Are Power Cleans and Deadlifts The Best for Building Muscle?

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question-icon-newAre power cleans and deadlifts the best exercises for building muscle mass? I really need to bulk up and gain some weight and need to know which exercises I should focus on.

answer-icon-newYes, power cleans and deadlifts are a few of the kings of all mass building exercises. Other great exercises include barbell squats and barbell bench presses. These main exercises are the cornerstone multi-joint movements which will help you build the highest amount of muscle mass and strength. By recruiting the maximum amount of large muscle groups into your exercises, you will be simulating growth hormones and priming your body to add lean muscle tissue. The key is to go super heavy and super intense when doing these mass building movements. Focus on strict form and really push yourself to overload your muscles with resistance in order to force your body to grow!

The key is to combine these mass building exercises with a high calorie, nutrient dense diet with plenty of protein, carbs and healthy fats. When these two factors are combined (high calorie diet and high intensity mass building workouts), you will prime your body into an anabolic state where it’s ready to grow! Below are some guidelines for following a bulking up diet plan in order to pack on muscle mass and increase strength.

Bulk Up Diet Tips – What To Eat?
If you’re a hardgainer, which basically means you have a difficult time gaining weight and you are more on the skinnier side in terms of your body type, then the number one thing you want to focus on when trying to gain weight and get big, is your diet. What you eat is 75% of the results you will achieve in your physique goals. If you consume enough protein and calories, you will be able to prime your body to be ready for an anabolic surge (muscle growth) and provide the nutrients your body needs in order to pack on mass when you implement a high intensity workout program with mass building multi-joint exercises.

muscle-building-meals-2The key macronutrients in your diet are carbs, protein and fat. For protein, focus on 1.5-2.0 grams per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 175 pounds, then you will want to eat between 262.5 and 350 grams of protein per day. Divide this total into 5-7 meals in order to consume your goal number of grams of protein each day. So, for each meal you will be eating around 50 grams of protein (when eating 6 meals per day with a goal of 300 total grams of protein per day). You want to provide your body with an abundant amount of protein in order to provide the amino acids your muscles need to repair and grow.

The Best Sources of Protein:

  • Skinless Chicken Breast
  • Turkey Breast
  • Lean Beef (top round, top sirloin, eye of round, bottom round)
  • Lean Pork (pork loins, pork cutlets)
  • Egg Whites
  • Seafood (tuna, cod, salmon, shrimp, scallops, etc.)
  • Whey Protein Powder

For carbohydrates, stick with clean starchy complex carbs and fibrous veggies for your main sources. These will provide the energy you need to power you through super high intensity workouts. Carbs supply glycogen to your muscles and are critical for recovery. As a hardgainer, you definitely want to consume a high amount of carbs especially for your post-workout meal. You may have heard or read about the low-carb diet plans out there. These diets do not apply to you! You already have a high metabolism, so you want to overload your body with excess calories from quality nutrients all day long. So, don’t be afraid to eat a few extra portions of carbs but just make sure they are clean sources and not fast food or other junk (fries, potato chips, etc).

The Best Sources of Complex Carbs:

  • Brown Rice
  • Sweet Potatoes and Yams
  • Oatmeal (steel cut oats or old fashioned oats)
  • Quinoa
  • Ezekiel Bread
  • Legumes (black beans, chick peas, etc.)

The third macronutrient to discuss is fat. Your goal is to include healthy fats in your diet and this is critical for a few reasons. First, the health benefits of eating good fats are great since healthy fats are good for your heart and help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. In terms of building muscle mass, eating healthy fats are perfect since they contain over twice the amount of calories than carbs and protein do (9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram for protein and carbs). This allows you to easily increase your calorie intake by including fat sources in your diet. This is really easy to do with protein shakes since you can add a few tablespoons of all natural peanut butter, almond butter or flax oil along with your protein powder and other ingredients. Just by adding some extra fat to your meals, you can easily add up to 300-500 additional calories per meal!

The Best Sources of Healthy Fats:

  • Peanut Butter (all natural)
  • Almond Butter (all natural)
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, brazil nuts)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Macadamia Nut Oil
  • Flax Oil and Flaxseeds
  • Fish Oil
  • Salmon

Bulk Up Diet Tips – How Much To Eat?
muscle-building-meals-1Let me tell you something very important right now if you want to bulk up and gain weight. YOU NEED TO EAT A LOT OF FOOD! I’m not talking about eating a few extra helpings of rice at lunch or dinner. I’m talking about creating and preparing nutrient dense, high calorie meals that include clean sources of carbs, protein and fat. If you really want to pack on serious amounts of muscle mass and get huge, you need to dedicate yourself and put the time in. This means cooking and preparing your meals for the day, especially if you’re a student going to school. In term of calories, the first thing you need to do is get your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). This will tell you how many calories your body burns each day (BMR plus your daily activity).

You can use ShapeFit’s Calories Per Day Calculator to learn your specific daily calorie needs. Once you know how many calories your body burns every day, you need to add at least 500 additional calories to this level in order to gain weight. It’s probably best to actually add more like 750-1,000 calories to this total if you are a true hardgainer and are currently very skinny. Add these additional calories for 2-3 weeks and then look into the mirror to assess your physique visually. If it looks like you packed on some fat in your stomach area, then cut back a little bit on your calories. Using the mirror and taking weekly photos are very important for monitoring your physique.

Bulk Up Workout Tips – Cardio or No Cardio?
When your goal is to bulk up and gain muscle mass, you should focus on resting as much as possible in order to recover and grow! This means being absolutely lazy once you are out of the gym. Focus on working out super hard and intense and then let your body relax completely. When you add any type of extra exercise into your day, such as cardio or any other labor intensive work, you are taxing your body to some extra degree which is not ideal when you want to prime your body for growth. Your body really wants to build muscle or burn fat, so when you mix the two together in your routine, it kind of confuses your body. Let your body focus on only doing one main thing and that means getting bigger and stronger!

The goal of cardio is to burn extra calories in order to lose fat and also to work your heart and cardiovascular system. When you are bulking up and following a weight gainers workout and diet plan, you should cut out all cardio until you reach your goal weight. The only time to add cardio into your routine is if you are gaining too much fat while following your bulk up diet. In this instance, only add super slow and steady cardio to your routine which means walking on the treadmill or riding the bike at a very moderate pace (avoid any high intensity cardio). By doing low intensity cardio, you will make sure your body will not be burning any lean muscle tissue for energy.

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