If there's any subject matter where I can claim expertise, it's how to train hard and get nowhere. If you'd like to dedicate nearly a decade of your best years to resistance training and have little to show for it, you've come to the right place!
|the mental repper ~1994|
If they only knew...the long, frustrating years of wheel spinning, learning the hard way.
I first hit the weights at about the age of 16, with the idea of getting bigger and stronger for sports. And, in theory, all ripped and awesome for the ladies. I don't recall the specifics, but by the age of 24 I had gained about 8 or 12 pounds. Now don't get me wrong, my cardiovascular profile was rockin' and I was in excellent condition to model J-Crew sport coats. But non coltish, functional muscle? I would have gained more by simply playing sports and resting.
I wanted to first take a moment to give credit for the many years of successfully not building muscle. Coaches, those of you who were just misinformed, and others who were plain negligent, thank you! Thanks also go out to Jim Weider, Bill Phillips, GNC girl, and that guy at the gym who was dishonest about his steroid use.
But it takes an amazing amount of stubborn knuckleheadedness and lack of focus to seize so little muscle out of so much time. So special thanks go out to me, as the majority of my failure was self-imposed.
And now, without further ado, here are the simple steps that I followed in order to spend lots of time and energy to not gain muscle.
[Excuse the snarky tone as I remind you that these are all personal mistakes, near and dear to my heart.]
1. Emphasize supplements.
To not gain muscle, what you do outside of the gym is just as important as your training. So I listened to the supplement companies. I went from eating crap to eating a super strict diet which included various essential supplements.
Every glossy magazine giving sports nutrition advice for mostly sedentary 35 year-olds was absolutely true and appropriate for me. Every pill and powder sold in big scientific looking jugs simply MUST be included in each of those six small, evenly spaced small meals per day. It was the mid 90's, and food was like, so 1985.
So you should worry about all the details regarding macronutrient ratios (carb, fats, protein) and organics. Don't bother with pounding boatloads of mostly natural, minimally processed foods, staying active, and letting the rest take care of itself.
2. Worry about getting fat.
Because when you're an active young man with a 6-foot frame and two-a-day sports practices and conditioning, putting on an ounce of fat is an emergency situation just waiting to strike. You're not in it to get all bulky and suddenly your nickname is Bubba and people start making you all-time offensive lineman during flag football.
It's all about calories in versus calories out, so toe that line between energy deficit and surplus. Eat just barely enough to get by during the day and then load up on protein recovery shakes and 5 bowls of cereal after practice and work outs. Be careful, because an ounce of fat is a terminal condition, and there's no way you can pull back and tighten up your diet if need be after you've gained 20 or 40 pounds of solid muscle.
If you slip up and eat like a human for a day or few, just train more. If you want to regularly eat junk food, simply add supplements and cardiovascular exercise, sets, and reps to make up for it. Yeah, that will work just swell.
3. Vary your workouts often.
You don't want to go stale, so switch it up to keep those muscles guessing. Why stick with the basics when there are so many ways to train? With just a little thought and even less effort, you'll never do the same workout twice.Who needs to bother with gaining proficiency and strength in the fundamental multi-joint movement patters?
Push horizontal (like, bench press variations)
Pull horizontal (rowing variations)
Push vertical (shoulder press variations)
Pull horizontal (chin-ups, lat pulldown)
Dead lift/Dead lift variations
Better yet, do numerous variations of each of the above and then add layers of accessory work. For example, you don't want to miss any of the three "heads" of the deltoid muscle, so include lots of shoulder raises to the front, side, and back, as well as upright rows. For the quads you should squat and leg press and hack squat and add in three variations of seated leg extensions.
4. Complexify it!
Ignore the thought that getting bigger muscles is simply a matter of time under tension.
[Struggling under a heavy load literally tears muscle fibers apart, which stimulates the entire body to repair and rebuild them bigger and stronger. Heavy one-rep max lifts provide high tension but for a less than optimal time. Low resistance for high reps allow for high total workload, but insufficient tension to tear the muscles down.
That's why 3 to 5 sets of between 3 and 8 reps is usually what provides the best stimulus - sufficient time under sufficiently heavy loading. Being strong enough in any exercise to handle a decent amount of weight is critical to getting the ball rolling, so work hard at learning some variation of the basic lifts.
Neuromuscular efficiency in the big movements begets strength which begets true muscle growth which begets more strength. Pretty soon you're deadlifting close to 500 pounds for reps.]
But you? Screw that. These two variables of time and tension are far too simple for your special neuromuscular physiology. Your muscles require drop sets, super sets, and super drop pick-up duper sets.
Before trying a sustained and solid effort at the basics, you should experiment with complex periodization schemes, bands, chains, and resistance training machines that have been precision engineered to match the length/tension curve of every deplorable movement imaginable. Mangled up in tangled up knots.
5. Do it all! At once!!
Set your sights on getting bigger AND more ripped AND increasing conditioning for your sport.
Believe everyone who promises the holy grail of fitness, claiming it's easy to lay down slabs of muscle and melt layers of fat at the same time, especially when you have very little of either to begin with. Also see point number two above.
Because if a little pummeling and tearing down your body is good, then a lot must be better. In fact, you can train every single day if you blast the hell out of just one muscle group each workout. Never mind that a "shoulders and calves" day does sound kind of ridiculous if you think about it.
Don't worry about how almost every chest exercise involves the shoulders and arms. And all that jogging to make up for your crappy diet - it won't cut in to your legs ability to recover and grow from the weights.
Lastly, don't worry about getting to bed on time. That whole sleeping this is over rated anyway, especially compared to 3 capsules of NO2 Glutamate Picolinate 3 times daily.
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But that's just me and my anecdotal evidence, the hard lessons I can share in the hopes of justifying all my wasted effort.
Please feel free to share your own insight on how to train hard and not gain muscle.
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