BODYBUILDERS SPEND YEARS and years of their lives focused on perfecting the human body through proper training and nutrition. You, on the other hand, might not have an interest in the sport of bodybuilding, but do want to know the secrets to six-pack abs, a wide back, and rounded shoulders. And what better place to score the tricks of the trade than from 3-time Mr. Olympia Phil Heath.
1. TRAIN IN PHASES
If your fitness goals are to get strong and build hard, visible muscle, then you’re going to want to train in three phases according to Heath. Strength, conditioning, and a blend of the two that works for you. “If you can get to the gym 4-5 days a week, that would be perfect,” he says. “You can still do chest/tri’s, back/bi’s, legs, shoulders, and make the fifth day a cleanup day, meaning focus on body parts you may be weaker in.” Check out Heath’s guide to finding your best muscle-building routine.
PHASE 1: STRENGTH
3 work sets per exercise
*Optional: increase weight at 3-4 weeks
PHASE 2: CARDIOVASCULAR CONDITIONING
3 work sets per exercise
PHASE 3: GROWTH
3-4 work sets per exercise
2. APPLY CONSTANT TENSION TO WEIGHTS
There are several ways to enhance the quality of a workout, and some changes can even be made during each rep. “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.” Hold the weight at the top for a maximum pump.
3. DO CARDIO YEAR-ROUND
Bodybuilders do cardio training such as running and using a StairMaster StepMill to burn fat and make their 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. “Cardio won’t kill your gains as much as you think, you’ll see how much muscle you really have.” Break a sweat to stay lean ’round the clock.
4. DROPSETS ARE KEY
Heath suggests incorporating dropsets into your training routine by immediately decreasing the weight and repping out again to failure. “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.” Heath’s favorite way to do dropsets is on a pin-loaded machine since it’s faster to switch weights.
5. ORGANIZE YOUR DIET
When it comes to finding the right meal plan, you have to start somewhere. Start with writing down what you eat in a food diary, calculate the calories you’re consuming daily (ex: 3,000 without protein shakes), and break those up into six meals (ex: 500 calories each), says Heath. Then, choose a macronutrient ratio. For example, the 40% protein, 40% carbs, 20% fat ratio is what Heath used to get bigger when he first started bodybuilding. “Buy a food scale, learn how to use it, and you may even have to learn to use the metric system, like grams instead of ounces,” Heath says. “You need to train your body to process food quickly, so eat every three hours.”
6. PROTEIN POWER
Heath says to consume 1.25-2 grams of protein per pound of body weight for growth and he never exceeds a 1:1 meals to protein shake ratio, meaning if he has 3 shakes, he’ll have 3 meals. He suggests if you’re going to drink protein shakes, drink two and have four meals. Also, increase your protein consumption and decrease carbs to look lean. “Once I got to a certain size, I wanted to get leaner so I got to 50% protein, 30% carbs and 20% protein.”
7. TAKE PROGRESS PHOTOS
The best way to know the real progress you’re making is by recording it on video or taking photos. “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.” Keep a file of your progress to see just how far you can take your fitness.