As I have mentioned in a few previous blogs, I have started incorporating body building protocols in order to experiment with fat loss and mass gaining. For athletes, too much emphasis on body building as opposed to strength building can have dire consequences, often leading to impingement or injury. Since my previous protocols have always been about strength rather than size, I was a little apprehensive about switching to something more muscle development oriented, with less emphasis on nervous system development. So to try and maintain some level of functional strength, I have applied a 50/50 split of compound and isolation, applying body building protocols in both cases.
So what do I mean when I talk about protocols? Well, think of body building and what the aim of body building is. If you thought the aim of body building is to build muscle then you are right. In essence, the real aim is to cause as much damage to your muscle fibres as possible, in order to promote growth and repair when resting, without injuring yourself of course. With goals like this, it's inevitable that you will be sore the day after if not suffer an onset of DoMS the day after that. However, with strength training, the aim is to gradually build strength, by training your nervous system to activate more muscle tissue, with the side effect of building muscle at the same time.
Strength training has the disadvantage of being a slow mechanism for building muscle, while being extremely effective at developing the nervous system. Because strength typically involves more weight and fewer repetitions, soreness is often less noticeable, enabling an athlete to train every working day of the week and even multiple times a day; I have been there, training as much as eight times a week, twice a day on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, whilst resting Wednesday and on weekends. During this program, which lasted for about six months, my strength gains were enormous, even though I didn't actually gain that much actual lean mass. However, the nervous system is much quicker to adapt to changes than muscle tissue, meaning loss of strength over time is more costly than loss of mass over the same period.
Body Building Protocols
Body building is the natural opposite to strength training. Whilst both are focused on a similar goal, in that you want to maximise your potential in terms of strength and size, body building focuses on the aspects of weight lifting that will ultimately result in more muscle mass and definition than practical strength. For example, you will rarely see a body builder whose nervous system is adapted enough to allow them to lift atlas stones or perform other feats associated with power and strength. What they are however, are masters of being able to recruit individual muscles on demand, rather than collectively, hence why they are extremely good at flexing pectoral muscles. The protocol that enables this is isolation and frequency. Muscles are trained to failure on each set, sometimes even past failure when performing X reps or drop sets. Typically, the repetitions would be moderate to high, with fewer sets and less overall volume. That's not to say one protocol is better than the other, they merely have two different goals.
So what have I put together? I have incorporated a moderate repetition program that takes each set to failure, while still incorporating specialist compound movements, like dead lifts, roll-outs, snatches, cleans and squats. Body builders would usually favour leg press machines over squats, since it isolates the legs, requiring less stabilisation and engagement from the upper body. By maintaining some compound movements in the program, the hope is that the nervous system will maintain familiarity in recruiting muscle groups collectively rather than individually, which will ultimately mean I will still be able to continue the enjoyment of strength related lifts on non program specific days. However, this is experimental, so only time will tell.
My Program Results
So ten weeks has now gone by in the blink of an eye, and I feel it's time to share some of the results before I start my next ten week strength/body building program. The figures for the body composition are not accurate in the slightest, but they are consistent. I used a set of scales that employs BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) to calculate body fat percentages. The scales are cheap and this method of body fat calculation is poor in even the best scales, so I just had to run with it. The percentage is out by about 10%, though the thing about these scales is that they are consistent. So although the fat percentage is wrong, it will hover around that same area allowing me to plot changes in body composition. For the next ten week program, I will look at obtaining some callipers and measuring body composition properly.
Start of program
Weight: 82.7 kg
Body fat: 21.25 kg
Lean mass: 61.45 kg
End of program
Weight: 84 kg
Body fat: 22.18 kg
Lean mass: 61.82 kg
Weight: 1.3 kg
Body fat: 930 g (32 oz)
Lean mass: 370 g (13 oz)
Though I gained some fat, about a kg according to the scales, though in reality this is probably more like 500g based on the good old reliable finger calliper test, there was actually an extraordinary amount of muscle tissue gained. In a year, if this consistency is maintained, would equate to a gain of nearly 2 kg of lean mass. Impressive!
Since I am able to maintain my body fat quite well through intermittent fasting protocols, it wouldn't take much to shed the excess weight gained at the end of the next ten week program, repeating the process every twenty weeks for maintenance.
How it all looks:
As you can see from the charts, there was a definite steady increase in mass, if you ignore the fluctuations from the inclusion of non reference day weigh-ins. At the same time, my body fat didn't really increase all that much, even though there was some peculiar spike mid way through. Again, I can only attribute this to the BIA calculations being sensitive to other factors like humidity or my hydration levels.
Lean mass chart:
So what did I do for the last ten weeks? Here it is:
Dumb bell bench press: 3 x 8-12 to failure
Shoulder press: 3 x 8-12 to failure
Dips: 3 x 8-12 to failure
Finisher: Push ups to failure
Light jump rope work, conditioning finisher and stretching
Dead lift: 3 x 8-12 to failure week 1,3,5,7,9; 3 x 15-18 to failure week 2,4,6,8,10
Leg press: 3 x 20-25 to failure
Hamstring extensions: 3 x 15-20 to failure
Finisher: Lunges to failure
Light jump rope work, stretching
Lat pull downs/pull ups: 3 x 8-12 to failure
Seated biceps curls: 3 x 8-12 to failure
Seated rows: 3 x 8-12 to failure
Finisher: EZ bar cheat curls 3 x 8-12 to failure
The dead lift followed a weight reduction repetition increase on even weeks to maintain strength endurance. Also, I found the strictness required for the body building protocol meant I had to move away from pull-ups for lat pull downs, until I was able to increase the weight to beyond body weight; which was difficult given that my weight was increasing at the same sort of rate.
Onwards an upwards for the next ten weeks, incorporating some changes to the program...