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You’re never going to get bigger, you’re never going to have that imposing, rock-hard physique you desire, unless you get stronger. Volume is the name of the game; you need to put more plates on the bar on a weekly (if not daily) basis to grow.
That’s a lot easier said than done, but you can achieve it with determination and discipline and a few secrets the pros use to enhance their chances of success. Here’s ten:
Utilize Compound Movements
Who doesn’t enjoy a good bicep curl? Look at that peak, eh? Isolation exercises are fun (and certainly have their place in your regimen), but compound exercises are your bread-and-butter movements for strength and size increases. Compound exercises involve multiple joints and muscle groups. They force you to push, pull, and squat against the forces of gravity. They require you to maintain balance and pay greater attention to form. They work your core and back even as they work your target muscles. The squat, for instance, will train your quads, but will also grow your glutes, hamstrings and calves, and will activate over 200 muscles. That’s a lot of bang for your workout buck.
What are the compound exercises? The squat and the deadlift. The pull-up and the dip. The cable pulldown and the row. The bench press and the overhead press. And, finally, the leg press. One or more of these pairings should be the centerpiece of your regimen every time you hit the floor. The other exercises – the barbell curls and leg extensions and lateral raises – are the side dishes to the entrees. Compound exercises are your pathway to strength increase.
Visualization is big business now because it works. Olympic skiers don’t just see themselves nailing a jump anymore; they see every detail of the course, the finish, even the morning bus ride to the competition area, in their mind’s eye daily, even hourly, in the approach to the event. Baseball teams will have one hitting coach on staff … and four sports psychologists working with the players every day to imagine success on the field to the point where, in their minds, it has already happened. Sports psychologists are even using mental imaging to help injured athletes by encouraging them to see and feel broken bones and torn connective tissues heal. Preparation is everything, and visualization should be a crucial tool for building strength.
Visualize daily using mental imagery training for 15-20 minutes. Relax and envision yourself succeeding. Make your visualizations vivid; get senses involved like smells, noises, whatever – the more vivid, the more real, the better. Perception is reality and science has proven, without a doubt, that the nervous system cannot tell the difference between a real and imagined experience. Picture yourself placing another plate on the bar, then another. Feel yourself gripping the bar. Feel the tension in your tendons and muscles, the feel of the weight in your bones. Feel the weight rising, all the way up and through the negative portion of the lift. Now approach the bar. Set a goal, see yourself achieving it daily.
If you think creatine monohydrate is old school, then you should know that research continues to appear each year from research laboratories all across the world to further demonstrate positive physiological outcomes for creatine. Would you like to get stronger and have more endurance? To accomplish both of these outcomes, you’d be well advised to supplement with creatine monohydrate, according to a 2014 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. This study showed that one week of supplementing with creatine significantly increased upper-body (bench press) and lower-body (leg press) strength endurance after following an intense protocol of aerobic training when compared to when a placebo was used for supplementation.
Another recent study reported that creatine can improve recovery ability after a damaging bout of exercise. In this study, participants supplemented with either creatine or placebo over a 15-day period and engaged in two bouts of muscle-damaging exercise. When creatine was provided, reduced levels of muscle soreness, and increased range of motion and creatine kinase levels were found when compared to placebo (Veggi, Machado et al. 2013). These outcomes optimize recovery, thus allowing you to get back in the gym, increase training volume and keep your strength-building momentum going.
When supplementing with creatine monohydrate, the world’s most researched and validated form of creatine, be sure to seek out Creapure, the consensus gold standard in creatine potency, purity, and power. Manufactured in Germany by AlzChem AG, Creapure is the purest, most potent form of creatine monohydrate you can find anywhere. ProSource’s Creatine Monohydrate product is sourced with 100% Creapure creatine. Why? Because it works.
If you want to gain strength, you have to consume an excess of calories. Yes, an excess, which means you’re probably not eating enough or you’re leaving sizeable gaps in your daily eating regimen. And eating is a regimen, just like your exercise regimen. Most sports nutrition experts advise that you eat six to seven small meals per day and that you make a point of consuming 1.3 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
That’s a lot of protein. To reach that quota, we suggest that you augment your daily intake of chicken breasts, fish and lean cuts of red meat with a well-timed protein shake or protein bar. A gap in your nutrition intake as short as a few hours is sufficient to tip your body into a catabolic state in which existing muscle tissue is being broken down for fuel. Keep a jug of protein formula like ProSource’s 100% whey isolate Original NytroWhey in your desk at work and keep a more highly targeted, faster-acting formula like NytroWhey Ultra Elite, an advanced matrix of whey isolate and highly processed whey hydrolysate, in your gym bag for supplementation after a workout.
And don’t overlook protein bars. Protein bars have come a long way in just the last few years, and recent entries in the category like the new ProSource Bar now rival super-premium protein powders in terms of protein quality. The ProSource Bar is powered by super-premium hydrolyzed whey and cold-processed micro/ultra-filtered whey isolate with no soy or inferior whey concentrates. Its recipe emphasizes wholesome, high-value ingredients over the fillers and substandard ingredients found in so many competing protein bars. You won’t find any indigestible fiber content or sugar alcohols, and no mysterious binders, emulsifiers or gelatins in the ProSource Bar. They’re ideal for tucking away in the glovebox of your car or tucked into your pre-packed lunch or carrying along anywhere when cravings for junk food strike.
Your body does not want to get stronger and grow. It values homeostasis, or a stable equilibrium between physiological extremes, above all else. It is supremely adaptable to consistent applications of work. To put it another way, routine is the enemy. If you’re doing the same thing in the gym every week, you’re never going to advance any closer toward your goal.
We all know that person in the gym who’s predictable as clockwork. If it’s Monday, he’s in the squat rack, putting the same six plates on the bar. If it’s Thursday, he’s working the cables. Don’t be that guy. There’s so many ways to vary your routine, increase training volume and shock your system into new growth and strength capacity. Take a class, whether it’s Serenity Yoga or Xtreme Fight Fit Bootcamp. Schedule a month with a trainer in your gym, even if you’ve been going to that gym forever, even if you think you know everything. Or better yet, train with someone who is stronger than you are. See where you want to get and what’s required to get there.
You can even do your same regimen in different ways. Numerous studies show that by altering stance and or grip width, the activity of the muscles involved changes. So instead of entirely reinventing the wheel, try some of your favorite movements with a different grip or stance. Try squatting close-stanced; try bent over rows with a reverse grip; try conventional deadlift instead of sumo deadlifts. The possibilities are endless. The key is to be creative. If you don’t challenge your body, it won’t respond.
If you’re going to attain a level of force output and resistance volume you’ve never reached before, you’re going to have to prep your body for maximum performance capacity. For most people, that means taking a pre-workout formula. This could entail something as simple as a cup of coffee (Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pre-workout of choice, back in the day) or as complicated as a super-complex formula with all the chemical bells and whistles (many of which, it should be said, are unproven or unnecessary).
What should you look for in a pre-workout formula? Certainly a precise ratio of muscle pump potentiators, preferably in the form of tried-and-true L-arginine, L-arginine-AKG, and citrulline malate, plus some high-glycemic carbs for insulin potentiation. You’ll want to see beta alanine in a clinically indicated dosage for endurance support. Look for a highly bioavailable form of glutamine such as N-acetyl-L-glutamine to reduce catabolism and increase nitrogen retention. Potent energy and focus facilitators like green tea extract, L-tyrosine and glucuronolactone will prove invaluable as well. Your pre-workout may also contain creatine monohydrate for cell volumization and BCAAs for support of protein synthesis and muscle recovery.
Where can you find all key agents of performance enhancement? ProSource’s FusionForce contains all of them and is a true all-in-one workout optimizer that delivers these key ingredients at super-high potencies. That’s important, because many pricey but inferior alternatives seem to contain a myriad of ingredients, but actually offer most of them in negligible and ineffective amounts.
Recovery after your workout is crucial as well. Before you do your first rep, you’ll want your muscles to be prepped to preserve the gains you’ve earned. That’s where a recovery agent rich in the essential aminos leucine, isoleucine, and valine comes into play. ProSource’s Mega BCAA Capsules and Powder contain a precise ratio (2:1:1) of these vastly superior, premium-grade aminos, which are critical to post-workout repair and recovery, primarily because of their significant role in supporting protein synthesis. Leucine, in particular, functions as a potent, muscle-sparing, anabolic support nutrient. Countless studies confirm the efficacy of BCAAs with aid in recovery from central and peripheral fatigue. BCAAs are a great pre-workout supplement.