Q: What do you feel is the most underestimated and overestimated portion of the muscle-growth equation?
A: By far the most underestimated and/or underemphasized aspect of the “muscle-growth equation” is proper attention to sleep and rest.
One of the biggest reasons that trainees fail to make the progress they desire is that they neglect their need for sleep. Going to the gym and performing highly intense workouts day after day acts only as the stimulus for gains in muscle size and strength, as well as decreases in bodyfat. Getting the right nutrition is also necessary so you have the building blocks to create new lean tissue. All of that will be meaningless, however, if you don’t give your body the time and opportunity to work the magical process.
Question: When does your body do 99 percent of its building and repair work? Answer: While you sleep. During sleep all other body processes slow down, and an intense recovery period takes place. The central nervous system gets the opportunity to slow down, along with the heart and digestive system, while your battered muscles and joints get a minivacation. It’s also during sleep that the muscles get to enjoy one of the biggest GH baths of the day, (and we all know how anabolic and lipolytic growth hormone is. In fact, studies have proven that lack of sleep can in and of itself make you both fatter and less muscular, as well as push cortisol levels through the roof. If you did not already know, cortisol equals less muscle and more bodyfat. My advice: Try to sleep at least seven to nine hours per night, and if you have time for a short midday nap, take it.
Now let’s jump into what has without a doubt become the most overemphasized and overestimated aspect of the muscle-growth equation: reliance on pills, powders and potions, a.k.a. supplements. People always want to know what to stack to get huge or ripped quickly or how to cycle this or that, and often virtual beginners are asking the questions. Are you kidding me? Why not ask about intelligent training programs, exercise selection, intensity techniques or food, nutrition and dietary strategies?
Supplements, while quite valuable to the serious lifter, make up at best perhaps 10 to 15 percent of the muscle-growth equation, and even less if your training and diet aren’t on point. Sorry, friends, there’s no substitute for plain old hard work, both in the gym and at the kitchen table. There are no magic bullets. The biggest irony here is that if you take a look at some of the best physiques from the 1930s to 1960s, before there were real supplements—or, yes, steroids—they would put to shame 99 percent of those we see in gyms right now. Check out photos of Steve Reeves, John Grimek, Clancy Ross, Vince Gironda, Reg Park and Bill Pearl, and you’ll see muscularity that the majority of serious lifters today would kill to have.
Now I want to touch a few related issues.
Overemphasized: The need to get stronger and stronger. While it is certainly important to try to lift heavier weights as you continue along, I believe many trainees get too caught up in poundage numbers and don’t attempt to progress or vary other important training components, like rep ranges, tempo, rest periods and intensity techniques.
Underemphasized: Exercise form. Too many trainees use poor form when they train—plain and simple. Stop worrying about moving more weight than everyone in your gym and instead focus on being the one with the most perfect technique.
Underemphasized: Dietary consistency. You can’t eat seven solid meals one day and eat only three the next. Not only do you have to take in the proper foods, but you have to do it every single day if you expect your training and supplements to pay any dividends.
Editor’s note: Eric Broser’s new DVD “Power/Rep Range/Shock Max-Mass Training System” is available at Home-Gym.com. His e-book, Power/Rep Range/Shock Workout, which includes complete printable workout templates and a big Q&A section, is available at X-Workouts.com.