I want to add more size to my arms and legs. Progress has been slow…what you’d do differently?

I’m a tall (6’4”) guy, 19 years old and have some pretty skinny limbs. I want to add more size to my arms and legs, so I hired a personal trainer. We do lots of curls, tricep work and leg extensions to isolate my thighs. He’s also big on controlling calories, and doesn’t want me to exceed 2,400/day.

Progress has been slow, so I’d like to know what you’d do differently?

– Mike Loomer

Answer:

First things first: Things are so bad, you need to fire him and find another personal trainer. He’s doing so many things wrong, I don’t know where to start. Also, unless you weigh 100lbs, 2,400 calories/day isn’t going to put muscle on anyone. Let me give to you what my mentor Eddie Azzaro drilled into me about diet:

1.) Calories are our friends
2.) The average person takes in around 2,000 calories/day.
3.) If you want an average build, you too can take in 2,000 calories/day.
4.) If you want to be twice as big as the average guy, you need to take in twice the calories – or 4,000 calories/day.
5.) You’re an ectomorph, so the situation is even worse – it may take 5 to 6,000 calories/day.
6.) When in doubt eat more, and keep eating until the numbers on the scale start going up.

Now it is true this isn’t a license to get sloppy. You should measure your arms, chest, waist around the navel, thighs at the midway point and calves every 2 to 3 weeks. If that waist measurement is going up by an inch or more it’s time to cut back for a few weeks. At which point your body will be receptive to over-feeding again and be more adept insofar as putting muscle on.

As far as you training goes, that needs an overhaul too. You don’t need to “isolate” your quads, biceps, triceps or any other muscle group to grow. In fact, isolating them is a surefire way they won’t grow IMO. Muscles were designed to fire and contract in unison, as nowhere in life will you be “isolating” a muscle when picking something up or pulling something. It just doesn’t exist.

Your training sessions should consist of almost entirely compound movements, where a large degree of multiple muscle groups must be used. Squats, deadlifts, all sorts of presses and rows aka pulling motions are what you should be doing. Your biceps and triceps will get plenty of work if you’re doing justice to your pushing and pulling movements, believe me.

Here again, bodyweight work really shines. Things like pushups, pullups, dips, handstand or gorilla pushups along with other movements are outstanding. Pullups in particular, as they’re the best “biceps builder” around. In no curl for example do you work the muscle from origin (shoulder) to insertion (elblow). It’s also a great barometer of the kind of weight you’re gaining. Put 10lbs on in 6 months? Great. Or not, as the humble chin up will tell you.

There’s one bodyweight movement that’ll let you down, at least insofar as building SIZE is concerned – bodyweight squats. Even done one leg at a time, they just don’t put size on you like traditional or hip belt squats. OTOH, if you’re happy with the size you’ve built and looking more for functional strength, the 1 legged squat or pistol is ideal.

Make those changes Mike, and you’ll see a lot better results…

Coach Rob Regish

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