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The general strategy adopted by most present-day competitive bodybuilders is to make muscle gains for most of the year (known as the "off-season") and, approximately 12–14 weeks from competition, lose a maximum of body fat (referred to as "cutting") while preserving as much muscular mass as possible. The bulking phase entails remaining in a net positive energy balance (calorie surplus). The amount of a surplus in which a person remains is based on the person's goals, as a bigger surplus and longer bulking phase will create more fat tissue. The surplus of calories relative to one's energy balance will ensure that muscles remain in a state of anabolism.
Aim to eat roughly 250 to 500 extra calories per day. To make sure that any weight gained is from muscle, Fitzgerald recommends that the bulk of those calories come from protein. In a 2014 Pennington Biomedical Research Center study, people who ate a high-calorie diet rich in protein stored about 45 percent of those calories as muscle, while those following a low-protein diet with the same number of calories stored 95 percent of those calories as fat.
Place a band around your ankles. Shift your weight into your right foot and place the toes of your left foot on the ground about an inch behind your right foot, so there is tension in the band. Exhale as you kick your left leg back about six inches. Avoid arching your back and keep your knees straight. Inhale as you return your left foot to the starting position. Do 10-12 reps. Switch sides.
Sure, using a more effective workout routine or diet plan will work better/faster than a less effective one. However, even when you’re doing everything just right and you’ve optimized every single major and minor factor to work as quickly and effectively as possible (which I’m going to show you how to do), the simple fact is that you’re still not going to build muscle “fast.”
“I would really focus on learning how macros work, how your body works and how it reacts to certain foods, and what your body requires each day to maintain your weight,” he advises. “Then you can start playing around with increasing calories [to bulk up], and decreasing calories when you're dieting.” Our beginner's guide to macros will definitely help.
Begin in a standing position with one leg planted firmly on a slightly elevated surface – like a step. Raise the opposite hip and pelvis by hiking your hip towards the sky. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Slowly lower your hip and pelvis down towards the floor. Repeat this exercise as many times as you can until you feel fatigue (1-2min), then switch sides. Ensure the standing leg is straight and do not sway your shoulders side to side.
Eating the right carbs is important too. Carbohydrate is stored in your body in the form of glycogen. Glycogen in the muscles is an important fuel reserve during intense physical exercise or in times of energy restriction – protein sparing. It is best to restrict or to keep away from junk carbohydrates such as sweets, cakes, and biscuits, and stick to foods like porridge, pasta (wholemeal), rice (brown), bread (wholegrain), and cereals (try to choose the versions with low or reduced sugar and salt). For more on carbohydrate and the effect of sugar on the body, click here.

This is a great, functional exercise, and one I have written about in the past. The basic glute bridge is simple, just lay on your back with your knees bent, lifting your hips in the air. This is an excellent starting point, but most of you will quickly need to move on to more challenging variations to really get your glutes fired up. Check out my two favorites:


Too much sitting: You probably know it can contribute to serious health problems like obesity and osteoporosis. But did you know it also contributes significantly to back woes, including lower back pain in yoga poses? Fortunately, you can use your yoga practice to offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, relieve associated back pain, and set the stage for safe practice of intermediate poses like backbends.
Protein, you may have heard, is what your muscles are made of. Well, not quite. The amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of muscle, and your body needs—not wants, needs—these substances during and after training for repair and recovery. It breaks down the protein into the respective aminos, uses them for their various functions, and then you convert what doesn't get used. I break down a lot of tissue in my daily workouts, so balancing it out with adequate amounts of protein throughout the day is important.
How to do it: Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand, arms to your sides. Put some slack in your knees so they’re in a neutral position, slightly bent. Extend one leg back; this non-weight-bearing leg should extend straight back until it’s parallel to the floor, while your planted leg remains engaged and planted firmly to the floor. Your weight-bearing knee should be neutral to just slightly bent to avoid hyperextension. Sink your arms toward the floor when you draw your elevated leg back, moving with the flow of gravity. Use your glutes to pull yourself back to the upright position.
These muscles are all involved in the action of flexing the hip which is required during squatting, running, and playing sports. Something important to take note of here is that the psoas muscle (part of the iliopsoas) actually starts at the spine and runs down to the hip. It is considered to play a role in spinal stabilization. Common complaints include a pinch/sharp/tight sensation when getting down into a squat, pain in the front of the hip/thigh during running, or sensation of tightness when sitting for long periods of time.

^ Burd, Nicholas A.; Yang, Yifan; Moore, Daniel R.; Tang, Jason E.; Tarnopolsky, Mark A.; Phillips, Stuart M. (2012). "Greater stimulation of myofibrillar protein synthesis with ingestion of whey protein isolate v. Micellar casein at rest and after resistance exercise in elderly men". British Journal of Nutrition. 108 (6): 958–62. doi:10.1017/S0007114511006271. PMID 22289570.


By that logic, a 160-pound man should consume around 160 grams of protein a day—the amount he'd get from an 8-ounce chicken breast, 1 cup of cottage cheese, a roast-beef sandwich, two eggs, a glass of milk, and 2 ounces of peanuts.) If you don't eat meat for ethical or religious reasons, don't worry — you can count on other sources, too. Soy, almonds, lentils, spinach, peas, and beans are packed with protein.

"It'’s especially important to eat a carb- and protein-rich meal immediately after a workout," Aceto says. "Right after training, it turns out that your body is really lousy at taking carbohydrates and sending them down fat-storing pathways,"” he says. "So post-training, carbs will be sent down growth-promoting pathways instead."” And when these carbs are combined with a protein source, you'’ve got a strong muscle-feeding combination because carbohydrates help deliver the amino acids into muscles by boosting insulin levels. This anabolic hormone drives nutrients into the muscle cells and kick-starts the muscle-growth process.


Since people with high body fat don’t need fat, they can skip it which will help create a deficit through “dropping calories”. If they don’t eat fat, they can use their own instead which is the point of fat loss. They can eat carbs, but then fat burning stops and insulin will create minor changes that we can sense. So they can skip carbs to make sure they just use their own stored energy. They can eat protein only instead. Which is the best option. Protein in the morning is the only thing that makes sense. From there you gauge your appetite which is a result of your hunger hormones. Leptin and Ghrelin. I suggest saving carbs for later in the day, so that most of the day (time) either you burn your body fat which helps with “fat burning” or consume dietary fat (which is a better macro than carbs).
  Located deep in the front of the hip and connecting the leg, pelvis, and abdomen, the hip flexors— surprise, surprise— flex the hip. But despite being some of the most powerful muscles in our bodies (with a clearly important role), it’s easy to neglect our poor hip flexors— often without even knowing it. It turns out just working at a desk all day (guilty!) can really weaken hip flexors since they tend to shorten up while in a seated position. This tightness disrupts good posture and is a common cause of lower back pain. Weakened hip flexors can also increase the risk of foot, ankle, and knee injuries (especially among runners) Hip muscle weakness and overuse injuries in recreational runners. Niemuth, P.E., Johnson, R.J., Myers, M.J., et al. Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, Provo, VT. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 2005 Jan; 15 (1): 14-21.. So be sure to get up, stand up every hour or so! And giving the hip flexors some extra attention is not just about injury prevention. Adding power to workouts, working toward greater flexibility, and getting speedier while running is also, as they say, all in the hips The effect of walking speed on muscle function and mechanical energetics. Neptune, R.R., Sasaki, K., and Kautz, S.A. Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas, Austin, TX. Gait & Posture, 2008 Jul; 28 (1): 135-43..

You can do this workout all on its own, or do a few sets of the moves before a run or your regular strength workout. "While form is important, having the correct muscles engaging and working is also key. Bodyweight moves like this done before other workouts can help us establish a mind-muscle connection and better recruit the correct muscles automatically," Lefkowith adds.
Do Belgian squats (or "single leg squats") with a dumbbell. Hold out in front of your chest a dumbbell using both hands. Standing in front of a bench, lift your right leg back so that it's parallel to the floor and resting comfortably on the bench. Bend into a squat using the left leg, so that the right knee almost hits the floor. Lift and repeat 3 x 8. Repeat using opposite leg.
When it comes to finding the right meal plan, you have to start somewhere. Start with writing down what you eat in a food diary, calculate the calories you’re consuming daily (ex: 3,000 without protein shakes), and break those up into six meals (ex: 500 calories each), says Heath. Then, choose a macronutrient ratio. For example, the 40% protein, 40% carbs, 20% fat ratio is what Heath used to get bigger when he first started bodybuilding. “Buy a food scale, learn how to use it, and you may even have to learn to use the metric system, like grams instead of ounces,” Heath says. “You need to train your body to process food quickly, so eat every three hours.”
I always recommend starting on the low end of the scale. Only increase volume when you absolutely need to. So, if you’re training chest, you could do 6 work sets of dumbbell bench presses to start out, breaking down to two sets per workout for three sessions per week. You can gradually add sets from there, experimenting with different training splits that will allow you to get in more volume without overtraining (we’ll discuss training splits next).
While leg lifts, certain ab exercises, and even hula hooping can all help work the hips, the hip flexors can still be a tricky part of the body to stretch Kinetics of hula hooping: An inverse dynamics analysis. Cluff, T., Robertson, D.G., and Balasubramaniam, R. School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Human Movement Science, 2008 Aug; 27 (4): 622-35.. To get them even stronger and more flexible, try these five simple hip flexor stretches:

It’s not just about lifting—it’s about lifting safely and correctly. And if you’re not performing exercises properly, it’s impossible to make any progress. “When someone is just starting to work out, it can help to work closely with a knowledgeable personal trainer in order to learn proper form,” says Ingram. But that goes for experienced lifters, too. If you aren’t sure about a movement, it’s better to ask. “If you’re not working the correct muscles, you can’t expect them to grow,” explains Ingram.


I HATE that the resistance training community can be so tribal. I have been preaching to bodybuilders for years about the benefits of powerlifting, or Olympic lifting or kettlebells or even Crossfit style conditioning and many have been receptive. Learn from each other and achieve levels of fitness you simply could not have otherwise. Don’t brush off bodybuilding wisdom…it could be the missing factor in your program.
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