Question: How should I train if my goal is to get as big as I can as fast as I can, without using anabolic steroids?
Getting big is
lots of hard work
Answer: Your age, gender, training history, fitness level and previous injuries all will affect your exercise prescription. However, I can give some general guidelines for how to get big fast without using steroids.
To add muscle mass and gain strength and power, you'll have to train hard and heavy. Train with pyramid sets (descending reps, ascending weights), with your peak sets being in maximum overload (use a spotter).
Over a period of a few weeks reduce the number of overall reps and make the peak sets even heavier.
Train each muscle group twice a week, allowing for a 48-hour rest before training that same muscle group again; adequate recovery time is critical to muscle hypertrophy (growth). The only exception is the abdominals, which can be trained on consecutive days if you like. Divide your workouts into daily splits. For example:
Morning - legs and abs.
Evening - chest and triceps.
Morning - back and abs.
Evening - shoulders and biceps.
Take one day a week off from all activity. If you have a pool, lake, ocean, etc., available to you, go for a swim a couple of times per week. This will fully relax your hard-working muscles.
Cut dietary fat to about 10 to 15 percent of your total daily calories, and eat about 2.5 grams of protein per day for every kilogram (2.2 pounds.) of body weight.
Limit or even eliminate aerobic exercise. Endurance training does not create a physiological environment compatible with rapid muscle growth. If you have a lot of body fat, diet it off as you continue to train heavily.
Get plenty of sleep. The actual physiological process that increases the size and density of muscle fibers occurs during sleep.
Finally, stay away from all drugs and alcohol; both interfere with the body's effective use of oxygen.
Without using anabolics, you cannot expect to put on more than three pounds of muscle per month. After a while you'll plateau. (The time frame depends on your individual genetic potential.) From that point on, you can still add muscle, but at a much slower rate - approximately 1 percent to 3 percent of your lean body mass per year.
Please be aware that this exercise prescription does absolutely nothing to improve or even maintain cardiovascular fitness. It would be a shame to have worked so hard for such a "buff" body, only to be running to catch a bus and go into cardiac arrest.
Q: Sometimes when I do a barbell curl I feel a burning on the inside of my arms right at the elbow. Do you know what causes this and is there something I can do about it?
A: It is probably caused by overstretching the connective tissue under the strain of curling a heavy weight. Barbell work forces you to keep your palms facing up during the lowering phase of the lift. Switch to dumbbells and do twisting curls (rotating wrists in toward your body on the downward phase).
To avoid hyperextending your elbow joints, be sure to keep your elbows slightly flexed (bent) at the bottom of the movement.
Stephenie Karony is a certified health
and fitness instructor, a personal trainer and the author of
"Body Shaping with Free Weights." Send questions to her at
P.O. Box 262, Wailuku Hi. Her column appears on Wednesdays.