(This article was written by Gavin Laird & was originally published in The MuscleTalker April 2004 edition)
1. Eating like a pigeon
This really is very, very simple. If you do not have a surplus of calories in your diet then you will not grow any new tissue. If you are not gaining weight then you need to eat more food; not just more protein but more carbohydrates and more fats as well. The tiny amounts of food eaten by most would-be athletes stem from a fear of gaining weight, but what they fail to register is that muscle tissue weighs a lot! I am sick to death of hearing from guys and gals who want to carry a reasonable amount of muscle but refuse to gain weight. Do you really think that there is a special low-density muscle tissue that will accrue on your body if only you had the right program? Give me a break! If you are eating enough to gain muscle tissue you will also be gaining weight. The number on the scale is irrelevant - look at the performance indicators of your sport, if your performance is improving then you are doing the right thing.
2. Single factor training
Probably 99% of ordinary people in gyms are currently training according to single factor training theory, or the principle of super-compensation. Probably 5% of elite strength athletes are training this way and they are all bodybuilders. Now I know most people are not even aware of what dual factor theory is so here is a brief explanation.
Single factor theory treats fitness and fatigue as existing to the exclusion of each other. For example if you are tired and have sore muscles following a training session you should wait until you feel better and have fully recovered before training again. This fits in with super-compensation theory, which dictates that after training your fitness decreases slightly (because you are tired) and then rises back up again to a point just above where it was prior to the workout. At this point you train again with a slightly greater load and push up your fitness a little further and so on.
Dual factor theory looks at fitness, fatigue and preparedness as being separate but not exclusive to one another. Fitness is your long-term ability; it changes slowly and is not related to fatigue. Preparedness is your immediate ability i.e. what can you do RIGHT NOW and it is influenced by fatigue. According to dual factor theory you can train to the point of extreme fatigue, and have a terrible state of preparedness but still be making improvements in long-term fitness. In other words you DO NOT have to fully recover between workouts all the time and nor should you.
Dual factor training requires periods of stimulating (high) loads, retaining (moderate) and detraining (low) loads in the long term but it removes the need for an athlete to time each individual workout in accordance with fatigue levels. The reason that dual factor training is so unused by bodybuilders is next on the list…
3. Intensity, intensity
Bodybuilders like to train 'hard'. They boast of training to 'failure', doing 'triple drop sets', 'forced reps' and all kinds of other extremely fatiguing techniques. The problem with this is that although their musculature may recover from this onslaught in a few days their central nervous systems are absolutely fried. The CNS can take a week or more to recover from these kind of repeated efforts to failure training, which makes repeating the workouts with a similar or greater (stimulating) load impossible for quite some time. Why would anyone want to do this? Your muscles recover from almost any stimulus within 72 hours but if you have stressed the CNS so greatly that it can no longer apply any force then you will become detrained as the CNS recovers. By the time your preparedness is back up to a high level, the fitness gain from training has almost completely gone. This is OK in the short term but to train like this week in week out whilst attempting to increase poundage's or total load in a linear manner is a lunacy that literally forces you to reduce training frequency and total load to a minimal level. Frequency and total load are the key determinants of successful training for size and strength! Why would anyone deliberately minimise both of them?
4. Macronutrient fascism
"Carbs are bad?", "Eating fats will make you fat", "Only protein builds muscle so if you're not growing eat more protein"
Look, we all need protein, fats and carbohydrates in some fashion. The amounts and timing of their intake may vary from person to person and for different goals but to completely eliminate or isolate a macronutrient in a diet is foolish to say the least. Certain macronutrient combinations have certain effects and to completely remove one from the equation (e.g. no carbs or no fats) just isn't going to cut it. Personally I would take an isocaloric diet as being a good starting point for health and strength.
5. Lifestyle, what lifestyle?
If you're the kind of guy who trains biceps on a Friday night so he looks 'pumped' in a club then just let it be known that I would never tire of punching you! If you are going to get bigger or stronger, be it for bodybuilding or any other sport then you will have to take control of your whole lifestyle. All too often perfectly good training programs yield zero results due to the 'other' factors of training being ignored. I have touched on nutrition already but how many trainees pay anything more than lip service to rest, massage, hydrotherapy, proper training monitoring, keeping a diary, adequate sleep, autogenic training, myotherapy, trigger point therapy, active release, chiropractic and other training aids?
6. Eating after the event
It is a well-known fact that following training your body's ability to synthesise protein is enhanced. It is also pretty well known that post training muscle tissue becomes more insulin sensitive and simple carbohydrates are more likely to replenish glycogen than be stored as body fat at this time. This knowledge is in itself a great thing but it has lead athletes into the habit of eating after the event and ignoring their nutrient needs at other times. For example, you need carbs well before you train in order to get through the session. You need a high blood pool of amino acids DURING training to get the growth process off to the best possible start. These amino acids will come from the protein you ate hours before you trained, or in the case of whey at least 90 minutes beforehand.
Ditto for antioxidants. Take your free radical scavenging goodies before you train so they are actually in the blood stream having an effect at the time of greatest oxidative stress (during and immediately after training) instead of having them sit in your stomach digesting while your workout damaged body screams for some help.
This same strategy should be brought to bear all day long. If you are going to be sitting on a chair for the next 3 hours then cut out some carbs and keep the protein high in your meal. If you have a gruelling leg workout coming up then get your complex carbs, a mix of proteins, plenty fluids and antioxidants in before you even set off for the gym. By all means continue to supplement your training with post workout specialist nutrition but do it as part of an overall nutrition strategy based on your upcoming needs.
Most bodybuilders are actually insane. Albert Einstein defined insanity as 'Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results'. This perfectly describes the dogmatic training and eating habits of most bodybuilders. Many times you will see a bodybuilder in the gym who has not changed his / her appearance one bit in several years and yet is perfectly content to continue on with the same training practices, nutrition habits, etc. If you are not making gradual progress in your chosen sport then you need to change something or you will look the same in five years as you do right now. Chances are pretty good that what you need to change is your training, if you've been at it long enough to have been stale for years then you had better have a good handle on your nutrition.
Bodybuilders are the best athletes in the world at kidding themselves they are making progress simply because their sport has very little in the way of truly objective criteria for judging performance gains. In order to compensate for this every bodybuilder should have photos taken once or twice a year in the same light, in the same poses. Every bodybuilder should keep track of his / her muscular girths and have his / her body fat tested at least once a year also. In short, if you are gaining lean mass and / or losing body fat your muscular girths will increase whilst your waist will remain much the same. If you are not losing fat or gaining muscle then what the heck are you training for? Bodybuilding is a sport of large, lean muscles so if you are not getting bigger and / or leaner you are not succeeding in bodybuilding. Forget all the nonsense about 'increasing density', 'quality' or 'having enough size'. Every time I hear this I know immediately that that competitor is at a dead end in his / her training and nutrition and has stopped making gains. How many times have you seen a judging sheet in a bodybuilding contest where a competitor was marked down for carrying too much muscle and being too lean? So what must your objectives be? More muscle? Always. Better condition? Always.
9. Self-delusion ... AGAIN!
Rare is the day when a competitive bodybuilder admits to being well beaten by his competitors. All you ever see on the boards is excuses and bitching about who the judges were, whose partner organised the show and every other wild conspiracy theory that someone can think of to explain why there under tanned, badly presented and soft as Rowntree's Jelly physique didn't win the whole show. Once again this stems from the subjective way in which bodybuilding is judged, but it could be helped out a lot if judges were forced to take written notes on each physique along with scoring in each round. The competitors could then view these documents after the show and see what was lacking. If every judge at the table writes "Followed the Homer Simpson pre-contest diet" next to your name in the posing round then you would know what the problem was!
10. Genetic Predestination.
Ever heard someone say they have "crap genetics for bodybuilding" when they don't even look like they have ever been near a weight? This bothers me greatly. The truth is usually that these guys don't train sensibly, don't eat right and don't pay enough attention to recovery so how can they possibly expect to fulfil whatever potential they may or may not have? These guys them to think that because they are tall / skinny / fat / lanky / whatever NOW that they will always be that way. Not true!
Bodybuilding is a sport in which ones inherent genetic abilities (muscle fibre type and number, hormonal factors etc) play an extremely prominent role but it is important to realise that the immediate appearance of a beginning or intermediate bodybuilder has very little to do with his or her genetic predisposition to the sport. Often the champions are not the 'massively built before he even touched a weight' guys. You will never know if you have the genetic potential to be a great bodybuilder if you do not make the best possible use of the means available to you for an extended period of time (5 - 10 years) so get on with it and stop making excuses for the things you can't change.8 comments