Some time ago I had the pleasure of listening to former world bench press champion Ken Lain talk about the secrets of Gaining Maximum Bulk and Power! He talked about many bodybuildersí failure to pack on all the muscle weight and power they desire.
I then asked him to describe his training strategies, which would land a smashing blow against the somewhat ancient, inefficient and non-effective training methods that some individuals follow. Here is what he told me.
Let me ask you a question: "Are you as a power bodybuilder completely satisfied with the size and power of your muscles?" Before answering that question think it over for a moment. I can tell you, though, that quite a few of the folks, especially the younger ones, who come into my Power Shack Gym here in Abilene, Texas, ask me, "How do I get a massive body?" or "How do I build up a bulky, powerful physique?"
These are the most common appeals for training guidance I hear on an almost day to day basis. These folks tell me practically the same story: "I have tried some of the muscle gaining routines that are published in various mainstream bodybuilding magazines, but I don't know where to begin." "Sometimes there is so much information that it's hard to put into practice because the workouts are too long in duration. I don't have time to use all the exercises and the program overall makes me work too hard."
Well, if yíall are not completely satisfied with your training results so far then Iíd like to impart some hints and tips about gaining muscle bulk and power for both the beginner to advanced power bodybuilder. Gaining muscle bulk and power has always fascinated me. To begin with, to gain it you must show a steady profit from your training endeavors. It's just like my Power Shack Gym business, showing a steady financial profit means that I must spend a little less than I earn and this is the way I build up a healthy monetary reserve. Iíd like to mention here that my Power Shack Gym is the actual flagship or very first of many now in existence across the country.
Anyway, to gain the maximum in muscle bulk and power the amount of physical energy you expend in your workouts must be more than offset by the amount of rest and recuperation you get and of course the type of muscle building foods you eat. If you expend more energy and break down more muscle tissue than can be replaced through rest and diet you will show no profit and will naturally fail to gain the muscle mass and power you desperately want and need. There's another thing also. Muscle mass and power increases during the recovery or rest cycles and not during the workout itself.
Actually, the way I see it, gaining incredible muscle bulk and power can be best expressed as a formula that reads as follows: Genetics + Unlimited Training + Unlimited Intensity + Unlimited Nutrition & Supplements + Unlimited Recovery & Sleep=Maximum Muscle Bulk & Power. As you can see, each factor is a single entity, but when they all become a unified entity (at the same time), they become a tremendous force for influencing immense muscle bulk and power. Your body can't help but be "primed" to grow, grow, grow with a speed that will surprise you, and your power will become augmented. As well, you can expect your reserve of energy to be amplified as well as numerous other benefits.
I feel that the Maximum Muscle Bulk and Power formula is as nearly a perfect combination as I have ever seen, but only if you acknowledge that the body is a unified entity. Train with this thought in mind and you will make outstanding power bodybuilding gains. In practice, the formula for gaining maximum muscle bulk and power works like this:
Genetics plays a major role in gaining maximum muscle bulk and power, but you can improve your physique no matter who you are. While genetics is the main thing, desire and discipline are important as well and that is something that most people don't have. Iíve personally seen guys in the gym with great genetics who train maybe once or twice a week if that often and when they train, theyíre training with their mouth more than they are training with their body. On the other hand, youíve got guys with sunken chests, shoulders like a pear, and big old wide hips. It's a shame because while they will never be great as a bodybuilder or power lifter, they have the really awesome desire and discipline. Basically, though, Iíd say that about seventy to eighty percent of the people who train can enter a level three bodybuilding contest. The bottom line is that you can improve your maximum muscle bulk and power no matter who you are.
In bodybuilding in particular you have the cosmetic illusion, how 'cut' you are, and how the symmetry of the various muscle groups blends in with one another. All of this makes the muscles appear to be bigger. However, the most basic way to gain maximum muscle bulk (and power) in particular is by increasing the size of the muscle fibers themselves. Many people don't actually train the muscle fibers but instead train the mitochondria and sarcoplasm part of the muscle cells by using really light training poundages all the time and perhaps slow continuous tension reps. This is not the best way to train initially, though it does a little bit for the strength part and gives a big massive pump which many bodybuilders live and die for. They think the pump is what makes the muscles big, but that's not the case.
The basic way to train for maximum muscle bulk and power is to do a ten week training cycle. I suggest dividing your workouts into a push and pull system. Push days will be on Mondays (Heavy) and Thursdays (Light) and involve the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Pull days are Tuesdays (Heavy) and Fridays (Light). On these training days you will work back and biceps. Leg work can be done on Tuesdays or you can insert an extra training day in your schedule and, say, devote Wednesdays entirely to leg work. Legs will only be trained once per week, though.
On chest, back, and legs do 9 to 10 sets and no more than 12 overall. For the remaining muscle groups do about 6 sets each. That's what Iíd recommend for most people and that's not counting the specific warm-up sets. Usually, if you do warm-up sets for the chest you won't have to do any for the shoulders and triceps. Likewise, after training back (especially pull-down movements) you won't have to do warm-up sets for the biceps. Youíll notice that I have heavy and light training days for the muscle groups. That's because the body can't stand or can't recuperate from two heavy training days per week for the same muscle groups. On the heavy and light days do basically the same exercises, sets, and reps. The difference will have to do with rest intervals and the poundages used. On the heavy days, rest 5-8 minutes between sets and use maximum poundages for majority of your sets. On light training days rest no more than 3 minutes between sets and use no more than eighty percent of the weight that was used on the heavy day of training.
It is this training scheme which blends the bodybuilding with powerlifting for what I call a power-bodybuilder approach to training. Regarding the number of sets, reps, and exercises for the large and small muscle groups, I would suggest doing 3 to 4 exercises (your choice since I don't know what training equipment you have available) for the large muscle groups (chest, back, and legs) and 2 to 3 exercises for the remaining smaller muscle groups (shoulders, triceps, and biceps). Do 2 to 3 sets per exercise for 6 to 8 reps each.
This will depend on the total number of exercises for each muscle group. Do each rep nice and controlled, say 1 second in the positive phase and 1 Ĺ - 2 seconds in the negative phase. While I did say that you could choose your own exercises for each muscle group, I do suggest that you include the Flat bench press, High lat pulldowns, and the Parallel squat as the very first exercises in the sequence for the particular muscle groups in question. Your sets and reps scheme for these three exercises will deviate somewhat from what I suggested above. Iíll talk about it next.
It's my opinion that 90% of the bodybuilders and powerlifters train or do the same thing over and over again. This happens at the professional or world class levels as well. They all get into the same rut, training with the same weights, the same exercises day in and day out. The body, in order for it to grow, you have to constantly change something. You have to change the speed of the movement (rep speed), youíve got to vary the number of reps youíre doing, or youíve got to change the amount of weight being used. We as human beings resist change and while we don't like it, we have to change in order for the body to continue to improve. One of the best mass building cycles that I have used which makes weekly changes in the amount of poundages used and repetition variations is the 10 week Matrix program.
Basically, the Matrix program requires that you add five percent poundage increases to the 3 main sets (after the warm-up sets) while decreasing the number of reps performed by one from a base of 10, each week. By week number 10 you will be doing approximately 10% more poundage than your previous best max effort but for only one rep. As I mentioned previously, this program can be used on the basic exercises such as the Flat bench press, High lat pulldowns, Parallel squats, and Deadlifts if need be. Don't go crazy trying to use the Matrix program on each and every exercise you do on a push or pull training day. For me personally, I use the Matrix program on the Bench press itself for chest on the push day and that's it. Here's how it works. At the beginning of a ten week mass building cycle, let's say your max was 295 pounds in the bench press. One of the keys to the success of this program is to use 10% more poundage at the end of the 10 week cycle for a one-rep maximum than what you could do previously. In this program it would be 325 pounds (295 lbs. x .10=29.5 lbs. 295 + 30=325 lbs.). Whenever you are computing poundages by the 10% system and you have an odd poundage (in this case 29.5 lbs.) always take your answer to the nearest five-pound interval. In this case 29.5 lbs. would be moved to 30 lbs., whereas a poundage like 22.1 lbs. would be taken to 20 lbs.
Here's a ten week Matrix program for increasing a 295 lb. bench press to one of 325 lbs.
10 Week Matrix Program
(Maximum Muscle Bulk and Power System)
Monday (Heavy Day) 55% of Projected Max.
Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 10 reps, 175 lbs.
Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 10 w/140 lbs.
Monday (Heavy Day) 60% of Projected Max.
Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 9 reps, 190 lbs.
Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 9 w/150 lbs.
Monday (Heavy Day) 65% of Projected Max.
Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 8 reps, 205 lbs.
Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 8 w/165 lbs.
Monday (Heavy Day) 70% of Projected Max.
Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 7 reps, 220 lbs.
Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 7 w/175 lbs.
WEEK 5: Monday (Heavy Day) 75% of Projected Max.
Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 6 reps, 235 lbs.
Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 6 w/190 lbs.
Monday (Heavy Day) 80% of Projected Max.
Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 3 sets, 5 reps, 250 lbs.
Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 3 x 5 w/200 lbs.
Monday (Heavy Day) 85% of Projected Max.
Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 2 sets, 4 reps, 265 lbs.
Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 2 x 4 w/215 lbs.
Monday (Heavy Day) 90% of Projected Max.
Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 2 sets, 3 reps, 285 lbs.
Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 2 x 3 w/225 lbs.
Monday (Heavy Day) 95% of Projected Max.
Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then 1 set, 2 reps, 300 lbs.
Thursday (Light Day) 80% of heavy day. 1 x 2 w/240 lbs.
WEEK 10: Wednesday (Personal Record Day) 100% of Projected Max. Do 2-3 light warm-up sets; then first attempt 88-92 Ĺ Max 1 set, 1 rep, 315 lbs. Second attempt 95-97 Ĺ Max 1 set, 1 rep, 320 lbs. And finally, a third attempt with 100-102% Max 1 set, 1 rep, 325 lbs.
The heavy weights used in the Matrix program can undeniably take a toll on your body so after the 10 week cycle go into a 4-6 week cycle of high volume training (that is, more reps are done per set). For example, when doing Flat benches on Monday, do 2 sets of 6-8 reps, then 2 sets of 12-15 reps, and finally 2 sets of 25-30 slow continuous tension reps. This is an excellent way to hit all the components of the muscle cell (Fibular, Mitochondria, and Sacroplasm). Each part in itself contributes about 33 Ĺ% to the overall muscle volume size. The remaining chest exercises and those for the other muscle groups should be different than (or a variation of) what was used during the 10 week cycle, and performed in straight set style.
On the Thursday (push) and Friday (pull) training days, stay with the same exercises, sets, and reps (unless otherwise advised) as on the Monday, Tuesday, and optional Wednesday workouts. Rather than reducing the poundages used down to 80% of what was used on the heavy days, you may have to drop down to 65% to begin with because you will be doing super-sets for chest and triceps and tri-sets for the delts.
On the back you can do straight sets however. For biceps do one exercise in a double drop fashion, say Standing barbell curl 80 lbs. x 10 reps, 50 lbs. x 15 reps and 30 lbs. x 30 reps. On another biceps movement such as the Dumbbell curl, go down the rack in 20 lb. increases or decreases (depending which way you go) doing all reps to failure. Vigorous super-sets, tri-sets, double drops and down the rack are done basically non-stop until all the required sets for a particular muscle group are accomplished.
Initially, after 4-6 weeks of this, map out a new Matrix program and go back to the original exercises used in the previous 10 week cycle. You may not always be able to add 10% for a new projected one-rep max for the Matrix program. Pretty soon there's going to come a time when 5% will be all that you can add.
However, for the first year or two you will continue to make those 10% gains, which will take a 300-lb. bench presser up to around 400-500 lbs. over a two year period of time, but only if he has the desire or discipline to train consistently. Youíll need the desire and discipline to train consistently especially when you are five to six weeks into the Matrix program and want to give up because it is so brutally hard to get through.
Unlimited Nutrition & Supplements
For a guy who really wants to put on some size and gain some power, he should eat everything he can get his hands on. Eat these foods: All types of cheese; all types of nuts; rich soups and stews; thick gravies; all types of cereals, especially oatmeal (a Ted Arcidi favorite); all Italian dishes; rice pudding prepared with eggs, milk, and seedless raisins; whole wheat bread liberally spread with sweet butter; plenty of potatoes baked in their skins, with butter. One of my favorites is to cut a store bought roll of chocolate chip cookie dough, cut it in half, flatten it out into a giant cookie, and microwave it.
If you want to make unusual progress, start out the day with a big Ďol breakfast. I might start out with 8 oz. of orange juice and 3 oz. of Familia Swiss Museli mixed cereal, with milk or maybe cooked oatmeal made up with whole milk rather than water. Iíll add a half a cup of raisins or diced dates (sometimes both) and top it off with a Ĺ cup or dairy cream and a liberal supply of honey. Next Iíll eat a 4 oz. lean beef patty, which is to be eaten with an omelette made of 5 eggs, 2 cups of non-fat dry milk and a 2" x 1" x1" piece of American cheese. For the omelette, beat the eggs, blend in the powdered milk and a bit of liquid milk if needed. Pour this into a hot buttered pan and fry it like a regular omelette with cheese broken into small pieces or melted on top. If Iím still hungry Iíll eat whole wheat toast with it.
Eat plenty of cheese, bananas, unsalted peanuts, all nuts, raisins, dates, fresh figs, potatoes, yams, corn, and beans. It's better to eat smaller meals every 3-4 hours rather than just 3 large ones. Five 1000 calorie meals are easier to digest and assimilate than three 1500 calorie ones. Never skip a meal when youíre trying to put on maximum bulk. Don't forget to include plenty of water-packed (sodium free) tuna, fish, and chicken breasts. Also, instead of going the doughnut route at break-times at work, eat yogurt, peanut butter, tiger milk bars, etc., and be sure to include high-calorie blender drinks.
To insure proper nutrition, if youíre consuming the wrong foods take in a quality vitamin & mineral packet each day plus some type of protein supplement. It has been my experience that you can get away with eating "junkier" if you are taking a good regimen of vitamins and supplements throughout the day along with your food intake. I don't have the space to say more about Unlimited Nutrition & Supplements, but you can be sure that any advice on diet which appears in this magazine is more than worthwhile so don't be afraid to use the information. Just about every word of it is expert and authoritative.
Unlimited Recovery and Sleep
As I mentioned early on in this article, muscle mass and power increases during the rest cycles and not during the workouts themselves. The way I structured the heavy and light push and pull training days and having Wednesday (optional if you work your legs on a heavy pull day, Tuesday), Saturday, and Sunday for rest will allow your muscles and nervous system to recover completely from the workouts. You must rest completely between workouts and especially on non-training days and get a good night's sleep each and every night of the week. I suggest a minimum of 8 hours sleep and night and I myself try to get nearly 10 hours.
Few bodybuilders or powerlifters relax enough. In this modern life, with the tempo stepped up so high, it's easy to fall into a pattern of fast living. Iím not talking about living in the fast lane of night clubs, drinking, and parties every night in the week. Television, movies, and attending sports contests, etc., can keep most folks up later in the evening than is good for them. As a result, they try to sleep a little later in the mornings and from then on out it's a race against time: rush, rush, rush all day long-nerves on edge, eating fast meals, rushing through a workout (weights feel heavy and the bodybuilder feels shaky and has to push himself to continue). These types of conditions, day after day, are more exhausting than beneficial and no profit will be shown from it. Kick back and slow down your pace. Get to bed early so that you can get up in plenty of time to take care of your morning hygiene and eat a sound breakfast such as the one I described previously. Leave for work or school early enough so you don't have to rush. Arrange your workouts so that they will fit into your daily routine and you will not have to rush through them. Relax several times a day. Reading is a good way, and I know Ted Arcidi takes a 1 Ĺ hour nap each afternoon. Get rid of the fast pace. Your body and mind will benefit from this greatly.