Big guys huffing, puffing, and sweating their way through even the simplest of tasks in the gym are as common as, well, big guys in the gym. Of course that would foster the assumption that being out of breath all the time is alright if you are a big guy, or perhaps an indication that you have "arrived" as a bodybuilder. While labored breathing may indicate that you have packed on some pounds recently, it's not the best condition to be in if you want to continue to grow and maximize your potential as a bodybuilder.
Listen to your breathing right now. If you can hear yourself and you've done nothing more strenuous than walk over to your computer and log onto this website then you are either sick and need to see a doctor very soon, or you really need to read this article and consider getting yourself in shape. Your equally oxygen-starved friends may tell you the labored breathing is because you are so HUGE and that may be why, but what it also and more importantly means is that you are out of shape. You can't possibly train hard enough to make the gains you could be making in the gym.
You may feel like you are training hard but more than likely you are just breathing hard, actually gassing out before your muscles have reached their limit and have been fully stimulated. You need to improve your cardiovascular and muscular conditioning if you have any hope of keeping your momentum and growing over the long term.
The simple answer to this problem is to cycle your training. Pre-determine a period of training when you will focus on building lean muscle mass. Eat and train according to that short-term goal of perhaps 6 weeks. When you reach the end of your 6 weeks, the cycle changes to a brief 4-week maintenance program where you focus on increasing your muscular and cardiovascular endurance while maintaining your newly added lean muscle mass. You don't have to lift heavy to maintain muscle over a short 4-week period. You only need to train, rest and eat and you will keep that hard-earned muscle.
The change of pace from lifting heavy weights and increasing the size and strength of your muscle tissue is that your joints and connective tissue get some relief from the ever-increasing strain and can catch up with the faster growing muscle fibers. Connective tissue doesn't get the same blood supply as muscle tissue does, so consequently it doesn't grow and repair itself as quickly. Training heavy and hard all the time will cause joint problems as any serious bodybuilder knows and once you have joint problems they are almost impossible to get completely healed.
This program is designed to get the maximum benefit in the shortest period of time so it has to be intense to get what you need out of it.
We absolutely recommend you take this program to your physician and let him know your plans so he can examine you to ensure you are healthy enough to follow it safely. You will be putting heavy loads on your lungs and heart, so be absolutely sure you don't have any medical issues that would be harmful to you.
After your Doctor has given you the go-ahead and you are good to go, you need to mentally prepare for this. You will most likely puke for the first few workouts if you have the nuts to push yourself. If you push yourself you will see a noticeable difference in your conditioning after a week. If you don't, you won't. The laws of nature apply. You will see the benefit after 4 weeks of hard conditioning when you stroll into the gym for your first heavy leg day and your endurance (and yes, your strength) will be noticeably greater. Expect your leg muscles to get tired before you get winded and gas out, which means you can push yourself harder and heavier than before. This, in turn, will mean that at the end of that mass building cycle you will have made better gains than you ever have before.
Be prepared to be sore as hell after the first week of this program. Your muscles will be stimulated in a different way than they have been before and it will take a toll on your muscle tissue. Stretch after your workout, soak in an epson salts bath, and take a recommended dose of ibuprofen if you are medically able. It will take the edge off the next morning's tiptoed journey to the bathroom.
Getting a heart rate monitor is also a highly recommended idea. You can ensure your heart rate does not rise to dangerous levels and you can also time your recovery between sets. The idea is to drive your heart rate up then time your recovery as your level of fitness is measured by the quickness with which you recover. If you time your recoveries during the program, then you will be able to track your progress. For example, if you do a 30-second treadmill sprint and your heart rate is at 160 at the end and after 30 seconds your rate is only down to 156, then your recovery is not that good. If after 30 seconds of rest your rate drops to 145 then your recovery is better. A heart rate monitor is your best tool to measure progress as well as ensure you are working within safe ranges for your heart.
When you increase your bodyfat levels, you have to haul around weight that doesn't do anything but put an extra load on your heart. Adding the same amount of weight in muscle tissue puts a much greater load on your heart and vascular system because that new muscle tissue is filled with veins that your heart has to supply with blood. If you pack on a lot of muscle in a short period of time without conditioning your heart and lungs to take on the new workload, then your heart works overtime just performing simple tasks and you will fatigue much quicker than normal. Consequently, when you load up your muscles and make them work very hard you will gas out rapidly, long before your muscle tissue is stimulated enough to grow.
The solution is to cycle your training between intense periods of muscle-building workouts then short periods where you re-build cardiovascular endurance so that you can cycle back to heavy muscle-building training again. If you build muscle for 6 weeks then take a 4-week break to improve your cardiovascular conditioning then cycle back to muscle building again, you should be able to avoid periods where you are unable to train your hardest and thus cannot make the best gains simply because you are out of shape. You also get to change the stresses on your body so that you reduce the possibility of getting injured from carrying high stress loads on your connective and muscle tissue.
*Start at a pace that you can handle, but push yourself a little bit so your body has to adapt by getting more fit. If you use a heart rate monitor, which is highly recommended, try to avoid sitting around and letting your heart rate drop significantly between sets. Keep moving, keep pushing without stopping between sets. But if you feel faint, out of breath, or nauseated then slow down and lower your heart rate. Never just sit down if your heart rate is high. Walk it off around the gym or on a cardio machine, slowly lowering your heart rate.
* Drink plenty of water so you are hydrated before you train, during and after. If you are dehydrated your blood volume is decreased so your heart has to work double-time to circulate the same amount of oxygen.
* Maintain your regular diet unless you notice a rapid weight loss of more than 2lbs per week. If you have a rapid weight loss then increase your carbs and fats slightly to control the weight loss.
Week 1 '" Stick with 15 reps on everything but abs, keep moving and push yourself, but don't push beyond what is healthy.
Week 2 '" Stay at 15 reps and add 4 more cycles on cardio intervals so you are doing 10 sets rather than 6. Treadmill sprints, do 3 at level 5, 3 at level 6, 3 at level 7.
Week 3 '" Move up to 20 reps on exercises and push yourself harder with less rest time. Treadmill sprints do 4 at level 5, 4 at level 6, 4 at level 7.
Week 4 '" Keep your reps at 20 and increase your cardio intervals to 15 sets rather than 10. Treadmill sprints do 4 at level 5, 4 at level 6, 4 at level 7, 2 at level 8.
Monday '" Chest
|Pushups superset with ab crunches||3||25|
|Cable Crossover superset with db pullovers||4||15|
|Incline db press superset with db flys||4||15|
|Dips superset with leg raises||3|
|Spin bike '" 30 seconds fast as possible, 30 seconds easy||6 of each|
Tuesday '" Back
|Pullups superset with seated row||4||15|
|Row machine superset with cable pullovers||4||15|
|Pulldown to front superset with barbell rows||4||15|
|Hyperextensions superset with leg raises||4 to failure|
|Elliptical 30 seconds fast, 30 seconds easy||6 of each|
Wednesday '" Legs
|Seated calf raise superset with crunches||4||15/30|
|Standing calf raise superset with knee raises||4||15/20|
|Laying leg curl '" hold top 3 seconds superset w/weighted good mornings||4||15|
|Walking lunges '" 20 yards down 20 yards back||4||15|
|Walking lunges '" 20 yards down 20 yards back||Superset with wide stance squat no weight to failure||4|
|Bench step ups superset with stiff leg deadlifts||4||15|
Thursday '" Delts and Traps
|Standing db snap press superset with upright row||4||15|
|One hand side lateral cables '" do one big set switching Side to side without resting||4||15|
|Rear delt db lateral raise superset with db shrugs||4||15|
|Treadmill sprints '" elevate treadmill 12 degrees, set Speed at level 5||Run 30 seconds at level 5 then rest 30 seconds||Do 3 at level 5, 3 at level 6|
Friday - Arms
|Forearm curls superset underhand and overhand||4||15|
|Narrow pushup superset with db hammer curls||4||25/15|
|Triceps cable pushdown superset with high cable crossover curls||4||15|
|Two handed kickbacks superset with reverse grip barbell curls||4||15|
|Stepmill||level 7 for one minute then level 2 for 1 minute||20 minutes|
Saturday and Sunday off and rest.