The Big 25

FLEX's all-time best training tips for maximizing mass
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We’ve compiled 25 fresh workout tips to help you get what you want most: more muscle. Included here are both cutting-edge advances and new angles on proven favorites. These are methods you probably aren’t incorporating — but should, to get bigger faster.

1. GO HIGH AND LOW

When you train high/low, you either alternate high-rep (12-20) sets of an exercise with low-rep (four to eight) sets of the same exercise, or you do all high-rep sets of one exercise followed by all low-rep sets of the next, switching back and forth throughout your workout. Use this technique occasionally to alter your rep pattern.

2. TAKE A STAND

Some exercisescan be performed standing or seated, and both methods have advantages, yet most trainers choose the seated versions. Jay Cutler, for one, likes to do shoulder presses standing to receive additional core work and incorporate momentum to cheat a few final reps.

3. DO STRONGMAN CARDIO

Add the farmer’s walk to your cardio regimen. Hold moderate to heavy dumbbells at your sides with your abs pulled and take long strides, walking until you can no longer grip the dumbbells. Rest 90 seconds each time you fail and then go again, striding for 10-20 minutes total. This gives you the calorie burning of cardio while increasing your grip and core strength.

4. GET YOUR FILL OF FILL SETS

Try hitting a lagging bodypart with one or two sets of 20-50 reps two or three days after that bodypart’s regular workout. These “fill sets” bring nourishing blood to the muscles to aid recovery and growth.

5. MAKE AND BREAK RECORDS

Consistently beating your previous bests is the surest way to increase not just strength, but also size, and keeping a workout logbook allows you to focus on precise strength goals each time you enter the gym. Throughout his Olympia reign, Dorian Yates was a loyal “logger.”

6. GIVE TRAPS A WORKOUT

Your trapezius is a relatively large muscle, so treat it accordingly. It gets work during compound exercises like deadlifts, upright rows and shoulder presses, so it may not require a plethora of isolation lifts, but, even if you do just four sets of dumbbell shrugs, always think of it as a trapezius workout, deserving of your full focus and maximum intensity, instead of as merely a few sets you throw in after delts.

7. STRETCH TILL IT HURTS

David Henry and other Doggcrapp adherents believe static stretches of 60-90 seconds performed in a deep (and painful) position soon after training a bodypart will boost flexibility and recovery, and may also lead directly to greater muscle size via fascia expansion.

8. CLEAN UP

The power clean is a compound, free-weight lift that allows you to pack on the plates and work several major bodyparts at once. In other words, it’s an excellent exercise, and yet bodybuilders avoid it like distance running. Add cleans to your back or traps routine.

9. INCORPORATE REST-PAUSE

Rest-pause is a neglected technique for pushing your sets beyond failure. When you can’t get another rep, set the weight down or hold it in a resting position just long enough to regain a limited amount of strength (about 15-20 seconds). Then eke out another two to four reps until you reach failure again. Repeat this pattern a second time, getting one or two additional reps.

10. DIFFERENT ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER

Ronnie Coleman has done virtually the same workouts for more than 15 years. Variety can spice up your workouts, shocking your muscles into expansion, but if you’re continually growing stronger in one exercise, don’t drop it for another merely for the sake of doing something new. Find the exercises that work best for you, and use them until you reach a plateau.

11. HEAT UP

As reported in our Gym Bag (April 2007), scientific research on heat shock proteins indicates they may boost muscle growth. To increase HSP levels in your muscles, sit in a sauna or soak in a hot tub or hot bath after a hard training session. Ingest 500-1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, 400-800 international units of vitamin E and 200-300 mg of alpha-lipoic acid postworkout to combat the free radicals that can stifle heat shock protein-induced growth.

12. THERE ARE NO “SHAPING” EXERCISES

Weight training is for gaining muscle mass; diet and cardio are what bring out the details. Don’t get the two confused. Even if you’re doing so-called “shaping” exercises, such as cable crossovers or leg raises, your focus should be on muscle growth.

13. PREPARE FOR BATTLE

Give your body the fuel it needs to work hard: ingest 20 grams of whey protein, 5 g of creatine and 20-40 g of slow-digesting carbs within 30 minutes before your workout.

14. PREPARE FOR RECUPERATION

Fuel for recovery is also important: ingest 40 g of whey protein, 60-100 g of fast-digesting carbs, 5 g of creatine and five to 10 g of glutamine within 30 minutes after your workout.

15. SLOW DOWN

Try using a significantly lighter weight than usual, but take five to 10 seconds to lower it and five to 10 seconds to raise it, emphasizing a full stretch and contraction. In this way, training lighter is harder.

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