With so much conflicting information being written and published throughout the web and dozens of different schools of certifications that house completely different philosophies, along with so much focus on special programs and diets, it is easy to lose sight of some of the most conventional, old school effective ways to change and build the body best.
Behind all the scientific words, jargon, and superlatives are some of the most forgotten, effective, and simple philosophies to get the best results. If you are going for a perfect figure or even just an overall improved physique, it is important to keep these in mind.
Here are the 3 simple steps to transform and build the body that have been lost and forgotten:
1. Build "The Frame" First. Your "frame" consists of how much width you have in your upper body in proportion to your limbs coupled with the amount of mass of your largest muscle groups, which are the back, chest, shoulders, and legs. Think of a painting canvas.
The first thing you want to do to create a great painting, or work of art, is to create "the big picture" first. You fill in the details later. Before you get to the details, however, you must first stretch the boundaries and create "the frame".
With the body, you build the frame first by really focusing in on training the largest muscle groups for "size" first. You have to add the mass before you focus on the details, including the abs, if you want to achieve a perfect physique.
You achieve this by doing a few things. First, you do mostly compound movements like bench press, pull ups, rows, squats, dead lifts, and military press. When doing them, you apply the "increasing pyramid" formula for weight to maximize fast twitch muscle fiber recruitment responsible for muscle mass and growth. Increase pyramid, as a reminder, is when you begin your first set with a certain weight that allows you to get 10 reps, and on the following sets you continue to increase the weight at certain increments (10-40 lbs. usually depending on the exercise), while the rep count naturally drops, ideally 8, 6, 4 respectively for sets 2, 3, and 4.
You concentrate very little on the smaller muscle groups, such as the arms, legs, and abs. When you do train these muscles, you throw them in AFTER you train the larger muscles and only do the power type movements for these. Some popular power movements for the limbs and smaller muscles include straight bar curls and preacher curls for biceps, close grip press and dips for triceps, and declined crunches for abdominals. These are the "mass builders" for smaller muscle groups that assist with "frame" and frame-building larger muscle group exercises.
Last but not least, you allow at least 3 days of rest for your larger muscles to recover, and in that period you consume a diet very high in protein and carbohydrates and not too shy in fat to assist in rapid growth and mass gains (you don't want to eat a lot of fat on purpose, but it doesn't hurt if you get a little or fair share of some red meat, salad dressing, eggs, or cheese in your frame building phase-still, try to let the fats be "good fats" like olive oil and peanut butter.) This frame building phase should last at least 3 months before moving on to the definition, or "sculpting", period.
Following this first step and approach, you should experience noticeable changes to your "shape", including increased mass, width, girth, and size. This phase must be completed first, before the sculpting period if you want to achieve a perfect physique.
2. Define, or "Sculpt", the Body Second. Next, once you've added your body mass and built your frame for several months by using compound movements and focusing on larger muscle groups when training, you can then move onto the sculpting and definition phase.
Obviously, some definition will be achieved during the frame building period, but this is the period where you really begin to chisel and maximally define and "detail" the body, very much like a sculptor who has carved out a frame of a statue and is now going to chisel it out into its' final form.
Here, you spend more time on single joint movements, combined with the main compound movements. These single joint movements include more dumbbell flyes, leg extensions, calf raises, cable pull downs, cable crossovers, dumbell curl variations, tricep presses, and ultimately a lot of "isolation" work.
It also should include some specialty training methods design to maximally rip up the muscle fibers, like drop sets, superset sames, 21s, and half rep whole reps. This is also where you can spend more time on the abs, in particular the lower abs and obliques.
Your diet here should change over to only lean protein and meats such as fish, chicken, and turkey, and healthy low glycemic carbs like green vegetables, brown rice, and yams. You can add optional no fat protein shakes as well for your protein needs. Essentially, you're cutting out your saturated fats and unnecessary high glycemic carbohydrates and red meats. When done correctly, you should have no to relatively no saturated fat in your diet and no "bad carbs": like potatoes, white bread, and white rice.
You will also increase your cardio and aerobic training here to aid in shedding more body fat. You should run, walk on an incline, or stair step here at least 4 days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. Sprints are also optional as an alternative. This period should last anywhere from 3-6 months.
3. "Maintain" Your Results. Now that you've sculpted your ultimate perfect physique, you don't just stop there and quit. Yet, you don't need to really get any bigger (unless your sport requires it).
So now your goal is to "maintain" your results and maybe even add extra detail to your physique, or bring any part that may have ended up "out of proportion" with any other body parts "up to par" (this is known as "spot training"). Some common weak spots of the body are the calves, chest, and back (for Arnold, it was the calves).
For maintenance, the goal is consistency with a nice mixture of "frame builders" combined with "sculpting" exercises. By setting a goal of working out/getting into the gym and hitting each muscle group once per week throughout a 3-5 day a week schedule, plus 30 minutes of moderate to intense cardio 4-5 days per week, you will maintain your new, chiseled, rock solid physique.
*Note: You may want to hit your large muscles or weak areas two times per week to keep them prioritized and "up to par".
Your diet should remain strict and you should still remain very aware of what you put in your body. Maybe start doing some extra research on foods to strengthen your commitment to nutrition and maintaining a perfect physique and great health for life.
By using this simple but often forgotten formula for creating the perfect body, you will do it right and save yourself lots of time, energy, and frustration by doing so. As always, work hard, and YOU WILL SEE THE RESULTS!
Watch the video for some additional "Pro" bodybuilding pointers!