It’s hard to refute, greater musculature brings the appearance of physical, emotional and professional health. A bodybuilder represent a fitness lifestyle that survives through exhausting efforts, mental motivation, progressive planning and resourceful time management techniques. Moreover, increasing muscle mass turns up the metabolic furnace in favor of burning stubborn fat stores. A reasonable rate at which muscle can be built is often debated in fitness facilities. The truth of the matter, muscle mass is added in various tempos during a lifetime of bodybuilding, with the fastest progression rates embraced early in training. As a trainee advances, it becomes exceedingly important to inject more program specificity, in which scheduled periods of ramped-up training intensities are introduced for rapid muscle growth. Furthermore, the period prior to intense strength-training efforts should not be taken lightly. Taking the time to properly prime for muscle growth will set the stage for the best results possible, within a bodybuilder’s genetic capabilities.
Advanced lifters are problem solvers; they continuously find ways to change their program and outlook, to break past plateaus and set new personnel records in force production. Increases in muscle mass are never linear. All through puberty, adolescents grow in development spurts. Strength athletes experience the same patterns. Fat mass can be consistently added but muscle mass is achieved in short bursts. Growth rate and frequency are primarily based on training experience. If bodybuilders could continue to grow without ever letting up, many would be well over 300 pounds – and rock hard. The act of resistance training itself does not build muscle. Periods of training above previous fitness thresholds lead to athletic advancement and subsequently more muscle mass. Muscle-building routines must apply progressive overloads, use program variations and set specific goals. Adequate nutrition and caloric intake is also necessary – you can’t build a house without bricks! These concepts become more important as a bodybuilder evolves in size and conditioning.
Beginners respond well to most resistance training programs. They readily experience rapid gains in force production and muscle growth, as well as prominent fat loss. Several adaptations occur after first embarking on a consistent routine. For one, enhanced neural function leads to greater force generation. Resistance training is a motor learning process; eventually more muscle fibers can be recruited with less antagonist and supporting muscle activation.
As one advance, changes in muscle architecture, fiber density and type occur. An increase in the cross-sectional area (hypertrophy) of muscle is the result of persistent and progressive resistance training. Learning to deal with high lactate levels is more motivational than a physical adaptation. Pushing or pulling exceedingly heavier loads requires greater tolerance to the burn associated with resistance training.
Increased daily activity levels readily initiate fat mobilization – how much fat is lost is primarily affected by diet and nutrient timing, genetic and metabolic conditions and beginning body composition. Nonetheless, it’s easy for someone new to resistance training to mobilize stored fat while building muscle. Their biggest hurdle is mustering the motivation to maintain consistency in a healthy and goal-orientated dietary structure.
In 2002, researchers from the American College of Sports Medicine cultivated over 260 studies to outline progression models for resistance training. In the official position stand, they examined progression rates and known adaptations. Research consistently confirms the majority of strength increases take place in the first four to eight weeks of training.
According to the ACSM, literature reveals the following average progression rates in healthy adults during consistent training periods of four-weeks to two-years:
- Untrained individuals no training for several years, accumulate increases in force production of approximately 40 percent and respond favorably to most protocols.
- Moderately-trained individuals routinely add strength gains in the region of 20 percent.
- Trained athletes, typically with at least six months of consistent resistance training, obtain roughly 16 percent increases in strength.
- Advanced trainees with years of experience and a significant amount of development, grow at a 10-percent progression rate.
- Elite athletes, highly-trained competitors, are scraping the progression barrel at a two-percent pace.
Actual growth rates are largely affected by personal constraints; such as genetic limitations, access to strength coaches and nutritionists, adequate training facilities, anabolic steroids and dietary supplements. But soon enough, the honeymoon ends and muscle-gaining tempos diminish. They come to a grinding halt for individuals unable to find proper coaching assistance. It’s no wonder many gym memberships lose their charm, or so many consumers flock to feed money into a gluttonous dietary supplement industry.
Intermediate trainees trying desperately to push into advanced stages of development must start prioritizing training periods toward specific goals. Program specificity must be respected when superior motor skills, exercise execution and motivation start allowing great training intensities. After awhile, a separation must be made between strength and endurance training. Spending hours performing cardio-respiratory work each week, while under a restricted diet to promote fat loss, makes setting new personal records in limit strength futile. Likewise, strength training under heavy resistance with excessive endurance work cause systemic conflicts that hinder muscle repair and growth. In other words, combining the two training goals will not optimize results. Fatigue can become so great that it starts to affect motivation levels inside and outside the gym. At its worse, concurrent training can lead to a serious condition of overtraining syndrome and impaired immunity. An athletes can end up having to spend weeks detraining to fully recover from severe exhaustion.
“Bulking” and “cutting” are bodybuilding terms associated with specific goals during a training year. Bulking phases focus on overfeeding and intense training in an attempt to build the most muscle possible. Cutting contrasts the bulk by structuring diet and training efforts toward shaving off accumulated body fat, using energy deficits obtained through diet or frequent endurance training. When making the decision to bulk or cut – gain or lose weight – it’s important to consider the current stage of development and body composition. These factors determine the degree of specificity a training program should embrace; as well as the body’s potential to properly partition a caloric surplus toward fueling muscle growth.
Since beginners need less specificity, the question whether to bulk or cut, mostly lies with advanced trainees. Current body composition status should be the ultimate deciding factor. If the body’s muscle-to-fat ratio is leading to a soft belly and hanging love handles, it’s time to lean up first. Repeatedly bulking up and yielding to high body fats is not only a cosmetic set back that hides proper visual representation of consistency and dedication to training and nutrition. Less obvious, excess body fat leads to metabolic disruptions within the system that causes improper calorie partitioning.
Gilbert Forbes, from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York, demonstrated changes in body weight induced by nutrition, whether negative or positive, comprise both lean (fat-free) and fat mass. Forbes examined how body fat content influences body composition responses to nutrition and exercise. In experiments of at least three weeks in duration, he found weight gain in lean people comprises 60-70 percent lean tissue, where as obese people gain 30-40 percent. The relative contribution of muscle acquisition during weight gain is related to body fat.
Gaining a modest amount of fat is tolerable after a period of overeating, to support heavy weightlifting for maximum gains in muscle mass. However, before a soft physique turns obese, it’s time to apply a calorie-cutting diet with a fat-loss training routine. To reveal underlying musculature and revert metabolic processes to more favorable conditions; encouraging internal environments that are much more suited for packing on lean muscle weight.
Priming metabolism for muscle growth helps bodybuilders maximize progressive resistance training cycles. Priming opens the window for a great opportunity to obtain phenomenal muscle-building results and end training plateaus. If completed correctly, priming will lead to dramatic results in strength and muscle gains. Proper priming is as much a psychological affair as it is physical; a trainee should feel pent up and ready to move heavy loads after sufficiently primed.
The theory behind priming is readily demonstrated post-contest by competitive bodybuilders who spend a lot of time slowly dieting to exhibit a lean, muscular build. Their body becomes sensitive for a period of growth following the long period of dieting and depletion training. After competition, phenomenal gains in lean body mass are reported with a ramp up in training and calories. Pre-contest routines are often too exhaustive, since extremely low body fat levels are sought, but they are a form of priming nonetheless.
Exercise selections, structures and sequences must change as goals change – never train the same way, over and over again. Dietary and training manipulations in a priming program must allow an athlete to lower body fat while sparing muscle, in an attempt to avoid overtraining. It is essential to diet down slow enough to lose mostly fat – again, no muscle or strength should be lost while priming. Furthermore, a priming routine should be far different than a mass-building program. The trainee must become mentally prepared for an upcoming progressive overload of rapid gains… not burnt out from an exhaustive priming phase. Priming should serve to preserve strength levels while losing excess fat, as well as encourage a great eagerness to train much heavier in the next training phase. Concurrent training won’t negatively affect priming results and the amount of aerobic training (energy output), as well a total caloric intake (energy input), is mostly dependent on current lean body mass and known metabolic efficiency. To sum up: priming focuses on maintaining strength, while losing fat and building motivation for increased intensities.
Cyclic-ketogenic diets work wonders for priming metabolism for muscle growth. The cyclic method of rotating carbohydrate intake preserves lean body mass while making an athlete’s metabolism more sensitive to carbohydrate intake, thus allowing better blood sugar control and calorie partitioning. Carbohydrate loads under increasingly sensitive conditions present opportunities for powerful workouts, sessions fueled by super compensated glycogen storage. Glycogen loading, immediately after completely depleting, presents an opportunity to fight for strength levels and muscle mass. Without scheduled carbohydrate loads, muscle lost is inevitable under long-term ketogenic conditions.
To illustrate how priming can be added to a training year, imagine a 200-pound bodybuilder at 18-percent body fat, holding 35 pounds of fat. He’s a pretty strong but becoming quite soft. Definition in the bodybuilder’s abdominal wall is hidden and he’s nearing the last notch on his belt. He wants to bulk up and attempt to finally reach 315 pounds for 10 repetitions on the flat bench press. However, he has learned how overfeeding his metabolism at high body fat percentages is likely to cause more fat gain than muscle. Instead of bulking, he starts priming. After 12 weeks of steady fat loss, averaging a little over a pound per week, he loses 16 pounds of needless adipose tissue. He is now much harder, weighing 186 pounds with 10 percent body fat. He feels more energetic after meals – no longer tired and lethargic. He also feels less cumbersome and much more motivated by noticeable muscle separations found in his arms and legs. His belt has loosened, which means he’ll be less inclined to skip meals while bulking. Over the next 10 weeks, he grows like a weed – eventually pushing 315 pounds for 11 repetitions and setting a new personal best in the barbell squat. Now at 200 pounds, he is 12 percent body fat and plans to move into a more aggressive cutting phase in preparation for an upcoming Caribbean vacation.
Many bodybuilders prefer to reverse a soft-body trend before the summer – a season where more favorable outdoor temperatures can increase social relations. But can increasing social ties cause a disruption in a fat-burning period?
The Farmingham Heart Study examined how obesity spreads in large social networks – suggesting unhealthy levels of body fat can be a contagious condition. The 32-year study was published on July 26 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers evaluated a densely interconnected social network of 12,067 people from 1971 to 2003. According to the study, a person is 57 percent more likely to become obese if he or she has friends who become overweight. If one sibling becomes obese, the other’s likelihood increases by 40 percent. If a spouse becomes obese, the probability the other will follow increases 37 percent.
Contact with obese people can change a person’s definition of acceptable body composition. Frequent interactions can influence food choices and activity levels. The Farmingham Heart Study demonstrated that persons in closer, mutual friendships have a powerful influence on each other. Persons of the same sex have relatively greater influence than those of opposite sex. This passing of body fat may rely less on behavioral imitation but a change in general perception of acceptable body fat levels. Behavioral effects may rely more on the frequency of contact.
Successful fat-loss routines must remain focused, especially under social pressures to graze on unhealthy and subsequently unproductive foods. These societal pressures are high in the United States, where over 60 percent of adults are already overweight.
“The Obesity Epidemic: Looking in the Mirror,” an editorial published on Aug.1 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, suggests a rising obesity epidemic in the United States. According to the article, researchers project that 75 percent of adults will be overweight or obese by 2015. Apparently cutting out obese friends isn’t feasible – if one wants friends at all.
Unfortunately, social gatherings are consistently attached to food and alcohol consumption. What do you want to do tonight? Go grab a pizza or drinks at the club (food as entertainment)? Should we get some of Joe’s birthday cake (food as celebration)? Do you want some chocolates my boss sent me for staying late last night (food as a reward)? Daily events are often linked to eating and frequently void of any physical activity. Overweight people are easily led to feel self-conscious about their physical condition and will sometimes act offended when you turn down an alcoholic drink or a piece of cake.
When a bodybuilder chooses to change to a fat-loss routine, it’s important to be aware of the potential influences society can have on motivation and perception. Stay goal driven and ignore destructive influences. If a social contact is becoming extremely negative and progressively persistent, it may be time to cut the relationship short. Let them enjoy themselves as they rise to obesity’s grasp on today’s society – while you ascend to an enjoyment that comes only after physically demanding work and personal restraint.
Bodybuilders must avoid bulking if their body-fat percentage exceeds 12 percent. Bulking while overweight results in improper calorie partitioning during the time of surplus – leading to more fat than muscle gains. Starting a bulking routine at over 15-percent body fat is likely to result in well over 20 upon cessation, which is entirely too much fat for an active, healthy person. Furthermore, when venturing over 20-percent body fat, it becomes exceedingly more difficult to return to a hard physique. Losing excess fat mass becomes less manageable when an athlete’s environmental and behavioral conditions adjust to caloric splurges and an overweight lifestyle. Even when bulking, it important to practice some dietary restraint. Food is for fuel; never enjoyment… even if family and friends suggest otherwise.
Scheduling priming periods into the training year presents opportunities to routinely shave off excess fat and prepare the body for bulking through intense progressive overloads. Along with the body, the mind must also get primed to make the switch to a bulking routine. Bulking and cutting phases are integral parts of living a bodybuilding lifestyle; periods of priming should also be inserted to better prepare for bursting through training plateaus.
Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults, Am. College of Sports Medicine Position Stand, February 1, 2002.
Gilbert B. Forbes, Body Fat Content Influences the Body Composition Response to Nutrition and Exercise, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 904:359-365 (2000) New York Academy of Sciences
The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years. Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and James H. Fowler, Ph.D. NEJM, Volume 357:370-379, July 26, 2007.
The Obesity Epidemic: Looking in the Mirror. S. K. Kumanyika, Am. J. Epidemiol., August 1, 2007; 166(3): 243-245.
- Priming: Preparing for an AAS Growth Spurt
- Warrior’s 14-Day CKD for fat loss
- Cyclic-Ketogenic Dieting