Sometimes when you are trying your best to gain muscle mass, even just a little bit it can end up being a huge journey through the fires of hell and seeming never-ending, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
You just someone more experienced who has already done it and been successful just so you can get their experience and knowledge.
A list of usual suspects for keywords is something like ‘recovery’, ‘the big 3’, ‘creatine’, intensity’ and ‘progression’. These strategies will only work up until a certain point for anybody then it is all left up to chance and experienced based research.
You can try the following 6 attempts with confidence knowing that they have helped other people achieve hypertrophic heights.
In your body you have many hormones floating around and the two you should be focused on for gaining muscle mass are two that are commonly at logger heads with each other, cortisol and testosterone. Testosterone is used to help you recover from training and is to help progression and growth where as cortisol tries to break muscle down, it is always a battle between progression and regression.
The battle is inevitable and necessary, but you do want testosterone to win out here, the longer you perform intensive training the more the odds are stacked against the one you want, a common trend that is often observed is that cortisol levels rise and testosterone levels drop after around 60 mins of an intensive training session.
To make the most of strength training workouts and muscle growth that happens between them it is best to limit training to a maximum time of 60 mins at a time and occasionally stretch it to 75 mins.
This doesn’t sound a huge amount of time but you do make up for it in intensity, shorten rest periods and place your muscles under a heavy load and cut out all time-wasting at the gym, get a solid hour in at the gym and you will have a much better chance to grow.
Ever heard of a workout before a workout? if not then listen closely. This hardcore approach has been used for years by strength and fitness athletes and is now becoming more mainstream for casual lifters because of its great ability to get your body to recruit more muscle fibers.
Craig Stevenson, a BPE (Hons) and a 20-year veteran in the health and fitness industry had this to say:
‘Increasing strength to create additional muscle-building stimulus starts by increasing nervous signal impulses. The larger the muscle fibers are the larger the neuron attached is. Larger fast-twitch muscle fibers are able to produce a high level of force and to do so require a large electrical signal from your nervous system’.
‘Performing plyometrics like box jumps before leg training is a fantastic way to force the muscles into recruiting more fibers. Similarly, performing push-ups before training your chest can prepare your body to deliver large electrical signals through your nervous system and also recruit larger muscle fibers during working sets’.
The more muscle recruited will allow the movement of more weight more efficiently and could lead to greater size gains. As well as some of the bodyweight only plyometric exercises mentioned, the Smith machine also offers some safe resistance based alternatives like bench-press throws for the chest, squat jumps for legs and explosive curls for legs.
Focus on being as explosive as you can when performing these exercises, when jump-squatting your feet should leave the floor and your hands should leave the floor when doing push-ups, this is why the Smith machine is safer. Do 2-3 sets of no more than 3-5 reps not to failure before the working sets.
If you are in your ways with preceding heavy benches with 2-3 sets of high rep work then you may be loosing out in the intensity department. It works well to pyramid up a heavy load, this may seem counter-productive at first when your going to do a big working set.
Do one last warm-up set before your working sets with a weight getting close to your one-rep max. By doing so you will be recruiting more muscle fibers in your working sets of say, 8-10 reps so you can usually handle that little bit of extra weight to produce stimulus and growth.
This works on a mechanism called post-activation potentiation, a neuromuscular phenomenon whereby power and strength output is greatly enhanced after heavy resistance exercise. So basically by performing a more intense activity first (the very heavy-set), more total muscle fibers are recruited in play for the work sets ahead, kind of like a baseball player swinging a weighted bat before stepping up to bat.
Here’s an example of the approach for someone with a 300lb one-rep max on bench press, who wants to do 4 sets of 8-10 reps?
By having a heavy set with 90-95% of your one rep max, by the time you do working sets, 80-85% of your 1 rep max will seem much lighter and you may be able to do even more reps for greater muscle stimulation.
Music can make a huge difference whilst training, studies have shown an athletes mind does not view training as work whilst listening to music. Music can change your mindset and the right song can really lift you up, get adrenaline and even anger flowing and make you able to get through those barriers of nervousness and lethargy that can stop new muscle.
Another study also found that a faster tempo and higher intensity music may enhance an athletes visual performance/perception, attention and motor control before any performance. So before the gym it is a good idea to gear up with a decent playlist, picking tracks that really fire you up, the right tunes may also get you past any low points you may face like in point 3.
Protein powders are invaluable and pretty much essential to any gym goers life. However the science of protein and muscle-building continues to grow leading researchers to new nutritional avenues for maximum muscle growth.
Science has proven that there are hundreds of variables – training, intensity, sleep, stress etc. that all affect how much protein our bodies require and can actually utilise during the day, it is thought many athletes consume far more protein than their bodies can use. This is where ‘bioactive’ peptides come into action, it is theorized that they can maximise the body’s ability to use protein allowing the muscle cell to rebuild itself bigger and stronger, dependent on training goals.
Quite simply, bioactive peptides or BAPS help you get more bang for your buck with the protein you are taking. Take BAPS as directed with your morning and post-workout shakes, when your muscles most need the feed.
You do have to train to grow but you do have to train to stay healthy in the long run too, things like jumping on an active treadmill, only loading one side of the barbell, bad use of equipment – bad lapses in judgement are what make the gym fails in the first place.
No one can be fully protected against injury but any time spent being disabled is a setback when it comes to growth. Unfortunately, mitigated risk is something most lifters do not plan for.
The older you get the smarter you need to be, this is especially true in the weight room where a slight infraction could cause discomfort or a trip to the hospital.
Some of the best injury control methods do add a few minutes to your workout but are well worth the effort:
Nearly every dumbbell rack at any gym has two tiers of racks, the upper tier has the lighter weights usually to around 60 pounds and the lower tier will have the heavier weights upto 100 maybe even 150 pounds.
If you are grabbing the heavier weights from the bottom tier and carrying them back to your bench or seat you are not only risking an injury but also could lose out on a couple of reps as well just to muscle fatigue. You can bring your seat or bench closer so the dumbbells are secure.
This will cut the risk of injury and may even allow that extra rep.
All those reps add up, keep yourself in the gym and out of care.
Follow these steps to gain more muscle mass and help you see the gains you have waited for.
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