LIFT BIG, EAT BIG, SLEEP BIG, and you will GET BIG.
The bane of the Novice trainer is gaining body mass. I love John McCallum’s suggestions: eat everything, squat heavy and often, and save energy. When you’re trying to grow, you should never be awake when you can sleep, never sit when you can lay, never stand when you can sit, and never move when not being chased. This is a slight paraphrasing, but it’s the core of the growth philosophy that McCallum proved to be true. It’s the method that worked for me, too.
My favorite component of this advice is the simplicity. Be lazy. This may seem like crazy advice to give to the masses who lack the persistence to be Elite. I think of these people as Average—they redundantly conform to the bell curve and are all things not Elite. These people are lazy by nature. But my advice is meant for those with high activity levels and equally high rates of metabolism. Young people and people who have a slim build tend to have a hard time gaining significant muscle; eating a bodybuilding diet alone does little in the way of weight-gain progress. Being lazy can be the secret to finally putting some weight on a “Hardgainer,” to dust off an archaic term.
Large calorie (energy) surpluses and energy output deficits mixed with proper (HEAVY!!) training are the perfect storm for adaptation on a systemic scale. This formula not only affects the muscular and skeletal systems, but also the circulatory and respiratory systems. As long as trainers maintain General Physical Preparedness through alternating programs, they’ll see thicker tendons and ligaments, stronger bone structure, increased blood volume, and greater capacity for carrying oxygen. They’ll also see big results in body mass.
One day science will give us the privilege of knowing exactly the calorie amounts and sources that it takes to achieve optimal hormonal response in order to progress. Unfortunately, without extensive and expensive research (a la Tim Ferriss), we have a very vague picture of these amounts and sources. For Elite trainers, intense personal observation and record-keeping are valuable tools. Regular blood analyses can provide a more complete picture, if budget allows. But even then, it’s largely guesswork. The philosophy and methodology that has emerged from my own personal experience is just to take everything to an extreme and leave little to chance.
Here, I’ll outline my philosophy for the Elite bulking program, with different approaches for Novice trainers and for Elite trainers.
First, drink as much room-temperature water as you can during your first waking hour, and then eat until you are full. From that point in the day, the Novice trainer needs to fill himself up 3 other times—and by full, I mean Thanksgiving full. Heartburn full. Don’t make me laugh cause I might shit my pants or puke full.
The Elite trainer is best served by keeping food intake high but limiting the high-calorie incidents to 60-90 minutes before training, immediately after training, and a couple hours before bed, if training time allows.
A Novice trainer will still have the system sensitivity for more daily insulin spikes. It becomes more complicated at the Elite level, and we get fewer per day without overtaxing the pancreas.
Drink room temperature water throughout the day. I love ice cold water, but you will be amazed in a short time at how much better room temp or slightly cool water jives with getting big. It taxes the metabolism less, aids in digestion, and helps with absorption of all the goodies needed to become massive.
HEAVY!!!! and often! As heavy as you can and as often as you can. Negative movements are another great way to cause the appropriate adaptations to the psyche. Thomas Jefferson is believed to have said, “If you want something you do not have, you have to do something you have never done.” When I was young, if I was training in public, I would be afraid to go balls out because I was scared that “someone” would see me fail. Then I realized that “someone” is an idiot—what business does he have dictating my success?
And CHEAT!! If you are relatively full grown and are not a recovering couch potato just learning to use your new-found body, then cheat. Cheat with perfect form—partial movements, rapid reps, overload, overload, overload. Teach yourself to be failure’s companion. Partials are my favorite way to build strength fast. I could go on and on about why, but the main reason is that they let you feel the heavier weights and realize they are not that heavy. Nothing is immovable—you just have to know your enemy. The first time I did a deadlift of more than 800 lbs, it was only a 5 inch movement. But I moved it! From that point, I knew I could move it. Regardless of how minimal the initial success was—and just for full disclosure, there were several attempts where the bar did not move at all—it was a success nonetheless. It was not impossible!! It was not immovable!! And I knew it was only a matter of time before I could own it. Now we are on to 1000 lbs, but that is for another post. The point is to get in the ring with weights you are not familiar with and move them.
I am not going to get into programming here, but the concept is to build the structure and foundation to move mountains and do it in the shortest time possible.
My favorite. McCallum referred to it as living the fat cat lifestyle for a bit, or “softening up.” I prefer to think of rest as metabolic downshifting. It allows the body to reroute calories and such in order to make structural changes, rather than just repairing tissue damaged in training. In strategic application, resting can be a vital tool. If you are an Elite, then after a week or two you will become very restless. If you are an Average, I would not recommend implementing this strategy because of the likelihood that it will become a staple to your training pseudo-philosophy.
I understand that increasing your rest may seem like a luxury not available to you. Figure something out. You are not the President of the United States. As busy as you fancy yourself to be, chances are that your hectic lifestyle is really nothing unique. Treat rest the way you would treat any other goal. The world will spin on without you. Rest, rest, rest. It’s only for 2 or 3 weeks.
Leave any response or comment here or hit me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to continue this discussion.
“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”—Ovid