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Set a clear goal, and stick to it. Make it a theme. Let’s gain 5 pounds of muscle by 5/5. In all, we have about 4 weeks, so it’s crunch time. I don’t care how you see it, but I’m not only looking at the weight on the scale, anybody can gain 5 pounds on the scale. However, we need 5 pounds of lean muscle mass and metabolically active tissue in 4 weeks.
First off, get your body fat done by a professional, not with the cheap bio-impedance scale you have in your bathroom. Here’s a quick look at how to measure body fat:
Skinfold calipers: Cheap and easy. However, get a seasoned trainer, since accuracy builds with the number of tests done on different individuals. Takes about 5 minutes to complete.
Dexascan: Expensive, accurate but not easy to find near you. Since you have to repeat the test in 4 weeks to see how you have done, maybe not the way to go.
Hydrostatic weighing: Not practical but very accurate. It’s rare you can find someone or a special lab who does it, and it takes about 20 minutes.
Anthropometric: Easy, cheap but inaccurate. You can’t really tell if you have lost fat or gained lean mass.
For your purposes, skinfold calipers are the way to go. There are many methods, but any of them, if done properly, always at the beginning of the week and at the same time of day, can accurately track your progress.
Now that we know where we’re starting, let’s see how to reach our goal. First, your training protocol. It goes without saying that the main goal is hypertrophy. Keep your rep range between 8 to 1 and use your workouts to create as much damage as possible. You need to train 4 to 5 days a week, one or two body parts per day, incorporating drop sets, the mechanical advantage principle, supersets and short rest periods to maximize muscle growth.
Week 1 – 4 sets of 8-10 reps
Week 2 – 3 sets of 10-12 reps and add 1 or 2 more exercises per body part
Week 3 – 5-6 sets of 6-8 reps. Use 3 major exercises per body part. Arnold said it best, as soon as he added more volume to his routine, growth was the outcome.
Week 4 – Make it a hell week. Supergiant sets. Choose 5 exercises, do 10 reps of each, in a circuit style training one after the other, repeat for 5 sets.
For those with time on their hands and a bit of insanity in their brains, try two-a-days. Training time for each session should be no more than 30-40 minutes. Morning sessions are limited to one or two exercises and afternoon sessions can have 3 to 4 exercises.
AM training: low reps, high volume
PM training: high reps and supersets, low volume
AM workout Chest = 8 total sets of 3-5 reps with 120 seconds rest between sets
PM workout Chest = 6-7 total sets of 8-15 reps with minimal rests between sets
With both training protocols, your results should come fast enough, however, the most important aspect of your 4 weeks is the nutrition protocol. Let’s make some simple rules for the plan:
If you weigh 200 pounds, your daily caloric needs should go beyond 2500 calories a day; if you train twice a day, 3000 calories should be the goal. You should eat at least 300 to 400g of protein a day. Keep complex carbohydrates throughout the day such as green veggies with some medium to higher glycemic index foods such as potatoes, yams, and wild rice in the afternoon and lunch. I am a big fan of the Charles Poliquin meat and nuts breakfast. It sets up your neurotransmitters on high efficiency and stabilizes your sugar throughout the day. Better insulin control means improved muscle and ATP re-synthesis and more energy for your next workout.
Here is the nutrition plan with macro nutrient breakdown:
-If you train in the morning, eat your breakfast as usual, an hour or two later hit the gym, then save the shake for post-workout.
-If you train at night, make your post-workout shake your last meal.
-You don’t need to have tons of carbs to gain mass. Focus on quality instead of quantity.
-Don’t be scared of fats. Your joints will thank you for it. Keeps your testosterone at optimal levels, which you obviously need to gain lean muscle tissue.
-Suggested pre-workout supplements: BCAA, Beta-Alanine
-Suggested post-workout supplements: BCAA, Fenugreek, Magnesium, Vitamin C
-Keep in mind that this is no one size fits all plan. You might want to play with macronutrient ratios. Add carbs, remove fat, increase protein, add a meal. Take notes of everything and next time you’ll get even better results.
Total Calories: 2810
Total Protein: 300g
Total Carbohydrates: 166g
Total Fats: 115g
I don’t believe in trying to keep the same ratio of macronutrients throughout the day since different bodies require different needs. What I had the most success with is tweaking macros for individual needs. You might find that you can deal best with carbs in the morning but others might want to commit sleep suicide when they eat too many carbohydrates for breakfast. I go for function and energy. It always was and always will be a trial and error game. If you do it right, you’ll keep that fresh new muscle mass for a while, and you’ll lose fat in the process.