Strong Abdominals

Whenever the word “abdominals” is mentioned in an article, an “expert” fitness promotion or in a seminar video; the ab fanatics come out of the wood-work and act as if the Pope himself had put in an appearance.

This fascination with the abdominal can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and their gods who’ve bestowed upon us common folk an ideal showing us what the eye-pleasing midriff is all about. As a result, the gym rats of today are determined (in the worst way) to sculpt for themselves esthetic, attractive muscles.

Rarely do you ever hear your friend or training partner boasting about their abdominal strength. Bragging seems to be specifically reserved for the beach muscle exercises such as the bench press and the barbell curl. If you do happen to catch them bragging, it’s usually because they’re proud of their “six pack,” (eight packs are reserved for freak status).

If a survey were taken of the top three muscles people would like to improve upon, the “abdominals’ would rate near the top. Most people aren’t too interested in the benefits of strong abdominals because what takes precedence for them is to visually impress those around them. This is usually achieved by (1) starvation diets, (2) 100’s of sit-ups, (3) excessive cardiovascular exercise, (4) or a combination of all three.

Heck, most people at the gym and out in the world will, with a quick glance, size you up by the appearance of your midsection. Who cares if the fridge you’re carrying can support a 400-pound squat or a 500-pound dead lift. As Bob Lefavi (PHD CSCS) has said, most people would rather “crunch till the cows come home.”

Too often people are caught up attempting to synchronize certain exercise fundamentals to bring about an aesthetically pleasing mid-section. Where this misconception had its beginnings is still a mystery, but rest assured, the body-building industry has done little to put this myth to rest. Instead, they’ve added more fuel to the fire by promoting one of _the_ biggest myths alive today. That is the one which says the repetitive execution of a variety of abdominal exercises will serve to reduce abdominal adipose (fat) tissue. A study conducted at the University of Massachusetts concluded that sit-ups have no effect on reducing abdominal fat of any sort (1). But whatever the research results say there still remains a steady flow of money being transferred from the pockets of consumers into various fitness company accounts.

Abdominal myths have survived for decades and can be found lurking in every gym. The primary focus of this article will concentrate on how to strengthen abdominal musculature through various muscle actions and patterns.

Training the Abdominal Musculature

There are several reasons why people train their abdominals but our attention will be directed toward one component, and that is _strength_. The definition of strength can be broken down into other areas such as concentric, eccentric, and the isotonic (which is nearly impossible to achieve through a full range of motion in any movement). There’s also limit strength, maximal strength, strength endurance, speed strength, and isometric strength etc. So, it can get quite confusing when it comes to setting goals and/or placing emphasis when it comes to the issue of strong abdominals.

It’s common to find abdominal training programs building themselves around dynamic muscle actions (concentric, eccentric muscle actions). There is little, if any, attention given to the isometric (static) portion of the lift. Isometric strength is often neglected when it comes to abdominal training or, for that matter, any kind of muscle training. Based on these tendencies one might conclude that isometric actions have little or no place in a bodybuilder’s abdominal program and that it would be better to stay with either or both the eccentric and concentric muscle action in any given movement. This is odd, since abdominal musculature as well as other trunk muscles are tonic in nature, that is, they are muscles that predominantly stabilize. During any kind of activity, a muscle always contracts from a resting position. This would mean that the body’s muscular actions are always working in three ways–concentric, eccentric and in some form of isometric action (2).

Kinesiological Review

Before proceeding, a brief kinesiological overview of the abdominal musculature is necessary

Rectus Abdominis

The rectus abdominis is one of the four muscles that make up the anterolateral wall. Its general muscle fiber architecture/arrangement is parallel in nature. The rectus abdominis functions are to:

  • compress the abdomen (increases intra-abdominal pressure)
  • flex the trunk/spine
  • lateral flexion about the spine

External Obliques

The external obliques can be found on the lateral abdominal wall. These superficial muscles are quite pronounced on a lean physique (7-8% >). Their functions include:

  • flexing the trunk
  • lateral flexion of the trunk
  • rotation of the trunk

Internal Obliques

These muscles, also known as the “inner abdominal muscles”, lie deep to the external obliques and are responsible for:

  • flexion of the trunk
  • lateral flexion of the trunk
  • rotation of the trunk

Hip Flexors

Even though these muscles (otherwise known as the villain muscles) aren’t a part of the anterolateral abdominal wall they can’t be ignored. They’re important because of their active participation in trunk flexion or lateral flexion movements. Many coaches, trainers and avid lifters think that the action of the hip flexors (psoas major and minor, iliacus, sartorius, rectus femoris, and pectineus) during movements such as sit-ups should be eliminated or restrained. Continued attempts to emphasize the “isolation” of the abdominal musculature and reduce the activation of the hip flexors are usually done in vain. Many times, it’s been said that the hip flexors are the dominant muscle when it comes to abdominal work.

It has been well established that synergistic co-activation of multiple muscles works in the attempt to create a smooth working pattern. What is seemingly forgotten is that the hip flexors can work statically to stabilize an erect posture by indirectly supporting the vertebral column and directly supporting the pelvis. Therefore, the close and dearly held belief that the hip flexors activation should be minimized is not entirely true at all.

Transversus Abdominis

The transverses abdominis fibers are the deepest of the abdominal wall. This muscle plays a very small role, if any at all, when it comes to traditional-style abdominal movements. Its function for those who don’t suffer from back pain is to compress the abdominal contents as well as to act as a belt supporting the spine (in conjunction with other muscles (5)) during various movements. Even though the transverse abdominis hasn’t been mentioned, this muscle will be involved in each exercise. Before the grumbling starts, it should be noted that the transverse abdominis in a lifter that is firing properly doesn’t need to be trained. There is no scientific evidence indicating that a healthy person whose deep abdominals are functioning properly should train them. Movements such as the Squat and the Dead lift (and the many variations of these exercises) will engage this muscle. On the other hand, people who suffer from back pain may have some success using some transverse exercises (6, 7).

Static/Quasi Isometric Abdominals

Day-to-day activities (sport, work, strength training) all require people to use this type of muscle action. On the surface isometric training may appear to be rather simplistic. Don’t be fooled since the actual concept is far broader a topic than most realize and it goes beyond the scope of this article. Isometric actions can be defined as a muscle action which occurs when there is no external (outside forces) or change in joint angle (8).

Isometrics can be also divided further into other groups which all have various results on the body’s systems. For the sake of simplicity, our focus will be on increasing the absolute strength (that is, the maximum amount of force your muscles can produce irrespective of body weight and time of force development) (9) of the abdominal wall through an isometric type of action. In addition, attention will be given to the quasi-isometric eccentric/concentric action in a movement. Now how’s that for some pseudoscientific babble?

Some notes:

  • Maximal isometric forces can only be held between 4-6 seconds (10).
  • Rest periods can range from 10 seconds to 5 minutes between each angle or set.
  • During a maximal isometric action, the contractile components (actin and myosin) are responsible for the fatigue in the muscle (10)
  • Strength attained at certain joint angles can be transferred throughout the movement (11).
  • Breath-holding and the lack there of plays a crucial role during isometric actions. It is advised that if a person suffers from high blood pressure (or is taking a supplement or drug that raises their blood pressure) that they proceed with caution when executing these movements.
  • ‘Shaking’ of the rectus abdominis may occur during isometrics. This occurs largely because either the motor units are not firing in a synchronized fashion due to fatigue, or there is a lack of coordination in the firing of the motor units.

The Exercises

Decline Static Holds

This exercise focuses upon isometric actions at the different joint angles.

In the starting position the back is kept as upright as possible. From this position there will be a slight movement towards the surface of the bench. Stop and hold it anywhere from 4 to 6 seconds. Then proceed to lower yourself further down and again hold the angle. Continue this until the lower back is touching the surface of the bench and the upper back is a couple inches off the bench. The strength of the abdominal wall will determine how far back you can go without the lower back taking the brunt of the load. If you find that the lower back is taking more load than the abdominal musculature then you will have to work within a small ROM until enough strength is acquired to move you into a greater ROM. Once a full range of motion is completed then the use of either bodyweight or some other means of external resistance such as a weight plate, medicine ball or dumbbell will increase the level of difficulty. The level can also be increased by changing the angle of the bench to a steeper angle.

Weighted Swiss/Sport Ball Holds

One of the rewards of using a swiss ball is the abdominal training that can be performed with this piece of equipment; many different exercises can be performed. One of them is the crunch. Since the abdominal musculature is worked through a full range of motion (30+ horizontal and -15 degrees horizontal) the swiss ball meets this requirement. Unlike conventional weighted floor, sit-ups most people tend to do.

Performing weighted floor sit-ups are likened to doing a half bicep curl, your just not making the most of the muscles involved in the movement. Moreover, if you’re not making the most of your workouts then it is inevitably a waste of time.

Using a swiss ball (or performing any type of crunch on an unstable surface) takes a certain amount of stability, which can change the degree of activation of the abdominals muscles (12). So be forewarned–if you aren’t familiar with this equipment get acquainted via a trainer at the gym with its proper use before diving in and performing any exercise on the ball.

The ball should be placed around the gluteus and lower back region with the back in a semi-upright position (this means the back is still straight). From there you will slowly lower yourself several degrees and hold the contraction. Continue this until the lumbar region is extended over the ball. If there is any feeling of pain in the back, modify the range of motion and work within that particular range until you feel strong enough to extend your back over the ball. Once you have reached full extension over the ball, you can reset yourself and start the movement again by resuming the semi-upright position. Hold each joint angle again for 4-6 seconds.

If stability is a big issue regardless of how well- familiarized you are with the ball, you can widen your stance to increase the amount of stability so that it won’t become the limiting factor in the movement. If bodyweight doesn’t offer enough of a challenge holding, a dumbbell or a medicine ball in the back of your neck will add further resistance. Also, to increase the range of motion, you can slide the ball towards the hips, and, to decrease the range of motion, you can slide the ball away from your hips. Adding one or all of these elements will provide further challenges and progression so that stagnation doesn’t occur.

Modified PNF Upper Trunk Pattern (8)

When the term PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) appears it usually refers to a type of stretching. Most people don’t realize that PNF is not just limited to stretching but also covers a wide variety of movement patterns. Although only two patterns have been shown the lifter, using a little creativity, can come up a bunch of upper trunk patterns that will challenge the abdominal musculature.

Flexion with Rotation to the right

This movement targets the external and internal obliques as well as the rectus abdominis.

In the starting position the upper trunk should be rotated to the right with the feet straight out on the ground. The feet should remain on the ground at all times. From there, a slow and steady ascent should occur with the body turning so that it is facing straight ahead. The body should then start to flex forward and rotate at the same time bringing the body to rotate to the right so that the end-position has the person rotated towards their right side. To increase the difficulty, have a partner kneel from behind and add resistance by placing their hands on the shoulders. Add just enough resistance so that the person who is performing this pattern can just overcome it and finish. Repeat until the quality of the movement deteriorates.

Extension with Rotation to the left

This movement targets the internal and external obliques as well as the rectus abdominis. Depending on how you perform this movement, the obliques will be emphasized to a greater degree.

Start with the arms, the trunk extended and the legs straight out. The person would then flex the trunk a little and rotate the body to the left ending up in a fully rotated position with arms extended to the left. As mentioned previously, increasing the level of difficulty can be accomplished by placing some pressure on the person’s shoulders.

Abdominal Program

Here’s an 8-week sample routine that can be incorporated into your program. The main goal each week is to increase some sort of variable that influences the lifter’s absolute strength. For example, the lifter can increase the weight used, or the time held in each position as a way of increasing the level of difficulty. The program should be placed at the beginning of your training week and should be done separate from your core lifts (squat, dead lift, military press). This minimizes the risk of injury.

Week 1

  • Modified PNF Trunk Patterns 4×6 (2 sets each for each movement)
  • Decline Static Holds 3×4 (hold each position for 4-6 seconds)
  • Weighted Stability Ball Holds 2×4 (hold each position for 4-6 seconds)

Rest periods: 4 minutes

Week 2

During this training week there will be two sessions where the abdominal musculature will be trained. Try to keep at least 72 hours in between training sessions.

  • Modified PNF Trunk Patterns 4×3 (2 sets each for each movement)
  • Decline Static Holds 3×1 (hold each position for 4-6 seconds)
  • Weighted Stability Ball Holds 2×2 (hold each position for 4-6 seconds)

Rest periods: 4 minutes

Week 3

  • Modified PNF Trunk Patterns 4×8 (2 sets each for each movement)
  • Decline Static Holds 3×5 (hold each position for 4-6 seconds)
  • Weighted Stability Ball Holds 2×5 (hold each position for 4-6 seconds)

Rest periods: 5 minutes

Take week 4 off and allow for some time to recuperate.

Then in Weeks 5-8, there will be a switch in the order of the exercises. The same rest periods will be incorporated.

Keeping the PNF, trunk patterns first switch the order of the decline static holds and the stability ball holds around. This way, there will be a fairly even balance between the strength gained in both of the exercises.

Finally, though I’ve merely scratched the surface, using different muscle actions and patterns other than traditional crunches and sit-ups will work wonders in the strength department as well as challenge all the muscles of the abdominal wall (13). If you want to keep your regular group of machine and abdominal devices, these will not serve you as well since you’re better off keeping the conventional crunch in the program instead (14). What needs to be kept in mind is that the abdominals need to be strengthened in conjunction with the other trunk muscles. Using the above program as a means of increasing the strength of the abdominal musculature will only result in increased lifts.

Greek gods/godesses and sculpted ancient statues aside, strong, eye-popping abdominals are impressive. Strict eating habits and abdominal strengthening will not only bring you this result but will give you more strength to squat, dead lift, power clean, and military press among other exercises.

Written by Maki Riddington

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Strong Abdominals discussion thread.

References

1.Katch, F. I., Clarkson, P. M., Kroll, W., & McBride, T. (1984). Effects of sit-up exercise training on adipose cell size and adiposity. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 55, 242-247

2. Siff, M.C. (2000) Facts and Fallacies of Fitness 4th edition. Supertraining Institute, Denver, CO, pg 108.

3. Hall, S. (1995) Basic Biomechanics. St Louis, James M. Smith, pg 267.

4. Marieb, E. (1992) Human Anatomy and Phisiology. Redwood City, CA: The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company Inc.

5. Cholewicki J, VanVliet JJ 4th. Relative contribution of trunk muscles to the stability of the lumbar spine during isometric exertions. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon) 2002 Feb; 17(2):99-105

6. Hodges PW, Richardson CA Inefficient muscular stabilization of the lumbar spine associated with low back pain. A motor control evaluation of transversus abdominis Spine 1996 Nov 15; 21(22):2640-50

7. Hodges PW, Richardson CA Altered trunk muscle recruitment in people with low back pain with upper limb movement at different speeds
Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1999 Sep;80(9):1005-12

8. Siff M.C. (2000) Supertraining 5th edition. Supertraining Institute, Denver, CO, pg 407.

9. Chek, P. (1995) Program Design Correspondence Course. Encinitas, CA, Paul Chek Seminars, pg 8.

10. Cafarelli, E. Isometric Exercise: Phisiology And Description [Online]. Department of Physical Education York University Toronto, Ontario Canada. Available from: Sportscience Journal Encyclopedia Drafts {Accessed April 15 2002}.

11. Thepaut-Mathieu C, Van Hoecke J, Maton B Myoelectrical and mechanical changes linked to length specificity during isometric training. J Appl Physiol 1988 Apr;64(4):1500-5

12. Vera-Garcia FJ, Grenier SG, McGill SM. (2000) Abdominal muscle response during curl-ups on both stable and labile surfaces.
Phys Ther. Jun;80(6):564-9.

13. Axler CT, McGill SM. (1999) Low back loads over a variety of abdominal exercises: searching for the safest abdominal challenge.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. Jun;29(6):804-11.

14. Demont RG, Lephart SM, Giraldo JL, Giannantonio FP, Yuktanandana P, Fu FH. (1999) Comparison of two abdominal training devices with an abdominal crunch using strength and EMG measurements. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. Sep;39(3):253-8.

Techniques for progress in the gym

First and foremost, I should make myself clear and tell you all reading this that it is an article for bodybuilding practise. Power lifters and Olympic lifters, while sharing the basic requirement of progression, go about their task(s) in different ways and to varying degrees. That is not to say that non-bodybuilders won’t benefit from this article, but for the most part, this is primarily focusing on those wishing to improve body composition and general aesthetics. It is also designed in regards to newer lifters, although I do hope that the more advanced can benefit in some way from it.

One of the things I see regularly in my gym are the lifters who are there each week religiously doing the same (excessive volume) workouts and using the same weights week in, week out. Y’know the types – the ones that never seem to grow (in some cases even when they decide they’re “hardgainers” and resort to steroids). All they have with them are their water bottles, their gloves, their straps (I saw someone using straps for preacher curls today, incidentally) and their weight belts. The latter being something they seem to wear no matter what body part(s) they are hitting that day. I’ve seen people get ready to bench but then breaking their focus because they forgot to put their belt on. It is really quite laughable. One thing I strongly believe they would benefit most from, as pitiful as it sounds is a small notepad and pen.

Albeit, this isn’t some fancy named brand of supplement that promises amazing gains in a very short period of time, but it is something that will aid you in the long run. If you keep track of every workout in one week, then you are left with a baseline. You now have something to improve upon. The following week you should try and lift more weight or the same weights with more reps. This is the basic principle of progressive overload. If you have a brilliant memory, then power to you, but I most certainly can’t recall every exact weight and reps achieved for every exercise I do. My training log has proved to be invaluable to me.

While strength increases aren’t the only way to gauge progression, they’re still a damn good one. But just because you didn’t progress on a certain lift doesn’t mean you’re not growing. In fact, it is very possible, albeit quite annoying to stay on the same weight and do the same amount of reps on an exercise for several weeks and still grow. There may be several reasons for the lack of progression. For instance, pre-fatigue may be hindering progression. If you do dips last in your routine, then they may very well not progress because of potential differences in your workout of previous exercises. For example, you may have opted to do an extra set on the bench, which has caused more fatigue in your pushing muscles than normal and has disrupted your usual dipping strength in sequence. This is not something to be worried about, providing your bench has progressed.

If you’ve stalled progression on all exercises, then there may be several factors causing this. Firstly, and this is going on the assumption that you’re in calorie surplus, because calorie deficit changes things (I’ll discuss later).

Are you resting enough?

Lack of sleep can be a progression killer. Just ask anyone, or try it yourself. Deprive yourself of a few hours sleep each night and see how your workouts go.

Are you eating quality calories?

Now, I realise a lot of people go along with “all calories are equal” but for me if I get all my calories from junk food my training suffers. Maybe you’re the same.

Are you training too much?

Overtraining isn’t something that suddenly hits you overnight. It’s something that happens gradually over a period of time. So if you start off with a 5 day a week split, you may make some great gains at first so to you, it’s flawless. Only after a few weeks you start to lack progression and possibly even start to regress. Some can get away with it for a considerable amount of time, but eventually it is something that will catch up with them and gains will slow and possibly cease. Generally, for the natural weight lifter, 4 days a week in the gym should be the maximum. Something I’m sure you’ve heard many a time before, but it still rings true; you grow outside of the gym, not in it. Volume can also be the difference between growth and regression. With volume too high, you stand to hinder progression. As with a lot of physiological processes, there is a bell-shaped curve under which growth lies in the area under the curve. Now, you can go lower volume, create sufficient muscular damage and grow at a steady pace, but too little and not grow much at all. Conversely, you can go overboard with volume and do too much muscular damage. The amount of damage necessary to create hypertrophy is still unknown, but at the end of the day, do too little or too much damage and you won’t induce hypertrophy (growth).

Is it time to switch up your exercise selection? If you’ve been doing the same exercises for an extended period of time without any further progression with all other variables in check, then maybe it is time to change your choice of exercises. You don’t need to change every exercise (unless boredom of your current routine is the limiting factor). It may surprise you how much difference a change in one exercise can make. For example, if you chest routine is currently barbell bench, dumbbell flyes and then weighted dips, switching to dumbell bench can be the world of difference and can spur on new progression. In fact, even changing up your rep range scheme can make a great difference. If you’re currently residing in the 8-12 rep range, then drop reps down to 4-8. Rep tempos are also a good shake up. Doing a much slower cadence and spending more time under tension (TUT) can be a great way to induce further progression without even changing up your exercises. But as mentioned before, boredom can affect you psychologically and thus, switching up exercises may spur on enthusiasm for training. As good as this sounds, however, switching up too much makes progression harder to assess so be conservative with change.

Now, while strength gains can be made without increasing muscle size, it’s an unlikely situation if you’re progressing each week not to be adding muscle. Your body adapts to a specific stimulus by ensuring that it’s better equipped for the possibility of it arising in the future. For example, a construction worker develops calluses on his hands because his body has realised and adapted for the heavy handling work that the man frequently performs. In the same way, if you stress your muscles by lifting a certain weight, your body repairs the muscle bigger and stronger for any potential future events. By lifting slightly more and more each week (or the same weight for more reps, inevitably leading to you being able to increase the weight) your body responds by growing bigger and stronger each week.

As mentioned earlier, calories can be the determining factor between progression and growth. I have yet to come across an individual who is hoping to merely ‘maintain’. Therefore, I have ignored anything other than ‘gaining’ and ‘cutting’. In case you’re unsure or can’t work it out, gaining involves calorie surplus (to gain weight) and cutting involves calorie deficit (to lose weight – preferably fat). If your priorities are to drop body fat, then progression on the weights is something that you shouldn’t expect to occur as frequently like with gaining. Without sufficient calories, your body’s ability for recovery is some what hampered, so don’t feel disheartened if you’re not adding reps or weight each week during a cutting phase. That’s not to say that you won’t still progress, because it’s very possible. Adding muscle in a calorie deficit is also very possible, but also quite unlikely. If you are on a cutting phase, the one thing you should hope for most is muscle maintenance. Don’t set your expectations too high and expect hypertrophy because anabolism and catabolism very rarely (if at all) occur at the same time in this regard.

Now progression in the gym is one gauge, but another is by how you look and also changes in bodyweight overtime (like I said, this focuses on looking pretty). For example, if your goal is to gain then weighing yourself regularly is a good idea. While once a week may not be absolutely necessary, at least every two weeks is still a good idea. If your strength is increasing in the gym, and you’re gaining weight at a steady pace then you’re more or less guaranteed to be growing. Weighing in every few days is actually a bad idea in my opinion. Water retention and fluctuations in intramuscular/liver glycogen storage can obscure weight and can be disillusioning. Also, believing that you’ve put on a lot of weight in such a short space of time or dropped a lot of weight rather quickly can be somewhat scary if you’re trying to gain and stay lean or trying to drop body fat while retaining as much muscle as possible.

If you decide that a weekly weigh-in is a good idea that you wish to adopt, be sure to try and keep variables as fixed as possible. Be sure to use the same scales, because different scales can be several pounds (lbs) out between them. Also, try and weigh yourself the same time of day every week. For me this is every Saturday morning upon awakening and after a bathroom visit. Again, as mentioned earlier, water and glycogen can affect weight so try your best to keep the time of day you weigh in static. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same time of day me, however. I know of one person who weighs in after training on Friday’s every week. The weight itself is really unimportant. What is important is how this figure changes by week to week. If you’re in a gaining phase, 0.5-1lb a week for the natural lifter is an ideal target. Anymore and you stand to gain more fat than you’d like. Although I’m sure 2lbs of muscle in one week is quite plausible, albeit unlikely. When cutting, weight loss of 0.5-2lbs is a good target. Anymore than 2lbs and you’re probably dropping muscle as well as fat.

So what if you’re gaining and you’ve not added any weight this week?

Well, since you’re aiming to at least add some weight each week, you need to re-evaluate your calorie plan. If you’re not, then do it. While not completely necessary for gaining, calorie counting is definitely a good idea if you want to try and keep body fat accumulation to a minimum. It is also extremely handy when you decide to cut, because it means more accurate assessments can be made during the cut about weight changes and how to deal with them.

If you’re trying to gain and you’re not being successful (and you’ve narrowed it down to a problem with your diet and not problems with training as discussed above) then simply add more calories to your daily consumption. Now you don’t need to suddenly add a huge amount of calories – simply upping your overall daily macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate and fat) ratios by 5 grams, protein, 5 grams carbohydrate (“carbs”) and 5 grams fat will yield an extra 595 calories! In fact, a mere 10g increase in protein or carbs alone will yield an extra 280 kcals a week which is probably enough to encourage a gain of 0.5lbs. This is of course assuming that you’re maintaining current weight. You may be in fact losing weight and so a larger increase in calories is required. Of course, this isn’t a problem – just add more protein, carbs or fat. But be a little conservative so you don’t suddenly increase calories too rapidly and encourage a sudden high gain in weigh, which will mostly likely be a higher percentage fat than muscle. Obviously, the same applies if your goal is to drop body fat, only manipulate calories in the opposite direction.

After reading this, you can continue training without logging your progression (in the gym and out of it) that is of course assuming you aren’t already doing so. If you do, then chances are that you’ll end up just like the guys in my gym, looking exactly the same week in week out and shifting the same weights week in week out. Alternatively, you can begin keeping tabs on key variables and start ensuring that they improve for the better. Combined, these tips will lead to a bigger, stronger and leaner you.

It’s your choice.

Written by Robert Clarke

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – Techniques for Progress discussion thread.