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5 Steps for an Anabolic Winter

For late September, it's pretty warm right now in the UK. We're apparently having an "Indian Summer" I'm told. But in around two weeks time, we'll be back in familiar territory; freezing our assess off and using it as an excuse to get fat, all in the name of "Bulking".

If you followed our previous roundtable, you'll realise that I not only dissaprove of this conventional method of adding muscle but also remonstrate against. My explanation is quite simple: you spend far too much time cutting the excess off and losing muscle when you want to get in shape, and are also at a disadvantage for losing strength, and, well, looking like crap.

On a brighter note, I do have what I consider to be pretty useful advice for an "Anabolic Winter". It's the bodybuilders version of a "White Christmas", and it's a time when many of us are seriously trying to put some hard graft in the gym in return for new muscle tissue. Here are my solutions to make this a successful period of lean muscle mass accumulation, and not one of fat accumulation!

Step 1: Without Fuel, you're going nowhere - Up the calories

I can assure you I am not completely contradicting my synopsis to this article, rather I just wanted to take preemptive measures to make sure you weren't thinking of getting like a sumo wrestler between now and Christmas.

Regardless, to get big, you've gotta up your food intake. I'm a big proponent of "finding the middle ground" in between extremist theories, so when I say up the calories, I mean yes, starting eating more, but don't eat too much. What's a good amount to eat?

Here is an excellent formula that has been proven time and time again to yield successful results with limited fat gain if you can show good adherence to it.

For regular bodytypes looking for 1lb per week, multiply your bodyweight in lbs x 16 for a daily calorie target. I.e 200lb individual x 16 = 3,200kcals per day.

If you're a "hardgainer", or want to take a faster route to weight gain, multiplying your bodyweight in lbs x 18 will be a more suitable equation. This is your daily calorie target. hit it consistently, and you'll certainly add weight.

Some macronutrient tips: don't feat carbohydrates. They potentiate insulin which you should know by now is a very anabolic hormone. Make sure you're spiking insulin post-workout especially to help with recovery too. Insulin helps upregulate nutrients and enhances protein synthesis.

Quite frankly, you can't build a house without bricks and cement, and adding muscle is no different. Imagine food as cement (I'm sorry for this bizarre metaphor, I'm sure your recipies don't resemble anything as such), and training as bricks. When you train, you lay down a brick, and without cement, it can't be built upon. Both go hand in hand.

We outlined many excellent nutritional strategies in this roundtable: Staying Lean in Bulking Season, which I wholeheartedly recommend you read.

Step 2: Get Compound

And so we move on to those 'bricks' that sandwhich the cement.

When it comes to adding granite-like muscle, there's no better advice than to get big and basic, and that's exactly what compounds represent. You can scrap all your preconceived notions pertinent to isolation movements being a necessity, they aren't. At the very best, the may illict some mild hypertrophy and be good for general purposes, but nothing beats frequently hitting the big compound movements. Whoever you are, make sure these following movements are without fail included in your routine this Winter:

  • Squats (If you train legs): The unparalleled king of leg exercises. Keep the reps moderate (3-10), and the form correct. If you don't know how to squat properly or safely, I suggest learning to Box Squat (Youtube, folks).
  • Deadlifts: No explanation necessary. You are designed to lift heavy ass weight off the floor. It's mother nature's true test of manliness, so don't skip on the deadlifts. Keep the reps low. Higher reps on deadlifts are futile.
  • Bench Press: Doesn't matter whether you have it as an incline, decline or flat surface. Include a heavy barbell bench abbreviation.
  • Military Press: In addition to bench, you should be hitting the standing military press for superb core strength and overall upper body development.
  • Dips: They hit the chest, shoulders and triceps like no other. Do plenty of bodyweight dips or with weight attached if you're in good shoulder health.
  • Chins: I always get excited when talking about chin-ups so I'll try to contain my enthusiasm in this piece. Get them down. They're superb upper back builders.
  • Rows: I'm stretching this a bit but for along with chins, I can't think of an exercise I'd rather do for a big back. There's a brilliant carryover to bench press and overall mass.

Step 3: Get Progressive

Look around the gym and you'll see plenty of big guys. Most of them are stuck in an atrocious rut of frustration and over-emphasis on irrelevant factors. The main one? Not lifting progressively heavier weights. This is the paramount principle that we know builds muscle. Write your weights down (start a journal on our Forum), and aim to beat previous PB's over the course of weeks and months. It is the best indicator of not only strength, but muscle gain after a period of time too.

To build muscle, you have to provide a stimulus for the body to grow. This cannot be stressed enough: make sure you're following a sensible strucured regime that allows you to progressively add weight each session and build upon numbers after time. If you aren't growing, you're not A) Lifting heavier weights than previously, or B) Eating enough to support that stimulus. It's really that simple.

Step 4: Get Frequent

This may be a bit contentious but I couldn't care less. If you want to get good at a sport, a type of game, or even your career, do you practice once per week or multiple times per week? Muscle growth is a confusing area that I admittedly don't know all the answers to, but both myself and many other knowledgeable folks are now agreeing on the fact that a planned higher frequency is likely more beneficial to strength gains and muscle growth.

So, does this mean training a muscle group once per week is useless? Not entirely. You can still make great progress training a muscle group once per week. It's a complex issue that takes into account factors such as volume, intensity, etc, but my take home lesson for the majority of trainees is this: train a bodypart once every 4-5 days if you want greater growth in that area, likewise if your goal is strength (which as I have just explained, is correlative to muscle growth).

There's a ton of effective exercise protocol's that utilise this methodology.

Step 5: Show Adherence, Consistency and Patience

The reason for failure for most individuals is that they simply don't follow the plan, chop and change too frequently, lack consistency, and when you combine all these factors together, patience dwindles.

Look, get your act together and follow the simple advice. Start eating correctly every day, make this a lifestyle change, and get your ass to the gym and lift progressively heavier weights on the basic movements. It's that simple, and won't be detrimental to your life.

Step 5 is the conclusive take home message in this article - now go and apply the steps and get massive!

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