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.
Manipulating carbs is one thing, but dealing with fats is another. Bigger people already have enough fat, they don’t need to eat fat. They don’t need keto. Skinny people don’t have much fat, which means they should eat it. Doing Keto is helpful. BUT, skinny people fasting during Keto is nonsense because they don’t have enough fat to sustain a fast. Bigger people don’t need to worry about fasting during Keto because they shouldn’t even be doing Keto.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to bulk up when you should be on a diet. While you might have muscle on your mind, most people need to get leaner first. If you’re fat and you start eating for size, you’re only going to get fatter. Get rid of the excess blubber first, to the point where you can see some abs, and then worry about getting big. You should be as low as 12% body fat before you change your diet up to focus on mass gain. That will ensure that your insulin sensitivity is high. When it is, you can eat more carbs and your body won’t store them as fat.
Don’t take sets to the point of failure—where you absolutely can’t perform another rep. You should never get to where you’re turning purple and screaming like you’re getting interviewed by “Mean” Gene Okerlund before WrestleMania. Most of the time, you want to end your sets two reps before total failure. Not sure when that is? The moment your form breaks down, or you’re pretty sure it’s going to break down, end the set.
Having a strong butt will get you far—literally. Our glutes are responsible for powering us through everything from long runs to tough strength workouts to a simple jaunt up a flight of stairs. Strong glutes that can take on the brunt of the work can help us avoid overcompensating with smaller muscles during lower-body exercises. Plus, beyond just helping us move, the glutes play an important role in "stabilizing our entire lumbo-pelvic-hip complex," says Cori Lefkowith, NASM-certified personal trainer and owner of Redefining Strength in Costa Mesa, California. That translates to better form, more efficient movement, and a reduced risk of straining your lower back and hips.
The hip flexors are a group of muscles in the front of the hip that act to lift the knee and bring the thigh towards the abdomen. The major muscles making up the hip flexors that we will focus on are the iliacus and the psoas, or the iliopsoas and the rectus femoris. The rectus femoris is a “two joint muscle” because it crosses both the hip and knee joints. As a group, the hip flexors have attachments on the lumbar spine, the pelvis, and the femur. In addition to their major function of flexing the hip, their attachment on the spine makes them an important part of the core muscles and spinal stabilizers.
Adequate hydration is essential to muscle building, yet few people get enough water, even without daily exercise. So in addition to the daily 8 to 10 glasses of water recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Karas suggests an additional 12 to 16 ounces before working out. He then recommends another 8 to 10 ounces for every 15 minutes of vigorous exercise.
"Your glutes are made up of three different muscles, the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus," says Lefkowith. "They externally rotate your hip, abduct your hip, extend your hip, and even posteriorly tilt your pelvis." Because of this, it is important that you not only work one or two of these muscles, but rather, focus on showing all of them some love. "If you were only to do moves in one plane of motion, say a front lunge or squat, you wouldn't work your glutes to strengthen all of the joint actions they can perform."
How to do it: Lie on your back with both feet planted firmly against the flat base of a Bosu ball, knees bent. Stabilize your body. If you’re feeling a bit wobbly, your arms can hover on either side of you in case you fall in one direction. If you feel balanced, raise your arms straight up above your chest, hands clasped to challenge and work your stability. Drive your hips toward the ceiling, then lower and repeat.
Those 5-pound dumbbells were a great place to start as a beginner, but if you've been lifting weights for a while, it's time to bump up the weight. “You can use both exercise machines and free weights,” explains Michele Olson, PhD, exercise physiologist, professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery, “but, if you are not lifting heavy enough weight, it doesn’t matter if you are primarily using free weights or machines.” In order to build muscle, you must break down muscle tissue using a weight that is challenging enough to cause micro-tears, which when repaired, form denser, stronger fibers.
You're aiming to kick start muscle hypertrophy, the cellular process that spurs growth. Researchers have found that the best way to initiate that process is by performing two or three sets of an exercise for six to 12 repetitions, with about 30 to 60 seconds' rest between sets. You're damaging the muscles with the work — then the protein you've been consuming will help build them back up even bigger.
I know this goes against the recommendations you often see in stereotypical bodybuilding routines (i.e. the ones that involve having a single “chest day” or “arm day” or “shoulder day” once a week), but that’s just one of the many reasons why those types of routines suck for us natural, genetically-average people, and work best for steroid users with great genetics.
Note that this recommendation is for total weekly volume, which means it would need to be divided up based on how many times you’re training each muscle group per week. So, for example, someone training everything twice per week would do 30-70 reps for each bigger muscle group in each of those workouts, and 15-35 reps for each smaller muscle group in each of those workouts.