5 reasons for the success of my hypertrophy phase – by Ben Coker

Well the beloved bulking phase has passed for me and I am now 2 weeks into a mild trim. Looking back on the months since Christmas in which I put on 11kg, I reflected on the things that contributed to my success. My previous articles on the mistakes of bulking 1 and 2 went a long way in keeping me on the road to success but this article explains 5 more personal reasons.


1) I set quantifiable, challenging but realistic goals.

For me I had two post-its on my wall; one saying 150kg for 10reps = 170kg and the other 114.3 kg / 18stone, both surrounded by inspiring quotes I hold close.

The first refers to benching 150kg for 10 reps which should equate to a 1rm of 170kg + by the end of my bulk. The second refers to the body wight I wanted to achieve by the end of my bulk.

These notes were glaring at me every time I sat in my room, there was no escape. I had held myself accountable. Looking back those notes where instrumental in me smashing both targets.

I feel that simply entering a bulk phase with the notion of ‘I want to be bigger and or stronger’ will undoubtedly lead to poor or sub optimal results. Have a fixed finish point and make it visible to you everyday as a reminder to yourself; are you doing everything you can to reach your best?


2) I built my calories up slowly but ultimately if I wasn’t eating when I felt I shouldn’t have then I was stunting my growth.

A recent article about leaving something in the toolbox applies here. When starting a bulk dont go over crazy on the food. Trust me simply by giving your body as little as 500kcal extra a day from its maintenance or dieted levels it has been on between bulking phases is enough to make the body  put on muscle at impressive rates.

BUT here’s the twist. This rate of growth slows as you put on weight so you have to keep increasing your calories over the hypertrophy period to get that surplus of calories above your RMR!

And boy did they the calories have to go up!  Two thirds of the way through my bulk I plateaued. I wasn’t eating enough, but surely 6000kcal a day was enough?

‘Obviously not you idiot’ I told myself.

I went and revised my list on the mistakes of bulking and all boxes were checked barring the fact I wasn’t eating when I felt I shouldn’t!

So up went the calories to 7000kcal and even 8000kcal on some days. What happened? From being stuck at around 110-112kg bodyweight I flew up to 114kg then continue up until 116kg.

So build up those calories conservatively but keep building them up! Don’t fear fat gain as long as your building muscle as fast as humanly possible. There will be another time for you to ‘unveil’ your sculpture later…


3) I walked everywhere

This one is so important especially when you get REAL heavy but also if you put on a decent level of mass in a relatively short period of time. Last weeks article also touched on it.

By walking everywhere everyday you body doesn’t notice the effects of the extra mass gradually being put on. You feel lighter on your feet, and your cardio-respiratory systems are much better adapt to cope with the larger mass.

Honesty call, I love being big but even to me an out of breath mass monster don’t look (or feel) too good! Everyone should be able to walk briskly for at least an hour whilst still holding a conversation. And I’m glad to say that despite impressive gains in muscle mass I don’t feel ‘burdened’ with the extra weight.


4) Adapt to setbacks: I got outside the bodybuilding world and fell in love with a sled

At one point my knee was playing up a bit and so I sought different ways to hit my legs. Pulling a sled caused no pain in my knee and so there was the answer.

If I’m stuck with this I thought then I may as well load the thing up to the max and put a lot of work through my legs. 4 weeks of puke inducing sled training and my legs grew by an inch.

A slap in the face reminder that different is good sometimes, even for a bodybuilder. Any bodybuilder would settle for an inch on their legs but for me the benefits went further. Since quitting rugby some time ago I had not run for years. Despite my strength I was now slower and struggled to sprint under my new weight.

The sled training got me right back on track; my legs were not only bigger now but their power had also been increased. I was now functional again despite being kilos heavier and I loved it! I also enjoyed the sensation of high intensity cardio believe it or not. It made me feel healthier and that’s priceless when piling on size.


5) Deadlift, Deadlift, Deadlift.

I have had issues with my low back for a while and have spent a long time rehabbing and tentatively dabbling in deadlifting again in the process of recovery. But by this bulk phase I was ready to hit them in ernest. I knew deadlifts were the missing link to gorilla muscle, and gorilla muscle was what I wanted.

Gorilla muscle: built by deadlifts.

So I deadlifted and deadlifted a lot. Not always super heavy but I made a point to work hard on form and intensity. Some days I did heavy singles, some days sets of 5 and some days I even did super volume on them like 10×10 or sets of 30reps at 1.5 x bodyweight.

The results of fanatical deadlifting?. My low back and core is now a whole lot stronger and my discs far more protected. A movement that had crippled me even to think of, I now loved. My legs ballooned. My back got super thick. Oh and finally all my other lifts sored up and as a result all their relevant muscle groups grew in a crazy fashion.

The deadlift is the king at building the whole body as the whole body is used. This hypertrophy phases owes a lot of its success to the fact that in it I could for the first time deadlift pain free.  I took full advantage and the scales and measurements went through the roof as a result.


GVT for Legs, Back and Shoulders – by Ben Coker

Are your back, leg and shoulder workouts leaving you lost on how to keep inducing hypertrophy? Are any of these body parts lagging behind? Or do you simply like a gruelling challenge of manliness? Enter German Volume Training.

German volume training offers a demanding workout in the simplest format. One exercise, 10 sets of 10 reps. This type of training provides a shock to the system to help break hypertrophy plateaus (through the sheer volume of mechanical stress and your body’s huge hormonal response) and offers a testing but refreshingly simple break from training monotony.
Sure people might already know this BUT how many actually practice it?
Here are some GVT training sessions for back, legs and shoulders that I use. They test your metal and officially declare you insane but they certainly let you know what your really made of. This type of training session should not be performed frequently as they can drain your body and CNS like nothing else, leaving you over trained. Used wisely though these sessions will inject impressive ‘boosts’ in your hypertrophy.


In order of sanity:

10×10 Wide Grip Upright Row

This will provide you with the sensation of a thousand knives piercing your your shoulder girdle! But quite simply this volume will leave your shoulders and upper back looking like the Himalayas and will do wonders to your V taper.

Keep the rest low, 1min max and push through the burn. Don’t be a wimp as to be honest these are tame compared to the rest. (A note of caution, if you suffer from shoulder impingement this may not be a suitable choice due to the orientation of the shoulder joint in this movement).
10×10 Wide Grip Pull Ups (no swinging or kips)

If you can do 10×10 wide pull ups its an impressive feat. Heavy boys don’t use your bodyweight as an excuse! Become a master of body weight pull ups and get lats that block out the sun. Be warned after set 3-4 life becomes hell. Dig deep and drag your ass up. After all, how badly do you want a Dorian Yates looking back??

Rest on these should be no more than 3 minutes but if rest on the last few sets is longer its no big deal in the grand scheme. Just don’t abuse the rest and take like 10 minutes between sets!
10×10 Back Squat

Performed with 2 minutes rest and done arse to grass 10×10 squats will have your legs like jelly, your vision blurry and your stomach uneasy! Again about midway through set 4 the world looks and feels a little bit different! On the good side they will make your legs resemble those of a tyrannosaur! Or Branch Warren…



10×10 Barbell Deadlift  

When I tried these I said aloud to myself ‘You’ve officially lost the plot, this is your craziest idea yet’ and I still agree. These are by far the hardest GVT session I can think off and extremely taxing on the entire body. After set 3 it feels like its job done, time to do some rows… not today! Only 3 times that extra to go! I can’t really do justice to the endeavour, it’s simply gruelling on the highest level.

Be sure to know good form in the later sets and I advise a spotter for motivation and to monitor your form in case it breaks down!

I used this workout before a went a way on a week and a half holiday and boy I needed every day as rest and continued grazing! My entire body was in seizure…and it felt amazing! This will put serious mass and crazy thickness on your legs, back, shoulders and forearms given ample nutrition and recovery.

Wrap up
If you are lost on how to keep inducing hypertrophy, you have lagging lags, back and or shoulders or you simply want a gruelling challenge of manliness give these GVT ball busters a go. Remember don’t use these every session as it can be too demanding for your body (barring maybe the upright rows) and you will lack the part specific benefits of other movements. I like to throw one in every few weeks to keep me mentally stimulated and physically growing.

A final not on what weight to use for your 10 sets.  It up to you. If your a softy your gonna use a comfortable weight and rest lots. If your more like me then you’ll go as heavy as you can go and rest as little as you can physically manage.

You won’t necessarily be able to judge correctly the weight on your first attempt. That’s fine, just adjust accordingly next time. That’s if there is a next time…

Mistakes of Bulking Part 2 – by Ben Coker

Last week I posted about 5 key areas for failure when pursuing hypertrophy, focusing on food. This installment of bulking mistakes focuses on 5 common training errors…
1) Not doing the basic muscle building lifts enough or even at all!

Too often the main compound lifts are neglected in programmes. They are either not done which is just plain dumb or they are done but with the premise of doing them because one knows they should! These people do them just to get them out the way so they can do the easier exercises!

‘All aboard for no gains!’

The lifts that are hardest get the best results. Compounds must form the vast majority of your programme. Isolation exercises from a hypertrophy perspective add shape to a huge mound of putty. With them we can add little extra bits of size to get a complete stage shape. These little extra bits put on to an already large piece of putty yields impressive illusions for size and density. But you can’t sculpt or shape if you have no putty to work with in the first place (ie limited muscle mass). In this case adding little bits to a little will yield slow and unimpressive gains. So unless you have a 17+ inch biceps for example, curls should hardly appear in your split but heavy chins should.

Ditch the curls...

2) Lack of intensity

Often people don’t do enough work for muscles to force the best growth out of them. It is essential for hypertrophy that we actually make the muscles work through fatigue. This isn’t about strength and letting the CNS fully recover for another 1RM, this is about working the target muscles hard and forcing them to grow.

Built with intensity.

If you are not sweating then believe me your intensity sucks! Work hard and push through fatigue to get optimal results. Upping your intensity may mean ditching your ego and lifting lighter but hey ego gets you no where intensity does.

There also needs to be a decent accumulation of work done for a movement pattern or exercise in a session to make it worthwhile. I’m talking mainly about doing enough working sets here. Too often people warm up to a working weight then switch to the next exercise. 3 working sets mean just that 3 sets where your working with the top weight for that session!

3) Poor body splits and recovery

This can be the undoing of many programmes. Often the right exercises are in a programme but how they are combined and spread out is woeful at times.

Doing arms one day then back the next, or doing chest one day then shoulders the next are good examples of this. The splits are good in that they could contain the heavy compound lifts to work the muscles well but done back to back  over training occurs and the second session is not performed optimally enough and can actually hinder recovery and progress from the day before.

It is essential that you get 2 days rest between hitting body parts directly to get the best out of each session. Failing to do so leads to under recovery and a subsequent lesser performance in the next session which over time will lead to an accumulation of over training and lost results. Doing a back workout, followed the day after by a leg session that involves deadlifting is going to lead to under performance on the deadlift. Little things like this add up across many splits preventing optimal training and growth.

Remember if you train like a madman and you will get more out of the days when you are not training but you need to have those rest days to actually realise this! Ensure that your spilt allows for enough rest days where your body doesn’t have to deal with any training stimulus at all and can focus solely on repair and growth.

4) Missing out key body parts that give the appearance of fullness and density.

Side delts are vital in giving you a wider appearance from the front and back. As a result they help to accentuate your V taper. They also tie in the traps to the arms to give a fuller, denser appearance.

Rear delts are crucial in making you look thick and complete from unflattering 45degree angles. They also give a finishing touch to the upper back, helping to build that mountain range that is visible through the back of a t-shirt. Its worth noting that in bodybuilding, it is the rear delts that stick out the furthest in the most muscular pose, highlighting their importance in the size illusion.

Rear delts make a most muscular physique!

Without a thick set of sweeping hamstrings you quads will never look big! Neglecting hamstrings will leave your legs looking puny and ill sightly despite what quad size you have. Not only this but big hamstrings can actually build bigger quads as it allows you to squat and deadlift more! Whatever way you look at it if you don’t have big hamstrings you won’t have big well rounded legs. As the bodybuilding saying goes ‘a good set of hamstrings is an overdeveloped set of hamstrings.’

Calves. All I can say to this is how silly it looks when your as wide as a house up top yet are walking on match stick calves! Calves are a very impressive muscle group when well developed and often if someones calves are of epic proportions then you can bet that they are gonna be massive up top.

So ego lovers if you wont people to gawk at how big you instead of laugh at how unbalanced you are…get some calves.

5) Changing programme every week when the scales haven’t gone up as much as last week.

Building muscle is a long endeavor and gains are non linear in the way they appear. Trust in your training and ‘stay the course’. Keep training hard and consistently and give those result time to show themselves because they will. Programme hopping will get you nowhere. Fact.

Inspiration 20/03/11

As it’s sunday, we’ve got your weekly dose of inspirational videos to get you fired up for the training week ahead! Enjoy.

First up, we’ve got footage from the rugby six nations – Invictus


Next – the beauty of bodybuilding


And finally, a VERY inspirational piece from Kai Greene – ‘Champion of Mind’


 Until next week. Train Hard. Train Smart. Stay Strong.

Inspiration 10/03/11

Today we’ve got another selection of videos from the web to get your fired up about your training and sport.

This clip I feel encapsulates what it takes to be the best; the power of inner belief, going hard everyday, staying on your grind, rising to and overcoming the challenges.


For all you bodybuilders out there i don’t need to explain why this clip is immense!


Don’t dream, don’t you dare dream. That won’t get you anywhere!


Its you versus 2nd place pal…let’s see what you’ve got!


Until next time. Train hard. Train smart. Stay strong.

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