Chris Cormier's laws for building impressive mass
Since becoming a pro after winning the overall title at the 1993 NPC USA, Chris Cormier has been one of the most successful at consistently blending size and shape at a competition. Here, the future Hall of Famer offers some tips and tricks he's learned through the years.
- GO HEAVY The more weight you use, the bigger and faster your body will grow. Use weight resistance to motivate you to lift harder and keep your body "tight" throughout the set.
- IF YOU'RE ABLE TO LIFT IT, THEN LIFT IT This is the first principle of improvement. Every time you enter the gym, be prepared to try for one more rep or one more pound.
- LET IT HAPPEN Do not force yourself to a higher level. Don't worry about making a particular increase. If it happens, it happens. If not, there's always tomorrow. If you aren't burdened with anxiety before you go to the gym, you will be fresher and more enthusiastic when you get there.
- PYRAMID YOUR SETS, STARTING WITH A 15-REP WARM-UP AND FINISHING WITH FIVE REPS Add weight to each set so the point at which you reach failure progressively decreases to five reps for your last set. The first sets have higher repetitions to pump the muscles with blood and get them coordinated with each other under the stress of heavier weight. The final set of five reps is high enough to prevent cheating, yet low enough to make sure your fifth rep is at absolute failure.
- USE A FULL RANGE OF MOTION To build muscle, you need to work all of its fibers thoroughly, as well as the fibers of ancillary muscles. Apply stress over the full extension and contraction of the muscle.
- FREE WEIGHT FIRST Every workout should begin with the heaviest and most compound free-weight exercises. Only after you have built a solid base of mass should you refine individual muscle groups with machines and cables.
- MAKE THE MUSCLES DO THE WORK Concentrate on making the target muscles work as hard as possible. This doesn't mean they are the only muscles that need to work, merely that they are taken to failure on each set. The idea behind compound exercises is to use other muscles and bodyparts to help focus the work and fatigue the target muscles.
- STRETCH AFTER EVERY SET Stretch the target muscles thoroughly after every set to flush out lactic acid and restore their flexibility. This will allow the sets to be completed from a starting point of maximum potential or freshness.
- PRIORITIZE Priority training is very important. To add mass to a specific bodypart, train that bodypart first in a workout. Ideally, workouts for prioritized bodyparts should be preceded by a rest day.
- BE A LITTLE BIT CRAZY Every so often, try for a one-rep maximum lift. Your attitude, desire, body and common sense will tell you when you should go for it. We've all experienced days when we feel superhuman and can't hold back. By forcing yourself into hyperstress, you increase your strength as well.
- MAKE YOUR WORKOUT REAL IN YOUR MIND Imagine doing a great workout before going to the gym. Mentally experience the sets: the grip, inhaling deeply, how the weight feels to the muscles involved, the resistance, muscle contractions, etc. When you start the actual workout, there will be no surprises and you may find it will be easier than you thought.
- HIBERNATE After an extended period of extremely brutal training, occasionally take another extended period to give your body and mind a chance to recuperate. Stay in shape with cardio and flexibility activities, but build up your hunger for your return to hard training.
- EAT BEFORE TRAINING Have something in your stomach when you train, even if it's only a protein shake. It can be reassuring to have an energy reserve to carry you through your last and heaviest set.
- MAINTAIN YOUR PROTEIN RESERVES Feed your body a continual supply of protein. You should not restrict your protein. Nothing is more important in your diet.
- STUDY The more you expand your mind, the more you can expand your body. It's easier for your mind to pull yourself into a frontier that your mind has already discovered than pushing into unknown territory.