Column: Shobha Kaul


It is a commonly held myth among young people today that use of anabolic steroids is a major contributing factor for bodybuilding. It is indeed true that steroids help you grow more muscle mass but only increasing mass is not going to produce a bodybuilding champion. We should be clear that the ‘ripped’ look and balanced body proportions come from proper nutrition and attention to training details and not merely by popping anabolic steroids.

There are several avenues that must be followed during the long way to body perfection. Most of them are: muscle training and training methods, diet and nutrition, lifestyle changes, and training enhancers.

With the use of electron microscopy and the study of the changes that happen within a muscle cell, one can visualise the difference between the old method of training with heavy weights and few reps and today’s regimen of light weights and high reps. The result of fast, slow or sustained movements, forced reps, rhythmic pumping and other techniques are now clearer hence the dependence on steroids has to be virtually lesser.

Muscle training is based on the “overload principle”. There are many ways to applying overload to a muscle. Increase the weight, increase the reps or sets and increase the speed of movement or decrease the rest periods. Each type produces a different result within a muscle cell. Ten or more than 10 repetitions (reps) is considered `light', and less than 10 reps is `heavy' exercise. For the beginner, high-intensity training is out, and building strength is essential in all muscles to support the musculoskeletal system and improving synergy and stability. Perform exercises slowly and deliberately through the full range of motion. This will ensure maximum muscle development and fewer injuries. Practice under the supervision of a weight-training instructor.

Basic exercises:
Pectorals (chest)-bench press
Quadriceps (thighs)-squats
Trapezius (top of shoulders)-shrugs
Rhomboids (upper back)-bent rows
Deltoids (shoulders)-lateral raises
Latissimus dorsi (outer back)-pull downs
Abdominal (belly)-crunches
Gastrocneminals (calfs)-toe raises
Biceps (upper arm-front)- curls
Triceps (upper arm-back)-triceps extensions
Erector spinae (lower back)-stiff-leg deadlifts.

Nutrition: Fats, carbohydrates and proteins are the chief sources of calories.

Carbohydrates: These are the best choice for energy for muscles for exercising (than proteins and fats). Carbohydrates get stored in muscles as glycogen for exercising and the liver as sugar bank to maintain blood sugar levels.
If muscle glycogen is reduced we won't be able to lift our muscles and reduced liver glycogen reduces blood sugar to the brain, resulting in mental fatigue and reduced enthusiasm for exercise. Carbo rich diets like fruits, vegetables, cereals and grains replace glycogen in muscles in two days while protein and fat rich foods like meat, egg, burgers, or fried foods replace it in five days. It is therefore important to take complex carbo rich diet. In fact, they should constitute about 50-60% of our diet.

Proteins: They are important in resistance exercises like weight training. Proteins should contribute 15-20% of daily calories, more while body building, for muscle repair and growth, 1-1.5 gm per kg of lean weight or ¾ gm per pound of body weight. Certainly not more than this because eating more proteins leads to formation of urea, its end product which must be excreted to avoid strain on the liver and the kidney.

Fats: Since bodybuilders rarely do cardiovascular exercises, less fats is needed, about 15% of daily calories. Fats come in combination of proteins. The best sources are fish, nuts and seeds, dairy products and eggs.
Bodybuilders’ vitamins and mineral requirements are met by foods such as liver, eggs, fish, yellow fruits and veggies, grains, legumes, milk, green veggies, citrus fruits, dried nuts fruits, etc.

Motivation: This is another important factor in bodybuilding. Make your training a challenge in itself. Set short-term goals, they will lead you to your long-range goals. Learn while training to overcome your weak areas. Learn to enjoy the pain caused by an all-out training session.
You may wish to train alone or with a partner, but always remain receptive to assistance and be self-assured of your own warmth. In so doing you will it find easier to avoid failure.

—The author is managing director of Personal Point and an acclaimed fitness expert

November 2006

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