How to Get Big

Q & A with 8X Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney


What’s the best way to get big? Is there a simple answer, or does it entail all sorts of complicated set-and-rep schemes?


There is no “simple” answer to your question, but that doesn’t mean getting big is overly complicated. If you’re a beginner, the best way to get started is with a basic routine like some regularly featured in FLEX. However, the long-term “secret” is to get to know your body: what exercises it does and does not respond to, and what training frequency suits you best. For instance, I always found that my biceps grew quicker with barbell curls rather than dumbbell curls.

As you progress, you must build piece by piece a blueprint that is custom-made for you in terms of exercise selection, volume of sets and reps, workout frequency and all the elements that constitute a total bodybuilding program. Bodybuilding is an individual journey, and your ultimate goal is to be the one who knows exactly what is best for you. Although I stress that we are all our own best coaches, certain mass-building fundamentals work best for me and for others who have trained with me. Here they are:

  1. The best routine I ever used was a three-days-on, one-day-off program in which I trained the complete body twice in seven days.
  2. For large bodyparts, such as legs and chest, do three or four exercises for four sets each. For smaller bodyparts, such as triceps and biceps, do two or three exercises for four sets each.
  3. Use at least two heavy compound exercises (see the “Prime Movements” sidebar) as the core of your workouts for each major muscle group.
  4. For developing quality mass, keep your reps in the six-to-10 range. If you go lower than six, you’re getting into powerlifting territory; above 10, you won’t be hitting the muscle with the level of intensity it needs for growth.
  5. To stimulate maximum response, use proper form throughout each rep with a full range of motion. It’s the quality of the reps that builds muscles, not the amount of weight you can sling around in a haphazard fashion.
  6. Listen to what your body tells you. On days it’s not responding as it usually does (for example, your poundages are down and you feel lethargic), don’t be afraid to cut back on your workload or stop the workout and go home to rest. Then commit yourself to coming back with renewed energy for your next workout.
  7. You can’t eat like a bird if youn eed to train like a horse to pack on muscle mass. The body works by the simple rule of “supply anddemand.” Eat six or seven nutritious meals a day, with the bedrock being that you should be consuming one gram of protein for each pound of bodyweight per day to meet the demands of hard workouts and muscle recovery.

Follow these guidelines, believe in yourself, gauge how your body responds, change and adapt as needed and you’ll nail down a template that is right for you.You’ll soon be growing faster than a bodybuilding rumor! - FLEX


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