A famous quote (or lyric) from Popeye:
I yam what I yam and I yam what I yam that I yam. And I got a lotta muscle and I only gots one eye. And I’ll never hurt nobodys and I’ll never tell a lie. Top to me bottom and me bottom to me top. That’s the way it is ’til the day that I drop, what am I? I yam what I yam.
C’mon you know Popeye the Sailor Man!
The guy who runs around getting the crap beat out of him until he devours a little spinach; then he has superhuman strength and power to defeat any adversary.
Strength, that I personally wish, was attainable simply through eating a can of spinach.
Well, until a can of spinach gives you superhuman strength...let’s talk about how to get that superhuman strength in real life.
To gain muscle and add strength you have to eat!! Don’t be that person, male or female, who thinks lifting weights will make you this massive human being (trust me, becoming a massive human being is a lot of work – I’ve tried, it won’t happen on accident). It will make you a strong human being – which there is no downside to. Lifting weights; heavy, moderate or light will burn a lot of calories so to sustain and build, you gotta eat!!
- Complex Carbs or Healthy Fats – Now that I am 90-95% Paleo, I can’t fully recommend you fill yourself full of complex carbohydrates to gain muscle – but it works! Adding a good amount of oatmeal, sweet potatoes and even some rice to your meals is an easy way to add calories capable of sustaining muscle-building. Healthy fats such as avocados and nuts are another good way to add those calories to get big.
- Protein – This is a must. Protein is broken down on a daily basis, especially when lifting weights, and is in need of replacing. But how much protein? Some extreme muscle-building diets would have you consume over 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. I don’t recommend going to that extreme, trust me, your digestive system will let you know if you have consumed too much protein. Try to get close to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, a little less is fine too.
- Spinach – How are you going to get strong like Popeye if you don’t eat spinach? The verdict is still out as to whether spinach can help you build muscle, but that is not my point. My point is that you can easily build muscle and strength without focusing on health at all. In fact, if you just had carbs and protein you would gain muscle. However, do not forget your green leafy vegetables and your fruits. Stay healthy my friends!
We have covered this pretty in-depth with The Definitive Guide to Sleep and Fitness. So be sure to give that a read if you want to know the ins and outs of sleep. The bottom line…you must sleep! Growth hormones are released when you sleep, it can help reduce cortisol and it is when your body most actively repairs muscle. Shoot for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The best option, and not possible for most, sleep until your body naturally wakes up. Get some sleep!
I have actually had people ask me, what rep range builds muscle? My answer…all of them! If you are doing low reps to focus on strength you will not add 100lbs. to your squat without building muscle. This does not mean there are not good rep ranges for different goals. Depending on what you are trying to get good at you may want to stick to just one of them, but all of them will help you build muscle and get strong like Popeye.
- Strength – If you just want the brute strength like Popeye you will need to lift, and you will need to lift heavy. You will want to get rep ranges in between 3-5 reps based off of your one rep max for that specific lift. Keep rest intervals between sets at the 3-5 min range and 24-48 hours in between training sessions. You will recruit multiple muscle groups in a single day which will cause for a short spread of exercises in a week’s schedule.
- Power – This is still brute strength like Popeye, but this focuses more on Olympic lifting. The principles are the same; 3-5 minutes rest in between sets and 24-48 hours rest in between training sessions. You will also recruit large muscle groups. You will want to focus on a lower rep range, being 1-3 reps based off of your one rep max.
- Hypertrophy – Basically, you want to get big like Arnold. Bodybuilders are in constant pursuit of symmetry and extreme hypertrophy. If this is your goal you, will need to stick to the 5-7 rep range and even the 10-12 rep range. You will need to keep your rest intervals in between sets short (1-2 min) and your rest intervals between muscle groups long (48-72 hours). You will be recruiting smaller muscle groups in the body which will cause for a longer spread of exercises.
If you didn’t catch on to the simple “big-picture” 3-step process it is…EAT. SLEEP. LIFT. Three principles that have stood the test of time when it comes to gaining strength and muscle. Do those three things and you cannot fail!
Now go get strong like Popeye!