“How do I Get Bigger Arms?” First… Ignore much of the advice out there
“How do I Get Muscles without Lifting Weights?” Sort of like how you’d gain knowledge without learning anything

‘How to Make Bodybuilding Really Work for You’

I’d like to discuss the topic of “how to make bodybuilding” really work for you. In doing so, I’m going to not only talk about how to make muscles grow more consistently; I’ll also mention how to make bodybuilding a template for getting more out of life in other areas. That can be a pleasant and unexpected benefit of discovering the secret of how to make bodybuilding more effective.

The subject of “how to make bodybuilding really work” is one that’s near and dear to my heart. Its discovery for me was something borne out of terrible frustration. My younger days of bodybuilding workouts were comprised of paying enormous dues in time and effort for very little return. Muscle gains were barely forthcoming. I had to do something different. It was a matter of either becoming effective or dumping the hobby altogether.

Fortunately, I stuck with it long enough to make insights and breakthroughs. This revealed a piece of wisdom applicable to all areas of life; if we stick to something long enough while testing and responding to feedback, we can usually discover a formula for success. But this requires keeping a goal in the forefront of our minds and constantly tweaking our approach. We don’t get far by falling into a rut that, at best, maintains a status quo. IStock_000006822098XSmall

There’s a huge key distinction contained in those previous two sentences that is of paramount importance in ‘how to make bodybuilding’… or anything… really work for you. To gain muscle, or any worthwhile asset, we often need to apply as much effort in trial-and-error testing of feedback as we do to subsequently carrying out an effective routine. Too much emphasis is placed on “working hard” and “being consistent” at the expense of missing the obvious prerequisite: An effective formula with which hard work and consistency will manifest desired results.

It’s amazing how many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts will acknowledge this advice intellectually while balking at any suggestion to put it into practice. If you came to me and said:

Help… I’m working out hard and not gaining any muscle.

… And I responded by observing your hard work and consistency in the gym… and advised you to:

Back off… rest each muscle for two weeks instead of a week between workouts.

… Would you try it? You might. But many people would give it a shrugging consideration while thinking:

What? Nobody does that. That’s stupid. If I do that… my muscles will shrink.

But FEEDBACK is telling them to do something differently. It’s practically hitting them over the head with a ten-pound dumbbell. How come they don’t listen to individualized and custom feedback they’re getting from their own actions? Why don’t they acknowledge and adjust to that feedback? It’s as if they’re afraid they’re going to lose something they’re not gaining and might, in fact, already be losing.

‘How to Make Bodybuilding’ (and your mind) really Work for You

What is it with us humans that thwarts our willingness to step back and look at what we’re doing objectively instead of clinging to it emotionally? Is it the fear of loss being stronger than the desire for gain? Most people will try harder to prevent losing money than they will in learning to invest it effectively so that it works for them. Do we experience the same impulsive fear of loss when recoiling at the idea of adding more rest days to a workout routine?

Have you ever watched the TV show ‘Shark Tank or its earlier UK version, ‘Dragons Den?’ If so, you’re probably familiar with a common phenomenon on the show: An entrepreneur or inventor will hardheadedly cling to his or her doomed business model or product idea despite evidence presented by investors that it’s irreconcilably flawed. The entrepreneurs sometimes become so emotionally steadfast in defending their ideas that they nearly cry. This might appear as admirable devotion to some viewers, but it’s rarely the mentality of people who enjoy high levels of success. That’s because successful people analyze ideas/strategies rationally and back the resulting decided-upon actions with positive emotion. Those who don’t enjoy as much success are often acting on decisions they’ve arrived at emotionally – then defending those decisions (the bad ones) with even stronger emotion.

 

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Whether it’s building one’s body or building a business, it seems the more time and effort we’ve put into doing something a certain way, the more difficult it becomes to objectively concede that our way isn’t working and we need to change course. Sometimes, as with bodybuilding, it’s the fear of missing a perceived “opportunity cost”:

If I skip too many days of working out, I’ll miss a chance for my muscles to grow. After all, it’s the people not working out at all who have the smallest muscles.

This overly-simplified cause/effect thinking is what prevents many from discovering how to make bodybuilding really work. Muscles don’t get bigger directly from workouts – only indirectly. The workouts are actually causing tissue break-down; they’re catabolic – wreaking damage at a cellular level. It is only during rest between workouts that growth actually takes place. If the inter-workout rest is insufficient, catabolism outweighs anabolism and muscles stay the same size or even shrink.

That’s counterintuitive. The irony of it becomes even more pronounced by the sensation of a workout “muscle pump” – the feeling of which only reinforcing the erroneous notion that muscles get bigger from workouts. But the muscle pump is NOT muscle growth; it’s merely a temporary sensation created by trapped blood and glycogen. It’s quite possible (and common) to get a pump during every workout while not making any real muscle gaining progress.

“How to Make Bodybuilding”… and Other Things… Really Work for You

To make natural bodybuilding really effective, we need to have clear and concise goals for body improvement. That’s nothing new; we hear it a lot. We also hear it within just about every other life context.

It’s important but obviously not enough. We also need to pursue a goal with effective tactics that, collectively, compose a potent strategy for bringing that goal to fruition. But tactics and strategies can rarely remain fixed all the way to the achievement of a worthwhile goal; there are typically too many variables that can trip them up. This means that sensitivity to feedback, flexibility to change, and effectiveness-in-adjustment by the goal-seeker are absolute necessities in carrying out a strategy. It’s competency to do well within those three areas that creates a person’s ability to ‘execute’ on a challenging goal.

That competency might have more to do with emotional intelligence than any other. It’s the ability to dispassionately analyze relevant feedback and re-strategize while only learning from setbacks.

It’s a big key to success. And it’s one we can gain – with a nice physique as a bonus – from effective natural bodybuilding.

Comments

scott

Hey Glenn,

You're right! This is why monitoring feedback on paper is so important. You really can't know whether you're overtraining, under-training, or have the formula just right (with the particular movements you're doing) until you can see volume numbers in writing. Those numbers will tell you where to make adjustments until gains are maximally forthcoming.

I wouldn't do any running while trying to build leg mass. A brisk walk for fat-burning (coupled with calorie-cut)is as far as I'd go.

Glenn

Wow thanks for the quick reply. But even if one does not perform compound exercises there still lies the risk of overtraining certain muscle groups. If I perform flyes for my chest I would inevitably recruit some shoulder and bicep into the movement. And then a couple days later I would have to work my shoulders- directly this time. When training lats you can't get away from doing some form of pullup or pulldown and it works the bicep as well. And if I dont have access to cable machines I would have to train my triceps with free weights and do a close grip pressing movement which involves a bit of chest and shoulders as well.

Not to mention cardio's effect on legs. Running is akin to doing thousands of mini lunges and it could affect your squat workout the next day.

scott

Hi Glenn,

Thank you for visiting, reading, and posting this question.

Personally, I listened to and followed this conventional advice for years. I performed heavy free weight squats. I did all the free weight benching. I even followed the "breathing squats" regimen. That's the one in which you immediately follow 20-rep squat sets with dumbbell pull-overs under the notion that all that heavy breathing will expand the rib cage and provide the foundation for more mass.

Frankly, it didn't do much. I'd fortified my strong work ethic but was disappointed with the little muscle growth I'd obtained.

It's funny... a lot of the guys who advocate this stuff are admittedly not natural bodybuilders. A good many others don't body-build at all... but write about it extensively.

I won't say that free weights, heavy sets, and "big exercises" can't build mass; they most certainly can. What I've discovered, however, is that doing them is not the pivotal factor it's often made out to be.

Does doing big sets produce more testosterone? If so, does it produce enough more than is already produced to make a difference? Who knows. It's said that having sex more often produces higher testosterone. It's said that watching sporting events causes spikes in testosterone.

The thing I find striking is that nobody poses the obvious question: Why would a testosterone spike during a workout even matter? We're all constantly reminded by these same geniuses that it's recovery between workouts that produces muscle growth. So isn't that the time when higher testosterone would really be of help?

Interestingly, I've read that testosterone levels have been shown to drop for an hour or two right after an intense workout.

After years of frustration with conventional wisdom, I resolved that I would take everything the drug-using bodybuilders claim with a grain of salt. They are operating with a vastly different physiology than I am. Therefore, it makes sense for my training/recuperation to be vastly dissimilar to theirs in many ways.

It's been working. And the pivotal factors I employ don't include the one about "making sure to do BIG exercises."

I'd love to hear about your own experiences in these matters.

Scott

Glenn

What about some of the conventional advice preached as absolute key factors for success in natural bodybuilding? Advice such as "You must squat and deadlift" and " Curls don't produce big arms you must gain more overall mass in order to have bigger arms."

Do you believe in the so called spillover effect of anabolic hormones produced from leg training? Can someone who wants a muscular upper body train for one without factoring in the lower body? If a person conscientiously applies sufficient stimulus and recuperation to his biceps can they grow without gaining more mass overall?

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