With summer approaching, many friends, relatives, and clients have been asking me about how they could get “jacked”, “ripped”, “shredded”, “swole”, and ready for the beach. Many of these questions include: “how often should I train?”, “how many reps should I do?”, “what kind of exercises should I be performing?”…etc. Therefore, I have decided to dedicate a series of blog posts to inform, educate, and guide you through the basics of bodybuilding, gaining muscles, and losing fat.
- Bodybuilding vs Functional Training
Many bodybuilders only train the “mirror” muscles or superficial muscles which contribute to aesthetics and can be seen in the mirror. Bodybuilders are familiar with muscles such as deltoids, pecs, glutes, quads, and biceps and triceps. Bodybuilders, however, tend to neglect the deep muscles (e.g. multifidus and erector spinae) that are responsible for stabilization and mobilization of the joints, as well as functional movements. This is understandable, as bodybuilders are not looking to enhance their muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, or speed, as long as they look good on stage.
Functional training, on the other hand, focuses on making the athlete (i.e. anyone who moves!) well-rounded by incorporating exercises which improve one’s performance in sports movements or daily activities. Functional training should be encouraged even for athletes who are aiming to build a highly aesthetic physique, and the reasoning is immediately clear. Last time I checked, the best bodybuilding exercises include the squat and bench press, which require strong and conditioned intrinsic muscles to be performed safely and effectively.
Also, what harm is there to actually be fit when you already look fit?
- Functional training can benefit your bodybuilding program in the long-run. Make sure to integrate them into your workouts.
- The Big Three: Exercise, Diet, and Sleep
It goes without saying that exercise and diet are important for bodybuilding. Weight training is essential to muscle hypertrophy, and cardiovascular training is paramount to fat loss. Consuming a nutritious meal with the appropriate macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) provides the muscles the necessary building blocks and fuels the body and the mind.
Sleep, however, is often overlooked. Both the quality and quantity of sleep are vital to bodybuilding success. Sleep enhances physical and emotional well-being, alertness, and athletic performance. Without a good sleep, you will feel groggy and irritable, and find it difficult to concentrate. As a result, you will not be able to lift as much weight during your training or keep up with the cardio demands when you are running on the treadmill. The importance of sleep goes beyond sports performance; it also has a tremendous biological effects on muscle growth and fat loss. The hGH (human growth hormone) is secreted during deep sleep, helping with muscle growth and recovery. Research also demonstrates that a poor sleeping pattern can decrease the body’s Basal Metabolic Rate (the rate we burn calories) by 35%. Finally, the cortisol (stress hormone) spike during sleep debt can also have negative implications on muscle growth and recovery). Many professional athletes get 8-9 hours of sleep, but sleep requirement varies from person to person.
- Exercise alone is not enough! Plan out your diet and adopt a good sleeping pattern if you are serious about getting jacked and ripped!
- Male & Female training differences
Without a doubt, it is much harder for women to build muscles. The muscle gain ratio is 1:10 (women: men), with women not being able to gain as much and as quickly as men. The two sexes metabolize and mobilize fat very differently as well, with women more likely to store fat in the lower body, and men more likely to gain fat in the abdominal area. This is due to a variety of biological and social factors, which will be explained in future blog posts.
However, regardless of the significant differences, the results of training and commitment should not be underestimated.
- It is harder for female athletes to build muscles, yet the result of dedicated training should not be underestimated.
- Bulking vs Cutting
In short, bulking is to gain mass and cutting is to lose body fat while minimizing the loss of muscle mass. Bulking phase emphasizes the building of muscles and increasing strength through (relatively) lower repetitions per set and a surplus of calorie intake. This is a stage where you want a net positive energy balance (eating more calories than you consume). Cutting, on the other hand, is to reduce the body weight while preserving muscle mass gained in the bulking phase by emphasizing on cardio or other fat burning exercises. Calorie intake is typically reduced and energy expenditure is maximized to create an energy deficit (burning more calories than you consume).
Bulking can further be divided into “dirty bulking” and “clean bulking.” In order to create the calorie surplus, athletes who dirty bulk essentially eat without carefully calculating and controlling the makeup (macronutrients, micronutrients…etc) of the diet. Conversely, clean bulking is when the athlete has a strict control of the ratio of the macronutrients (i.e. protein, lipids, and carbohydrates) and consumes healthy foods when creating a calorie surplus. Without a surprise, clean bulking is the more desired method of bulking. Aim to stay away from low-quality, heavily processed foods.
- Try to eat clean while bulking. Not only will you see more pleasant results, your body and health will also appreciate it.
That’s it for this blog! In the next post, I will talk about the weight sets and reps, important hormones for muscle building and fat loss, and a few highly effective exercises to get you started!
About the author:
Kevin Cheng is a personal trainer at Function Health Club and the fitness instructor for the Monday evening HIIT class. He is a BSc. Kinesiology graduate from McGill University, registered BCAK kinesiologist, certified ACSM personal trainer, and published researcher. Kevin specializes in strength & conditioning, functional training, and active rehabilitation.