Once again you've promised yourself that this is the year you're "really gonna do it." Damn right you are. Because this time there are no excuses. What follows is a summary of everything MF knows about building your muscles, losing your gut, and living to the fullest. All the typical resolutions are here-how to add inches to your arms, pounds to your bench, years to your life, and abs to your midsection-brought to you by some of the best trainers and coaches on the planet. Follow their instructions and you can't fail. Happy New Year? This time it will be.
Add 50 pounds to your bench press
Train heavy. "I hear all the time how someone wants to get stronger, yet they end up training like my grandmother," says Jim Wendler, a London, Ohio, trainer and former champion powerlifter with a 675-pound bench press. "You have to lift heavy weights to increase strength." That means using loads that are between 85% and 100% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM)-the most weight you can handle for one rep. Each time you bench, build up to your 1RM with this progression (after your warm-up):
Set % of 1RM NUMBER OF REPS
1 50% five reps
2 60% five reps
3 70% three reps
4 80% one rep
5-7 90% two to three reps
Estimate an increase in your 1RM by two-and-a-half to five pounds each week, and adjust the weights you use on all the sets accordingly.
Develop your grip strength. "This will allow you to grip the bar harder," says Wendler, "which translates into a tighter body position that's critical for lifting more weight." Try pinch grips: Hold several five- or 10-pound plates (three or four, depending on the size of your hands) between your thumb and fingers on both hands and let your arms hang at your sides. Hold for 20 seconds. Perform two sets at first-gradually working up to four-resting two minutes between sets. Train your grip twice a week at the end of your lower-body workouts.
Train your lats. "Strong lats will not only improve your posture," says Wendler, "they'll also improve your bench-press form, giving you more control over the bar as you lower and press it." Furthermore, making sure your pulling muscles stay in balance with your pushing muscles lessens your risk of injury. Do plenty of rows and pullups in your workouts-as many total sets as you do for the bench press. "Begin each rep by pulling your shoulder blades together," says Wendler. "Aim for between six and 15 total reps."
Add two inches to your arms
Do squats. "If you want to increase the size of one muscle group, you need to gain weight all over," says Joel Marion, C.P.T., a New Jersey-based trainer who sports a pair of 18-inch pythons. "Most strength coaches agree that to gain an inch on your arms, you have to pack on at least 10 pounds of body mass-and the best overall mass-building exercise is the squat." Though squatting primarily works your lower-body musculature, it stimulates the release of muscle-building hormones throughout the body, as well as increased blood flow to carry nutrients to your muscles. "You don't get the same effect doing arm curls," says Marion. Do eight sets of eight reps, resting two minutes between sets.
Train your tri's. They make up two-thirds of your upper-arm mass, but most guys still train them only as an afterthought. Marion recommends prioritizing tri's with compound exercises-those that work muscles at more than one joint. "Dips and decline close-grip bench presses not only hit the triceps hard but also recruit the stabilizing muscles that support the elbow and shoulder joints," says Marion. "If your stabilizers are weak, the growth of your bigger muscles will be limited." Conversely, more stability will lead to greater upper-body growth overall.
Work the brachialis. It's a triangular-shaped muscle that lies under the biceps and contributes greatly to the fullness of your upper arm. "Big arms are impossible to achieve if you neglect it," warns Marion, saying conventional curls don't work it hard enough. "Use hammer curls," in which your palms face each other, "and reverse curls," in which they're facing down.