Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

How to Become Moderately Strong

If you've read my story about losing weight and getting healthy you know that I enjoy working out. A big part of my workout routine is weight lifting. Initially I used strength training as a tool in losing weight, however I did go through phases where I used it to GAIN strength and muscle.

Ok Ok, I know. I'm not exactly Arunold Swartzenegger, but I would say that I'm stronger than the average bear.

I've been lifting for about seven years, and over that time have learned quite a bit about strength training, both through literature and through working out and speaking with a lot of experts. In college, I used to workout at a gym whose members were exclusively Power lifters and Bodybuilders...and me.

Previously, I considered myself pretty knowledgeable, but learned even more about muscle building while working out here. I used to feel pretty strong working out at Cal Poly, but these guys were freaking animals!

I pretty much went through two phases in my life where I put on a lot of muscle. The first was when I first started lifting. Despite not knowing anything about weight lifting and having pretty bad form, I gained muscle. This initial gain happens to anyone who has previously never done any sort of consistent weight training before.

The second was when I started working out at this little whole-in-the-wall gym, Estrada's, during my fourth year of college. I learned some new techniques, changed my diet, and bodda-bing! Regular Arun became Super Arun! So lets learn about how to get strong, shall we?

Probably the most important aspect in making gains, and continuing the make gains is your diet. To put it simply, to make big gains YOU HAVE TO EAT! As I mentioned before, no matter what you do or how you eat, initially you will gain strength as a result of your body being shocked from this new stimulus. However to maintain those gains and continue getting stronger, you have to eat, eat, eat!

This doesn't mean eat whatever the hell you want just to get calories. I knew a couple of guys who were so gung-ho about gaining muscle, they started working out, and eating everything under the sun! I'm talking cake with dinner, two scoops of ice-cream in their protein shakes, icing on their pot-brownies, everything! Well they did make big muscle gains, but they also started getting chubby. You can also imagine the high levels of sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, and fats that must have been flowing in their blood!

Personally, I'm not super muscle bound is because I eat moderate amounts of food and like the way I feel better than I do when I'm heavier. Nimble and fleet-footed (and sexy) Arun is better at things like Tennis, Golf and Basketball than Big Strong (and sexy) Arun.

The key is eating lean complex carbohydrates and lean protein. Spread your meals out throughout the day so your body never starves (otherwise it may start tapping into your hard earned muscle for fuel). About 1 gram of protein per pound you weigh is sufficient. People get carried away with protein intake! Anymore than that will just be turned into fat or burned off! Your muscles need both protein and carbs to get stronger. Remember, you are what you eat! Aim for gaining a pound every 1-2 weeks.

Also, eating a small snack with both protein and carbs before working out will help fuel your muscles. It is also essential to get a meal (even if its just a protein shake) within forty minutes of finishing your workout! This time frame is known as your "anabolic period." Basically, your glycogen and glucose levels are depleted. If you don't replenish soon, your body secretes cortisol which breaks down muscle to produce glucose. Suffice to say, this is BAD!

The Workout
I'm not going to get into different routines and exercises (because that in itself would be an entire book), but there is some basic knowledge that you should know.

Never train the same muscle group more than twice a week (I do each once per week). Over training is a common problem that will only hinder your progress. Guess when your muscle grows the most? Believe it or not, it's when you're sleeping. This is when testosterone levels are the highest, and thus the time when the most muscle repair is going on! And speaking of over training, each workout should be no more than one hour.

In terms of order of exercises, large, compound movements should be done first, with smaller isolation exercises at the end. Think of it as building a house. You wouldn't install the kitchen appliances before building the house frame would you? You need to build the house before painting it. Similarly, compound exercises that use larger muscles and more muscles (ie Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press) should be done first before isolation exercises which tend target smaller muscles.

The most effective repetition range for building strength is anywhere from 4-10 reps. You should change up your rep range each week to keep your body off balance. The minute your body gets used to the stimuli, you will stop getting stronger which is why you need to consistantly change it up! Between six to nine sets per muscle group is sufficient per week.

Lastly, use proper form! I can't tell you how many Toolbags I see in the gym throwing obscene amounts of weight around that they have no business touching! Always use a slow, controlled pace and make sure that the target muscle is being worked! Using bad form is begging for an injury. (Wow, thinking about this has gotten me fired up! I think there may be a gym etiquette rant coming soon!!!)

A lot of people harp on what supplement is best and which to use. If you open any of a number of "muscle magazines" you'll be bombarded by supplement advertisements. Personally, I'm not a big fan of supplements. The only thing I use is Whey Protein Powder for a shake immediately after working out. Whey protein is quickly absorbed into the blood which is why its great for a post workout snack.

I've tried creatine before and thought it only moderately helpful and not worth the money. Also, I don't particularly like supplementing with products the body naturally produces, because the body will then, thinking the product is in excess, decrease its own production of the product (like creatine). Save your money!

Well that's the very basics of putting on muscle. There's a lot more out there to learn, but I couldn't possibly cover it all in only one post! If there's a lot of interest, maybe I'll write a follow up with more specifics.

If you need some inspiration, let me know and I'll send you a picture of myself flexing for you :)


Justin said...

Aaron wants a picture

Big Jim said...
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