Imagine it’s 1979 and you want to do pullups. Already hanging from the bar is Roy Callendar, third in the previous year’s Mr. Olympia. You’d better hope he lets you work in, because he’s not moving on for another hour or so. And 25 sets at the pullup bar are just the beginning. Callendar’s back routines typically consisted of 85 sets, and his entire back/biceps/forearms workout could last six hours! All his body parts went through similar endurance sessions. Callendar is an extreme example of volume training, but his success illustrates that more is sometimes better. With proper nutrition and enough rest between workouts, volume training can lead to more voluminous muscles.
In the beginning, which is to say the first half of the 20th century, bodybuilders trained their entire physiques in every workout. By necessity, they couldn’t do many sets per body part per workout until split routines divided their workload. When routines were broken up, volume climbed. It peaked in the late ’70s and early ’80s with Callendar, Casey Viator (third in the 1982 Olympia), and Johnny Fuller. All three top pros did in excess of 40 sets in each body-part routine.
Nobody sprints through an ultramarathon. Likewise, there is a limit to how long most people can maintain even moderate intensity when they’re grinding through around 1,000 reps per quad workout, as Viator did. Boredom and complacency can set in. Your body’s energy and hormonal levels will lag. So let’s acknowledge that ultramarathon workouts are incredible feats. Clearly, some bodybuilders have had great success with them. But let’s also move on to a more realistic and effective style of volume training. For that, we look to four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler.
We’ve included the quad routine Cutler used in preparation for the 2003 Mr. Olympia. It has a more realistic 23 working sets. (He also typically did one warmup set of each exercise.) You’ll also notice it covers a lot of exercises. Viator used to do just four exercises for quads but plow through 10 sets of 20–30 reps of each of those. With only 23 total sets, Cutler doubled Viator’s exercise total (counting leg extensions twice). In that manner, he worked complex muscle groups, like quads and back, from a variety of angles.
Cutler achieved such a diversified attack by doing only two or three working sets of most exercises. Another factor was reduced rest. By keeping his breaks between sets to around one minute, he was able to get through his entire workout before his intensity waned. Similarly, the four-time Mr. O kept his reps in the low-moderate range, so he could impart maximum intensity throughout each set. Still another factor he used was a late-workout blowout. Note that he ended his quad workout with dropsets, a technique that boosted intensity when it was most likely to lag. All in all, Cutler managed to turn up the volume and variety to marathon levels but still sprint through his workouts with ultimate effort from his first rep to his last.
"I'm a volume trainer and I always will be. I want to make sure I've done all I can in every workout. I'm not concerned with how many sets that takes." - Jay Cutler
For the first time in IFBB Pro League history, you will have a say in who will be named this year's Mr. Olympia – if and only if you're in attendance for Mr. Olympia prejudging on Friday (9/14) and the Mr. O finals on Saturday (9/15) at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, NV.
HERE'S HOW IT'LL WORK:
Fans will be given access to a judge's scorecard on a mobile device via a code; all of the votes cast will count in the official decision.
Should the fans choose a different winner than the judges, that competitor will be awarded the honor of becoming the inaugural 2018 Mr. Olympia People's Champion!
That means all of you who felt Mamdouh "Big Ramy" Elssbiay should've snagged the Sandow instead of Phil Heath last year, better get your tickets now at mrolympia.com.
The top three competitors primed to win the inaugural People's Champ award.
After taking a close second in 2017 to current champ, Phil Heath, the hype behind the 300-pound, seriously shredded Big Ramy is real. A lot of people thought he should've won, and bodybuilding fans everywhere are eager to see what he brings to stage this year.
2013-2014 New York Pro, 1st
2016 Kuwait Pro, 1st
2017 Arnold Classic Europe, 1st
2017 Mr. Olympia, 2nd
A former 212 competitor, Bonac's first Olympia was in 2014, when he placed 15th. The year after that, he grabbed eighth place. Then fifth place the next year. And then third place in 2017. And after winning the 2018 Arnold Classic, Bonac has some serious momentum heading into this year's O.
2015-16 Nordic Pro, 1st
2017 Mr. Olympia, 3rd
2018 Arnold Classic, 1st
Everybody loves Dexter Jackson. A veteran of the sport, "The Blade" is a former Mr. O (2008) and known for arriving in serious shape. You'll never see an unconditioned Dexter Jackson. Also, at 48 years old, he'll be the oldest guy on stage, giving new meaning to the phrase "Muscle Maturity."
I wasn’t blessed with the greatest genetics for triceps, but I learned to work with my body structure. You have to be open-minded with the exercises you choose. I learned very early that skull-crushers (lying triceps extensions) weren’t the only exercise for tris, contrary to what a lot of people seem to think. Cable movements can be very beneficial for size and shape. It’s just a matter of finding the right position for your body structure and really putting your mind into working the muscle.
Tri Tip #2
For pushdowns, I like to keep my elbow joints working like simple hinges and not put extra pressure on them. What’s great about doing rope pushdowns first is that they really warm up the elbow joints, which, after years of bodybuilding, become very fragile.
Tri Tip #3
Dips are the number-one mass builder for triceps. I don’t like to do them for chest, but that’s just a personal thing. I always feel them the most in my triceps. The muscular development of Olympic gymnasts, who work on rings and parallel bars, proves how effective a dipping movement is for triceps.
Tri Tip #4
I think one-arm pushdowns have really added to my triceps detail and accentuated my horseshoes. I use an underhand grip and start with my hand near the opposite deltoid. Then I pull the handle down across my body. The effect is a cross between a pushdown and a kickback. Single-arm movements are always good for biceps and triceps because you can really focus on the contraction.
Tri Tip #5
One-arm dumbbell extensions hit the long head. This is a fill-in movement that really pumps the area with blood. When the arm is in the up position, only triceps can be used to move the weight. It eliminates the other bodyparts that can creep into lifts like pushdowns and dips.
Tri Tip #6
I stop just short of lockout when doing dumbbell or cambered-bar extensions because, unlike pushdowns, there isn’t as much tension at the lockout. When you’re pushing something down at contraction, there’s tension in your tris, but when you’re holding something up, the contraction is more of a resting point. Bodybuilding training is all about applying maximum tension to your muscles.
Tri Tip #7
The most important thing is to not emphasize lifting heavy. Remember that the elbows are fragile joints. Work the triceps instead of trying to work the weight. I know a lot of guys who try to ego lift and hoist heavy weights, but that’s not what bodybuilding is all about. What matters is how much stress you can apply to the muscles.
“Typically, pre-contest, I like to split my leg workouts into two days, a quad-dominant day and a hamstring day later in the week,” he says. “This workout is something I picked up from a friend who is more cardio-focused. It was something he was using as a basis for a HIIT-style workout, combining regular squats with front squats for supersets.”
Intrigued, Kuclo borrowed the underlying premise, but instead of going lighter for high reps, as his friend was doing, he adapted it for muscle building. “I pyramid up the weight for back squats and front squats, going for 10 reps apiece, where I’m pretty much at failure by the ninth and 10th rep,” he says. “And because the front squat places maximum stress right on the quads, doing that after regular squats, even at a lighter weight, really destroys them.”
Kuclo’s pre-contest quad thrash—typically done on Mondays in the mid-afternoon, about three meals into his daily diet regimen to provide ample energy—begins, innocently enough, on the leg extension machine.
“Sometimes, if it’s a little cold or if I otherwise need a warmup, I’ll do the bike for five minutes, maybe some stretching for the hips and quads, but otherwise I’ll get right into extensions,” he says. The Kingsnake starts with the pin set about mid-stack, then settles his massive 5'11", 300-pound frame into the seat with the front crook of his lower legs—where his ankle meets his foot—pressed firmly into the roller pads.
The cadence settles into a rhythmic pace, his quads writhing and contorting under his black poly gym shorts to raise the weight via knee extension, then lowering back down in an arc to a point just before the stack touches down. Two seconds up, a slight pause, two seconds down, a slight pause, and onward for 25 total reps.
Between each of the four sets, he rests about a minute, catching his breath and nudging up the resistance just a brick or two. “I’ll pyramid up somewhat here, but it’s really more about getting blood into the muscle and not about trying to get to failure,” Kuclo says.
Next, Kuclo heads to the power racks—at 3 o’clock, he can monopolize two stations, side by side, setting up one for back squats and the other for front squats. The only difference? The former will get much heavier as the workout progresses, so two power racks means a lot less plate slinging between sets.
Although he already feels good from the extensions, Kuclo starts at 135 for both movements to further ply the knee and hip joints. “As I get older, I feel I do need to warm up more compared with when I was 21, when I could just slide four plates on the squat bar and go,” he jokes.
Even during warmups, though, he’ll superset the back and front squats. “For the back squat, I’ll do 135 for 15 reps, then 225 for 12 reps, and then 315 would be my first working set,” he says. “On the front squat, I’ll stick with 135 for the first two sets, then go up to 185 for the first working set.”
For each squat, he begins with feet set firmly shoulder-width apart, with the bar either across his upper back or across the front of his shoulders atop his pecs. To start, the knees are slightly bent, the toes are turned out a touch, the head is neutral, and the core is clenched tight for stability. The motion is initiated at the hips and knees as he lowers his glutes downward until his prodigious thighs reach a point parallel to the floor. From here, with an aggressive, grunting exhalation, he presses through his heels and engages his glutes and quads to explode back upward out of the hole, back to standing.
Although the five working sets step up in weight, his rep aim remains constant—for him, it’s 10 or bust, even as the eighth and ninth reps become ever more unbearable under the heavier loads. On his strongest days, his final back squat hits 405 for 10, while the front squat often tops out at 225. “You try to add a little weight each set based on how you’re feeling that day,” he says. “If you feel good, go up in weight, but if you’re stalling out before you hit 10 reps, you’ve added too much.”
Although he calls it a superset, the back and front squats aren’t performed in the typical style, with minimal rest in between. Kuclo will rest for 30 to 45 seconds between the two squats and then for 60 to 90 seconds between the supersets. Keep in mind that a spotter is invaluable during high-intensity squats, but if you’re going solo, set the safeties high enough that you can bail safely in the bottom position.
After his titanic bout on the squat rack, Kuclo’s thighs are pretty cashed—but he’s not done. He’ll next head to the dumbbell rack, corralling a flat bench and a pair of 65-pound dumbbells to pound out four sets of Bulgarian split squats.
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To do these, he’ll stand facing away from the bench, with one foot elevated behind him and with the top of that foot resting on the bench, knee soft and partially bent. The initial position is key, Kuclo says—you want to be close enough to the bench that the back leg isn’t excessively stretched out, so that when you go up and down into your squat, the hips can move vertically (and slightly rear- ward) without straining the groin area. Your back knee should descend toward the floor (but not touch it), and the knee of your front foot should not track out past your toes.
“Getting your foot in a comfortable position to where you’re not putting a lot of strain on your knees is the most challenging part of learning this exercise,” Kuclo says. “You want to feel it in your quads and your glutes. If you’re getting down low enough and feeling the contraction in your glutes, you’re likely doing it right. You want to keep your chest up and maintain the arch your lower back as you’re squatting.”
For each leg, he’ll do 10 to 12 reps per set, keeping the movement deliberate and controlled throughout, resting about 45 seconds to a minute between sets. “I’ll usually stick with the same weight for all four sets,” he says. “But if you feel like you can go up a little, push yourself. Say I’m doing 65 pounds for the first set or two and feeling good. I may go to 70, but I’ll stay there.”
With Bulgarians in the books, Kuclo returns to where he started, the leg extension, blood sloshing inside his heavy, pumped-to-the-skin quads with every step toward the machine. Here, he’ll finish them off with a burnout set, starting at the heaviest weight he can handle for 10 reps, then immediately dropping the weight a pinhole or two for another 15, followed by one more drop for 20 arduous reps, pausing for a couple of seconds of rest midset if needed in order to hit that total.
“Two or three of those dropsets, and my quads are spent,” he says. “This isn’t a workout I’d use every single quad session, but I pull it out whenever I really want to push my quads to their limit. This is definitely one that afterward, I think, ‘Damn, that taxed me.’ It feels as if I did hard cardio on top of training legs.”
KUCLO'S PRE-CONTEST QUAD WORKOUT
Leg Extension| SETS: 4 | REPS: 25
Back Barbell Squat*| SETS: 5 | REPS: 10
superset with Front Barbell Squat*| SETS: 5 | REPS: 10
Bulgarian Split Squat or Hack Squat| SETS: 4 | REPS: 10–12
Leg Extension**| SETS: 2–3 | REPS: 10/15/20
*Not including at least 2 warmup sets.
**These are triple drops, starting with a heavy weight for 10 reps, then immediately lowering the weight and doing 15 more reps, and dropping one more time and pushing out 20 reps.
The overhead press is to shoulder training what the squat is to leg day: the foundational movement from which all other exercises for its respective muscle group stem. When it’s time to train delts and decide on your workout for the day, the first question should be: What type of overhead press am I going to do?
Believe it or not, there are many more ways to answer this question than just “barbell” or “dumbbells.” Those pieces of equipment are in the discussion, of course, but so are machines and kettlebells; bilateral versus unilateral; pronated, supinated, or neutral grip; and seated, standing, or even kneeling. The overhead press (aka “shoulder press”) is a movement with way more variants than most guys utilize. Below are six such options, all of which should be fair game the next time you train delts.
1. SEATED DUMBBELL PRESS
Defining Difference Doing your presses seated rather than standing allows you to go heavier (because you’re able to use the seated back to push o against), making it a great option for those looking to maximize muscle development (size) in the deltoids.
Execution Sit on a low-back seat or upright bench holding a pair of dumbbells. Lift the dumbbells up to begin with them just outside your shoulders, palms facing forward. Press the dumbbells straight up by contracting your delts and extending your elbows until the weights are overhead with your arms just short of locked out. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the start position.
When to Do It First in your shoulder workout if not doing military press. When doing militaries, either do seated presses second or save them for another day.
2. MILITARY PRESS
Defining Difference Unofficially considered the fourth “big lift” (behind squat, deadlift, and bench press) the classic standing barbell press is a true test of upper-body pushing strength. But it’s more than just a delts and triceps move. Core stabilization is a vital aspect of military presses; a solid midsection, front to back, is the foundation from which you’ll press upward.
Execution Stand holding a barbell with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Clean the bar up to your shoulders, bend your knees slightly, and tense your body head to toe. Keeping your lower body and torso still, press the bar overhead by contracting your delts and extending your arms. Stop just short of locking out your elbows. Slowly lower the bar back down without letting it rest on your shoulders or upper chest between reps.
When to Do It First in your shoulder workout or upper-body strength session (on a separate day from other big lifts).
3. MACHINE PRESS
Defining Difference Just about every professional bodybuilder we talk to includes machine presses in his routine for one or both of two major reasons: 1) safety, as the fixed path of motion generally means slightly less risk of injury to the shoulder joint as compared with a free-weight dumbbell or barbell press; and 2) overload, because pressing with a machine requires fewer stabilizing muscles than with free weights, thus allowing for more weight to be used. In other words, the machine press is a heavier, safer delt-building move— a win-win.
Execution Adjust the seat of an overhead press machine (Cybex, Hammer Strength, Life Fitness, etc.) so that you’re able to extend your arms at the top of the range of motion and can lower the handles down to your shoulders without the weight resting on the stack. Begin seated holding on to the handles with your hands just outside shoulder width and palms facing forward. Contract your delts to press the handles straight up until your elbows are extended but not locked out. Slowly lower the weight back to the start position.
When to Do It Early in your workout, in place of barbell or overhead dumbbell presses.
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4. SMITH MACHINE PRESS
Defining Difference With the Smith, you get all the safety and overload benefits of Hammer Strength and selectorized machine presses, only with the feel of a barbell press (since you’re physically grasping onto a bar instead of rubber handles). We won’t say there’s necessarily a “best” choice between Smith machine, selectorized machine, and Hammer Strength overhead presses; they’re more or less equal. Shuffle all varieties in your program and pick one or the other more frequently if it provides a better feel.
Execution Position a low-back seat or upright bench symmetrically in the middle of a Smith machine so that when you lower the bar it nearly touches your face. Sit on the seat or bench, grasp the bar with a wider-than-shoulder-width grip (palms forward), unhook the latches, and slowly lower it down in front of your face until it’s below chin level. Forcefully press the bar up and over your head without locking out your elbows at the top. Slowly lower the bar back to the start position.
When to Do It Early in your workout, in place of machine, dumbbell, or barbell overhead presses.
5. ARNOLD PRESS
Defining Difference Named after the Austrian Oak, your wrists out so that by the top of the rep your this is simply a front-delt-emphasizing variation of a seated overhead press (and to a lesser degree it hits the upper pecs). Arnolds can be done either seated or standing, but the former will give you more leverage to press heavier loads and maybe even protect your lower back.
Execution Sit on a low-back seat or adjustable bench set upright holding a pair of dumbbells. Begin holding the weights in front of your shoulders with your palms facing you (supinated). Press the dumbbells overhead while simultaneously turning your wrists out so that by the top of the rep your palms face forward. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the start position, rotating your wrists back in to the supinated position as you do so.
When to Do It Early in your workout, in place of lower back. barbell or standard overhead dumbbell presses or right after one of those moves.
Defining Difference The key here is unilateral movement, which promotes balanced strength and development from left to right. When both arms are pressing simultaneously, even with dumbbells or kettlebells, the stronger side compensates for the weaker side. When pressing unilaterally, strength imbalances (or lack thereof) are apparent right away and can be addressed by regularly doing the move one arm at a time.
Execution Stand holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand, in front of your shoulder, with your elbow bent and the weight on the outside of your forearm. Bend your knees slightly, stabilize your core, and press the weight straight up overhead. If using a kettlebell, as you press, turn your wrist forward so the kettlebell is behind your forearm at the top of the move. Slowly reverse the motion back to the start position. Do all reps with that arm, then switch arms and repeat.
When to Do It Early in your workout, in place of two-arm dumbbell overhead presses, barbell overhead presses, or Arnold presses.
PRESS-CENTRIC DELT WORKOUT
Machine Press*| SETS: 3–4 | REPS: 8
Arnold Press**| SETS: 2–3 | REPS: 10–12
Upright Row| SETS: 3 | REPS: 12
Dumbbell or Cable Lateral Raise| SETS: 3 | REPS: 12
Unless you're Willy Wonka, you wouldn’t ride an elevator that had no fixed path. You want to be locked into the same route on every trip. So it is with Smith machine exercises—and there are many more such exercises than most bodybuilders realize. In fact, there are enough that you can hit all your body parts at a Smith station, making certain every rep goes straight up and down.
In order to safely squat without a spotter, fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne came up with the idea in the 1950s for a bar attached to a sliding apparatus. His friend Rudy Smith improved the design, enlisted an equipment builder, and sold the machines to gyms. As manufacturers copied the concept, the popularity of Smith machines grew. With some such devices, the bar travels perfectly vertical. With others, it moves up and down at a 7-degree angle. And with a Jones machine— a recent variation—you can move the bar horizontally as well as vertically.
Although their multiple safety catches are great for squatting or pressing alone, Smith machines can be used for any lift that travels through a vertical plane. Having the range of motion locked in place is both a strength (allowing you to focus only on propelling the resistance) and a weakness (failing to activate muscle action for balancing). A Smith removes horizontal movement from arced exercises, like curls, effectively transforming those exercises into very different ones (curls become drag curls). And a Smith machine provides a height-adjustable bar for body-weight lifts. As the following roll call proves, you can effectively train every body part with only a Smith machine.
Squats can be safely performed with a variety of stances, from feet far out in front (working the glutes and hamstrings more, contrary to what many believe) to under your hips (working mostly the quadriceps) and from very wide (more inner quads) to heels together (more outer quads). You can also do one-leg squats, lunges, step-ups, and vertical leg presses. For hamstrings, do stiff-leg deadlifts while standing on a block or a bench.
Standing calf raises (toes on a block) and seated calf raises (bar resting on your legs just beyond your knees) can both be cranked out on a Smith.
Barbell rows and deadlifts can be done Smith-style, but depending on the machine, you may need to stand on a box or a bench to get a full range of motion. You can also do inverted rows, rack chins, and chins by setting the bar at various heights and using your body (and additional weight if needed) for resistance.
You can press the bar while lying at or at an incline or decline. For something different, try bench-press throws (pushing the bar up with such force that it leaves your hands on each rep) or one-arm or alternating-arm presses. The bar can also be set at various heights for pushups.
Because you can safely rack and rerack the bar and bail to a safety catch if you fail, the Smith is great for front or behind-the-neck shoulder presses. For your medial, anterior, and posterior delts, do one-arm side laterals (with your arm bent and the bar resting just above your elbow), front raise holds, and wide-grip rows, respectively.
With their vertical ranges of motion, shrugs (front, behind-the-back, and one-arm), as well as upright rows and high pulls, are great Smith machine candidates.
By pulling your elbows back as you raise the bar straight up against your body, the Smith machine smooths out any hitch in a drag curl. It’s equally effective for underhand inverted rows (feet on the floor) and pullups (feet off the floor).
You can do triceps extensions—overhead or lying—by moving your elbows forward as you lift the bar straight up. Another exercise is the body-weight triceps extension, performed by holding the bar with bent arms overhead and then propelling yourself up and away from the bar by straightening your arms. Three more options: close-grip bench presses, close-grip pushups, and hands-behind-the-back dips gripping the bar and resting your feet on a block or a bench.
Even abs can be blasted on Rudy Smith’s machine. For weighted crunches, hold the bar as if doing a bench press. Set it high, and hold on for hanging leg raises. And stand perpendicular to it and grip it with one hand for side bends.
Let's not discuss Jay Cutler’s career—the four Mr. Olympia titles (2006-07, 2009-10), the 15 pro wins, the unparalleled run of 25 shows spanning 12 years, during which he was always rst or second and was defeated only by fellow Mr. O’s. Yeah, there’s all that and much more. But let’s talk training. Iron Jay was both improvisational and methodical. A high-volume adherent, he never counted reps, and he rarely knew in advance exactly which exercises he’d perform. Mid-workout, he’d contemplate what was still needed to hit every area of a body part before driving home. Even his trapezius was attacked with maximum intensity, focus, and variety via three markedly di erent exercises. This is in sharp contrast to most body- builders, who just throw in a few rote sets of shrugs at the end of their shoulder routines. It’s that attention to detail that helped make Jay Cutler legendary.
CUTLER ON TRAPEZIUS TRAINING
“Work traps from as many angles as possible.”
“With shrugs, I don’t hold contractions. I just get full reps, up and down.”
“I’ve done traps with shoulders and back. There’s no right way. But, for me, it just makes more sense to work them at the end of my back routine.”
To bulk up your body with muscle, learn to bulk up your diet with vegetables. Low in calories, vegetables also provide a host of nutrients that are otherwise deficient in many bodybuilding diets, including fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
Most bodybuilders acknowledge the crucial role that vegetables play in a bodybuilding diet, yet, for a variety of reasons, many of those same bodybuilders chronically don’t eat enough of these nutritious foods. First, bodybuilders get so focused on protein consumption that everything else takes a back seat. Once a trainer has eaten the suggested one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily and taken in enough complex carbs for growth, he’s very likely to feel full. Second, vegetables can be a pain in the butt to prepare, so many bodybuilders overlook them meal after meal, fooling themselves into thinking that their diets are pretty good anyway.
Here’s a news flash: If you want to make the most of your health and your bodybuilding gains, then you had better include at least two cups of vegetables a day. They contribute to a stronger immune system, improved absorption and stable energy levels — all factors that play a role in recovery and growth.
EAT VEGETABLES FOR FIBER
Vegetables are high in fiber, one of the most widely neglected bodybuilding nutrients. Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that supplies no calories to your body, but it does provide bulk, which slows digestion. This has two essential benefits. First, carbohydrates enter your body more slowly. This helps hold your blood sugar levels in check, keeping energy levels up and “crashes” at bay. When blood sugar levels crash, they cause a spike in cortisol, a catabolic hormone that breaks down muscle tissue and makes recovery more difficult. Second, fiber helps support the absorption of amino acids. It keeps the walls of your intestines clean, making them more efficient. This in turn allows you to get more bang for your buck from your protein consumption.
EAT VEGETABLES FOR VITAMINS & MINERALS
Every hard-working bodybuilder needs a hefty amount of vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, many believe that popping a daily multivitamin/multimineral will suffice. It will help, but it won’t cover your bases as completely as whole-food sources. You need vegetables. They contain compounds that enhance the absorption of the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals found within them. These compounds also increase the absorption of vitamins and minerals found in meats, grains and even in supplement tablets. Bodybuilding nutrition is more than numbers; it’s more than total amounts of calories, carbs, protein and fat. The best nutrition plans don’t simply focus on the major things. The smaller things play a big role in creating the perfect environment for recovery and growth.
EAT VEGETABLES FOR WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
One thing we do know about vegetables is that we don’t know everything that’s in them. Recent information has demonstrated this. Scientists have established that vegetables contain lycopene, phytochemicals, antioxidants, carotenoids and sulfur compounds that contribute to numerous metabolic functions including immune support. Effective post-training recovery calls for a strong immune system. When it’s weak, not only do you fail to recover, but also your muscles may fail to grow regardless of your high calorie and protein intake. So, eat your vegetables for their known benefits as well as the ones yet to be discovered.
Many bodybuilders focus on one or two vegetables (often spinach or broccoli). That’s far better than eating little or none, but taking in a wide range of vegetables is better. Include all of those you like and even a few you’re not as wild about. Suggestions include asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, green beans, mushrooms, onions, peppers (all colors), spinach, squash and zucchini.
EAT AT LEAST THE MINIMUM
On a daily basis, eat a minimum of two cups of vegetables. Spread that intake over three meals or more, especially whole- food meals. (It’s a good idea to pair vegetables with meat, since that is one of the most difficult types of protein to digest.)
You can have broccoli at one meal, some cabbage at another and green beans at a third, for example. Keep a couple of pounds of them in your fridge. Other options are to mix several vegetables together or buy fresh or frozen bags of premixed veggies. This will reduce your prep time and will also provide a broader range of nutrients at each meal, as every vegetable has a different nutrient profile.
EAT VEGETABLES TO GET LEAN
If you’re on a bodybuilding diet, your challenges include avoiding cheating, reducing your total calories and providing your body with enough bulk to feel satisfied. Increasing vegetable consumption can be the key to all of these. Bump up your daily intake to six cups while dieting. When calories are severely reduced, it’s often easy to miss out on some of the important vitamins and minerals, but eating a lot of low-cal vegetables will help ensure that you meet your needs. They’ll also keep you full so that you’re less likely to eat foods you shouldn’t.
EAT VEGETABLES FOR BODYBUILDING GAINS
Certain vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, exert antiestrogen properties due to a phytochemical that they contain. This effect is beneficial to bodybuilders because lower estrogen levels may help fight bodyfat, minimize water retention and enhance testosterone levels. Include these veggies on a regular basis and focus on them when you’re feeling overtrained or stressed.
MAKE VEGETABLES TASTY
Many people don’t enjoy vegetables unless they’re prepared in a way that makes them tastier. Offseason, when trying to add mass, you can pan fry them in olive oil, add teriyaki sauce, grate some low-fat cheese on top or cover them in a low-fat salad dressing. When dieting, you can keep calories to a minimum by adding Mrs. Dash and garlic powder, by using a nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, or by concocting your own ultra-low-cal dressing (we suggest mixing vinegar, Equal, garlic powder and Mrs. Dash).
EAT ’DEM GREENS
If your bodybuilding program isn’t as successful as you think it should be, consider improving your diet. Eating more vegetables is one of the most basic ways to accomplish this. Bodybuilders usually eat plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates, but they often overlook vegetables. Compared to the bodybuilding benefits of protein, those from vegetables may be less tangible, but vegetables can indeed have a potent indirect effect on muscle gains.
I'm a hardgainer when it comes to packing on pec mass. What's your advice for breaking down the barriers to building a bigger chest?
In my earliest days as a competitor, I thought my chest was a weak point and wanted seriously to bring it up. At the same time, I knew that simply pounding it with the heaviest weights I could handle would be a waste of energy.
I decided to attack the problem systematically and analytically, and the outcome was finding three or four effective exercises to address the specific areas that needed the most improvement.
With the goal of adding heaps of mass to your pecs, here are the exercises — both presses and flyes — that will help you past sticking points.
PROBLEM ZONE #1: UPPER PECS
Exercise Solution: Incline Presses
I’m no fan of flat-bench presses, as they rely too much on the power of the front delts. Incline presses do a fine job of stimulating the muscle fibers of the upper pecs.
Set the bench at a 30-degree angle to ensure that the resistance is placed on your pecs. A steeper incline will shift the emphasis to the front delts. Be sure to complete each rep with strict form.
Begin with a light warm-up set of 20 reps, then perform three all-out max sets of six to eight reps. Keep the movement slow and precise on the way down. Use an ordinary lockout at the top. In other words, as soon as you reach full extension, bring the weight back down in one continuous motion.
This exercise works as a multijoint mass builder much like standard barbell bench presses, but the unique angle (the arms come across or inward at the end of the movement) provides a better contraction and allows you to target your inner pecs.
The Hammer Strength machine offers more safety and stability than a free bar, which requires balancing the weight. Press out to the extended position and focus on getting a burn as you contract your pecs.
Typically, I do one heavy working set of six to eight reps, plus one or two forced reps. I suggest three working sets for you. If your gym does not have a Hammer Strength machine, use a comparable seated bench-press machine.
PROBLEM ZONE #3: OUTER PECS
Exercise Solution: Dumbbell Flyes
Dumbbell flyes, both flat and on an incline, are the number-one exercise for stressing and building the outer pecs. Developing the outer pecs to their max adds width and density to the whole pectoral region. For maximum effect, go for a complete stretch at the fully extended position. Don’t bring the dumbbells together at the top, because there’s no significant muscle resistance gained by doing that.
For full effect and for safety, flyes must be performed in a slow and controlled manner. Use the heaviest weight with which you can complete three sets of six to eight reps.
My own version of this exercise program brought up the lagging areas of my chest early in my career, and it continues to pay dividends today.
Hardgainers and pro bodybuilders have more in common than you might suspect. The goal is always to improve mass and muscularity at the quickest possible rate. At the end of the day, that’s what my recommended chest workout for hardgainers is all about.