If you look in any muscle or fitness magazine, you'll see amazing physiques and unreal mass monsters.
Bodybuilders spend years and years of their lives perfecting their training and nutrition. While you may not be interested in competing in a bodybuilding competition, you definitely want those six-pack abs, boulder shoulders, and barn door back... Right?
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Phil Heath has won multiple bodybuilding shows, including being a 3-time Mr. Olympia. He's put in the hard work and dedication to build an award-winning physique. Let's check out a few tips that Heath has given us to get one step further in our fitness journey.
Train in Phases
If you're looking to build lean muscle and get stronger, chances are you aren't training in phases. By phases, I mean a strength phase, a conditioning phase, and a growth phase.
For the strength phase, you will be working in the 5-7 rep range. This is ideal for building strength and pushing your nervous system to the max.
This phase will last 4-6 weeks and you should perform 3 work sets per exercise.
Ideally, increase your work weight at 3-4 weeks. Focus on producing the most power and exploding through every rep.
The conditioning phase will have you working in the 12-15 rep range. Keep the rest between sets minimal, to allow your heart rate to stay elevated.
For this phase, you'll want to perform 3 work sets per exercise and do this phase for four weeks.
Your focus here is to keep the sweat pouring and the heart rate up. The better your conditioning is, the more power you can output.
Here is where you up the intensity and perform 8-12 reps. Perform 3-4 work sets per exercise and do this phase for 4 weeks as well.
Your main focus on this phase is squeezing every last bit of energy out into every rep. Treat these reps with respect and you'll grow.
Stay on Top of Cardio
Cardio has a bad rap because many complain how it burns muscle. Heath says, "Cardio won't kill your gains as much as you think, you'll see how much muscle you really have."
Staying on top of your cardio year-round means that you are in better shape, you are going to be leaner, and you are going to be able to produce much more work output. Running, hiking, or using a StepMill are great ways to burn fat and make your muscles more visible.
"Do cardio throughout the year at least three days a week for at least 30-40 minutes, whether it be first thing in the morning on an empty stomach or after a post-workout protein shake." says Heath.
Set yourself apart from the other bros and stay on top of your cardio.
Maintain Constant Tension When Lifting
Getting sloppy while throwing weights around does nothing for your body, only your ego. Take the time to get quality contractions with every rep if you really want to see progress.
"Constant tension should be applied to the last five reps of every working set, meaning, do the first 5-6 reps normal tempo, and the last few reps should be held for at least two seconds at the peak of the contraction,” says Heath. “This allows your muscles to have more time under tension and you work different muscle fibers."
Taking your time and making every rep count is the key to success.
Use Drop Sets
You've seen the articles on dropsets... Why haven't you used them yet? Implementing drop sets into your routine will allow you to push yourself further than if you were to only stick with a rep/set scheme.
“Dropsets overload the muscle with shorter rest periods and increasing volume which you need to grow,” says Heath. “That overload improves your body’s abilities to utilize more nutrients, natural growth hormone, and natural testosterone into those areas and makes the supplements you take more effective.”
Next time you are hitting some machines, throw the pin up to a lighter weight and rep it out until you cannot squeeze another rep out.
Dial in Your Diet
Dialing in your diet takes a lot of dedication. You need to write down what you currently eat in a food diary and calculate your calories that you consume daily. When starting a meal plan, it is easier to break your overall needs down into multiple meals.
For example, if you need to eat 3,000 calories per day, break those down into six meals. Each meal will be 500 calories.
Next, plan out your macronutrient ratio you would like to use. For example, a 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fats ratio is what Heath used when he first started bodybuilding.
Once you plan out everything, you can start shopping and cooking food. “You need to train your body to process food quickly, so eat every three hours.” says Heath.
Get Plenty of Protein
Getting 1.25 to 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight is the rule Heath used for growth. He says he never exceeds a 1:1 ratio of meals to protein shakes. This means if he drinks 3 shakes, he will have 3 meals.
Increasing your protein intake and decreasing your carbs help with looking and maintaining a lean look.
“Once I got to a certain size, I wanted to get leaner so I got to 50% protein, 30% carbs and 20% protein.” says Heath.
Take Progress Photos
Whether you like how your body looks or not, taking progress pictures allows you to see what works and what doesn't.
“Photos mean everything because if you can take them in the same areas and in the same poses, you’ll see your strengths and weaknesses clearly,” says Heath. “Revise your training and diet programs to eliminate weaknesses.” says Heath.
Taking care to write down everything that does and does not work is important to learning how your body works.
Wrapping It Up
Even if you aren't trying to become a professional bodybuilder, we can take their tips and get to the best version of ourselves quicker. Sure, weighing out food to the gram and needing to calculate your dietary needs sucks... But it's what separates the gym bros and the gym pros.