By Nick Nilsson
Author of Muscle Explosion - 28 Days to Maximum Mass
I USED to think I was a hardgainer until I figured this stuff out. Now I can pretty much gain muscle and strength whenever I want.
You can too...once you know how to do it.
Here's what you'll do...
Step 1 - Pull Back
If you've hit a plateau, the first step I recommend is taking some time to deload (which is a fancy way of saying do less). This can be total rest or it can be reduced workload on your body.
The idea here is give your body some time to heal and recover. I recommend 4 to 7 days of this, at minimum, depending on how overloaded your body was when you hit the plateau.
If you keep hammering away at your body, you will only start going backwards and open yourself up to potential injury.
Step 2 - Go On a Diet For a Week
So how does going on a diet help you with building muscle? Several reasons...
1. You'll drop fat.
Obviously, by going on a diet, you'll lose fat. This is just a good bonus and not even the main reason you'll be dieting.
2. It gives your digestive system a break.
When you're trying to build muscle, you're eating a LOT of food. Your digestive system is just like your muscular system and nervous system. When you use it constantly, that uses up it's resources.
By going on a diet, you give it some time to regenerate and recuperate. By not asking it to constantly digest food, you're giving it a break...and that means when it comes time to eat big again, it'll be ready.
3. Going on a diet (especially a low-carb diet, which is what I recommend) will increase your insulin sensitivity.
Insulin is your body's primary storage hormone and is CRITICAL for building muscle. By making your muscles more sensitive to it, it'll give you greater muscle-building bang for your buck when you go back to eating carbs in greater quantity.
4. You give your body the idea that it's in a famine.
So why is that a good thing? When your body senses "famine" conditions, it slows your metabolism down and becomes more efficient with the nutrients it's taking in (a.k.a. the dreaded fat-loss plateau). This process takes about a week to start really going into full effect and it sets up ideal conditions for building muscle when you come off the diet in the next phase.
Step 3 - MASSIVE Overload of Training and Calories
Time to put the pedal to the metal. You've just finished a week of strict dieting...
- your body is empty of reserves and it's desperately looking to fill those back up
- your metabolism is slower and more efficiently using the nutrients you're putting in
- your sensitivity to insulin has increased
Now you're going to overload it in a BIG way.
You're going to start eating in large quantities and you're going to start training with massive volume.
And I'm not exaggerating when I say your muscles will soak up the calories and nutrients like a sponge at this point, especially when you start in with the high-volume training.
It's an incredibly anabolic time for your body and this calorie and training overload can pile muscle on like nobody's business.
Drink a LOT of water, because your body will be processing and storing a lot of carbs, which love water. You can also load creatine to further increase the water-loading effect.
Now, besides the obvious benefit of hydration, the massive influx of water has the secondary effect of stretching the size of the muscle cells, due to the increase in glycogen (what carbs are stored in your muscles as).
Your muscles are literally BATHED in nutrients...your training is high-volume, which is extremely anabolic on it's own...and your muscle cells have expanded, which actually helps stretch out the fascia surrounding the muscles themselves, giving them more room to grow.
(and ok, maybe I'm strange but I get all whipped up talking about this stuff...it's that amazing of a setup for muscle growth)
I find this process can be pushed for about 5 to 7 days before you need to reduce the training volume again.
Step 4 - Back to Baseline Training
At this point, you've overloaded your body with calories and training volume. It's time to pull back to lower-volume training and eating.
You can go back to just about any type of muscle-focused training here, as long as it's not high-volume. Your body needs the break from that overload. You can also pull back on your calorie intake a bit here, too.
During this phase, you're basically solidifying and continuing the gains in muscle you made in the massive overload phase. Keep this up for at least 2 weeks (or more, if you're still making gains).
With this framework, you can essentially gain muscle and strength whenever you want to. This is a very powerful blueprint that, when you step back and see how your body works, makes perfect sense.
Now, coincidentally enough (and without a shred of irony, of course), this is exactly the framework my Muscle Explosion program follows.
And I'll tell you right up front...you don't HAVE to follow my program to benefit from this framework. You can absolutely use this framework to design your own program based around these concepts.
However, I've taken the step of laying out EVERY single day of this framework using all the tips, tricks and techniques I've read, come up with and mastered over my past 20+ years of training (and this is some crazy-good stuff).
I've laid it out so that each training session and dietary segment is designed to build on the previous and set up the next so you fully maximize the muscle-building effects you get from this pull-back and overload framework.
And like I said, you're welcome to do the work yourself...
...or you could just let me do the work for you and just hand you the optimal plan on a silver platter. All you have to do is supply the effort.
Be sure to watch my 5 Mass Principles video to learn the physiological factors you can change about your body to blow through your "genetic" limitations...
The fact is, your limitations may NOT be genetic...they could be the result of the way you train and the way you eat and they can be CHANGED.
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