Building Muscle

Fitness Expert
Are you trying to add lean muscle mass? Confused by all of the muscle building systems out there? Which system will work the best for you? There is High Intensity, Heavy Duty, Power Partials, Static Contractions, X-Reps, X-Size (different from X-Reps), High Volume, Pyramid, Twenty Rep Squats, Central Nervous System(CNS), my own Quick Hammer Routine, and many, many more to choose from. So, which one should you try? Why not take the best points out of each system and use them all? Obviously, you cannot do some of each of these systems, each and every workout.

What I like to do is take my basic, high intensity routine and add something to the end of the set. Although I really don't use high volume, and I only occasionally play around with X-Size, I like to use parts of these other systems on a regular basis. Again, I start with a normal high intensity routine where I might do one set of one to three exercises for a bodypart. I will then add one, or a combination of more than one of some of these other rep styles to my set. For instance, if I am doing bent rowing, I do as many normal repetitions with a heavy weight as I can.

One I reach failure, I will do as many partials as I can. If this has not completely wiped me out, I will throw in a static hold, or an X-Rep for 5-10 seconds at the end. Static holds are like an Isometric rep. You hold the weight in a contracted position for a few seconds. An X-Rep is much like a Static Rep, except you kind of pulsate the weight as if your contracted muscles are vibrating. Again, I will do one of these reps for about 5-10 seconds. I cannot tell you which of these two hold reps work's best, but they both really do work.

Now, if I am doing the benchpress, I prefer Pyramids over a single set. I feel much safer going up fifty pounds each set to get my mind and my muscles prepared for the heavy benchpress. At the end of my heavy set, I will do a Static Rep for around 10 seconds to really push the pecs. Squats are a bit different because I have a really bad right knee. The only way I will do a Full squat is with a very light weight while warming up. When I start going heavy, I do Only Power Partials.

Again, like the benchpress, I prefer to Pyramid the weight up to get my body ready for the heavy weight. I also rarely do less than twenty reps on squats. Even if I am doing 400lbs, I will do 20 reps. It is amazing about the legs, but no matter how hard you push them, they seem to always finish the set! At the end of the set, I will do a Static Hold for 10-15 seconds. I do Static Holds, or X-Reps on pretty much all of my other exercises including Curls and Triceps Dips.

I purchased Pete Sisco's CNS Workout last year and I will use it from time to time. The idea behind it is to hammer the body in a quick, high intensity way to get a massive response from your central nervous system. I don't use it regularly, but it is a very good system and I use it when I think the time is right. Another routine I like is my Quick Hammer Routine. It is ideal for people who want to build mass, but are very short on time. It work's the major muscles of the body in a brief, ten minute workout. In this case, you pick one exercise for the chest, back and legs. You do the three exercises one after the other in circuit training style, with the exception that you are using heavy weights and lower reps. you perform three cycles of the exercises, wit about a minutes rest between cycles.

If you are going to use this routine for an extended period of time, you can throw in some crunches for the abs. I like doing the routine with dips, bent rows and squats, but you can also use benchpress, chins and leg presses, or any other combination you choose. You just need to make sure you are using compound exercises so you are hitting the other muscles along with your legs, back and chest.

Another thing I will do to add strength, is to do two or three weeks of Static Contraction workouts from time to time. Instead of doing the Static Holds at the end of your set with a weight that you can do a normal repetition with, you use a weight which is actually too heavy for you to perform a full rep with. You really need a power rack or smith machine for these, as you are handling extremely heavy weights and I would not like to depend on someone else to keep this weight off of me. Let's use the benchpress for our example. You set the bar about four to six inches from full extension.

Now, load the weight on the bar. I mean, really load the weight on the bar! I can bench about 330lbs, but at the end of my last Static Contraction cycle, I was doing a ten second static hold with 450lbs! The theory is that you can handle much more weight when you lift in your strongest range of motion. When you lift such an incredibly heavy weight in this range, you incorporate so many more muscle fibres, spurring rapid growth and strength gains. I can personally vouch for the strength gains. I do not have the patience to stick with this system long enough to test the mass gains.
I change routines on a regular basis to avoid going stale. The routine I use most of the time is something I picked up from Dorians Yates book, "Blood and Guts", and made my own adjustments to it. I work chest and triceps in one workout, back and biceps in workout two, then Legs and shoulders in workout three.

I will perform crunches every other workout. I work each muscle a maximum of once per week, with the obvious exception of abdominals which get worked one or two times per week.

On Chest day, I pyramid the benchpress for my chest, then perform a hard set of parallel triceps dips to finish off my triceps.
On back day, I do a set of deadlifts, a set of bent rowing after a lighter warm-up set, a set of chins and a set of barbell curls.

On leg day, I pyramid squats, usually performing twenty rep sets, a set of military presses and a set of dumbell side laterals.

This routine seem's to work the very best for me. You should experiment to find what work's the best for yourself.

For diet and nutrition, I like a diet that is simple enough for you to stick to for life. If it is too restrictive, you will fall off the wagon and usually go nuts on everything until you have gained back everything you lost and more! Restrictive diets also eat up alot of your valuable lean muscle tissue. What then happen's, is you start out weighing 200lbs with around a 23% bodyfat percentage. When you fall off of your diet, you have catabolized muscle mass with the fat you lost, so when you balloon back up to 200lbs, your bodyfat percentage is now around 26% or more. Now you weigh the same as you did before the diet, but you look worse! Eat smart, train and rest.

I don't recommend low carb diets unless you have alot of weight to lose. Then, I would use it in stages to break away at the fat a bit at a time, while cycling back to a more normal diet of complex carbs, protein and essential fats. Be sure to get a good protein/ carb meal or shake immediately after your training to quickly replenish your muscle protein and energy. Eat five or six small meals per day to get the most nutrients from the food, while storing less of the calories as fat.

Rest is very important for muscle growth. Your muscles do not grow while you are training. They grow while you are at rest. So if you have been training and eating well, and you are not making decent gains, you may not be getting enough rest to allow full recovery of your muscles.

I am a fitness consultant in St. Louis, Mo.