Gaining Muscular Bodyweight
by Anthony Ditillo
What I shall attempt to do in this article is outline for you underweight trainees a weight gaining routine I have used in the past, in the hopes that those of you who wish to gain muscular bodyweight will be enabled to do so. By far the most popular topic discussed in the gyms today (besides steroids) is the topic of bulking up and gaining weight. Also, if the many hundreds of letters I have been receiving from you fellows out there are any indication as to what you are interested in, then weight gaining and mass building are two topics of the utmost concern from a great number of you. Being a superheavy myself, not too long ago, I can appreciate the desire of many of you to become bigger and stronger. For a long time it was in my blood also, however, as I look back on it all now, there are some things I should have done but didn’t and there are many things I should not have done but DID! And it is these mistakes that I am trying to save your weight seekers out there from making: I am going to try to steer you away from the misconceptions which are all around you in the magazines today.
I feel that it is the appearance of today’s top powerlifters which have greatly increased this desire for mass and size among the average gym trainee. When you begin to realize that the men who are winning the physique contests are no longer massive in the true sense of the word, but lean and extremely cut up, then is should also become apparent that the men who are the top powerlifters today are most likely the role models most of us are trying to resemble. The majority of the successful lifters in the heavier classes are truly Herculean in appearance! No longer are these men merely big with smooth muscles covered with a thick layer of fat, for the keenness of competition requires that no top lifter allows himself to get sloppy and fat, since fat cannot move weight; fat cannot contract and the strongest lifter, more than likely, is the one with the most muscle.
So there you are reading an article on, let us say, a top ranking powerlifter in the 242 lb. class. You notice that he is bench pressing and squatting quite a bit of weight and you also notice that he has a large amount of muscle mass to show for his efforts. It is only human to try and copy this man’s training in order to try to emulate the physical appearance you see before you. And here is where most of you make a big mistake: You equate heavy competition lifts with the acquisition of massive muscle size ad the truth is, you are partly right and you are partly wrong. True, the basic movements are the best ones for adding bodyweight and size to the body and granted, the more weight you can handle in these movements the larger the muscles should be, but let us not forget that many times a lifter will incorporate STYLE and TECHNIQUE in order to handle his top poundages during competition, while in his training he will purposely ISOLATE the weaker muscle groups and work them doubly hard in order to instill in them additional growth. And it is THESE techniques which are so important to you. It makes no sense to do your squats in competition style with wraps if what you are really trying to do is to build the thighs. Why? Because today’s competition squat is really done mostly with hips, buttocks and lower back, and the frontal thigh muscles are used very little. Hence, to use this style will only build hips, buttocks and back and do little for the lower thigh, which is so impressive when developed. This also goes for the bench press and somewhat for the deadlift. If you specialize on just these three movements and use the competitive style of performance and couple this with a heavy diet, you WILL gain bodyweight and you WILL become larger, but you will not be as muscular looking as you could be if you changed the exercise style to a more strict, productive one. And before the end of this article I plan to outline just what I mean for you.
When attempting to gain muscular bodyweight we must take into consideration not only the correct choice of exercise movements and the proper exercise style but we also must deal with proper diet and proper rest and recuperation. Most of you who are familiar with my past writings know that I prefer and suggest a large training volume since I have been trained and coached by a European Olympic lifter and he has taught me a great deal about training without drugs, and the acquisition of muscle density and lifting proficiency WITHOUT increasing bodyweight. But here in this case, we are purposely trying to add to our physical size and bodily dimensions, so we cannot follow that same path. In the case of increasing muscular size – rest and recuperation are of the utmost importance. You must work the muscle correctly, adequately, and then rest in order to recuperate so that you can once again work them and work them HARD! This also necessitates that the diet must be watched carefully in order for the right amount of calories and muscle building substances to be present on a continuous basis for the body to feed upon during this time of intense physical stress. This means that you are going to have to eat a lot and eat WELL! You should not fill up on quart after quart of heavy protein drinks. This will only bloat you for the most part, put on excess weight which some of you will not really mind gaining if it adds to your overall body dimensions. But take it from someone who has been there – better to eat right and gain primarily useful, shapely muscle.
Just as it is a fallacy to overeat and overdrink in an attempt to gain muscle size, so too, a very high protein diet will not really fill the bill adequately either. The reasons why the top men will push protein at the expense of carbohydrates and fats are, first of all, they are actually training down for a contest during this period when most of the magazine articles are done on them, so the diet is not one for gaining weight but one for losing bodyfat. Also, let’s not forget that they are ingesting huge amounts of anabolic steroids and this allows the protein to be handled in such a way impossible under normal circumstances. What I would advise the weight gainer to do is to make sure his diet is WELL BALANCED. Base your daily food intake around fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, milk products and lean meats, eggs fish and fowl. I would also advise you to remember that the vegetables and fruits are just as important as the protein foods when it comes to proper body functioning and adequate muscular growth. You will also notice that with these basic food groups making the basis of your weight gaining diet, there is less chance of gaining much in the way of excess weight since we are dealing with foods which are wholesome and natural. While we are on the subject, I would not recommend much in the way of whole milk since this can become quite fattening to the body. It would be wiser to replace it with yogurt, cottage cheese and non-fat milk. Try to keep the meats rather lean and your egg consumption high as they are among the best sources of protein for weight gaining. The fruits and vegetables will give you a steady source of carbohydrates for training energy and they also supply the body with necessary fiber and vitamins and minerals.
As for how many meals per day and how many calories per day, I feel that this is an individual matter and each man must find and decide for himself what agrees with him and what does not. Some guys get by quite nicely on three meals per day while others prefer six smaller, more frequent meals. My advice is to experiment and to do whatever seems natural to you. As far as calories are concerned I would simply check a height/weight chart and add 1,000 calories to your daily requirements listed for your body type, to start with. Over time adjust accordingly depending on your results. This should add up to close to two pounds bodyweight per week. To try and gain any more than one or two pounds per week would require you to simply fatten yourself up and this is what we are trying to avoid. I would advise you to simply train the way I am going to outline your program for you here, and follow the well-rounded diet previously described and let you eyes be your guide as to how long to stay on the program. As long as you are staying shapely, getting bigger and stronger but not accumulating too much fat, continue on with your weight gaining aspirations.
We hit upon correct exercise style of gaining muscular bodyweight in the beginning of this article and what I shall do now is get into more detail as to the proper way to perform your movements for the best musclebuilding results. First of all, try to do your movements slowly. Do not thrust, jerk, swing or bounce the bar. Muscles are built by physical exertion, not gymnastic feats. Avoid exaggerated body positions, handgrips, foot spacing and excessive bridging, tossing and heaving, for these maneuvers may be alright on the lifting platform if you can get away with it in front of the judges, but they will NOT aid you in developing your muscular size. I know of one fellow who uses all these maneuvers in his benching and in his squatting. He NEVER does any of his movements slowly, strictly or NORMALLY. Everything he does is ugly to look at and painful to see. The result – he has very little in the way of muscular development to speak of and his powerlift total is around the same as it was six or seven years ago.
Don’t let this happen to you. Your exercise movements should be done right or not done at all. You are not training on this routine to become a powerlifter or Olympic lifter, your present goal is to become larger and stronger.
Use a medium grip on your bench press, or any press, for that matter. This will evenly distribute the load on the muscles being worked and a balanced development will result with less chance of injury to the joints. Don’t bounce the bar off the chest or thrust it off the ribs but perform the repetitions in a slow and controlled lowering and raising motion using the muscles strictly to lift the weight. Most of all, don’t lift the hips off the bench while benching, this will take the stress off the very muscles you are trying to build.
For the squat I advise you to once again use a medium foot spacing. Hold the bar high on the trapezius muscles. Don’t stick your butt out while lowering yourself into the bottom position. Keep your torso erect and lower slowly with control into the bottom position by allowing your knees to move FORWARD and OUT so that when you are in the low position your leg biceps are resting on your calves. This means your upper thigh is folded over your lower leg.
I don’t advise you to do bent over rows because although this movement is great for building muscle and strength, experience has shown me that the majority of you do it incorrectly with the result being a strained lower back. We can substitute the pullup with weight in its place and with the repetitions done slowly, the results should be good.
If you wish to include the deadlift, I recommend repetitions and using a semi-stiff legged style as this style works the glutes, hamstrings and lats quite well. Once again, remember not to jerk or thrust the weight up or injury will follow sooner or later.
The press behind neck is a fine deltoid developer as long as the repetitions are done slowly and the grip is medium width. If dumbbells are used for side lateral raises, just remember that swinging the weights up will not develop much. Use lighter dumbbells and do the movement correctly for best results.
Your arms should be worked quite well with the chin ups with weight since I advocate a palms facing you grip so that the biceps as well as the lats are strongly brought into play. I also recommend you include the parallel bar dip as this will add further stress to the entire upper body with a large amount of stress placed on the triceps. You may include a few shaping movements in your weight gaining program, such as barbell curls, flat bench flyes, lying triceps extensions, etc. Just remember to keep their sets rather low and repetitions rather high with the emphasis being placed on the major muscle group exercises. Also, remember to adhere to correct training style while using these lighter movements in order to gain as much and as fast as you can.
We now come to the actual training routines. I realize that some of you can train six days a week while others are forced to train only four days. Taking into consideration the amount of letters you size-seekers have been sending me, most of you can only train three days per week. You have jobs, schooling and families to look after. So I will outline a three day a week routine for you since you men make up the bulk of my readers.
Medium Grip Bench Press –1 set of 8-12 reps for a warmup then jump to 6 sets of 8 reps using heaviest weight possible.
Flat Bench Flyes – 3 sets of 6-8 reps using a medium heavy weight.
Press Behind Neck – 1 set of 8-12 reps for a warmup and 4 sets of 6-8 reps using a heavy weight.
Side Dumbbell Lateral – 3 sets of 8-12 reps using a medium heavy weight.
Parallel Squat – 1 set of 10 reps for a warmup, 6 sets of 6 reps using all the weight possible. 2 sets of 8-12 reps to cool down.
Stiff-legged Deadlift – 1 set of 8 reps for a warmup and 4 sets of 4-6 reps using a heavy weight.
45 Degree Incline Press – 1 set of 10 reps for a warmup and 6 sets of 6 reps using all the weight possible.
Alternate Dumbbell Press – 1 set of 10 reps using for a warmup and 4-6 sets of 8 reps with a medium heavy weight.
Shoulder Shrug – 1 set of 10 reps for a warmup and 6 sets of 6-8 reps using all the weight possible. 2 sets of 8-12 reps to cool down.
Parallel Squat – 1 set of 12 reps for a warmup. 3 sets of 10 reps working up to the heaviest weight possible on the final set.
Bench Press – follow the same routine as on Monday.
Parallel Bar Dip – 1 set with bodyweight for all reps possible. 6 sets of 6-8 reps using the heaviest weight possible.
Upright Rowing – 4 sets of 6-8 reps with a medium weight.
Weighted Pullups – 1 set with bodyweight for all reps possible. 6 sets of 6-8 reps using the heaviest weight possible.
Parallel Squat – 1 set of 10 reps for a warmup. 6 sets of 6-8 reps with a medium weight.
And there you have it. This routine is well rounded with the emphasis being placed on the larger muscle groups. The upper arms will be worked quite well without any direct arm work, but you could include 2 or 3 sets of curls should you wish to do so. This goes for triceps pushdowns also. Try and make whatever abdominal work you decide to do short and intense. Use weights for your situps so that the repetition scheme is around 10. Weighted side bends are also good. You can do these abdominal movements whenever the mood hits you, so to speak, at the gym or at home. This is why I didn’t list them for you on any particular training day. You have freedom of choice in this respect.
Remember what we have said about proper exercise style. You will get more out of using 20 or 30 lbs. less and doing the reps correctly than the fellow who cheats just to bounce up more weight. Keep the diet tight and well rounded. You will succeed if you work and rest adequately.