Dr Jacob Wilson is director of the skeletal muscle and sports nutrition laboratory at the Department of Health Science and Human Performance at the University of Tampa.
Ryan Lowery is senior research scientist at Department of Health Science and Human Performance at the University of Tampa, with a focus on sports nutrition and supplementation.
1 Engage your mind
Focusing on the muscle is everything and there is data to support the mind-muscle connection that Ben preaches constantly. Does this mean you have to move the weight super slow? Absolutely not. However, using MIV (maximal intended velocity) whilst focusing on the muscle group being training will reap rewards.
2 Know what you’re made of
You need to understand anatomy. For instance, knowing that the biceps not only flexes the elbow but also supinates the hand allows you to get greater muscle activation during curls. One technique Ben has taught us is that when you are using dumbbells is try and imagine you have a cup in your hand and you are spilling it outwards, so bringing your pinky up in the air at the top of the motion. This will supinate the hand as you are bending the elbow to increase muscle fibre recruitment.
3 You don’t know your limits
Your body can handle a lot more than you think it can. Your brain will try and make you quit long before your muscles will fail. You need to ignore that doubting voice. But always remember that you are only going to be as good as your recovery.
4 Stretch for success
Stretching can cause massive growth, if done at the right time. One technique of Ben’s is using intra-set stretching, which is something we have actually tested in our lab and have proved to be very effective, especially when training calves.
5 Breakfast builds champions
Timing is certainly important if you are looking to optimize body composition. Ben likes to eat a high-fat, high-protein breakfast because like many people he crashes when he has a ton of carbs first thing, especially if he is going to work out in the morning.
6 Move well to add muscle
Mobility and range of motion are extremely important factors. If you are having a hard time bringing up a certain area then you must examine your form. For instance, if your squat stance has been the same for the last two years and you are having trouble bringing out your VMO, then bring your feet in a little closer, even if it means reducing the weight.
7 Never, ever, skip leg day
Learning how to properly activate your legs, especially during a squat, makes a huge difference. Ben brought up a great example at our conference last year. He had everyone get down in a squat position and rather than just ‘stand up’, he made everyone sit there and slowly fire their quads and pretend that they were trying to push your feet through the floor, rather than stand up. His point was if you can do this correctly why would anyone load up a bar with weight if they don’t know how to properly fire their quads.