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Three Steps to Building a Firm Body!

By Michael Carrera

Our Bodies are Very Smart
If your goal is to build lean muscle mass, improve your strength and define your body, then you have to train smarter, not harder.  You have to balance what you like to do with what your body requires to grow and to recover from workouts.  A program needs variety which can be accomplished by changing the weight you lift, the exercises you use along with the number of sets and repetitions you perform.  To overcome confusion as to when to change one variable versus another, a method of training known as Step-Type Training, naturally and progressively challenges the body.  While phases are used to help athletes train for competition, they can also help you achieve your goals.   If your goal is to improve your muscle mass, then you have to plan for it and progressively challenge the body by using phases in three distinct steps: Step 1:  Build the Foundation; Step2:  Stimulate Muscle Growth; Step 3: Firming Up.

What You Need to Know Before you Start
A workout should take approximately 45 minutes to one hour and this includes a proper warm-up and cool down.  If you are new to using weights, I suggest you start with a full-body routine three days a week.  More experienced users can use split routines which exercise different body parts on separate days of the week.  Also, the steps are not randomly assigned, but based on research of how to best optimize lean muscle growth and strength.  Each step can last 2 to 4 weeks. Start at the lower end of the repetition range and slowly work your way to the higher end.  Refer to the chart below for details on the training phases for different steps.

Steps Phases # of Exercises Sets Repetition Range Rest between sets (seconds)
1 Build the foundation 8 to 10 3 to 4 15 to 20 60 seconds b/w circuits
2 Stimulate muscle growth 8 to 10 4 to 5 8 to 12 60 to 90 seconds/sets
3 Firm UP 6 to 8 3 to 5 5 to 7 60 to 120/sets

Step 1:  Build the Foundation 3 to 4 Weeks
The first step of any resistance training program should build the foundation of strength, endurance and the integrity of joints and other structures.  We often rush to exercise with heavy weights and train to muscular exhaustion which leads to injury, overtraining and little result.  The first 4-weeks focus on circuit training, a form of training that quickly moves you from one exercise to the next non-stop, providing both a muscular and aerobic training benefit.  As you finish the first set of exercise one, move immediately to the next exercise and so forth until all exercises are complete. Rest for 60 seconds and repeat the circuit for remaining sets.  Use a moderate weight that you can lift with little discomfort.



Step 2:  Stimulate Muscle Growth - 3 to 4 weeks
Once you build the foundation, you can challenge the muscles to grow.  Hypertrophy is the term used to describe an increase in the size of a muscle.  This is generally the training phase that people quickly turn to when wanting to improve the size of the muscles.  Many studies have shown that the 8 to 12 repetition range, which is used in this step of the program, helps build the greatest amount of muscle mass along with producing the highest levels of growth hormone a hormone that keeps the body young, vibrant, healthy and fosters lean muscle growth.  Use a challenging weight that makes every last repetition difficult.  Unlike the foundation phase, you complete all sets of the first exercise before moving on to the second exercise and so on which increases tension on the working muscle and aids in growth. 

Step 3:  Firm Up - 2 to 3 weeks
You have built a solid foundation, increased the size of your muscles and now it is time to firm up and tone your body.  Most people are concerned with lifting heavier weights, which is why each step builds on the last and prepares the body for a new challenge.  Lifting heavier weights is the next natural progression to firming up the muscles.   Consider this program designed in a vertical format with all exercises listed one beneath the other.  You work your way down the list and complete the first set of all exercises, resting 60 to 120 seconds between sets, before starting again from the top of the list and completing the remaining sets. 

What to Eat
Eating for muscle size is no different than eating for health, except you need more of everything.   Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains and of course lean protein such as chicken and fish.  Protein is the building block of muscle growth, so attempt to eat at least 1.0 to 1.5 grams of protein/Kg of body weight per day.  A whey protein supplement, such as TrueSTRENGTH, can be used in a shake or sprinkled on cereal to meet all your protein needs.  Supplementing with glutamine, which is found in TrueBUILD, and a powerful antioxidant mixture such as TruePROTECT can help you build muscle and aid with recovery from workouts.

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