Yes they may be covered for the majority of the year, but that doesn't mean that they should be left out of your exercise routine. Squats and deadlifts work the entire body, and research has shown that they can activate the ab muscles far better than many traditional ab exercises, especially overhead squats. As you progressively train your lower body your core will become much stronger. Your core is required to stabilise your body in many other exercises, most sports, and day-to-day life, therefore your improvements in these areas should soar.
Your legs form the largest muscle group in the body and training with resistance weights will aid in the release of growth hormones. The benefit of stimulating a growth hormone response is important to bodybuilders and athletes as it has a positive effect on protein synthesis. It also promotes muscle growth and it affects the metabolic functions of your body in such a way that it can increase your use of stored fat while decreasing your use of carbohydrates for energy. So that's more muscle, less fat (therefore greater visibility of abs), greater strength, improvements in sport, and greater ability to do day to day activities...I still get puzzled when people say they never train legs...
For a bigger chest, train (not exclusively) on a slight incline, this will hit more of the upper part of the pectoral muscles which, when in a t-shirt, will give a much fuller appearance. Keep the incline to 30-45 degrees, as too much of an incline will bring more of the front delts into play, and take some of the strain off the pecs. At the top of the concentric phase of the lift, keep your elbows ever so slightly bent and don't lock out. Doing so also alleviates some of the tension placed on the chest.
Swap the barbell for dumbbells. Although barbells are easier for spotting, and great for negative reps, your hands are kept in a fixed position, which can limit the contraction on your pecs. Dumbbells will allow for a greater (wider) range of movement (ROM), and due to requiring more stabilisation, they can help even out weaknesses you may have between the right and left sides of the body. By increasing the ROM you are increasing the likelihood of more micro-tears in the muscle fibers. These will repair and become stronger. After a couple of weeks of using dumbbells, switch back to the barbell and you should feel a noticeable difference in your strength.
I see people doing 100's of bicep curls day in, day out, with the hope of getting bigger arms. And they get nowhere. Your biceps only fill up 1/3 of your t-shirt sleeve, with the other 2/3 being your triceps. Want big arms? Then you need to train your triceps too!
If you want to increase size, then you need to have the foundations of your program centered around compound movements. For the arms, this means close grip pull-ups, close grip bench press and dips. Reasoning is the same as the above point – when these large muscle groups are activated, a lot of growth hormones will be released. Very simply put, the more of them floating through your body, the greater the potential to grow, (growth is also dictated by a sound nutritional diet, so make sure you are taking in enough calories).
Then, by all means move onto isolation exercises – which should be performed using strict technique, aiming for 6-10 rep range, and don't train them more than twice a week. Also, don't do the same moves week in week out – your body needs to be continually challenged to induce growth, so mix up the exercises.
Personally speaking, late last year I focused loads on weighted pull-ups and dips and I hardly did any isolation movements. The result meant that when I eventually came round to changing my program, I noticed huge gains in strength with bicep and tricep exercises, and a noticeable difference in size.
Whether you've changed your program, introduced new moves, or are concentrating on the eccentric muscle contraction, DOMS are going to happen. That's a given! DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is commonly thought to be caused by microscopic tears in the muscles and the swelling associated with those tears. The pain kicks in 1-2 days following a workout (it can be sooner though), and rarely lasts more than 5 days. If it lasts over 7 days, go and see your GP.
The best methods I’ve found to deal with them are as follows:
Warm up: Make sure you perform a thorough warm up, which will also reduce your chance of injury! Increasing blood flow to muscles makes them more elastic, so they are more resistant to micro-tearing.
Stretching: Although studies show that stretching does not relieve the pain associated with DOMS, stretching the muscles when sore will help to build more elasticity in the new muscle fibers. Thorough yet gentle stretching of the muscle groups you've worked after each session is always a good idea, and make use of foam rollers if you access to them. Stretching will improve circulation to the given area, bringing nutrients to your cells and removing waste byproducts.
Supplementation/nutrition: Vitamin C and E are well known for their anti-oxidant properties and their ability to reduce the proliferation of free radicals. These are thought to be generated during the inflammatory response, which could potentially cause more damage to the affected muscle. Protein, EAA + BCAA and L-Glutamine will get to work repairing damaged muscle tissue – so consume your post workout shake as soon as your workout is over. It will assist the recovery process, but not necessarily reduce the recovery time.
Massages and Ibuprofen: If they are really bad, then a gentle massage and ibuprofen can help relieve the pain, but will not speed up your recovery time.
Yes there are lots of different supplements you can take, but all I'm going to cover here is protein, and the ideal times during the day that you should be consuming it. Whether dieting down or bulking up, protein should be consumed with each meal of the day. It is important to keep a constant supply of amino acids in the blood, so ideally you should be aiming to eat a meal every 2-3 hours. Just make sure your macro nutrient breakdown of each meal is linked into your goal. The result - if you are cutting or aiming to lose weight, this will keep your metabolism high. If you are bulking and looking to put on muscle, you will be providing your body with a constant supply of calories to help you grow.
Outside of those meals is when a protein shake can really be useful. As it is in liquid form it is fairly easy for your body to process quickly. So, if the budget will allow it, when are the most essential times of the day to be having a shake?
First thing in the morning: As you (hopefully) have been sleeping for a good 7-8 hours, and therefore technically fasting, a fast absorbing whey protein drink first thing in the morning will put a halt to your body's catabolic state.
Pre workout: 20g before a workout will ensure that your body is saturated with amino acids ready to start the repair process. Failing that, try to consume 8g of EAA (essential amino acids).
Post workout: 30 - 40g whey (or 50/50 split whey/casein) post workout will enable your muscles to begin repairing.
Before bed: As you will not be eating again for another 7-8 hours, consuming 45g micellar casein right before bed will keep your body drip-fed with amino acids while you sleep. Micellar casein forms a gel in your gut, slowing down the absorption process and keeping your body in an anabolic state for longer.
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