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The Dragon Slayer Speaks

Rich Gaspari - the dragon slayer
Building Muscle in The Off-Season
01/13/2012

Lately I've been asked a lot about how I got so ripped after all of these years of not competing. But the other big question I get all the time is, how do I build solid, quality muscle? Without a base of good muscle, you're really wasting your time dieting to get ripped up. You'll have abs, but will you really look like you want to without the solid quality muscle that goes with a ripped body? Probably not. A lean physique that has next to zero muscle mass is hardly impressive. Before you get ripped, you need some mass to show once the fat comes off. One phrase related to this I used to hear back in the day was "you can't carve a twig!" So it's important to have enough muscle that when you diet down you show good size in your chest, back, shoulders, legs and arms.

How do you build quality muscle? It takes several different tasks done simultaneously to make this possible. They are proper Nutrition, proper supplementation, and proper training.

First, let's talk about nutrition. You want to make sure you are gaining quality muscle and not just getting fat and 'bulking up.' I have always said that if your waist gets too thick and you lose sight of your abs, you're way too fat. Of course, you can't stay totally ripped in the process of gaining lean quality muscle either, so it's a fine line you need to walk. I learned in my early years that bulking up too much caused me to have to diet too hard, to the point where I ended up losing muscle. The best approach is gaining a little at a time, so you are always able to see your abs and some degree of detail in your body. Forget about trying to gain 30-40 pounds in a couple months. I guarantee you most of it would be fat!

I always felt the most important piece of the puzzle was eating. Following the right diet really matters. A lot of people say they eat great, but when I get down to seeing the details of their diet; they really don't. They are not eating the right percentages of their macronutrients, or eating frequently enough to keep the body in a anabolic state. I see many people saying they're eating right and taking in plenty of protein, but when it gets down to it they're eating 4 times a day at best. That's at least one meal shy of where they should be, and 6 meals a day would be even better. First, I recommend logging everything you are eating every day. Eat a diet that consists of 40% protein, 45% Carbohydrates and 15% fat and split your daily food totals into 6 meals a day.

This will seem impossible at first for most people. It takes planning! It's been said many times that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This definitely pertains to proper eating to gain lean muscle mass. The first thing to do is keep a diet log of everything you eat so you can see exactly that you are following the right diet. Before you do anything else, I recommend you write down everything you eat for the next three days to figure out how many calories you are taking in per day. When you figure this out, you can then take that caloric intake and follow more closely a 40%-45%-15% ratio diet by using a good book that states what the macronutrients of the foods are. I would of course make sure I increased the calories you figured out by 500 more on the new diet you will follow in your off-season mass quest.

Make sure the foods you eat are high quality protein from chicken, lean beef, fish, egg whites, and some whole eggs plus protein powders like Myofusion Probiotic. Carbohydrates will come from unrefined complex sources like rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes, oatmeal, gluten-free pasta, and gluten-free breads. I like to stay gluten-free lately since I feel I don't get as bloated or have as much water retention now that I took gluten out of my diet. I also eat fruits like bananas, apples, pears, strawberries, and blueberries. I eat fibrous carbs from vegetables like broccoli, string beans, spinach and other greens. As you can see, I believe in a wide variety of food sources, but I like to stay away from the white sugars and white flour products. This way I gain quality weight in the form of muscle and not fat. My fats come from walnuts, almonds, whole eggs, and olive oil. I stay away from fried foods as well, since these are empty calories that will not help in gaining muscle but will cause you to gain fat. Here's my typical diet I follow to gain lean muscle mass. You can change the diet to more or less of the proteins, carbs, and fats.


Meal One: Myofusion Probiotic Shake: 2 scoops of Myofusion, 1/2 cup egg whites, 2/3 cup of instant oatmeal, 1 tbsp natural peanut butter or almond butter, 1/2 cup apple juice, 1/2 cup water and ice.


Meal 2: 8 oz grilled chicken mixed with 1 cup brown rice, 1 tablespoon olive oil or salad dressing with veggies.


Meal 3: Myofusion Protein Pancakes: 1 scoop Myofusion, 1 cup egg Whites, 1 cup oatmeal, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1 sliced banana. Mix all together and cook under low heat on a non-stick pan using cooking spray. Optional: add sugar-free syrup.


Meal 4: 1/2 lb lean ground beef, 1 cup gluten-free pasta, low sodium natural tomato sauce with 1 tbsp grated cheese.


Meal 5: Same as Meal 2


Meal 6: Same as meal 1

This is a sample that you can increase the macronutrients to follow the 40-45-15 by 500 calories every 3-4 weeks to gain quality muscle.

The next thing that is important is the supplements to gain quality muscle. As I have always said, you can't get all the nutrients you need to build a great physique from food alone. This is especially true when you are training. Of course, I believe in supplements. I would not own a supplement company otherwise.

For gaining lean muscle here is my formula for what I use.

Anavite Multi-Vitamin formula, taking 6 pills a day, split 3 pills with morning meal and 3 pills in afternoon meal.

With vitamins, 2 grams fish oil in gel cap form twice a day and 200mg of Co Enzyme Q10 twice a day.

  • SuperPump Max, 2 scoops taken 20 minutes before workout
  • 6 Vasotropin tablets taken with meal before workout, which is my first meal since I train in the morning.
  • SizeOn, 1 scoop taken with training and sipped throughout the workout.
  • Viridex XT, 2 tablets taken twice a day.

Now for the training! I feel that for building muscle, you need to stick to basics. But even with the basics, what's most important is good form. You want to lift heavy weights in a rep range of 6-8, 10 at most, and on the last set going to failure.

What does 'basics' mean? It means doing free weight exercises like deadlifts, squats, barbell curls, power cleans, and incline dumbbell or barbell presses and flyes along with flat presses and flyes as well. I also train on a 4 day split for better recuperation to grow.

Here's is a sample workout of my gaining phase.

Day 1: Chest and Triceps

Chest

  • Incline dumbbell or barbell press: 4 sets of 10-8-8-6 Increasing weights each set
  • Incline dumbbell flyes: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Flat bench with dumbbells or barbell: 4 sets of 10-8-6-8 (Strict form on these is a must!)
  • Pec dec or flat flyes: 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
  • Dips or decline flyes: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Triceps

  • Triceps rope pushdowns: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Pullover press (My favorite for mass): 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Seated overhead dumbbell extensions: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Cross bench dips: 3 sets of 10 with weights on legs for extra resistance.

Day 2: Back and Calves

Back

  • Wide-grip chins to front: 3 sets of 10 (if possible, use dip belt for extra weight)
  • Close-grip cable pulldowns: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • One-arm dumbbell rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Bent barbell rows: 3 sets 8-10 reps.
  • DB or cable pullovers: 3 sets 8-10 reps
  • Deadlifts: 4 sets of 8-10 reps done slowly, squeezing at the top.

Calves

  • Standing calf raise: 5 sets of 10-12 reps*
  • Seated Calf raise: 4 sets of 10-12 reps.
  • *Calves are the only muscle I believe need higher reps for growth.

Day 3: Off

Day 4: Shoulders and Biceps

Shoulders

  • Power Cleans off power rack: 4 sets of 10-8-8-6
  • Seated side laterals: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Wide-grip upright rows: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Bent lateral raise: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Standing barbell or dumbbell shrugs: 4 sets of 8-10 reps

Biceps

  • Standing barbell curls: 4 sets of 8-10 reps (strict, no cheating!)
  • Incline dumbbell curl: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Preacher curls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Reverse preacher curls: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Day 5: Legs:

  • Squats: 4 sets of 10 -8-6-10
  • Leg press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Hack squats: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Walking lunges: 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Lying hamstring curls: 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Romanian Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Calves: Same as Day 2

Days 6 and 7 off to rest

As you can see, I stay with basic exercises and have 3 full days of rest to recuperate and grow. Plus, I stay with a overall 6-10 rep range. Well, there you have it, the basics for gaining mass. Give it a try and let me know your results. I know if you work hard and are dedicated, you'll have a lot more mass to show off the next time you diet down!

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