Written by Jack Boardman
The Next Stage Of Bodybuilding
Check out Part 1
This is part two in our series for people interested in bodybuilding and weightlifting. See part 1 if you’re completely new to lifting and curious to find out if it’s the exercise for you. We recommend that you stick to the plan in our previous blog for two months before moving on.
If you’ve been working out for around two months and consider yourself a beginner-intermediate and are looking to take the next step, you will have developed a decent technique for your compound lifts. You’ll also have developed a solid foundation of strength and endurance. Aesthetically, you may have lowered your body fat percentage if you weren’t previously exercising regularly, and you may also have gained in muscle mass.
Impatience is common for many gym-goers. Particularly when you’re new to it, the amount of time you spend in the gym may feel like it isn’t paying off quite how you’d hoped before you began. Patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to mass muscle gaining.
Your muscles require time, work and the right nutrition to grow. The good news? If you keep working at it, the gains will come. Lifting weights can, at times, seem like blowing up a balloon; you leave the gym pumped up and then deflate hours later. There is a reason for that: you’re doing too many reps, not enough heavy lifting, and you are ready for the next step.
By now you’ve established your technique in compound lifts, and you should continue with this minimal range of movements for another six weeks. Your previous plan of higher reps and moderate weights will likely see you either plateau in terms of ease or you will hit a wall when you try and increase the weight.
Higher reps of a weight that you find easy is a sure-fire way to pump up your muscles but don’t necessarily result in lasting volume and strength.
When you become more advanced and your technique and nutrition routine is in full-swing, lower the reps in each set and focus on increasing the weight. To build serious size and strength, aim for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps of a higher percentage of your one-rep-max. Your one-rep-max is what it sounds like: the most weight you can lift with one full rep. When going for mass gains, aim for 70-85% of this weight.
You’re still not focussing on isolating muscles yet. By sticking with the compound lift regimen you will be developing larger muscle groups at the same time. You’ll already know the effects of lifting heavy weights – or your intention. Now that you’re developing as a bodybuilder, let’s look at how it works in a bit more detail…
Two factors that contribute to muscle hypertrophy, or muscle growth: sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which is an increase in your muscle glycogen storage, and myofibrillar hypertrophy, which is an increase in myofibril size.
Myofibril hypertrophy happens when you stimulate your muscles by lifting heavy weights, which causes trauma to the individual muscle fibres. Because your body treats this as an injury, it overcompensates and, in attempts to recover, increases the volume and density of the ‘injured’ myofibrils.
Growth is a result of the work you put in and also what you consume. Now that you’re developing in the gym, you need to consume 1.5 – 2g of protein per pound of your body weight each day. A rough estimate for calorie intake is multiplying your body weight, in pounds, by 15-17 calories. This is your energy resources, of which you’ll need an excess for weight lifting.
If you want to gain sooner, look at whey protein shakes that contain carbs, and religiously get your protein in immediately after a heavy lifting session. Then rest. Rest days don’t have to be entirely inactive – you could partake in some light exercise that doesn’t impact or burden the muscles you’re resting too much. For example, take a light jog or have a swim.