As the temperature drops, days get shorter, and the family gatherings ensue, the holiday season can be one of the best times to build some mass.
Consistent hard training and a surplus of calories are key to watch the gains stack up. I've listed some tips and a sample back & biceps workout below.
1. Training for Mass
The most effective way to build mass is to focus your efforts on heavy compound lifts such as the big 3: squat, dead lift and bench press. Exercises like these target the most muscles at once to really spur growth. But don't limit yourself to just three; I've listed some of my favorite compound exercises for the major muscle groups.
• Chest: pushup, bench presses (barbell, d-bell, machine) • Back: pull-up, dead lift, rows (barbell, T-bar, d-bell, seated cable, machine) • Shoulders: overhead presses (military, push press, d-bell, machine), upright rows • Legs: squats (any variation), leg presses, lunges, hack squat • Arms: close grip bench press for triceps, curls for biceps
2. Prioritize your Training
A good mass gaining plan has structure; therefore first determine what your goal is and build on that. For example, if you want to improve your back maybe you could schedule back after a rest day to ensure maximal energy to train. To make the most out of your gym time, do compound lifts first followed by isolation exercises. Change up the intensity variables such as rep ranges, lifting tempo, rest between sets etc. Simple planning like this will allow you to use your mass phase more efficiently.
3. Use Periodization
A great way to build size is to periodize your training into phases. Strength allows you to lift weight; endurance allows you to rep it out. You need both attributes to maximize your mass gains. I like to split my training into 12-16 week cycles:
• 4-6 week strength phase • 6-8 week mass phase • 2 week endurance phase
Strength phase is comprised of a few heavy compound lifts for 2-7 reps with 2-3min rest periods between sets. Mass phase focuses on reaping the benefits of strength phase by doing 6-15 reps, 1-2min rest periods with both compound and isolation exercises. Endurance phase will improve your muscular conditioning and give the joints a slight rest from the heavy lifting, as reps are increased to 12-20+, rest periods drop to only 45sec-1min but exercises are still similar to mass phase. You'll notice that when you start round 2 of your training cycle, you'll not only be stronger, but due to improved endurance you'll also be able to lift a heavy weight more times = more mass!
4. Track your Training
Ever since I started lifting, I've tracked my workouts via notebook. Not only does it help me to see how far I've come over the years, but it also lets me see if I'm making progress in both strength and size. For size gains, each month I check my body weight and tape measurements to see if I'm gaining size but I'll measure my body fat as well to make sure the majority of the gains are from muscle. For strength gains, review your weight training to make sure you’re lifting heavier or doing more reps with a given weight. Tracking your gains is also motivational because it's your job to try and beat your previous best lifts or gain even more quality mass.
On top of getting 6-8hrs of sleep each night (or add a nap if you have a crazy schedule), make sure to add one or two rest days into your training split to allow for proper physical and mental recovery. These days should be inserted near your most intense training days. There should be no weightlifting although you can do light cardio to help stay lean and improve blood circulation for recovery.
Train Big to Get Big // Back and Bi Workout (reps between 6-15 & rest between sets 1-2min)
Pull-Ups 1x15 // 1x12 // 1x10 Deadlift 1x10 // 1x8 // 1x6 // 1x6 Bent over Barbell Row* 1x12 // 1x10 // 1x8 // 1x6 Underhand Lat-Pulldown ** 1x12 // 1x10 // 1x8 Straight-Arm Pulldown** 1x15 // 1x10// 1x8
Alternating DB Curl 1x12 // 1x10 // 1x8 Low Pulley Rope Hammer Curl 1x15// 1x10//1x8 Concentration Curl *** 1x10 // 1x8 //1x6
*Double Drop Set: immediately after your last set, lower the weight to your first set weight and do as many reps to failure. Then drop the weight by 20-30% and go to failure once more
** Superset: Do 1 set of each exercise back to back without rest. Take a 2min break after the superset.
*** Peak contraction: make sure to squeeze for a 2 count at the top of each rep and to slowly lower the weight on the way down.
So now that you have the tools to train for mass feel free to snag a few of those holiday treats and factor them into your meal plan. Although the holidays will come and go, the gains can continue!
Prepared by Victor Egonu
Disclaimer The information provided in this article, as well as this web-site blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. By reading this disclaimer, you hereby agree and understand that the information provided in this column is not medical advice and relying upon it shall be done at your sole risk.