As we stride further into 2017, we're sure you're starting to get back to the gym and setting your sights on your own fitness goals for the year. If you're one for hitting the weights section rather than the treadmill, we've got some exclusive expert advice to get you gaining more muscle in no time. Here we call on the help of celebrity personal trainer, Dan Roberts, founder of the Dan Roberts Group and pioneer of Methodolgy X, to give some professional insight into getting stronger and bigger by answering common questions we all find ourselves asking.
What are the most common mistakes you see people making when trying to build muscle and how can you amend them?
A big issue is sacrificing form for performance. This can result in injuries and strains, so only count perfect reps. Managing expectations is also key to success so this is important. It takes time and commitment, not just in training, but also in eating and rest. To optimise results, you need to optimise your lifestyle.
What are the most important exercises to build a bigger upper body?
For mass, you need to work the big multi-joint movements. The traditional strength training exercises of bench press, shoulder press, wide grip pull-ups and seated row should all be your focus. The weights need to be heavy. To see significant changes, you need to push yourself hard, eat carbs and protein and make sure you get enough sleep.
How often should you be doing cardio when trying to build mass?
If building mass is your only focus then it makes sense to eliminate hard cardio but remain active. So walk a bit every day but don’t do stuff that gets you too sweaty as it burns too many calories. The hardest part of putting on mass for men is getting enough calories in. Ideally I would recommend getting fitter and bigger together. While this takes longer, your muscles will look better and more athletic rather than just huge!
What exercises would you recommend for bigger:
a. Shoulders – Military press, side raises, reverse flies and handstands
b. Arms – Close grip bench-press, close grip supinated pull-ups, weighted dips and tricep kickbacks.
c. Chest – Flat bench press, decline dumbbell press, flat flies and incline flies on cables
d. Back – Wide grip pull ups, seated row, bent over row and deadlifts
e. Calves – Seated calf raise and standing calf raise
f. Quads – Front squats and one legged pistol squats
Your top tips to achieve a leaner and more defined mid-section?
Eat less! Changing your nutrition habits, cutting down booze and sugar and making sure you don’t eat more calories than you need to makes a huge difference. In addition, doing the strength exercises above, (from the bigger muscle groups) will help to increase your metabolism and burn fat from your fat cells all over the body, including all around tummy.
Once your body fat is around 12% or lower, then your 6-pack will start popping out. In my experience with training male models and actors, it’s only when you are lean enough, that it really makes sense to properly train the abs and obliques directly.
Your biggest bit of advice for anyone trying to achieve size?
Be patient. Getting bigger takes time. 1-2 pounds a week would be considered good going. As you get bigger you will get stronger too, which always feels good! But it’s important to realise that you can get strong without getting big.
Many pro athletes are powerful without being huge. It’s always good to internally clarify what you really want as training will be tough and eating will be even harder. Will power will always run out. This has to be an authentic goal for you.
Assuming pure mass building is the focus, one more tip is to get bespoke advice rather than just general. We have a free Facebook group ran by myself and my London and New York based personal trainers and strength coaches that will answer all your questions.
Dan Roberts - Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach