Markus Rühl posseses enviable size. Markusaurus size! So, how does Rühl grow? No one really knows — not even Rühl. All we can do is trace the evolution of his training, his mentality and his passion for bodybuilding (which is probably the secret behind it all). — Julian Schmidt
MARKUS ON HIS FIRST TRAINING PROGRAM:
My first workout program was given to me when I was 19, by a trainer at a gym that was only for huge guys. He had me train every bodypart every day, four days a week, with two exercises, four sets of 10 reps each, using very light weight and only with machines. His excuse: “They’re safe and you can’t make the wrong moves.” You’ll notice that he only let me do one exercise for triceps. His excuse: “You also train your triceps with chest and shoulders, so you’d be overtraining them if you did more.” Since I played soccer at the time, he also said there was no need for me to train my legs and calves. My workouts took four hours, but I never got a pump. After six weeks, I realized this program was worthless, so I scrapped it.
At age 23, in 1995, Rühl (right) competed at 231 pounds.
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MARKUS ON HIS SECOND TRAINING PROGRAM:
From reading bodybuilding magazines, I realized the folly of my initial workouts. That’s when I decided to devise my own program. Everything intensified. Weight and sets increased, and I went on a six-day program, training one bodypart a day, with Sundays off. This time, my goal in every workout was to get a great pump with heavy weight.
Nine years and 50 pounds later (right), he finished fifth at the 2004 Mr. Olympia.
ADVICE FOR BENGINNERS:
- Keep it simple — in both training and diet. Stay with the basics. Use free weights as much as possible; you don’t need machines and cables at your stage. Use a mirror more than a scale to tell you if you’re eating properly and prioritizing the right muscles.
- Don’t copy the pros. You need to find what training style best suits your body, your mentality and your lifestyle. That takes years. Use pros only as experimental examples.
- Start with three or four basic exercises per bodypart. Perform four or five sets per exercise, eight to 12 reps per set, and constantly try to increase your weights and endurance. From that, you can discern how hard you should push yourself and what to change.
- Train each bodypart once per week.
- Don’t scream or yell every time you gut out a repetition. The big guys will only think you’re stupid; you’re not strong enough to emit that kind of noise. It also robs you of concentration and energy. Internalize your effort; you’ll have more strength.
- Eat smart.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
- Don’t smoke. (Only I can do that.)
- Don’t take drugs or do stupid things. Remember, you’re a bodybuilder. That deserves respect.
MARKUS ON HOW HE TRAINS NOW:
I train smarter and more instinctively, sensing more keenly how my body needs to be treated with each workout. Sometimes, it needs extremely heavy weights, with reps of three, two or even one. Other days, I can feel that my muscles thirst to be pumped with blood to their capacity, using more repetitions and more control of the movement, trying to feel more of the muscle than the weight.
MARKUS'S EVOLUTION OF TRAINING
MISTAKES I MADE:
- In the beginning, I trained too long and too light, accomplishing nothing but exhausting myself without fatiguing my muscles.
- At one point in my experimental phase, I was doing too many sets for one exercise. I believe in high volume, but 20 sets (or more) for one basic exercise merely builds up lactic acid in a muscle without a full pump or total failure.
- I used too much irrational passion at the expense of concentration and control of the muscle.
- I had more of a powerlifter’s mentality than a bodybuilder’s.
- I trained my body the same every workout, without listening to what it needed on that particular day; i.e., a good pump versus a heavy power movement or vice versa.
- I was impatient, thinking that only the heaviest weights would build mass the quickest.
Change is my favorite constant. Although there are one or two classic superior exercises for each muscle group, others are also needed for complete development, and each must be given a chance at the start of a workout. Therefore, my order of exercises changes in consecutive workouts.
Here are my classic exercises for each bodypart.
- Chest Wide-grip bench presses
- Back Front wide-grip pulldowns
- Biceps Rühl curls, concentration curls
- Triceps Close-grip bench presses
- Shoulders Smith machine military presses, bent dumbbell laterals
- Quads Leg presses, hack squats
- Hamstrings Lying leg curls
- Calves Standing raises
My goal in every workout is to build a full tight pump in the muscle. That pump then determines how I train that day. If I’m not getting a great pump with my usual heavy weight, I will lower the weight and concentrate harder with more reps. If that doesn’t work, I will go even heavier, to see if even lower reps will give me a better pump.
FULL RANGE OF MOTION A partial range builds a partial pump; a full range builds a full pump.
INSTINCT I don’t commit myself to a fixed plan for my workout; instead, I wait to see how my pump tells me to train on that day.
HEAVY Sometimes, I get my best pump with one or two maximum-weight reps; at other times, the best pump might take 10 or more reps. Always, I try to get my best pump with the heaviest weight and lowest reps. That’s the most elusive of equations, but it stimulates the fastest growth.
CONTROL Every repetition must be performed perfectly in order to place maximum stress on the muscle.
CONCENTRATION During my workout, I’m all business. As a professional, I do not squander my gym time with horseplay or idle chatting. It may seem that I’m snubbing people, but I’m so involved in my workout that I’m oblivious to everything else in the gym. After 12 years of bodybuilding, I’m not as demonstrative in my motivation as I was at the beginning, but that doesn’t mean I’m training with less heart; it’s just that I’m there to do my job, so I’m more conscientious. I think more, both before and during training. Let’s have our fun after the workout.
THINK Bodybuilding is an engineering project for my body. It’s serious business, so I give it the respect it deserves. I’m always studying and analyzing, trying to learn to do it better. – FLEX