Arguably, the reason why many needed to see me in the first place was due to poor training habits (coupled with too much time spent in a chair). They’ll also use external apparatus to stabilize movements for the sake of muscle isolation and “extra focus on the muscle fibers.” These training habits eventually rewire the nervous system to forget how to activate the stabilizers it was born with and effectively make the everyday bodybuilder prone to injury and, in the long run, substantially less capable at life.
Training for functional mass involves protocols that build nice big Hollywood muscles while also making the body more useful at real life tasks and less prone to back, shoulder and knee injuries. Their muscles are rock hard when activated, but unlike powerlifters and bodybuilders, they have the ability to switch off when not in use and are not short and chronically tight.
If the goal is functional mass, arguably the best training modality would be Olympic lifting with a mix of calisthenics. O-lifting is a long and highly rewarding path, for those who possess the movement ability.
Stand, kneel, lunge, hang, loco mote or sit or lay on the floor Never use a bench, chair, pad, fixed resistance machine or anything to help stabilize movement or isolate target muscle groups.
Smashing the muscle fibers to destruction, so they’ll grow back bigger and stronger is absolutely achievable using the stabilizers you were born with. I think that avoiding the use of external apparatus for help with stability is the most important rule that should be applied to all training, no matter the goal.
Replace it with squat ‘n’ pull, hinge ‘n’ push, loco mote ‘n’ resist rotation, say. Don’t go the gym and further train yourself to flex into the shape of a cashew nut (biceps, chest and superficial abs).
It promotes feelings of depression and weakness and arguably brings you closer to the grave. Be more superhero and train extension, with dead lifts, pull-ups, push-ups×, squats, cleans, military press* and loaded carries.
*A skilled practitioner presses from their lats while radiating tension throughout the midsection with their glutes. For mass training, two kettle bells always beats one because this increases the work volume.
When I’m programming for my remote clients, any given functional mass session only lasts 40-55 minutes. Given that the first 15-20 minutes of that is spent on joint mobility, this leaves a short window for the main workout component.
Ballistics involve kettebells being swung through two-planes of motion (swings, cleans and snatches). For goals such as losing weight or improving conditioning, ballistics should outweigh grinds.
Since the golden years of bodybuilding in the ‘70s, it’s been known that the more time the muscles spend under tension, the better for hypertrophy. I served in the Royal Marines Commandos with a dude who had a better body than Captain America.
He only ever did thousands of really light reps and isometric holds with resistance bands and baby dumbbells. We may have admired his physical appearance, but we relished in the fact that he was weak and sub-par as an operational Commando.
His dead lift was pathetic, he couldn’t outrun a hedgehog, let alone run a heavy backpack over a mountain, he often had lower back pain, and he couldn’t reach his magazine pouches because his big, useless muscles were in the way. Through my years of training I know that loaded jump squats are a very reliable ingredient for developing legs like tree trunks.
But crippling injuries also usually come as a complimentary extra for those who can’t deep squat slowly without load. If someone can sit in a deep squat position for over 4 minutes, they qualify for adding load.
Then after some months, adding explosive speed will induce miracle muscle growth. This is an age-old ingredient for muscle mass because it optimizes hormone release and facilitates the highest possible volume.
Strength is tension… How much full body tension you’re able to produce reflects your ability to apply force. More relaxed, loose muscles = better blood flow, faster recovery, less chronic tension and related injuries.
But if the goal is looking like a Marvel superhero in the shorter term, without breaking the first two (and most important) of these golden rules, training to failure in some lifts for 2-3 months won’t do any harm. But if you want to put on some muscle mass in a short space of time without cocking up your hormone balance by taking vitamin-S (anabolic steroids), train to failure and grow some sarcoplasmic muscle mass.
A great way to deplete the glycogen stores within the muscles and leave your arms or legs feeling like they might drop off. Many uneducated or inexperienced trainers think it’s their mission to create delayed onset muscle soreness (Does) for their paying clients after every session.
Regular, weekly Does creates excessive muscle toxicity, which has a plethora of negative side effects and cripples good movement. Soles Does in unavoidable for people who’ve been wearing foot coffins (shoes) all their lives and want to learn to run properly.
Does in all major muscle groups is expected for the first couple of weeks of any good hypertrophy program. A fire needs three components to exist: fuel, oxygen and heat.
Do you wake up naturally and feel like moving first thing in the morning most days of the week? If all the muscle chasers I know put half the energy and discipline into planning and executing their rest as they do their workouts, they would be bigger.
Every session should begin with 20 minutes of joint mobility and muscle activation, relative to your individual movement needs and injury history. Then take a week off and try another functional mass program to change the stimulus.
Due to a few trainers in the world, kettle bells have been exclusively associated with cardio and should be no heavier than 15 pounds. It doesn’t matter if it’s your body weight, a barbell, dumbbells, or kettle bells as long as there is a progression of lifting heavy weights often; your body will adapt by getting stronger.
You’re not going to grow unless you increase the time in which your muscles are being stimulated (and I’m not talking about a massage). Muscular growth is triggered by this, but won’t happen unless the next two pieces of the puzzle are in place.
Sure you can build muscle with thousands of calories of burgers and fries, but quality should always come first. The “right now” dictates that it’s not vitally important where the calories come from in terms of protein, fat, and carbs, but the long-term scope of your health should be your main driving force.
Rest is free, relatively easy to get, and is infinitely helpful at building your body. Your body goes hard to work at repairing and adapting to everything you did during your session to make sure you come back stronger tomorrow to handle whatever life throws at you.
When it comes to kettle bell exercises, few movements build muscle like the Double Clean & Press. With a combination of a hinge, pull, and press movement, you hit multiple, large muscle groups that will illicit growth (provided it’s the right amount of stimulus).
The Double Clean & Press can be manipulated in a number of ways during your training session to build your body such as, supersets combined with pull ups, ladders, timed sets, and more. Take the Double Kettle bell Front Squat for example; not only are you fighting the movement with your legs to get yourself back to standing after a nice deep squat, you’re also fighting the weights as they try to go in two separate directions.
The problem with kettle bells is that most movements don’t hit the horizontal push pattern; enter the Floor Press! My favorite variation as it keeps the time under tension a bit greater is the Seesaw Press.
Lie back flat and bring up both weights into a locked out position. Reverse the motion in a controlled manner so the kettle bells always meet in the middle.
Bonus tip: I like to elevate my hips to hit different parts of my chest and shoulders and incorporate the lower body into the exercise as well. Similar to the Seesaw Floor Press in that the kettle bells meet in the middle during a fluid motion, the Seesaw Row keeps the tension on the back (from lower to upper and everything in between), shoulders, biceps, and core.
The added benefit of this movement is that you’re in a constant (slight) hinge to stay in a position which taxes the glutes and quads. Double snatches build big, strong shoulders and backs.
Look at Olympic lifters and tell me that lifting heavy things overhead doesn’t build the upper body. By adding the twisting, squatting component to the movement, you recruit your entire body (less the arm without a kettle bell) and a ton of mobility.
You don’t need to go heavy with this one, but when you do (when you’re ready) you’ll see some amazing growth and the ability to lift heavier in other movements. When I went on a Bent Press rampage with moderate weight for low reps and high sets I saw my shoulders and triceps improve greatly while my overall mobility went through the roof.