“Success isn’t an overnight thing. It’s when every day you get a little better than the day before. It all adds up.” – The Rock
In quest for muscle growth, there is little that is more satisfying than putting on a t-shirt and having it feel tight against your chest. Or shoulders. Or arms. I think it’s the best way to know if the work you’re putting in is having success. Similar to the above quote, it won’t happen overnight. But if you do the little things day in, day out, like eat properly, rest properly and take the right supplements then lots of unnoticeable changes will take place. It is then, that there will be one day where you will wake up, put on a top or look in a mirror and think “woah! Is that me?!”
That feeling happened to me on day 20 of the Shortcut to Shred program. Still skinny? Yes. But as I put on my t-shirt while getting ready to hit the gym, it felt a lot tighter than it had done in the previous 19 days. My chest looked and felt broader and more defined. My arms filled the sleeves and my shoulders looked rounder. It was nice. For the first time, it felt as though building muscle and burning fat is possible at the same time.
Training – Muscle Growth
As with the previous week, the required weight and reps changed. During the strength building phase of the week (days 1-3), each exercise required a maximum of 5 reps per set. In terms of results, this rep range has the sole focus of building strength. Not a bad thing, as in order for muscle growth to happen, strength needs to improove as well. Not to mention the functional capabilities that full body strength brings as opposed to a perfectly sculpted bicep. Squats, deadlifts, benchpresses and rows. It was fascinating to experience how much stronger I felt doing these exercises. I was able to push through to failure in the required rep range on each set and left the gym feeling extremely satisfied.
Being a skinny fella growing up, not only was my physique a sad excuse but my base strength was horrendous. I remember being a member of the Beavers (a Scout group for younger kids) and for some reason, we had to lift a medicine ball. Everyone lifted it to at least their chest. Despite being the oldest kid there, I got it an inch off the floor. Even now, nearly 30 years on I still feel embarrassed by that. Specific strength training is no bad thing for the skinny, regardless of aesthetics.
The lighter weight, higher-rep isolation phase of the week saw each set of each exercise aimed at reaching failure at 30 reps. Ask any conventional gym-goer and they will tell you that this is a bad idea if you want to build size. However, there is enough research out there to confirm that this is nonsense. A 2008 study tested a group over 12 weeks who performed 10 sets of 36 reps for every exercise over tht period. By the end, they showed a 2.5% increase in muscle growth. Well known bodybuilder Kris Gethin utilises both low and high reps in his DTP (dramatic transformation princlple) training program. After completing Gethin’s 12 week muscle builder, the pump and improvements I saw in the last 6 weeks, which were solely DTP based, were incredible.
It must be noted, that by doing this training, I recommend reaching failure at the target number of reps. I have made the mistake of picking a weight too light before, and still felt as though I could go another 10-15 reps. Pointless. I had to use the rest-pause principle, as well as drop sets (dropping the weight if you reach failure early in order to reach the required amount of reps) to make sure that I reached the 30 reps asked for. The pump I felt in my muscles upon leaving the gym was glorious. This added growth disappears within the hour. After all, it happens due to blood flowing to the area being worked. Still, seeing what you will look like when more jacked up is very beneficial to motivation levels.
I introduced isolations at the end of each set. These lasted for 10 seconds before going into cardio acceleration. An isolation is a contraction of the muscle worked on to pump more blood into it. The idea is that it allows the deep fascia to stretch even further, which can also be done with stretching in between sets. In laypersons terms, the fascia is a connective tissue, in the form of webbing, that covers the muscles. With the deep fascia being quite tight, stretching it, whether through a static stretch or squueze, increases it’s elasticity, which in turn gives more room to encourage muscle growth.
Training – Fat Burning
Thankfully, I was back to absolutely killing cardio acceleration this week. I decided to use my rest day in week 2 for some active rest, so I went for a 30 minute run. I have no idea why, but my knee felt much better from the Monday onwards. There was still some minor discomfort, but this was to be expected. After all, the week involved 126 minutes of high intensity goblet squats, kettlebell swings, bench step ups and jump rope to name a few cardio acceleration activities. That’s a lot of movement!
After my hangover ridden performance at the start of week 2, I came into the week feeling I had a point to prove. From the warm up set on each day, I started at an inensity that was harder than the previous week suggested I could go at. Naturally, this led to slowing down after 30 minutes of activity. However, I did manage to go longer than 60 seconds without looking at the time on numerous occasions. This means my cardio capacity is increasing, allowing me to take absorb oxygen easier and stay focused for longer. The benefit of this regarding muscle growth means that I can push harder on the higher rep sets. Bigger muscle groups in particular require a higher oxygen intake when lifting.
Diet & Supplements
The food plan remained as week 2. As of next week, I’ll be surviving pretty much on meat and veg and with only 3 weeks left, I’m excited to see how much of an impact this will have. However, I did make a couple of changes. Firstly, I switched brown rice for quinoa. I wanted less of a carb intake and some additional protein and felt that this was a good switch to do that.
Secondly, I upped the supplements I am taking. The Shortcut to Shred program recommends THREE fat burners. These are L-Carinitine, Green Tea extract and Caffiene tablets. Up until late in week 3, I was using only L-Carnitine. Having some stubborn lower belly fat that has been with me as a long as I can remember, plus a set of love handles, I have no doubt these will be the hardest things to lose. Sadly, for men at least, this is where the most fat cells are in our body. As a result, I want to give myself every reason to torch as much fat as possible and decided to invest in Green Tea and Caffiene as well.
Current Weight – 169lbs
Current Bodyfat – 17.5% (down 1.5%)
My bodyfat has continued to go down. Comparing the mid-section to last week, it’s very visible as well. Surprisingly my weight has stayed the same. This is no bad thing as a skinny fella and leads me to believe muscle growth is happening.
- Stretch and squeeze the target muscle group in between sets. This may mean looking like a bit of a plonker as you flex your biceps in the gym, but it will help stretch the deep fascia and promote additional muscle growth.
- If in doubt, go heavy. It’s important to reach failure when aiming for a target amount of reps to stimulate the muscles enough to repair them bigger. Drop sets can always be used if you struggle to reach the target number.
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