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Q&A with All Star Health: How often should I work out a muscle group for growth?

April 29th, 2011

Q: “Given that I’m an ectomorph, how many times per week should I work a particular muscle group for growth?”

Ectomorph

A: Regardless if you’re an ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph, the workout program for muscle growth will be pretty close to the same thing. Think about it, what makes a mesomorph different from an ectomorph? Mesomorphs are able to put on muscle faster and easier than ectomorphs, but if our goal is to maximize muscle growth for either class, they should both be doing the same workouts but at their respective level. The only difference is that the mesomorph will be able to gain muscle faster than the ectomorph, the point being that they are both gaining muscle as fast as humanly possible given their own genetic potential.

Regardless of body type, I’d recommend the well-researched 5 sets by 5 reps protocol at 70-85% of your one rep max for 3 days a week, which has been shown to significantly increase strength, size, and muscle density as well as neuro-muscular efficiency in all body types. Perform compound exercises like the bench press, squat, deadlift, dips, and pull ups first and build up your strength before going into more advanced bodybuilding exercises. Trust me, you can build a lean, impressive physique with just those exercises alone, and they should always be at the core of your programs if you’re looking to maximize both muscle size and strength.

Let me further break it down for you. Say you want to grow your biceps, forearms, and upper/middle back. I’d recommend lifting 3-4 days a week, doing 5 sets of 5 reps and concentrating on the deadlift, pull up variations (narrow chin, wide chin, narrow pull up, wide pull up, neutral grip, with towels, etc.) and bench press. If you’re looking to grow your triceps, shoulders, and chest, I’d do the same protocol as above except with the bench press, dips, and squats. If you’re looking to grow your legs, calves, and glutes, I’d focus on the deadlift, squat, lunge, and calve raise, but don’t deadlift and squat in the same workout, so alternate between the two.

Just as important as lifting is nutrition, make sure you eat sufficient calories to enable your muscles to grow. I’d recommend eating an extra meal or two each day, and make sure your pre and post workout nutrition are on lock, meaning a big meal 2 hours beforehand and a huge meal after your workout. This will ensure you have enough calories when your body needs them most (growth time).

Great snacks for building muscle:

  1. Almonds: Great source of monounsaturated fats, protein, and fiber. Lean muscle building powerhouse.
  2. Salmon: Salmon provides omega-3 fats as well as a highly bio-available source of protein.
  3. Avocados: Provides a ton of healthy fats and fiber, plus protein. Mmm, nature’s butter.
  4. Raspberries: Delicious, healthy, high in fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.
  5. Vegetables: Green, leafy veggies provide muscle building micronutrients as well as keep you satiated and minimize fat gain while trying to bulk up. Plus, they clear up your skin and keep you healthy.
  6. Black Beans: Great source of fiber, protein, and slow-digesting carbs.
  7. Brown Rice: Great source of glycogen replenishing carbohydrates that won’t increase your gut size.
  8. Chicken Breasts: These things are King. Eat chicken breasts as often as you can. For the price, there’s simply nothing better.
  9. Beef Jerky: Expensive, but tastes good and the sodium content is actually good for active athletes hitting the gym every day.
  10. String Cheese: Easy on the go snack that is high in protein and a healthy mix of fats.

Best supplements for gaining muscle and minimizing fat gain:

  1. Whey protein: Whey protein pre or post workout as well as first thing in the morning should stand at the core of your supplemental protocol. If you’re not familiar with the benefits of whey protein, read more here.
  2. Mass gainer: If you have trouble eating enough calories or simply can’t gain weight, then pick up a mass gainer from All Star Health and take a full serving with 32 oz. of whole milk post workout. Guaranteed you won’t have trouble gaining weight anymore.
  3. Creatine: Along with whey protein, creatine is one of those supplements that if you aren’t using, you’re truly missing out. Huge host of muscle building benefits including increased muscle cell volume, increased muscle nitrogen uptake capacity, increased ATP (cellular energy) production, increased muscular water retention resulting in rounder muscle bellies, and decreased lactic acid production. Geez, what else could you ask for in a supplement?
  4. Glutamine: A great supplement for increased post-workout recovery. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid found in muscle cells and is unique in it’s ability to easily cross the blood-brain barrier.
  5. Vitamin D3: Vitamin D3 supports healthy testosterone levels, bolsters the immune system and offers a host of other benefits that make-up a list too long to mention here.
  6. ZMA: Provides minerals that support elevated testosterone levels in male athletes.
  7. Tribulus: A popular herbal testosterone support supplement, used primarily by bodybuilders looking for more vascularity, bigger pumps and an overall increased intensity in the gym.

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