Updated: Feb 21, 2019
I get asked sometimes, by clients and associates, about how to get big in the gym.
By ‘big’ I mean noticeably and (usually) heavily muscled, in a way that suggests power and strength. It is the very definition of, in the language of the gym, the aesthetics of size.
There is a difference here between heavy and lean muscle in fitness and aesthetic terms, in how the two forms appear to the eye, feel on the body and, apparently, over what they represent in our culture. Lean muscle is generally associated with speed, agility, vigour and youth, while heavy muscle is seen as signifying power, strength and virility.
There is also a difference in how the two forms are achieved, specially with regard to the diets that are the foundations for both, and how the two forms are maintained over the medium and long-term. Both muscle forms have their advocates (especially in aesthetic terms), together with their respective positives and negatives.
From the point of view of a Personal Trainer, as I touched upon in my most recent podcast, my chief concerns where getting big is concerned are to do with the requirements to achieve this form and how suitable it is to an sporting lifestyle.
The effort and inputs required to get big can be serious and demanding. The typical size-building exercise programme, centred as it is on heavy weight lifting to a regular schedule, can be challenging, require expert (i.e. Personal Trainer) support and can also be prone to injury.
On top of that the dietary strictures to fuelling muscle growth and maintaining that growth over the medium and long term (not to mention the defining of the form if competition is one of the training objectives) can be equally demanding, a financial issue and a discipline in itself.
And then there is the cultural element.
Essentially getting big is a specific lifestyle choice, largely due to the requirements of all of the above, and not one to be undertaken lightly. So if you are interested in seriously getting big you should be prepared for that interest becoming your life!
At the end of the day the question that everyone who has fitness objectives and gym targets should ask themselves is, what is realistic and what is best for me in the long run?
Or, to put it another way, what is going to best benefit me in the game of life, what is going to give me the stamina and form I need to succeed, and what is going to make me happy?
Honestly and intelligently answering these starting questions is, putting aside the dietary rules, workout schedules and all the rest of it, the key to succeeding in the gym.
Get those answers right, choose the best and most sustainable fitness programme based on those answers, put in place the most appropriate support for your training programme and you will make progress on the gym floor.
Which, at the end of the day, is the point of fitness training in the first place.
The aesthetics come later.
So enjoy your workout in the meantime.