Increase your Size & Strength without Touching a Weight

I was chillin by the Snoqualmie River (Fall City in the house!) with my family yesterday – bbq’ing, playing wiffle-ball, catching up with my brother’s people who I haven’t seen in a minute.

Taylor – my youngest sibling, just earned his Masters degree from Idaho State College in Business/Sports Administration. I’m super proud of him. He was on a football scholarship the entire 5-years for his undergrad and masters program. To get out of college in 5 years, with a masters, and not have 1 cent of debt to your name? That shit’s crazy impressive. Great job Tay.

Anyways – the topic of muscle development came up in conversation by one of Tay’s buddies – so I got on the mic and dropped some knowledge. (There wasn’t literally a microphone – i’m just sayin I had something to contribute – as the question was directed at me by an aspiring young 24 year old man in his quest to put on some size to his skinny frame).

==>I didn’t talk about rep ranges, or specific exercises, or how much weight to use, or time under tension, or mechanical load, or the manipulation of frequency, intensity, and volume.

==>I didn’t talk about programming, progressive overload vs. undulating periodization and how to identify if you’ve reached a state of over training, over-reaching, or if  you should continue to ride out your current intensity level in your training.

==>I didn’t talk about food and the correct energy balance necessary to promote anabolism (muscle growth). Nor did I talk about counting macros, adjusting sleep patterns, and the management of stress to promote testosterone production.

I could have talked about all of those things – as they are all variables that contribute to creating an environment conducive to muscle growth.

I took it back to square one – which most tend to overlook.

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There’s so much information out there – it’s easy to become overwhelmed and we overlook the simple solutions available to us.

Because there are so many options – we tend to assume that it must be crazy difficult to see muscular gainZ (<– correct spelling) and the solution must be complex because there is SO MUCH INFORMATION to sort through.

It would be easy to label this era in human history NOT as the “information age” but as the “misinformation age”. The universal access to pretty much ALL KNOWLEDGE is on our phone – as humans, however, we haven’t done a good job being able to identify when to call bullshit on one piece of information vs another. We need to develop better filters for the information we consume, as well as focus on identifying principles vs. methods when learning a subject that’s new to us.

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So here’s a big and strong principle knowledge drop –

In order to grow a muscle – you need to learn how to use that muscle.

Mind blowing, right?

My brother’s friend (who until just recently ran collegiate track and has been a tremendous athlete his whole life) was specifically asking about how to develop his triceps more completely. I took a look at them and asked him to contract them for me. He locked out his elbow and proceeded to give his best effort to flex his triceps.

Despite him being in tremendous shape – he had almost zero ability to contract his elbow extensors. His triceps were almost completely flaccid!

If you don’t know how to use it – you’re going to lose it.

You think those body builders and physique competitors are flexing in the mirror at the gym just to give themselves a boner by looking at themselves?

Well… yes… but it’s also because they’re practicing how to recruit individual muscles.  You will have a very difficult time growing a muscle if you can’t feel that muscle when you contract it.

Learning how to engage a muscle has the additional benefit of keeping your joints healthy as well. If you don’t know how to use your triceps, your elbows are going to be on fucking fire all the time because your elbow joint is getting lit up from all the extension you’re throwing at it in attempts to develop your triceps. That tension dissipates towards the proximal joint to the muscle, however, if you can’t fully engage the muscle that the tension is attempted to be directed at.

Trying to develop your glutes and your lower back hurts all the time? LEARN TO FLEX YOUR GLUTES.

Can’t figure out for the life of you how to fill out your upper pec and not continue to aggravate your shoulder? LEARN TO FLEX YOUR PEC MINOR.

Are you tired of having crazy headaches because your upper traps are constantly engaged and over worked (aka mom neck)?) LEARN TO FLEX YOUR MID-TRAPS AND RHOMBOIDS… as well as take a chill pill and breathe from your diaphragm… but that’s a whole other topic.

This isn’t a problem that can be solved by throwing more weight at your under developed muscle.

In fact, the way to solve this issue is by less weight, if any at all. Use bands, or just literally flex those underdeveloped muscles in the mirror to stimulate proprioceptive acuity and overall contractile strength.

By increasing our “muscle-mind” connection – we teach our muscles to respond correctly to the weight we load it up with when we train.

By having a strong muscle-mind connection, we keep our joints healthy because the trauma we are inducing during our strength training sessions in the weight room are directed at the actual belly of the muscle tissue.

By having a strong muscle-mind connection, we can bounce our pecs and look super cool/douchy/actually really cool.

By having a strong muscle-mind connection, we are able to burn fat more effectively (lean muscle mass is much more metabolically active/insulin sensitive than a flaccid, non-active muscle).

Contract, relax, shake it out. Contract, relax, shake it out. Rinse repeat.

Simple, right?

If you have a tough time feeling a specific muscle contract, than that’s an indication that you need to work on flexing that muscle more.

So instead of busting out a double bicep pose in the mirror before hopping in the shower this AM, practice flexing the muscles you are planning on training today and improve that muscle’s neural recruitme.

Learn how to use your muscles before throwing weight at it. Your gainz and joints will thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

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