A few years ago I attended a seminar lead by professional bodybuilder, trainer, author, public speaker, and educator, big Ben Pakulski (BPak). In his presentation, Advanced Techniques for Hypertrophy and Fat Loss, Ben shared some important tips for gaining muscle and shedding fat. Needless to say, I took some good notes during the workshop!

In this post I want to show you the Top 5 Muscle Building Tips he shared with us.

Get Big Tip #1: Understand Muscle Function & Train with Focus

One of the first things Ben talked about was how important it was to have a decent understanding of the function of the muscles you are training. Learn muscle origins and insertions, what their action is when they contract, understand how to fully shorten the muscle, and focus on creating tension in the target muscles when you are training.  Your muscles don’t know how much weight you are moving… they only respond to how much tension you place on them.

Once you understand basic muscle function, you can manipulate your exercises to better target your muscles more effectively.  You can learn how to create more tension in the muscles you are training without necessarily using heavier weights.

1098306_10153102455665392_1056441925_nBen had a few volunteers, including myself, try some exercises with his coaching to experience how we could manipulate the muscular tension, exercise difficulty, and target specific muscle groups, just by small changes in our focus on how we exerted force.

If you goal is to build muscle, at each workout you need to focus on which “muscle” you want to train, rather than what exercise you are training.  For example, when you are choosing chest exercises, think about training your “pecs” instead of thinking of training “bench press”.  Get your ego out of the way, and just make sure you concentrate on really working your chest muscles under control, in a full range of motion, and don’t worry so much about how much you can bench press.  Unless you are a powerlifter or competitive strength athlete the weight is not as important as the tension on the target muscle.

Get Big Tip #2: Manipulate Training Variables

Ben discussed the various training variables you can manipulate to illicit an adaptive response in your muscles, such as intensity, duration, frequency, sets, reps, rest intervals, etc.  Here are a few important points that stood out for me:

  • Time Under Tension (TUT): For hypertrophy (muscular growth) Ben believes the ideal time under tension for each set varies for each individual, but suggested that the range is about 40 to 60 seconds of TUT per set.
  • Set-Extensions: Ben frequently uses high intensity set extension techniques, primarily strip-sets (what I call “drop-sets”), as well as partials and forced reps.  These techniques can be very effective if used sparingly as long as you recognize the significant stress they place on your muscles and nervous system.  It’s those last couple of repetitions once you approach fatigue that have the greatest stimulus for muscular development!
  • Full Range of Motion (ROM): When possible with any given exercise, train through a full range of motion as long as you can control the weight at the extreme ranges.  You need to choose the weight you use for an exercise based on whether you can control the weight at each extreme ROM for the given repetition range you are training with.

Another interesting point he made was that typically bodybuilders (or those training to gain muscle) need to train “inefficiently”, making the muscles work as hard as possible with any given exercise, whereas powerlifters (or those concerned mostly with strength or power) need to train more “efficiently” by using exercises and movements that allow you to move the maximum weight possible with the minimum stress on the muscle (relative to the weight being moved).

Get Big Tip #3: Peri-Workout Nutrition is Essential for Muscle Growth

According to Ben the best nutrition plan for both health and body composition is a lower carb Paleo-type diet. Put simply, this means eating as close to how our ancient ancestors used to eat, choosing mostly whole, natural, unprocessed foods.  If you could hunt it and eat it, or if it grew naturally (non-farmed), then it is more likely your body will be able to metabolize it better.  The majority of your meals would focus on proteins (meats, eggs, poultry, fish), healthy fats (naturally occurring in fish, nuts, seeds, meats, coconut, avocado, etc), berries, and vegetables.

The excessive consumption of carbohydrate foods is promoted by our government food guides due to primarily economic reasons rather than for our optimal health.  It is much easier to feed the masses with wheat and corn, which also happen to be the main Cash Crops (and very often GMO). Too much carbohydrate food (especially sugar and starchy carbohydrates like grains) can lead to insulin sensitivity problems, obesity, diabetes, and other health issues.

Having said that, Ben did explain how carbs can still be used as a tool, if consumed sparingly and used strategically.  By cycling your carbohydrate intake you can elevate your insulin at specific times in order to facilitate muscular growth, while still keeping your overall consumption low.  Basically you will have higher carb days (training days) and low carb days (rest days).  This is where your Peri-Workout nutrition comes into play.  By consuming carbs immediately after your workout you create an insulin spike which will load your muscles with glycogen and increase the uptake of other nutrients.  Insulin is a “storage hormone” and can increase the storage of nutrients in muscle if used strategically.

Ben suggested consuming protein and other supplements pre-workout and waiting until after the workout to consume carbohydrates (along with your protein shake).  Avoid consuming fat around your workouts, close to when your insulin will be spiked.

Get Big Tip #4: Choose the Right Supplements

This ties in with Tip #3… choose the best supplements for before and after your workout.

A few of the Pre-Workout Supplements Ben recommended included:

Some of the Post Workout Supplements included:

Get Big Tip #5: Train for Your Body Type

We spent some time discussing the issues with following a “one-size fits all” training program.  Although there are certain training variables which remain fairly consistent for most people if they have the same goals, everyone is different and our unique body types will respond differently to the same program.  As a simple generalization, most people fall into one of 3 body types: Ectomorph (thin, small framed, hard to build muscle); Mesomorph (muscular, athletic build, gains muscle easily); and Endomorph (stockier build, thick frame, gains muscle and fat easily) … or some combination thereof.

Here are some general training guidelines for each body type, for building more muscle mass:

Ectomorph:

  • Train in the 6-8 rep range
  • Perform fewer total sets (low volume)
  • Perform more frequent workouts
  • Keep your workouts brief but intense (under 45 minutes)

Mesomorph:

  • Train in the 8-12 rep range
  • Take more rest between workouts
  • Use heavy weights
  • Workouts can be up to an hour in duration

Endomorph:

  • Train in the 10-15 rep range
  • More frequent workouts
  • Higher volume
  • Workouts can be around 60-90 minutes long

He also discussed how many people have allergies or food sensitivities to wheat and dairy products.  If possible he recommended to reduce the consumption of wheat and dairy products if you notice symptoms such as fatigue, bloating, congestion, or other digestive issues.

Overall it was a great seminar with plenty of great tips… these are just a few. You can learn more on his site, where Ben explains 5 Big Training Mistakes you’re probably making right now, as well as 5 Training Shortcuts to Get BIG and LEAN faster. Definitely worth checking out:

=> 5 Shortcuts to Double Your Muscle Gains

Click on the image above to learn 5 important muscle building mistakes and his 5 solutions for maximizing your gains. You’ll also pick up some great training tips such as:

  • How to get better muscle growth results using lighter weights
  • How to blast through sticking points and plateaus
  • How to increase the intensity of every set for maximum hypertrophy
  • How to stimulate maximum testosterone response
  • How to avoid gaining excessive body fat while building muscle

When it comes to building lean muscle tissue, Ben knows his stuff.  He has even created his own comprehensive training program called MI-40 (Mass Intentions 40). He is definitely the “Thinking Man’s”  trainer, not just a meat-head bodybuilder.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my summary of his seminar and picked up some useful information.

Good luck with your training endeavors…  Train smart and grow strong!

Josh