I was working out with my daughter this morning and we were talking about how I was her age when I started to get serious about strength training. I told her that while I had “worked out” for a few years before turning 16 and getting my license, it mainly consisted of periodically sneaking into the local rec center with some friends and hitting the weight room 5 times in one day. I didn’t have a way to be more consistent but that changed when I got my license.
After that I got a membership to a small gym about 10 minutes from my house and started to go almost every day. Like everyone else back in the early 90’s I was following a bodybuilding routine, which had me training different body parts on different days and sometimes hitting the gym twice a day. I was reading Flex and Muscle & Fitness and following the advice from their pages and I put on some muscle and saw some changes in my body that made me more confident.
For a while if you had asked me why I worked out I would have told you that I was a bodybuilder. I worked out to get bigger and change how I looked. And part of the reason was that I didn’t know that there was another choice.
But then I started to come across magazines like Muscle Media 2000, which exposed the open secret that all the top bodybuilders were on steroids and that you couldn’t train like them unless you were too. I changed my approach to fewer days with more intensity – the ultimate example being the months I spent doing the Mike Mentzer One Set To Failure Program – but I still saw myself as a bodybuilder.
But then I started to see articles about this thing called “functional fitness”. People started to point out that a lot of the puffed up bodybuilders you saw in the pages of magazines weren’t very strong or athletic (except for Ronnie Coleman, who was every bit as strong as he looked). The term “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” started to get thrown around as a way to describe how a lot of people who followed bodybuilder programs came up short in the performance category.
It turned out that training to perform well and training to have big muscles were not the same thing. Athletes trained much differently and those training methods started to become more popular. Bodybuilding started to take on a negative meaning and everyone stopped doing curls and started doing Olympic Lifting.
And I jumped into this new fad with both feet. To be honest, I was a little disillusioned with bodybuilding. I’m not a naturally big guy and I realized that I was never going to be a mass monster. So training to improve my performance gave me another reason to hit the gym.
This was also around the time that I started mountain biking and seeing how Functional Fitness helped my riding inspired me to start MTB Strength Training Systems. I’ve been a huge advocate for functional fitness and have seen it help a lot of people…but I’m starting to realize that I may have gone too far.
Bodybuilding has a valuable role in your strength training toolbox, especially as you get older. The truth is that losing muscle mass is a big part of age-related declines in performance, which means that the more you have and the harder you work to keep it, the longer it takes for that decline to start and it is more of a gradual decline rather than a sharp drop off.
Muscle can also serve as natural “armor” for when you hit the ground and act as the catalyst for more strength gains. Considering everything that adding some muscle can do for us it makes sense to spend some time doing it.
And who knows more than anyone on the planet about building muscle? That’s right, Bodybuilder. So if you want to build and maintain muscle then they have some things to teach us.
If you want to learn more about the lessons we can take from Bodybuilders check out the video I shot last week. I’ve got the show notes below and the live stream replay and the audio file from it as well. You can also find it on Itunes, Podbean, Spotify and all other major podcasting platforms.
– There is a difference between putting on muscle from starting to lift weights and purposefully lifting to gain muscle and there is some value to the latter.
– You need muscle for natural “armor” and as a way to fight against natural muscle loss.
– Muscle can also serve as the engine for more strength gains.
– Nobody knows more about building muscle than bodybuilders.
– Building muscle tends to focus on lots of volume with moderate to short rest periods.
– In general, 25+ total reps gets you into the muscle building zone with 30+ reps being optimal.
– Set X Rep schemes that fall into this muscle building zone – 3 X 10/ 3 X 12-15/ 4 X 8/ 10 X 3/ 5 X 5
– You can also use things like drop sets and other methods to create more fatigue through volume.
– Another thing to use are isolation exercises.
– Focus on Active Isometric Isolation Exercises where the rest of the body is creating a platform for the single joint to move from.
– Doing some arm training won’t kill your functional gains either.
– The off season is a great time to spend some time focused on building muscle in the early off season before switching to the strength and power focus we need on the bike.
– It’s probably not the best choice during the heart of the riding season due to the lack of resources for you to build muscle but it’s also good to throw in every 2-3 training phases.
– Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – Functional Training is a great way to train but Bodybuilding still has some things we can gain from as well.
Hopefully I’ve given you a reason to dust off the ol’ dumbbell curls and work on adding some muscle this off season. If you need a training program that takes this into account then be sure to check out the Ultimate MTB Workout Program, where the early phases work on fixing your movement while also adding some functional muscle.
Let me know if you have any questions about this or anything else related to helping you improve your health and performance.
Until next time…
MTB Strength Training Systems