Muscle building seems like some monumental task that mere mortals can never accomplish. In reality, though, it’s a lot simpler than most people think. It’s so simple, in fact, that we can break the whole thing down into just six simple tips:
Tip #1: Focus on Compound Lifts
As long as you keep forcing your body to move heavier and heavier loads, it will keep building more and more muscle to keep up.
Of course, the only way you can keep lifting heavier is to keep getting stronger—and compound movements like the bench press, squat, pull up, and deadlift allow you to do just that.
They work because unlike isolation exercises like the bicep curl, compound movements recruit multiple muscle groups at once, allowing you to produce significantly more force and move much heavier weights. This is precisely why an 80-kg individual who can do pull ups would most likely struggle curling the same weight.
Tip #2: Incorporate Progressive Overload in Your Training
Remember when we said you need to move heavier and heavier loads to keep building more muscle? That’s one way of incorporating progressive overload in your training.
Simply put, the concept states that you need to keep exposing your body to more challenging loads over time to force it to adapt and get bigger and stronger.
Obviously, there’s no way you’ll be able to just keep adding more weight to the bar week after week. So, what do you do? You focus on increasing your total work volume (i.e., weight x reps x sets) instead.
A simple way to do this is to set a max number of reps you need to hit before increasing the weight you lift.
Let’s say you pick 10 reps. The next step is to choose a weight that you can’t do 10 reps with and work your way up over the next couple of weeks. Once you’re able to hit 10 reps, add another plate to the bar or pick up the next dumbbell on the rack and restart the cycle the next time you train.
Tip #3: Stimulate, Don’t Annihilate
The thing with resistance training is that simply lifting more weight and doing more reps and sets won’t get you the results you want. Studies show that one to three sets at 70-85% of your one-rep max is ideal if you’re a beginner, and three sets at 70-100% works best if you’re more advanced.
Doing any more than that is not only a waste of time, but may also keep you from progressing because it’ll cause your body to have a much harder time recovering from your workouts. Besides, do you really want to spend hours upon hours in the gym when you can get far better results in 60 minutes or less?
Tip #4: Don’t Forget Form
Don’t even think about lifting heavy until you’re 100% sure you can do a movement with perfect form. Getting your form right not only ensures you hit the right muscles with each rep, but, more importantly, keeps you safe from injuries.
Needless to say, you won’t be doing a lot of muscle building if you don’t actually hit the muscles you’re trying to grow or end up spending most of the year recovering from all sorts of training-related injuries.
So, if you’re a beginner, make sure there’s a professional fitness coach present to guide and help you out while you’re working out.
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Tip #5: Set Aside Time for Rest and Recovery
You don’t actually get bigger and stronger in the gym. That happens between training sessions as your body recovers from the damage your workouts cause. So, while it may be tempting to hit the gym every day, you’ll be much better off going hard two to three times a week then resting the other four.
Keep in mind, though, that this is just a general recommendation. Some people recover faster than others and may need to train more frequently to see results.
At the end of the day, it’s all about listening to your body. If you’re getting bigger and stronger, then you’re probably training enough. If you’re getting weaker, then you may need to cut back on your training frequency. Finally, if you’re getting neither weaker nor stronger, then you probably need to train more frequently.
Tip #6: Get Your Nutrition Right
No matter what you do in the gym, you can’t expect to see results if you don’t give your body the nutrients it needs to get bigger and stronger. So, be sure to get the right mix of macronutrients (i.e., carbs, protein, and healthy fats) for the type of training you do. If you don’t know-how, talk to a nutritionist or professional fitness coach.
Of course, you’d want to get these macronutrients mostly from wholesome sources too. Getting your protein from, say, lean meats is way better than getting it from a fast-food burger because not only do lean meats have fewer calories, they also don’t contain any additives that screw up your hormones and cause cravings.
It’s All About Getting the Basics Right
At the end of the day, muscle building is not as complicated as it appears. You don’t need crazy exercises, super expensive supplements, and amazing genetics to get the results you want. Just focus on the six tips we’ve shared with you today and you’ll be on the fast track to Gainsville.
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