We’re weird when we talk about bodies. Perhaps it’s because the real reason for brains is for us to have more control of our movement. How we move, and what we look like is deeply tied into who we are. It’s no surprise that the cultural rules of discussing the human body are varied: In some circles, it’s a no-no, while in others it happens all the time.
While it seems that women are faced with a regular onslaught of media so that their body is never forgotten, men can face the exact same thing. For example, in The Adonis Complex, Dr. Harrison Pope presents the growing male trend of “bigorexia.”
Not to make light of this medical issue, but as Hollywood’s men seeming to grow or shrink as they please, it’s no wonder that Average Joe’s everywhere are struggling to appreciate what they’ve got, or get to the size that they want. We see photos of Chris Pratt growing for Guardians of the Galaxy, Christian Bale bulking up for Batman, and Hugh Jackman getting jacked, man. Who’s next?
The movie American Sniper came out over the weekend, telling the story of US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in US history. Playing the role of Kyle is Bradley Cooper and a 5-year old child. Yea, you read that correctly.
Cooper put on 40lbs of muscle, or the average weight of a 5-year old, to best portray Kyle for the film. Growing from 185lbs to 225lbs, he became the burly bear that Kyle was. Check out the movie’s trailer:
I haven’t seen it yet, but I bet that Tony Gentilcore has. What I did see over the weekend was two articles telling the story of Cooper’s transformation for the role. My prediction is that there are more to come as folks see the movie and dream of bigger guns. That’s a great sniper pun, isn’t it?!
If Bradley Cooper is in the physique transformation spotlight, I think it’s mandatory that the fitness industry consider this a teachable moment. What I mean by this is that we should be wise enough to create strategies that will help guys become wide enough. For example, the first article I saw about BC’s massive gainz was a T-Nation article that gave an outline for his workouts and his supplement plan.
It seems that after Jason Walsh wrote his training plan for Cooper, he then approached Tim Patterson, founder of the supplement company BioTest, which T-Nation owns. Considering that T-Nation then published the article, it makes sense to just consider it a supplement sales pitch, and I have no doubts that those goods will be scooped up. I also have no doubt that lots of lean guys will start to think about their supplement timing, rather than reflecting on the fact that they want to build a bigger chest but haven’t added weight to the bar in 10 weeks.
There-in likes the problem; that we as a community of men who want to put on muscle, do a goddamn awful job of prioritizing our needs, practicing those behaviors on a regular basis, and having the patience to let that focus succeed. Let me admit, I’m almost always a work smarter before you work harder kind of guy. Lou Schuler‘s article for Men’s Health does a more sensible job of telling Cooper’s story, albeit without the workout plan. I’m glad, because that’s not what it’s about.
It’s not about the workout. It’s about the dream. It’s about the guys who want to put on 40lbs of muscle. And hey, if Bradley Cooper can do it so can you, right? Maybe, but we need some realism.
For the vast majority of us, thinking that you can create a plan to put on 40lbs of muscle in 10 weeks is a recipe for failure. You are not Bradley Cooper. You do not have a trainer present for twice-daily workouts. You do not have a personal chef making you 5k calorie per day meals. You do not have a supplement company topping you off with more nutritional knick-knacks. You aren’t getting paid a million dollars to put on muscle. Hypertrophy is not your full-time job.
But, and this is a very big but, you have access to the exact same tried-and-true principles that Cooper used to put on muscle, and that every goddamn person who ever put on muscle followed as well. Before you set off to best Bradley Cooper’s transformation, or find it’s flaws with your friends, make sure you’re actually starting in the right place:
Do you even lift?
Bradley Cooper lifted. He lifted frequently, for lots of reps, with lots of weight. Internet toughguys may mock his 425lb rack pulls, but it’s still more than most people, and he’s still bigger than most people. Check the T-Nation article if you’d like the workout specifics, but consider your workout first. Are you lifting more weight than last time, for more reps than last time, more quickly than last time? If not, start here.
Eat more. (<-Period.)
If you want to grow, you have to eat. Unless you’re tracking your calories or macros every day, I don’t know if it’s fair to say, “Well I’m eating enough, and I just can’t seem to grow.” I’ve seen too many guys who “eat enough” never reach their goals because their version of “enough” just isn’t.
Bodybuilding.com has a simple macronutrient calculator, and you can use MyFitnessPal to track what you’re eating. I’d venture that a whole lot of the “I can’t seem to grow” guys will see better results simply from this reality check.
It’s not a rule set in stone, but I’d venture that if you’re averaging under 7 hours of sleep over a week, you’re not going to grow as much as you’d like. Actually doing nothing and sleeping is so hard for so many of us, but it’s our body’s greatest opportunity to grow. Again, tracking how long you sleep, and considering the quality of your sleep is huge. When you wake up, do you feel tired or well-rested? It’s an easy indicator of the level of success that lays ahead.
Supplements are a hot topic in exercise, and for good reason: Some of them suck, and some of them rule. Want to find out all of the info? Check out Examine.com. Their supplement guide is the best in the business. Want to know the best one? Eating real food.
Supplements are best suited to be just that; an addition to the things that you’re already doing really well. Stop turning to a Quest Bar because you forgot to get extra steak. Finish your chicken before you finish your potatoes. If there’s one element of #GAINZ that we abuse, it’s supplements. Get your diet in check first, and these guys actually start to work.
Which ones are my favorite? It’s actually the same regardless of your goals: Fish oil, whey protein, creatine. It’s that simple.
Gainz no more.
I feel that many of us who get into exercise to build some muscle turn it into a Sisyphean task, and not for a lack of willpower, but for a lack of planning. Along come the 1% stories, of a Hollywood star doing the impossible, and our passion is reinvigorated. I’m all for learning from the things that are possible, but I’d love if we thought a little bit more about what’s practical. That reflection and planning can help us build a better, and more muscular, life.
Again, who’s actually next? I think it’s you.
Muscular hypertrophy, or putting on muscle, is simple on paper. If you sit down and look at a training program, or you set up a higher-protein diet, you have the tools needed. Alas, it’s not that simple.
Having tools and effectively using the tools to build muscle is an artistic balance of priority, practice, and patience. (Click to Tweet!) Being that ‘artist’ is balancing the science of size with the basic behaviors that deliver the results you want. Guys who grow have a great system to follow, or a Coach who builds one with them. Review that checklist I’ve made, and let me know what you’re working on next.