How to build maximum muscle
Do not read this story if you are not serious about learning the complexities of human body and bodybuilding training.
Read something else or look at pictures of your favourite champions and head to the gym.
This story is all science and only for those who want to learn how to train the most stubborn of all bodybuilding trainees.
This is a compilation of scientific facts and training wisdom I have gathered over years. It has taken me a lot of effort, study and personal experience to put it together.
Who should not read this?
If your body is growing on a regular basis with the kind of routines you do, then you are right on track. You may not need this story. Do not get confused after reading this and mess up your workout. Follow the good old adage, “Don’t try to fix a thing that isn’t broken.”
But, if your progress is ok and you still have a thirst to learn about training the hardest of hardgainers, I am sure you will love to read this.
However, while experimenting, be careful and very meticulous.
This story is certainly not for sissies or kids.
How to build maximum muscle?
“Train heavy and as often as you can” — this may be the advice several trainers or champions offer hardgainers.
The truth, however, is that muscle growth can be a very, very complex subject.
This story will tell you how to build your body if it does not grow using conventional, standard training principles and routines (which work great for over 90 per cent champions).
Why are some persons naturally stronger than others?
If the nervous system of a person is highly efficient, he can activate more muscle fibres while performing each repetition. This will mean that he can naturally be stronger and generate more force than the average trainee. He will be able to recruit more muscle fibres during each rep and, hence, lift heavier weights. This will him help to build denser, bigger muscles.
Researcher Arthur Jones used to call this “neurologically efficient.”
Why are some persons naturally more muscular?
Some persons are genetically gifted. They may be neurologically efficient or may not. They may also have more cells in their muscles, smaller joints (maybe or may not), better appetite and better recovery ability from intense workouts. They may have less fat cells in the body and, those cells may also be reasonably well distributed all over the body and not bunched up in select areas. Their bodies may be efficient at burning fat cells as well.
What is a muscle made up of?
Greater mass of muscle has three major components:
1. Myofibrils (known as ‘contractile muscle’), which form 20-30 % of the size of a muscle cell
2. Mitochondria, which form 15-25 % of size
3. Sarcoplasm (known as ‘metabolic muscle’), which forms 20-30 % size
The remainder of muscle consists of the following:
1. Capillaries, 3-5 %
2. Connective tissue, 2-3 %
3. Fat deposits, 10-15 %
4. Glycogen, 2-5 %
5. Sub-cellular substances, 4-7 %
How to develop Myofibrils
These allow the muscle to sustain maximum contraction for power and strength. To develop myofibrils, you have to do low reps (1 to 5 reps) through a full range of motion in a smooth, quick and strict manner.
This is a protein liquid substance that saturates and surrounds the cell components. It contains enzymes and specialised structures to convert fats into sugars and sugars into energy. It also helps to metabolise waste products. Sarcoplasm or ‘metabolic muscle’ produces energy for muscles during contractions. Cardiovascular system helps to execute this job in an efficient manner. Sarcoplasm increases proportionately with myofibrils and mitochondria. But, they can be specifically developed by doing high reps in the range of 12-20.
Mitochondria is part of cell containing genetic material and enzymes needed for cell metabolism, including those responsible for the conversion of food to energy. Mitochondria can be developed by doing higher reps in the range of 15-30. They step-up muscle endurance by increasing blood and oxygen supply.
Types of muscle fibres
Muscle that has a high percentage of myofibrils are called Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibres or White Muscle Fibres.
Muscle that has high percentage of mitochondria is known as Slow-Twitch Muscle Fibre or Red Muscle Fibre.
No muscle, however, is made of completely one type of fibre.
People who perform only heavy training using low reps develop more thickness. Those who perform light weight training and high reps do not develop strength or size. But, integrating both type of work in a well-planned manner, according to an individual’s needs, ensures success in building muscle and maintaining optimum strength and health.
Blood circulation and better growth
If blood circulation to a muscle is better, it has a chance of growing better. So, those who have an athletic or sports background gain muscle more easily.
However, some researchers say that doing intense cardio immediately after hardcore training may hamper growth in certain cases, if not all. So, if you are doing intense cardio after workouts and not growing enough muscle, stop that. Try doing cardio in a separate session and you may grow. Cardio performed after workouts may lead to overtraining in some cases.
Fatigue products help growth
During intense workouts, the muscles accumulate fatigue products and certain waste products like lactic acid. They are equally important for growth like increased blood circulation. They help the body to secrete natural growth hormone.
The fatigue products also have a chemical function and help to build muscle fibres. So, although increased blood circulation is very important to bring nutrient-rich blood to the muscles for quick recovery, doing cardio or even pounding one body part after another before the fatigue products complete their chemical function may affect growth in some cases.
So, if you are pounding two muscles one after another (in an optimum manner, training all fibres, etc., etc.) but are not seeing growth, what do you do?
Double-split may help
If you are training chest, shoulders and triceps one after another and your chest is not growing, try doing a double split. Train chest in the morning, rest for 4 to 6 hours and train shoulders and triceps in the evening.
If you can’t train twice a day …
You can finish your chest workout, walk around the gym in a calm relaxed manner for 10 minutes, sit for another 5 or 10 minutes and start your shoulder workout. This gap of 20 minutes may be enough for the fatigue products to complete a major part of their chemical functions. But, do not forget that overtraining should be avoided at all costs, irrespective of whether you train once or twice a day. In some cases, resting between body parts for even 5 minutes may help.
Best way to increase fatigue products and blood circulation
Growth may elude some trainees if they do not accumulate enough fatigue products and increase blood circulation in the muscle quickly! Striking a balance may be tricky, but is very much possible.
After a few hard sets in pyramid style, you may stimulate maximum release of fatigue products by doing a couple of Drop Sets or Super Sets or Tri-Sets using moderate weights and moderately high reps (not light weights and not too many reps). You may also try Forced Reps. Come back for a second workout in the evening for another muscle or rest for 20 minutes and start working the second muscle.
If you have a stubborn muscle, train it separately or like what has been said here.
A quick recap
Intense training breaks down tissue, depletes ribosomes and messenger Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) and clogs the tissues with waste products such as lactic acid. These should remain in the muscles for some time as they are essential for rebuilding the muscle and replenishing Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP), which is fuel for muscular contractions. However, the fatigue products should not be left too long in the muscles or accumulate for a long time owing to poor blood circulation (this naturally does not happen in a well-trained body). This may affect intense muscular contractions, prevent the muscles from getting a good pump and also hamper recovery and performance. So, increasing blood flow at the right time using the right technique is essential to bring nutrient-rich blood and facilitate growth.
Law of individual differences
To build maximum muscle, some individuals may need very intense, brief and infrequent workouts. Some persons may need to train each muscle only once a week. Some others may grow very well training each muscle group once in every three or four days. Certain others may need to train each muscle twice a week. Some may need only 2 exercises for each muscle group, some may need 3 movements and some others may need even 4!
Some bodybuilders may need brutal and high volume (more sets and reps) workouts and some may need less volume.
Please understand that the general guidelines to build muscle are the same and work well for more than 90 per cent of trainees, including Mr. Olympia winners. But, others have to experiment carefully. Start experimenting only after a few initial years of hard training, using conventional training techniques. Experiment sensibly, train hard and smart if you are a hardgainer. Keep track of your study and be meticulous.
Success is sure to come your way.
My sincere thanks: I express my gratitude to Robert Kennedy and Greg Zulak of Musclemag International, Steve Blechman of Muscular Development, John Balik of Ironman and Joe and Ben Weider for providing all the material that have gone into the making of this story.
_ C. Lakshmi Kumar