Getting ripped requires serious muscle all over your body.
Training just the mirror muscles of the chest and abs won’t really do the trick because as soon as someone gets a rearview of your skinny calves and chicken-leg hamstrings, they’ll know you don’t really know what you’re dong in the gym. Don’t let this happen to you.
Instead, get over the excuses and learn to train the right way. This article will tell you how, with our top ten training tips for getting ripped.
#1: Always Train the Biggest Bang for Your Buck Exercises
The biggest bang for your buck exercises for putting on muscle will be free weight, multi-joint lifts like squats, deadlifts, step-ups, presses, chin-ups, and pulls. Sled pushes and carries are also primary lifts because you can load them super heavy and they use your entire musculature.
These multi-joint exercises should make up the majority of your program—about 80 percent of your lifts—with the remaining 20 percent coming from exercises like bicep curls, back extensions, or hanging leg raises for the abs.
#2: Use Training Splits To Maximize Recovery
Your muscles need to be trained frequently if you want them to grow. Besides genetics, the true indicator of muscle development is your ability to recover rapidly so you can hit it hard again in the gym. That’s why upper body/lower body training splits (or some similar variation) are ideal because you can go pretty heavy with some decent volume and still get in a high training frequency.
Males should train every body part twice a week, whereas females will often get best results from hitting every body part three times a week
#3: Account for Fiber-Type Variations with Targeted Isolation Training
Once you’ve achieved baseline strength and muscle, don’t be shy about adding single-joint exercises into your workouts. Including select isolation lifts will hit the fast- and slow-twitch motor units that are scattered throughout individual muscles.
For example, the short head of the biceps femoris of the hamstrings is only significantly activated during knee flexion. In practical terms, this means that during hip extensor movements such as a stiff leg deadlift, or good morning, the muscle motor units of the upper hamstrings will be trained.
In contrast, when the knee is bent during hamstring exercises, such as during a leg curl, motor units in the lower part of the hamstrings will be targeted.
There are similar variations in recruitment of the biceps brachii. The centrally located motor units of the biceps are recruited during flexion and supination—you would hit these motor units during a chin-up with palms facing you, but not during a pull-up with palms facing away.
Of course, chins and pull-ups are both multi-joint exercises, but the take away is that to get muscular development that is worthy of ripped status you have to target weak links—including isolation lifts is a smart way of doing so.
#4: Push Volume & Keep Your Weights Heavy
High volume, heavy work takes advantage of the three most important factors for building muscle:
1) A longer time under tension. When muscle contracts it produces mechanical tension and the muscle experiences stress. The stress activates genetic pathways that trigger protein synthesis and muscle tissue growth.
2) Muscle damage and cell swelling. Lifting weights, particularly the lengthening motion of a muscle contraction, causes muscle damage. This motion is known as the eccentric phase, and we know that emphasizing it leads to the release of growth factors that stimulate protein synthesis.
In addition, when muscle tissue undergoes micro tears, the cells swell with liquid—this is known as “muscle pump” in gym parlance—and it leads to an increase in protein synthesis as a protective mechanism.
3) Metabolic stress occurs when byproducts from anaerobic energy metabolism accumulate, activating dormant satellite cells that lead to muscle tissue growth. Metabolic stress also causes the release of testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1, which can help you recover faster and may play a role in protein synthesis
Your basic high volume program that uses a range of moderately heavy weights (65 and 85 percent of your 1 RM), a lot of sets (4 to 10), and reps in the 6 to 15 range will do the trick.
#5: Always Count Tempo & Favor A Longer Time Under Tension
A lot of people ignore the importance of lifting speed, just raising and lowering their weights however they feel like it. This is a big mistake because tempo, or the speed with which you perform the up and down phases of any lift has a huge effect on the stimulus applied to the muscles.
Most of your workouts should use moderate tempos of 3 to 6 seconds for the eccentric phase and 1 to 3 seconds concentric. This will give you a longer time under tension and will train both slow- and fast-twitch fibers for maximal muscle gains.
Slow-speed lifting brings about more metabolic adaptations, such as increases in muscle glycogen, creatine phosphate, and ATP, which is what you want when trying to change your body.
This doesn’t mean you would never use fast tempo explosive contractions such as Olympic lifts, but that 70 to 80 percent of your lifts should be spent on training slower tempos.
#6:Train to Failure
Training to failure is a no-brainer if you want to get ripped. Failure occurs when you lift to the point where you can’t go anymore using proper technique. It produces muscle damage and a large protein synthesis response that will lead to greater muscle development.
Here are a few ways to get the most out of training to failure:
* Novice trainees should focus on achieving “technical failure” in which they lift to the point where they can no longer lift the weight with proper technique. Avoid cheating and always focus on training quality.
* If you’re going heavy and want to get in a high volume, go to failure on your last set only. That’s what subjects did in one study that produced an average 3 kg increase in muscle after 12 weeks of training using a split protocol.
* Advanced trainees can use intra-set rest intervals to get more work done: Say you’re doing deadlifts—pick a weight that you can do for 6 reps. Do 6 reps and then rest 20 seconds and then rep out to failure. Rest 20 more seconds and rep out again. Rest 2 minutes and repeat.
#7: Rest Periods Should Only Be Long Enough to Maintain Training Load—They Are Not Time For Texting/Facebook
Not timing rest periods is a huge rookie mistake made by the vast majority of people in any gym. Rest periods are just as important as set-rep schemes and weight selection because they dictate the exact stimulus applied to your muscles.
For example, very short rest periods of 10 seconds can be great for producing metabolic stress and a large growth hormone response, but it’s guaranteed that if you train this way all the time, your strength will be compromised and you’ll be disappointed in long-term muscle gains.
Meanwhile, long rest periods are the enemy if you’re training for muscle because you’ll be wasting valuable time that you could be spending under a weight. Metabolic stress and the coveted muscle pump will be practically non-existent.
A related mistake is to leave rest periods to “feel,” which often leads to unfinished workouts since people get bored or run out of time before getting to the end.
For more metabolic stress, use rest intervals of less than 60 seconds and occasionally do circuit workouts with 10-seconds rest.
For heavier load training, use rest intervals of up to 2 minutes—muscle-building programs rarely use loads that require much longer.
#8: Plan Your Workouts in 3 to 6 Week Phases
When you start lifting weights, the first results you will see are increased strength and coordination. Significant increases in muscle mass tend to take longer than six weeks to appear. This does not mean that you should do the same muscle-building program indefinitely.
Instead, to force the body to get stronger, you must mix up your training with planned variations in volume and intensity of the load. This is best achieved with 3 to 6 weeks phases.
There are two basic parameters for planning your set/rep schemes for fast results:
First is accumulation, which is the mega volume phase. Use loads on the lower end of the 65 to 85 percent spectrum and more sets. As long as you’re not a beginner, don’t be afraid to occasionally use 8 sets per exercise.
Second is intensification, which will allow you to train the newly developed muscle tissue to handle heavy loads, while stimulating the central nervous system. You might decide to ignore the strength cycle, which is a bad idea because even though it may not give you muscle mass immediately it will certainly help you break through plateaus and reach long-term goals.
Train on the upper end of the 65 to 85 percent spectrum and keep your sets pretty high, but with lower rep ranges.
#9: Avoid Slow Cardio At All Costs
Aerobic exercise will reduce your muscular gains because it triggers different pathways in the body, leading to something that is known in science as the “interference” phenomenon—people who lift weights and do endurance exercise simply don’t see the muscle gains they’d expect.
Best choice if you want to do conditioning is strongman training since you won’t compromise lean mass and will trigger a robust hormone response. Sprint interval workouts are also an option, though a case could be made for putting all your efforts into the weights since conditioning requires recovery time.
Whatever you do, don’t do conditioning and weights in the same workout. Split them up with a morning and evening session or do them on different days to avoid ensure high-quality training.
#10: Do Drop Sets & Forced Reps
There are a boatload of advanced muscle building tools, from isometrics to chain and band training, but the most practical are the tried and true drop sets and forced reps.
Drop Sets: A simple way to start training drop sets that is especially effective is a high-intensity set trained to failure followed immediately by the same exercise at a low-intensity with 50 percent of the 1RM.
Forced Reps: Forced or assisted reps are a great tool for overcoming a strength plateau and trashing your muscles in the meantime. Try performing forced reps with a load that is heavier than normal for the given number of repetitions rather than doing extra reps.
For a program that includes 4 sets of 12 of the squat, identify the maximal load you can perform for 12 reps. Then increase that load and perform 12 reps, getting assistance when necessary. This has been shown to maximize motor unit adaptation, metabolic stress, and lactic acid buildup.
Final Thoughts: Getting ripped is about what you get done in the gym. Other factors like diet and recovery absolutely play a role, but at the end of the day, a killer physique requires serious muscle and that’s built with smart, consistent training.
Watch out for an article on nutrition and recovery tips to help you get ripped—just promise us you won’t get distracted from doing the hard work in the gym. Remember that people have been getting ripped for centuries without all the “extras.”