The cold days are here and it is almost an East Coast bodybuilding tradition to use the winter to “make weight” or “pack on mass”. While there is nothing wrong with that idea (you have to get bigger, after all), I still would like to point out a few things I deem important.
1. Bigger does not mean fatter! You can only gain so much muscle in any given time frame (no matter what Tim Ferriss says). A pound a week would be exceptional; half a pound is more realistic depending on your height and overall development. Anything more is probably not muscle or water… hmm, I wonder what else it can be. Try to stay around 10-12% body fat; otherwise the spring diet will be hell.
2. The amount of calories your body can utilize is directly related to your hormonal levels. If you are a natural lifter, you probably cannot use more than 500-700 calories over maintenance. If you are using chemicals, all bets are off especially when insulin is part of the mix.
3. As for your training program, do what works for you. I personally train 6-10 times a week, but I come from a professional sport background so the volume is not a problem. In general, you should build your program around complex exercises but some isolation work is fine.
4. For most people, a once-a-week body part split workout is a waste of time. For my personal training clients here in NYC, I prefer something like A. upper body push, B. legs, and A. upper body pull rolling over through the week.
5. Try to take advantage of the holidays by sleeping more, recovering better (many spas give discounts on massages or other relaxation aids), and eating more to make progress during a time when other people’s physiques take a set back.