Ask Anthony Ellis – Part I

Real questions and answers by Anthony Ellis.Anthony, I know you say that you gained over 30 lbs in 12 weeks, but my personal trainer says that’s impossible and that you are lying? Are you?

Here we go. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve had his question, and all I can say is everything is impossible until you do it. From your perspective it may seem a bit incredible, but I’ve seen it happen quite often, so from my point of view it’s very possible. I’ve just seen too people make equal or even greater progress than I did, to say otherwise. Oh yea, to answer your question: No, I’m not lying.

Well, can you tell me if I will gain as much as you did? I’m about 102 lbs and my body fat is pretty low.

Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t see the future. I can say that if you follow the basic weight gain rules I outlined in the April/May 2002 issue if MM, you will gain weight. Ho much weight I cannot tell you. You may gain less than I did, but you may gain more. Everyone progresses at different rates, but if you are consistent with your eating and training, you will see progress. It’s not easy, I will be the first to admit it, but nothing worth having is! Remember this, your muscle gain or fat loss progress is equal to the amount of effort and consistency you put into your program. The more consistent you are, the more progress you will make.

Anthony, I’ve been weight training for 3 years, and I’m not seeing any weight gain progress. I started out at 138 lbs. I train 7 times per week hard. My workouts last about 2 hours or so, maybe a bit longer — I’m very dedicated, so that’s not the problem. I love working out. Help!

OK, I see a few big problems here. First, you are training TOO OFTEN. If you are training naturally (meaning without steroids other performance enhancing drugs) then there is absolutely no reason for you to be training so much. Why are you training six times per week? Let me guess, because you think that the more you train the bigger you will get. Right? Wrong. Training more often does not equal more size. If it did, all one would have to do to be huge is to workout all day, everyday. The truth is the just opposite. Less is best, when training for size and strength.

Your body can only repair and build larger muscle fibers when your muscles are resting. So, if you are training all the time, when do you rest? When does your body get time build new muscle? Training less will allow your body to fully recover between workouts. This will give it the time to actually build bigger, stronger muscles. If you are naturally thin, and have a hard time putting on muscle mass, you should be training no more than 3 times per week.

Next, you’re training sessions are too long. 2 hours? I know you are dedicated, but unfortunately this is hurting your progress. You must reduce your workout time. Continuing to train after 60-75 minutes becomes detrimental to your goal. I know it’s difficult to leave gym. You are pumped up and feeling good. You feel as if you are making true progress so you want to do one more set, one more exercise… Don’t’ do it. The longer you are in the gym, the higher your chances of losing muscle due to the dramatic rise in cortisol.

Why do you recommend using free weights? Are they really necessary to build muscle? If so, why do gyms have more machines instead of free weights?

Free weights are absolutely necessary, and in my opinion a requirement for muscle building. Machines are excellent for isolation exercises and in some cases allow you to do movements that you cannot do with free weights, but overall, free weights lifts should be the main focus of any weight training program. I can speculate that gyms have more free weights mainly because of ignorance. Many people have been told that free weights are dangerous, or that they will make you too bulky or that machines are better because they are easier to do. All of which are false.

Anthony, during your three month program, did you eat the same foods everyday? I’ve been training for a few weeks and I’m already tired of chicken, rice and protein powder.

Yes, I did eat the same thing each day and I suggest that you do also. I find that many people who try to change their diet each day are unable to remain consistent. This is because changing your diet requires much more time and planning than simply eating the same thing each day. Don’t make things more difficult than they are. This is self-defeating behavior, and unfortunately many of us display this in one form or another.

Trying to change things up each day can be more of a hassle than benefit if you are just starting any sort of new diet. I strongly recommend that you stay consistent with a set meal plan for at least 3 months, or until your eating routine becomes a habit (second nature). Then once you become comfortable with it, you can begin to experiment with making small changes and substitutions. Trying to do all this in the beginning is quite difficult since you are still trying to adjust to the new diet and eating habits.

I’ve been training for a few months and I’m seeing some good progress, but I can’t seem to develop my inner pecs. I want to isolate that area. What exercise will help me sculpt my pecs and build more inner pec size?

There is no such thing as inner or out pectoral muscles. That’s a myth that will not die. The Pectoralis Major (pecs) are comprised of two main muscles, the clavical head and the sternal head. The sternal head is what we normally are referring to when we say “pecs”. It’s a large, wide muscle that spans from your arm pit to your middle chest area or sternum. It is NOT divided into inner and outer areas. When you perform a lift like bench presses, the muscle contracts as a whole. You can’t just isolate that one area.

Different exercises may “feel” different, but because they put different emphasis on supporting muscles. Your chest is still contracting the same — the entire muscle working together.

The shape that the muscle takes when worked is due to the natural shape of YOUR muscle — not from a specific exercise. You cannot change the natural shape of your muscle. As your pec muscles get larger, they will have more definition and size, but the shape and look will remain distinctly your own.

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