to clarify, keep your carb intake around 2 grams on training days, fluctuate it on off days going no lower than 1 gram, keep protein intake at 1.5 grams and keep healthy fats to no more than 20% of total calories. If you are not gaining from this approach, add calories from protein first, I suggest going to 2 grams per pound of body-weight in this case, I would add carb calories as a last resort, and even then, I'd add increments of 50 grams per day. Then thing with carbs is, once you have fulfilled your body's requirements for energy, any excess will be stored as fat. True, you may have to adjust to be sure you in fact are fulfilling energy needs but none the less, given that excess intake will lead to fat storage, carb intake should be monitored carefully, even when trying to gain mass. Now, if you find you are in fact gaining fat, I would reduce carb intake by 50 grams per day. You always want to monitor any caloric change for 2 weeks to properly assess it's result on your physique before making any adjustments. So reduce by 50 grams a day, watch for two weeks, then adjust down another 50 grams is needed. Do I advice cardio on a mass gain program? I think a minimal amount is fine, say, 20 minutes 3 times a week after weights ( have a small bcaa or protein drink prior to cardio, have your full post workout shake when you're done).
As far as supplements, for mass I suggest, at the least, protein powder, a multiple vitamin and creatine. To this, you can add a pre workout drink, a intra workout drink, a recovery drink (unless you make your own) nitric oxide, glutamine and a test booster or prohormone. This is probably the ultimate stack but even to all of this, you can still add things like fish oil and a joint product. I myself would also add a good B-complex with C added in.
So there you have it, a great program that's sure to add pounds of extra muscle in no time!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments.
By: Jim Brewster