Ade Rai is Indonesia’s most famous bodybuilder and a passionate advocate of good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. As a big man with a lot to say, he enjoys going against stereotypes.
I am 34 years old and I have been weight training off and on since I was 14. For the past 6 years I have been weight training consistently. I seem to have plateaued and my muscle gain and strength appear to be at a standstill. Currently, I do a 3-day (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) push/pull/legs routine. I thought about switching to a 5-day routine with the weekends off. Also, should I do cardio 5 days a week as well? Do you recommend this?
I have read studies that show it is not good to weight train 5 days in a row due to it placing a lot of stress on your central nervous system (CNS). Experts say that your CNS needs a break from weight training and you should not weight train more than 2 consecutive days in a row.
Also, when I work my chest I do a total of 16 sets (4 sets of flat bench, 4 sets of incline bench, 4 sets of decline bench and 4 sets of either flat bench flyes or incline bench). Do you think this is too much and am I possibly overtraining? Thank you Ade for taking the time today to read this email. I really appreciate it!
Thank you for the detailed background to your question. Your current routine is quite simple, yet it might not be the cause of your plateauing muscle and strength gains. You mentioned that you do a total of 16 sets on your chest alone (a pushing movement).
How much left do you have for shoulders and triceps (which are also pushing body parts)? I am guessing it takes you almost 2 hours to get through your resistance-type workout before you step on any of the cardio machines.
The first thing you might need to do is to cut back on the volume (total sets) of all your resistance exercises and start focusing more on certain techniques, as follows:
•Start with multi-joint movements as they allow a greater load to be applied during core sets, but always do 2-3 sets of light warm-ups.
•Try to deliberately speed up the positive (concentric) portion of your repetitions without help from momentum.
•During the negative (eccentric) portion of your repetitions, try to resist the weight slowly and maintain tension on the targeted muscle for 3 or 4 counts before repeating the repetition.
•For starters, do no more than 8 core sets for bigger muscle groups (back, chest, legs, shoulders) and 5 core sets for smaller muscles (biceps, triceps, deltoids, abs, calves).
•Use a weight range that allows you to perform a maximum of 8-15 repetitions on your own during core sets. Make sure that the speed of the positives is consistent from the first repetition to the last one that lies between these two numbers.
•If you have a training partner, you may want to push for an extra 2-3 repetitions by asking your training partner to spot you through the positive portion of the extra reps.
It is quite OK to do cardio up to 5 times a week. If you haven’t done cardio before, you may want to start with three cardio sessions a week, immediately after your weight training, lasting no more than 30 minutes and maintaining a heart rate between 145 to 165 minus your age per minute. It’s a good starting point for cardio, and you may work you way up from there gradually as your fitness level improves.
Last but not least is nutrition. Be sure to take in enough carbohydrates and protein in your diet. A combination of whole grains (oatmeal/brown rice) and lean protein in every big meal is ideal. Then have 2-3 healthy snacks to provide enough energy and nutrients for recovery: high-fiber and low-medium glycemic fruits (apples, oranges, kiwis, papayas, bananas), roasted peanuts, raw almonds/walnuts/macadamia or a serving of protein drink or non-fat yogurt.
Dear Mr. Rai,
I love reading your columns in thejakartapost.com. If you don’t mind, please tell me what to do and eat for a hard gainer, a person with an ectomorphic body type to gain some more muscle mass (and thus, weight). What type of workout helps or doesn’t, as so far my regular workouts are brisk walking and yoga. Thank you so much. Looking forward to your answer.
Hi Mr. Purnomo,
Thank you for your kindness regarding this column. As to ectomorphic bodies, I am assuming you are on the skinny side and have relatively low body fat. You were spot-on when you said you wanted to gain some more muscle mass to add to your total body weight.
According to the literature and my own experience, taking up resistance training is the best way to stimulate muscle weight gain. Muscles don’t grow if we don’t apply enough force to break them down in the first place.
The systematic way to break them down is through a resistance training regimen. Try starting with three 30-minute sessions working out with weights. You can start by working out at home using your body weight, but as you grow stronger, you may want to join a gym for more challenges.
I started out skinny, 183 centimeters with only 55 kilograms to my frame. Proper intervals of quality meals (protein and complex carbohydrates), enough sleep at night and a lifestyle without unhealthy habits (smoking, alcohol or drugs) will help you gain the needed bodyweight.
As your body weight increases, please make sure you have your body fat level checked and try to maintain it if you are between 15 and 25% body fat. It will be a good indication that the majority of the weight you add is muscle.
I am holding the Bandung Fitness Conference again this year. Please check out this link for more info: http://binaraga.net/bandung-fitness-conference-3.html. I’ll also be launching my new books 101 Bakar Lemak and 101 Binaraga Natural there. Hope to see you all there!
Thank you for all your questions. Please keep them coming to my email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be more than happy to answer them for you. Stay strong and stay healthy!
Note: This article is for fitness information only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases. Please consult your physician before beginning any exercise or nutrition program. Suggestions provided are strictly individual and may not be suitable for others with similar conditions. Ade Rai and The Jakarta Post have exercised good faith in presenting the safest measures known at the time of writing. The writer and/or the Post do not assume responsibility for any injury or loss from applying the information presented in the column.