Why do you work out? Are you one of those man-mountains who shaves his body, wears his hair in a flat-top and regards his kidney belt as an essential fashion accessory?
Maybe you just keep your body in shape for some weekend mountain biking and like to look good with your shirt off. Either way, you either have or are likely to hit some sort of plateau in your training. You’ll work out and your muscles will seem to get harder, but not bigger. Don’t fret., it can be overcome.
Here are a few tips on getting through this frustrating phase.
Don’t look too closely: Avoid getting too obsessed about the fact that you’re not yet a man-mountain. Don’t catastrophise – an unwieldy American-ism that works well – about it. Rather bear in mind that you’re doing the right thing by plugging away at your workout regime rather than sacking out in front of the TV with a case of beer and six bags of crisps. Spare yourself the narcissism and keep working at your workout.
Get a partner: You’re less likely to get depressed if you have a buddy who works out with you.
Feed yourself: When you finish working out, eat some carbohydrates and protein. Your muscles have held up their end and need a reward.
Take a break: Many guys are inveterate A-type personalities, goal-driven types that don’t ask or give a quarter, especially where their own bodies are concerned. Yes, working out takes effort, but if you become too preoccupied with it you can risk over-training. Your body needs at least a day to recover after a punishing session on the bench. You needn’t be completely sedentary, though. You can take a jog, bike ride, a brisk walk or a swim – great for tired muscles.
Alternate weights and cardio: Some personal trainers believe that pairing weight training and cardio training cancels out the benefits of the two. There’s logical reasoning here. As you hit the standing bike or treadmill, your body burns kilojoules. When it runs out, it plunders energy from your muscles, inhibiting their growth. Remember that there’s no such thing as “turning fat into muscle”. You can lose weight, then build and expose muscle, but they’re made from different stuff.
Dupe your muscles: Try this move to increase the weight you bench-press by about a quarter. You’ll need a spotter. Hold the heaviest weight you can handle just a few inches from your chest. It should be so heavy that you can only press it a couple of times at the most. But don’t press it, just hold it for about 15 seconds. Replace the weight and rest for two minutes. Now lie back down on the bench and press the same weight. See whether you can do 10 reps. Rest for four minutes and do it again. Sound odd? It works.
You probably know that your muscles have two kinds of fibre, called slow-twitch and fast-twitch. The slow-twitch ones are used for low-intensity activity like jogging and walking. The fast-twitch ones enable you to lift heavy loads. Holding the heavy weight for 15 seconds activates the fast-twitch muscles. Simple.
(William Smook, Helath24, updated July 2012)
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