In Sickness and In Health: When to Give in to the Sniffles

MAN, AM I STUBBORN

I’m sure you could have guessed this just from reading a few of these blog posts. Indeed, that stubbornness extends farther than just in the gym. It’s hard for me to stay of the gym, whether it be soreness, injury, or even sickness.

When am I too sick to workout?
Yep, that’s me, stubborn to the bone!

With that being said, I truly push myself to be the best that I can be, in and out of the gym. So when I get sick, I don’t necessarily react the best way possible…

It’s Not That Big of a Deal

What am I, a sissy? It’s just a tickle in my throat. It’s not too bad.

I’m going to make this perfectly clear: I will not let sickness keep me away from my gains! Though I may have the sniffles, I’m still going to lift heavier than I’ve ever lifted before! Grow stronger than ever imaginable! Crush weights that try to stand in my way!

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Now It’s a Big Deal

Okay, now I’ve  become a sissy. Call me an ugly-duckling because I feel HORRIBLE.

When am I too sick to workout?
No lie, I’m a sissy when I’m sick.

I’m not sure how I got to this point, but now I can’t get out of bed. I’m truly amazed at how the sniffles turned into the full on flu. I couldn’t eat, could barely sleep, and was doing a better job at keeping things out more than in (sorry for the TMI).

So where did I go wrong? Why am is my body become a sess-pool of nasty.

 WHEN TO REST AND WHEN TO WORK

The key to knowing when to rest and when to work is leaning and listening to your body. Sure there are some situations when it’s acceptable to work out and exercise. However, there are more frequent situations when dealing with sickness when you cannot engage in exercise at all.

You should note however that in most situations, it is not okay to exercise due to the fact that your body does not concentrate on getting better, instead it focuses on repairing muscle tissue. Although there is no clear scientific explanation sickness and working out, let’s explore some situations when it’s okay to exercise.

*Note: I am not a doctor. I know how my body operates and which situations I can lift and when I cannot. With that being said, the rest of this blog should be considered advice from personal experience(s), and not actual certified/professional recommendations.

Situations When It’s Okay

Thomas Weidner, head of athletic training at Ball State University, believes a great way to know when it’s acceptable to exercise is to perform what’s called a neck checkWhen conducting a neck check, you to whether to exercise or not if your symptoms are above the neck. Such symptoms include: sneezing, sore throat, and runny nose. This conclusion can be taken from two different controversial studies where subjects were infected with the common cold. The subjects were in a controlled environment, and their symptoms were no worse (or better) for exercising while being sick. In fact, the group that exercised, versus the group that didn’t, reported feeling slightly better after exercising (possibly from endorphins).

So, if you’ve got a simple head cold, it’s generally acceptable to workout, just try not to push yourself past your limits.

Situations When It’s Not

This isn’t going to come as a surprise, but some key moments to realize when you’re way too sick to workout is by listening to your body. Such situations include: when you can’t keep food down, you have a fever, you’re contagious, and those are just to name a few. You’re body is obviously up-in-arms with sickness, and working out is definitely not going to help anything.

In times like these, you need to “lean” into your sickness. Accept that your sick, stay home, and rest up. Your body needs to focus on healing itself from its sickness, not repairing muscle tissue.

Always consult a doctor if you have any questions.

IN CONCLUSION

Should you workout while you’re sick? No. It’s just not smart and can do more harm than good. However, if you have some serious goals that you need to achieve, the sniffles aren’t going to cause you enough issues to worry about. Listen to your body, if lifting is going to cause you significant strain, then rest up. Always consult a doctor if you have any questions.

When am I too sick to workout?
Always ask a doctor if you’re concerned about your health.

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Advertisements

Running Away from Gains

JUST CALL ME SPEED!

Not to brag, but I’m pretty fast. Didn’t you see the title?

Can Running Cause Muscle Loss
Just call me speed!

You may have heard me mention several times that in my beginning days I was pretty into my running. Running wasn’t necessarily my goal, but it’s what I had always done when it came to working out. So I directly translated all of my previous experience of gym class and magazine articles into my workout regimen

I was running, sprinting, walking, and anything else I could do to get some extra cardio in. Late one night after a long run, I just happened to stroll upon an article on a weight lifting site. I didn’t see anything besides a clustered group of words, “Running Causes Muscle Loss”.

Running is Bad for Gains?

Now just wait one moment. Ever since gym class back in school we were told that running is a great way to stay in shape. Why else would they make us run just about every day (besides being cruel). And now you want to tell me that running is hindering my gains?

I’m so angry I could scream! Not to mention the fact that I had been running every single day since I started lifting. Back at that time, beginning-lifter-me was completely confused and shocked at this revelation. What now?

Where Do I go from Here?

No seriously, where do I go from here? If what I was doing was causing me issues since day 1, what should I do now?

I stopped running right then and there. I didn’t complete a fast paced walk, I didn’t run, I didn’t even sprint. In my mind, it definitely wasn’t worth losing muscle mass over sprinting. Turns out, that’s a bad idea when it comes to fat loss. They second I took out my cardio was the second I started putting on more fat than usual.

So what should I do?

DON’T PANIC

Can Running Cause Muscle Loss
Read the sign.

The key is to not panic and keep saying everything is going to be okay (because it is). Running isn’t a hindrance on any workout when performed correctly.

Can you put on muscle mass while running? Yes.

Can you lose muscle mass while running? Definitely yes.

First things first, you need to decide what your goal is going to be. Either A) to put on mass, or B) lean out fat (for this sake, we’re going to consider fat-loss and endurance running the same).

In regards to both, there are two key options to consider in regards to fat loss while maintaining muscle mass. Here are some great options:

For Muscle Gains

Take a look at a professional sprinter. These guys and gals are jacked to the core. They have legs of steel and big muscles even though they run as a professional. So how do they do it?

It has been proven that sprinting intensely actually increases muscle mass. The key to running and retaining muscle mass it to keep it at high intensity for a short amount of time. It takes time to be successful, but try spring “all-out” for 4-10 reps. You are going to feel tired at the end of each spring, but you can’t beat fats, all-out short sprints are the best for preserving/building muscle. Just do your best to spread out your cardio between your lifting, and you’re golden.

Can Running Cause Muscle Loss
Sprinters not only maintain, but gain muscle.

For Fat Loss

Looking at the other end of the spectrum, for fat loss you should be running more. However, if you’re looking to lose fat while maintaining muscle mass, you shouldn’t even be on the treadmill. In fact, you should be on the stationary bike.

Why the stationary bike? It’s been scientifically proven that running causes far more muscle loss than cycling. Due to the range of motion when it comes to cycling, a wide range of motion utilizing the knees and hips, strength and gains aren’t as easily impaired. So for fat loss while maintaining muscle, try to ride the cycle bike intensely for 20 minutes. This will help fat loss while maintaining muscle.

IN CONCLUSION

Running can be detrimental for gains. However, running can also be beneficial for muscle gains. The best way to go about running or cardio is to decide upon your goals and adjust your workouts accordingly. Add your cardio into your training regimen; just be sure to give yourself ample time between workouts to maximize benefits. What’s the best way to gain muscle and lose fat?

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

More or Less Protein for Muscle Gain?

CHICKEN, CHICKEN, AND MORE CHICKEN

Look at all that meat!

No literally, it’s a sight to behold. I had heard over and over again how protein was essential for growing muscles. Not only that, but images of body builders and professional athletes chowing down on steaks and chicken right after an intense gym session was the norm.

So what did I do? I bought pounds and pounds of chicken, ground beef, steaks, rice, and went to town!

More or Less Protein for Muscle Gain
Look at this little guy!

More Protein Means More Muscle, Right?

I mean, that’s been the consensus since the dawn of weight lifting. The more protein you eat, the more fuel your muscles have to grow. With the amount of protein I was eating, I should have looked like the Hulk’s older brother, Bulk (don’t laugh, I worked hard on that name).

Chickens feared me, beef ran to hide when I walked in the room, and don’t get me started on fish (jokes on you, I’m not a big fish eater).

Then Where are My Gains?

Oh where, oh where, have my massive-gains gone? Oh where, oh where could they be? (See what I did there).

But on a serious note, I was eating tons of protein and not turning into this muscular monster that I thought I would become. I was seriously cleaning out the local supermarket and wrecking shop on calories and my body. Why wasn’t I seeing any increased gains?

More or Less Protein for Muscle Gain
Totally not me, but isn’t that sad?

MORE ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER

You read that right. Chow down all you want, but more protein isn’t always better. There are a lot of components that go into muscle and strength gains when it comes to diet and exercise. Macro-nutrients such as fats, carbohydrates and proteins are highly important. Micro-nutrients that come into the picture.

So unfortunately, it isn’t just as simple as eating more protein to get more muscle gains. In fact, someone who is eating way more protein than their body need could actually be doing more harm than good.

Here’s how:

Top 3 Issues of Excess Protein

One problem is weight gain. Your body can only use so much protein, so when you eat it in excess then your body obviously can’t use it all. For example: If a person eats 100 grams of protein, the average human body can only utilize 50 grams out of that 100. That means your body will store around 200 extra calories as fat. Doing this on a daily basis can cause a lot of problems in the future.

Also, eating too much protein can cause reduced function in both the liver and brain. When someone takes in protein, their body produces ammonia. Normally the liver makes ammonia harmless. However, eating too much protein over a period of time can cause the liver to become overworked.

Lastly, many foods containing large amounts of protein, like meat, have lots of cholesterol. This means hardened arteries, which can turn into heart attack and stroke. Don’t get freaked out, this doesn’t mean eating too much protein is going to be serious, however proteins containing large amounts of cholesterol can definitely put you at risk.

So What’s the Proper Amount?

Good question, there are a lot of different opinions when it comes to protein. To grow effectively, the proper amount of protein needs to be in the minimalistic range of 0.5-0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Note, that’s just for the average male or female who is trying to maintain form.

If someone is performing some form of exercises on a regular basis, or is trying to lose fat/build muscle/become a Terminator (that’s me!), then the proper number is more around the 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight. But again, that’s just a minimum number.

If you’re truly trying to push yourself, to put on significant muscle mass the proper amount is between 1-1.3 grams per pound of body weight. That seems like a lot, and that’s because it is. It’s high, but that’s what the body needs to grow at the rate that you’re forcing it to. Honestly, anything above 1.3 grams per body weight the body can’t truly process.

More or Less Protein for Muscle Gain
That’s a lot of protein in one picture.

IN CONCLUSION

Do we need more protein to grow more muscles? Yes.

Is eating an excess amount of protein on a daily basis going to ensure us growth? Not necessarily.

The truth is, this blog is written based on an observation on an average human body and how it should react when pushed to stress and growth. In reality everybody is different and finding the proper number for anyone should be part of their workout process. Find the number that works best for you and go with it, however anything in excess can cause issues, so be careful!

And what do we say will always increase success?

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Is Time in the Gym Important?

I’VE BEEN HERE FOREVER!

Does Time Really Matter?
True story, I’m a drama queen.

Okay, I’m a drama queen (self-admitted). I was in the gym for around 40 minutes and had really been feeling the burn (burn baby burn!). After 40 minutes of pushing myself, I really thought I was getting a great workout!

In fact leaving the gym, the soreness alone was killing me. However, I felt accomplished and as if I had really done something great in the gym that day.

Walking into my home, I spoke to my roommate about my workout (yes, back in those days I had roommates). And do you know what he said?

“Dude, there’s no way you had a good workout! You were only there for 40 minutes!”

Hold Up

Wait a minute! 40 minutes may, or may not, seem like a decent amount of time for some people. If you’re in a amusement park and eating loads of candy, 40 minutes isn’t a long amount of time. If you’re crunching numbers for the tax breaks for a business, 40 minutes is an eternity.

To make a small story short, I thought 40 minutes was killer for a workout!

Who was this Heffalump (look up Winnie-the-Pooh) to tell me that 40 minutes wasn’t nearly enough for my workout?

I Really Pushed Myself

No really, I seriously pushed myself. When this story took place, I was still in college and had a two-hour timeframe to get my workout completed at the school gym, complete my homework, and get to class on time. That means, I had just about 45 minutes to an hour to get a great workout in before I had to get to class and cram before the professor walked in.

Does Time Really Matter?
Totally not me, but I did push myself!

What was so wrong in completing a workout within a short time frame? I had always thought if your muscles were sore afterwards, and if it was hard to write calculus notes during class (I was trying to be an engineer for a while) that your workout was great.

Instead, I’m being told that my workout wasn’t possibly going to work because I wasn’t working out LONG (time frame wise) enough.

Help?

DON’T CONCENTRATE ON TIME

Look here, Biscuit (I’m running out of nicknames, okay?) Time isn’t everything when it comes to a workout and it’s efficiency. Don’t get me wrong, if you walk into a gym and jump on a stair master for 5 minutes then walk out and eat a doughnut, then you may be doing something wrong.

However, walking into a gym and determining your success of failure based upon your time spent there is horrible! Here’s how.

Time Isn’t Everything

Here’s the deal, Buttercup (see how I didn’t call you Biscuit?) Time definitely is not everything when it comes to working out. In fact, plenty of bodybuilder advisors and bodybuilders themselves advise in quality of quantity. This in fact means that you should focus more on getting a beneficial workout over a long workout.

Plenty of people can walk into the gym, spend two hours working out/taking breaks/using the bathing/conversing with friends/blah blah blah, and think that they got a great workout. They’re wrong.

You’re workout success completely depends upon how you push yourself while you’re in the gym.

In All Honesty

The best way to get a great workout in the gym is to truly push yourself while in the gym. In full disclosure, I don’t spend less than 45 minutes in the gym. I have a short time frame to get the best I can out of my workout before I have to head to another engagement. I spend 30 minutes on some serious, concentrated weightlifting, and then 15 minutes on cardio.

That works great for me. I focus while I’m in the gym and get the absolute best amount of training I can within that time frame (depending on if I go back in to the gym later on in the day or not).

If you don’t think I’m telling the truth, I advise you to look at the Kris Gethin workout, DTP. This workout is tough, really tough. It’s so tough that it is my favorite workout to complete when I’m entering lean-out season. The purpose of the workout is to build lean-mean muscle while pushing yourself. The time frame for each workout: 45 minutes.

Does Time Really Matter?
Time and muscle are important, but don’t get them confused!

Is that a coincidence? I think not.

IN CONCLUSION

I’ve heard of people getting an insane workout within 20 minutes. I’ve also heard of people who say they can’t get a good workout unless they’re in the gym 2 hours. The benefit of your workout is most definitely not dependent upon how long you are in the gym. The benefit of your workout is definitely based upon how well you concentrate and push yourself while in that workout timeframe. The best way to get a great workout is to not spend a ton of time in the gym, but what you do with your time while you’re in the gym.

And how do we make sure we’re spending that time wisely?

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

How am I Not Losing Weight While Working Out?

LET’S GET SHREDDED!

Working out has been great!

The first few weeks that I had been working out have been going almost perfectly. After working through the injuries and setbacks, I was losing weight and getting toned more than I had my whole life. I thought nothing could stand in my way of reaching my goals!

Absolutely Unbelievable

Are you kidding me? I’ve been working out consistently for weeks on end and have completely plateau’d. No more weight is being shed from this body, and the scale is no longer my friend (but honestly, is it anybodies friend?).

What happened to my Terminator mindset? I’ve been pushing myself to my limits and yet it seems like I’ve completely ended my weight loss.

How I'm Lifting but Not Losing Weight
Isn’t it a shame?

But I’m Getting Stronger

So I’m not losing weight, but I’m getting stronger…

What the heck?!

My strength had increased on just about every lift. I was benching more, leg pressing more, and could curl more than my puny arms had ever been able to muster (which is a shocker, I know). In fact, not only was my strength getting better, but my muscle size was increasing. Everything was going at record pace and appeared to not be slowing down.

How does that nonsense work? I can get stronger while not losing weight? None of this makes sense!

HERE’S THE ISSUE

Unbeknownst to me, weight is not necessarily the best unit of measurement when it comes to progress. The measurement you choose to go by is completely dependent upon your goals.

For instance, if you are looking to trim fat and tone up, you would be looking at losing weight. If you are wanting to put on muscle mass, then obviously you would be looking to gain weight. At the same time, if you’re putting on muscle while trying to lose weight, it could make the numbers look quite confusing (isn’t lifting great?).

My issue was that my goal was to tone up and get healthier, but I didn’t equate that to whether or not I was going to lose weight. So how could I work out without losing weight? Truth is, there are several different reasons why losing weight can be an issue, a few of them may not be even on your radar.

Eating Less Can Be Your Downfall

You read that right. Eating less could actually cause you to cease losing weight. Even though everyone wants their body to be a temple, it’s more like a fine-tuned machine. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you need to eat a minuscule amount to lose weight. Even though that’s true to a point, if you eat too little and workout more, your metabolism can slow down or essentially cease to exist. It’s actually smarter to keep up a consistent diet while working out to keep the metabolism running smoothly.

How I'm Lifting but Not Losing Weight
Small portions aren’t necessarily the best options.

Your Cardio Game is Weak

Listen here boy scout, cardio is great but only if you increase your intensity. If you’re still running the same intervals and intensity that you were when you first started your training, you’re body is likely not responding the way you want it to be. The body adapts to your workout just like it adapts to its environment; if you don’t change your routine then you’ll slow down your progress. The best way to keep burning calories with cardio is to increase your intensity, always keep challenging yourself!

How I'm Lifting but Not Losing Weight
Always challenge yourself on the treadmill!

IN CONCLUSION

If you’ve gotten this far in your training program, congratulations! Everyone hits a plateau at some point in their training program, absolutely everyone. The best thing you can do is take a good look at what you’ve been doing to train and how you can adjust your program to reach your goals.

Don’t get discouraged and keep up the good work! Take this as a learning experience and grow from it!

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Rest is More than Recovery: How You’re Preventing Muscle Growth

I’M SORE, REALLY SORE

My lifting program was going great. I was 4 months into my new life change and everything was going great with both my diet and training. I was working out 7 days a week, constantly running and lifting up a storm. I was a mad-man working on becoming a Terminator! There was just one problem…

…I was sore, incredibly sore and tired. Not only that, but my muscles weren’t growing as quickly as I would have hoped. But did I care? No! I pushed myself harder to fight through the fatigue and soreness. If my muscles weren’t going to grow then I was going to force them to!

Rest is More than Recovery
So sore, so tired, so smelly!

But my biggest question was:

How Could This Be?

My body is a temple and I’m building it into a fortress! So why am I so sore? I assumed that my body would get used to the amount of strain that I was putting it through. My friends and my family supported me and said that I was looking leaner and were proud of my dedication. Though it was great to hear these words of affirmation, I still wanted to grow my muscle mass.

So with more reps, more weight, and more time in the gym I should grow more muscle right?

My Mistake…Again. I Was Wrong.

I was wrong again (I’m starting to see a pattern here). In my opinion, nothing is better than trying to improve your health and lifestyle with working out. However, constantly beating your body into a pulp 7 days a week is NOT the way to do it.

Here’s the science behind it all:

Training causes the brain to release molecules and other chemical signals to help repair injured muscles after training, that’s where muscle growth comes from. Though these signals are necessary, over training can cause an excess of these signals that can cause issues with training.

Excessive inflammation from over training can result in muscle fatigue, loss in muscle protein, loss of muscle mass, and reduced muscle function. Essentially, I’m getting leaner but preventing my muscles from growing. Really?! What am I supposed to do now?

REST AND RECOVERY INCREASES GROWTH

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to lifting and muscle growth is that the more you lift the more you grow. Though that is true in some ways, if you’re lifting too often it can actually hinder the growth of your muscles groups. Contrary to popular belief muscles actually go through their growth stage when we’re resting on our recovery days.

Rest is More than Recovery
Push yourself to rest for muscle growth!

To put it simply: rest and recovery and essential to muscle growth. That’s like putting a light at the end of the tunnel, whipped cream on apple pie, gravy on biscuits (I’m sorry, I’m Southern).

How Often Should I Rest?

The length and frequency of your rest and recovery days is completely dependent upon how intensely you workout during the week. If you’re training with a high intensity program, resting 3 days may be a great idea for you. If you’re working out moderately throughout the week rather than pushing your muscles excessively, then perhaps 1 to 2 days may be the best strategy.

The best way to figure it out is to listen to your body and ask a trainer. When I was training for an obstacle course race I would rest 2 days a week, likewise when I was on a strict bulking and strength training routine I would rest 3 days. Always ask yourself and professionals if you have any questions, no one should get injured while trying to improve themselves.

IN CONCLUSION

Rest is More than Recovery
Look at the sleeping puppy! Rest like that.

Building your body into the fortress that we want it to be is a daunting task. We may want to push ourselves to the limits over and over again just to reach our goals. However, pushing ourselves too hard can cause problems with our growth. Rest and recovery are just as important as your performance through training. Always set aside a couple days just to relax, regroup, and get in the right mindset for your next training session while allowing your muscles to recuperate and grow.

So, what should you do?

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Why Isn’t My Running Program Putting on Muscle? Help!

I’VE BEEN WORKING OUT…WHERE’S MY MUSCLES?

If you’ve read any of my Beginner’s Journey blog series (which THANK YOU by the way if you have) you would know that I started my serious training as a New Year’s resolution. No, this isn’t my tragic story of how I really screwed up my puny arms, this is 6 months in the future when I decided to truly work hard on my training.

Problem is, I still had no idea what I was doing (big shocker there).

Sure, I knew how to watch my food intake and what foods I needed to eat over the others. However, I didn’t know the essentials to building muscles. So what did I do?

I Ran…

…I ran a lot.

What can I say? That’s all I knew how to do! You don’t have to look up a “how-to” guide on how to get on a treadmill and not fall.

why is my running not putting on muscle
Totally not me…maybe…

The apartment complex that I was living at during this time had a rinky-dink treadmill that was perfect for a paper weight (You thought I was going to say running, huh? Jokes on you!) Though it was terrifying, it did great for a beginner like me. So in my trusty shorty-shorts (I feel like I’ve mentioned them in every story so far…) and beat up off-brand shoes, I ran to my heart’s content.

It was great, I was running consistently six nights a week really pushing myself to get better times. There was only one problem…

I Wasn’t Putting on Muscle

Don’t get me wrong, I was losing fat and my legs were getting toned. However, my goal wasn’t to be a marathon runner, it was to be the next Terminator (please don’t come after me for copyright infringement!). So why wasn’t my running routine putting on muscle for me? I mean, technically it should be putting on huge amounts of muscle since it’s working out…right?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, running is working out. In fact, running is perfect for your heart, legs, and lungs. At the same time, it’s not too good if you’re looking to put on pounds of lean mass and muscle. You see, when you’re running your body is utilizing its glycogen storage to help fuel your body. Too much running and you run through your storage. Sadly that means not as much muscle mass.

HOW DO I TURN THIS AROUND!

I wasn’t putting on muscle like I wanted to but I was getting leaner. All in all there were really no negative aspects of what was happening. But I wanted to get bigger by putting on muscle!

So I turned it around by hitting the weights (not with my fists, that would hurt and is counterproductive).

I started with simple circuit workouts, I was a beginner so I really just wanted to get my body used to the work rather than push it to the limits. I was doing everything from dumb bell chest workouts, to lat pulls for my back, to leg extensions for my quads.

why is my running not putting on muscle
Definitely me this time.

And How Did That Work Out For You?

It worked out great! Eventually I switched over to a better regulated workout plan instead of the circuit plan, but it was a great start to my muscle building!

I was shocked at the small amount of weight that I could lift in the beginning. For real, it was sad. At the same time, I was shocked at how quickly I was able to build upon my practices and habits to where I was lifting more weight and more reps during my workouts.

Not only that, but I was gaining muscle at a better pace than when I was running. Again it was a win-win situation, but changing my routine was definitely the right way to go.

IN CONCLUSION

Running is not meant to build muscle the way that I wanted to. Running is great for toning your legs, building on your cardiovascular health, and training your lung endurance. However, I wouldn’t trade running for a consistent amount of time before I actually switched over to a weight lifting program. From running I was able to shed a few pounds and see which parts of my muscles groups that I needed to work on the most. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t work on a running program before a lifting program.

In hindsight, it was great that I started running before lifting; it just wasn’t a part of the goals that I was looking for at the time. If you’re running into the same issues with your workout plan (no pun intended) try taking the heavy cardio out of your training, I assure you that you will see the difference.

You know what would have saved me lots of time and headache? This:

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

why is my running not putting on muscle
Next step, this barbell!

Why Are My Arms Not Growing? Can They Get Any Smaller?!

OH BIG ARMS, WHERE ARE THOU?

Have I ever mentioned that my arms used to be abnormally small? It was pitiful, I had the tatas that should have required a sports bra and the arms that a butterfly could crush (Now that’s a story for another time).

Twas a sad state that my arms were in, and people didn’t mind letting me know about it. But could I blame them? Society has determined that men have to have big arms (Because let’s face it, one day you’re going to have to lift a boulder to save a family of bunnies).

So what did I do? I became determined to get the biggest arms possible no matter what the cost! If anyone was going to save a family of bunnies, it was going to be me!

Why are my arms not growing?
Look at that bunny!

Time to Get Big Arms!

In case you didn’t read my earlier blog post about how I started my lifting journey (it was tragic), I had no clue how to get bigger arms (see that tragedy here). In my mind, getting big arms required two things:

  • A heavy dumb bell.
  • Lots and lots of reps.

So what did I do? I put on my trusty shorty-shorts (don’t judge me) and grabbed my 20lb dumb bell and went to work! And man, did I work!

I was blasting through reps, using every muscle I had, and grunting like a yeti in the Himalayas (they do exist)!

What I Did Wrong

Unbeknownst to me, I was trying to build arms in the worst possible way. By the worst way, I mean in the way that was going to not only cause me pain but also prevent my arms from growing. I didn’t do any preparation ahead of the workout, or research how to perform the lift, and it cause me a lot of pain.

Boy, was it intense pain.

My puny arms couldn’t take the intense amount of reps that I was trying to pull off, even if it was only 20lbs. My form looked as if I was trying to do the funky chicken instead of a bicep curl. The horrible form resulted in me getting wicked tendinitis in both my elbows, and my puny arms weren’t able to lift anything for a substantial period of time.

Why are my arms not growing?
Not a bad representation of my arms back then…

HERE’S HOW YOU REALLY BUILD ARMS

The secret to building arms is not in a high volume of reps, but low volume of reps with fantastic form. Here’s the thing, your arm muscles are not naturally large muscles covering a large area of your body. In fact, your biceps cover one-third of your arm, while your tricep covers two-thirds. For a muscle group that is this size, a high rep count is not the way to build.

If you work out a muscle group like your arms too much, you’re only hindering your repair and growth. That’s a big no-no when you’re trying to grow.

A great example for building arms is to practice your form and practice with a smaller weight. Also, you should concentrate more on your triceps than your biceps. Why? Look above: your triceps cover two-thirds of your arm. See how that makes a difference?

Arm Building Workout Example

Dumb Bell Bicep Curl

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

French Curl

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Hammer Curls

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Tricep Kick-Backs

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

T-Curls

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Tricep Press

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Keep in mind, everybody has their own way of building arms and knowledge of exercises that work best for them. However, this is a great example of lifting a small amount of reps with a moderate amount of weight and great form.

Use this motto when building arms: less is more!

IN CONCLUSION

I made a lot of mistakes when I first started my lifting journey. In fact, I didn’t know the proper way to lift and build my arms until a significant time had passed. Here’s what could have saved me: actually reaching out and trying to gain more knowledge on how to lift properly.

When it comes to your arms, less is more! Attack the right muscle fibers with the right consistency, without over working them, and you can build great arms in no time. So, to end this blog off in the Is This Lifting? way:

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Why are my arms not growing?
Get to it!

My Mistakes: I Couldn’t Lift Anything

MY STORY IS NOT A PRETTY ONE

I couldn’t lift anything…

No seriously, I couldn’t lift anything. It was actually pretty funny.

It was the summer of 2011, and I had just turned 19. I was determined to get stronger and riddled with muscles like all of those fancy male models. My goals were high and I had determination like no other. There was only one problem…

I had no idea how to reach my goal.

My Mistake

Here’s the deal, boy scout: raw determination means nothing if you don’t know what you’re doing. My stubbornness mixed with determination left me with the unwillingness to actually do any research to what it would take to get big and strong. I was 19, and all I wanted was to be eye candy for the ladies.

So with this new attitude on lifting, I decided to build my own workout plan and schedule (again, a no-no for a novice like me).

I had arms that could be snapped by a butterfly, and man-boobs that should have required a man-bra (maybe one day those will come into style). Naturally, I wanted to work on my arms the most to intrigue the ladies with the best gun show in the west! Armed with my shorts that were way short (I’m talking about some major knee cap game), spider man t-shirt (I needed his strength, okay…), and my headband (don’t ask), I started my workout process!

My Mistakes
The Shorts of Shortness…Thank your lucky stars you didn’t see me in these.

My Workout

I had a rinky-dink 20lb dumb bell that I found at a garage sale in high school. I’ve always held onto it, telling myself that I was going to use it someday to get big and strong. Now I was going to use it for my arms.

The 20lb dumb bell felt unnaturally heavy when trying to curl it (I told you my arms were puny), but I decided I would push through the pain no matter the cost! Here’s a breakdown of my routine:

  • Two Handed Curl – 100 reps
  • Right Handed Curl – 100 reps
  • Left Handed Curl – 100 reps

Now, if any of you reading this story know anything about lifting, you know this was a big mistake. When curling, or any exercise for that matter, extremely high-reps are definitely not the way to go. Trust me, I also had zero form to go with my zero knowledge of how to perform the lift. I was swinging my back, jerking my elbows, and slamming my arms more violently than a cocky rooster in a hen house (I apologize, I’m southern).

At the end of the workout I could barely lift my arms and couldn’t feel my elbows. Let me tell you, I felt accomplished and felt 20 times stronger than when I started.

My Mistakes
The Dumb Bell of Death…it was more intimidating back then.

The Aftermath

Lordy, I will tell you this was a whole new world of pain I had never felt before in my life!

The next morning when I woke up, not only could I not lift either of my arms, but my elbows were screaming louder than a pre-teen at a One Direction concert (they’re still the “in” thing right?).

My first thought was, “Am I dying?”

My second thought was, “Definitely. I’m definitely dying.”

In my stubbornness to actually read up on how to perform lifts or even plan a workout properly, I had completely neglected the fact that doing 300 reps with a 20lb dumb bell THE WRONG WAY would give me insane tendinitis in both of my elbows.

It was painful, awkward, and I had to try and explain to my boss why I dropped hot coffee on my lap my first morning at work. My tendinitis took a substantial amount of time to go away, causing me to wince in pain at the simplest of tasks.

IN CONCLUSION

Why do I mention this story to you? It’s simple, dear reader: I don’t want you to make the same mistake that I did.

I was stubborn, cocky, and didn’t have the right goals in mind in order to put together both a safe and beneficial workout. Instead, I grabbed my 20lb dumb bell and shorty-shorts, and went to town. All this did was put a bad taste in my mouth when it came to exercising, and turned me away from working out for a full 6 months.

Fast forward to now, and for the past two months I have been writing about the complete basics of lifting, body types, diet planning, and more. Never once did I fully go into detail about my workout horror story that turned me away from lifting. Not until a New Year’s resolution on 2012 did I actually return to the gym (after reading up on some how-to pamphlets). Four years since changing my mindset, it’s all been a great ride and I’m excited to see where my training will get me.

Now I have a new goal: to help those who are just beginning their workout journey to have a better understanding of lifting and training by informing them of best practices, dieting tips, and motivation. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did, I want you to succeed. If I can update my lifestyle from a shrimpy 19 year old guy who has string-bean arms and zero understanding to the lifter that I am now, anybody can do it.

That’s why at the end of every blog post I always leave my motto…

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

From Yours Truly
See you next time!