There are a million people out there pushing their own personal workouts online which makes good business if you have a decent body, Photoshop and an Instagram account, you may think you have to dig deep for the inside scoop on how to build muscle mass which would be true if you contacted a personal trainer but not here.
There are a few important concepts as with any of the best programs and those science-based recommendations do not change even if you were to consult a high-end celebrity trainer. Let us take a look at what is known to work without you opening your wallet, your time is better spent understanding how to put each of these ideas into practice.
Here are six of the most important training variables and practices, the ones critical for muscle growth. Remember these key concepts as they will be the foundation of every muscle-building workout you will do from here on out.
To lose weight you simply eat fewer calories than you burn. Likewise, to gain weight, you have to do the opposite. There are no other shortcuts, alternate solutions or gimmicks that’ll get you there if you violate the first point, even if you closely follow the other five, this needs to be set in stone.
Exercising increases caloric use so you will need to bump up your daily intake. That is why estimating what you take in and burn is helpful to ensure you are close to the mark. A good place to start is to use an online fitness calculator to estimate total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Simply put in a few basic pieces of information about your size, exercise habits, goals and activity level and it then estimates your daily recommended number of calories and macros.
As the numbers are all estimates, you will want to monitor results over the following 7-10 days by weighing yourself on 3-4 separate occasions. Your goal is to gain 0.5 – 1 percent of your body weight per week. This amounts to 1-2 pounds per week for a 200 pound person. Gaining weight any faster than that increases your risk of gaining a lot of excess body fat. If you are not gaining weight or are gaining too fast then you will need to fine-tune your daily caloric intake to suit so you have a slight daily surplus.
Protein intake is very important when putting on size, I try to keep my intake up by taking protein throughout the day, supplementing with shakes between meals or when travelling.
The best routine all have one thing in common, they are composed of multijoint movements. These are the kinds of exercises in which movement takes place in more than a single set of joints (elbows and shoulders in a bench press for example). When more than one set of joints are working in unison, you can lift significantly more weight. With single-joint movements like leg extensions or cable cross-overs, you can’t use anywhere near as much weight.
Moving heavier loads ultimately has a huge impact on hormone response, more so than any other single factor. Higher levels of both growth hormone and testosterone have been measured following large multijoint exercises compared to movements that recruit a smaller amount of muscle mass.
Build workouts around exercises like bench presses, squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and rows and do them at the beginning of your training when your energy levels are at their highest, you will be better able to push heavier loads for superior strength building stimulus.
Knowing the correct multijoint exercises to include in your workout is a good start but to optimize hypertrophy, there are other variables to consider as well. Here is a quick summary of them.
Training intensity is not about how hard you work out, it relates to the weight you’re lifting compared to the single-rep max for that movement. Converting that percentage to number of reps, exercise scientists have determined that for gaining maximum muscle, you want to choose a weight at which you can do 6-12 reps with good form, reaching muscle failure within that target range. If a weight becomes too easy or too heavy, adjust it accordingly on your next set.
Within that range, there are a number of ways to manipulate your training to instigate more than a single mechanism for muscle growth. To build muscle, it is good to start with the 6-8 rep range then do a dropset, quickly reducing weight by around 50% and reaching a second point of muscle failure. You can get the best of both worlds, taking in the strength stimulus of a heavy-set and then with the muscles pretty fatigued, training for a superior muscle pump with the dropset, I normally do this for 4-5 sets.
Higher-volume, multiple-set protocols have been consistently shown to be much further ahead of single sets when it comes to building muscle, namely due to their ability to elevate testosterone levels. This often requires you to follow a split routine in which you can do more total sets for each body part than following a whole-body routine in which less volume is done for each muscle group.
Training To Failure
Training to failure means completing reps to a point in which you can’t complete any more on your own with good form. This technique has been shown many times to create a greater anabolic stimulus than training below this threshold.
This between-set variable would seem to have little effect on growth but moderate rest intervals of about 60-90 seconds between sets maximizes the hypertophic response. Resting too long has actually been shown to be counterproductive to muscle gains because it reduces overall accumulated metabolic stress, a marker of hypertrophy.
Since a high-volume protocol stimulates greater muscle growth (high being relative as you can do too much), it is important to add exercises that work the muscle differently than moves you are already doing.
As an example, if you do a bench press on a flat bench, followed by dumbbell presses on a flat bench, you work the pecs from nearly identical angles. Better choices to include in your workout would be incline or decline presses.
On biceps day, doing standing barbell curls followed by standing dumbbell curls nearly repeats the same biomechanical motion. Preacher curls, however, emphasize the short head to a greater degree, while incline-bench curls focus on the long head. Even supinating your wrists by turning your palms up from a neutral-grip start position adds some degree of variety.
Taking a multiangle approach to training is very important to not only keep a balanced physique but also help build maximum size. A simple adjustment like changing your grip, bench angle or stance will make significant changes to how muscles are recruited during a lift and therefore affect overall growth.
For the first few months of training you probably noticed quite a bit of progress as the start of training created significant gains. Over time however, the novelty of something new wears off and your muscles stop responding to the same workouts.
This is where many lifters start to lose their way. The program that led to those initial gains begins to become less effective because the body adapts pretty quickly to the stimulus put upon it. The fact is, you need to keep increasing the degree of overload to keep seeing a continual development, this often means increasing the weight as you get stronger but it can also mean manipulating other training variables like reps and rest periods.
Progressive overload means continually challenging your body to new levels of performance as it adapts to previous marks you have set before. You never want to get comfortable with a workout or stop pushing yourself. Recording workouts in a log book will help to remind you of what you can already do so you can set higher levels.
A lot of people seem to be afraid of challenging themselves for some reason but to make changes to your body you can never be satisfied. Another way is to shock the muscles in new ways by making big changes in your training, never stay in a comfort zone.
Using a training partner is a great way to improve your workouts, they will ensure that you don’t skip workouts, spot you, push you to do those last few reps and elevate your training to an intensity you could not have achieved on your own. Be sure that your partner shares your goals and training schedule.
A training partner is a bit like having a relationship as that person can make or break your gains. I would suggest finding someone who is a little bit stronger than you who can push you harder than you currently do yourself. If your partner does not have the motor you have, they may actually hold you back instead.
Proper supplementation can also provide an edge. Research supports the benefits of whey protein, creatine and even caffeine among other things that can give you a significant performance boost.
You should always aim to be a student of the sport and never stop learning. Not every technique or diet will work for you the same as it does for someone else. Embrace novel training concepts that make sense with the idea of self-experimentation. Reading and researching options will open up new avenues you may not have thought about, just make sure your mind is open to new ideas and this will help you build more muscle mass much easier than what you have done before, to build muscle and get lean like never before then click here.
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