Building muscle takes time. It’s no secret that patience is part of the process in building a better body. Building muscle is an essential part of being a better athlete. It allows you to be much stronger (obviously), increase performance in athletic activity, burn fat easier by increasing your metabolic rate, and you simply look better overall.
Building muscle is a pretty tough task and the simple fact that you’re on this page reading this article proves this to be true. Unless of course, you’re a beginner about to start on your journey and you’re looking for some advice to help you on your journey.
If you’re starting out on your journey, these tips will still help you but you’re at an advantage because of something very common among people who are starting out; this is called “beginner gains”. These gains are when your body is adapting to the new environment that you’re getting used to and as long as you’re working out, you will see an increase in muscle size and a decent amount of fat loss.
These gains, however, don’t last very long and (like I said) they’re only in the beginning until eventually you hit a plateau. This is when you will have to start incorporating new knowledge to get out of that plateau and continue to build muscle and in fact, build it more effectively.
Moving forward, I will present some tips that will help you increase muscle size whether you’re a beginner or an experienced athlete who hit a plateau.
Super Sets & Drops Sets
Super sets and drops sets are a very efficient way of building muscle mass. For those who don’t know what these terms mean:
- Super Sets: This is when you perform two separate workouts targeting the same muscle group or sometimes opposing muscle groups one after the other with no rest from workout 1 to workout 2. You can rest after workout 2 but keep that rest at a minimum.
- Drop Sets: This is when you perform an exercise at a specific weight until hitting failure (not just a burn) then proceed to drop the weight and perform the same exercise until failure again and continue to drop for about 4 sets. Ideally, you will perform more reps the lighter your weight gets.
These two forms of exercises are very efficient in building muscle because they allow you to push your targeted muscle group to its maximal point of fatigue. When a muscle is pushed to this point, you damage your muscle fibers, allowing them to rebuild themselves into stronger and bigger ones.
You want to use heavyweight for both of these routines. For super sets, you want to hit a weight in which you can only do 8 to 10 reps. For drop sets you want to start at a weight in which you can hit (again) only about 8 to 10 reps at a max then decrease the weight and increase your rep range.
For both of these you want to keep your rest period short; 1 minute or less in between sets. But don’t forget that in super sets you don’t get rest from workout 1 to workout 2. Also, utilize weight that puts you at a borderline failure by your last rep on each workout during a super set.
Stick to Compound Exercises
Compound exercises are workouts which target a group of muscles rather than a single muscle at a time. When you perform compound exercises you typically use barbells and dumbbells instead of machines.
For example, performing a bench-press which targets your pectorals, triceps, and deltoids instead of a fly machine that only targets your pectorals.
When you use free-weight, you allow your body to use other muscle groups to stabilize itself with the weights you’re straining it with. Thus allowing your muscles to build strength much more efficiently while also allowing for improvement of intramuscular coordination.
If you like to use machinery, you want to use it towards the end of your exercises once your muscles have hit a point of fatigue. However, the reason I don’t recommend machines is that they don’t put certain muscle groups to work (usually small muscle groups) and they don’t help with your intramuscular coordination.
Also, because you aren’t using as many muscle groups in a machine, you are also not using as much energy thus not burning as many calories as you would if you were to perform free-weight exercises.
Increase Your Meal Frequency
When building muscle, you need to allow your body to recover. The best and most efficient way for it
to recover (other than rest) is for it to have the nutrients necessary to rebuild broken-down muscle tissue.
If your body doesn’t have enough nutrients and fuel, it won’t recover properly and you won’t see the growth you want in your muscle and strength level.
Due to your main purpose in this stage being building muscle you want your muscles to have everything they need to recover. This is why you have to constantly feed your body with the right foods at a high frequency. Make it a goal to have 3 to 4 meals a day with a healthy snack about every three hours throughout your day. Preferably one that’s high in protein and carbs.
You don’t want your body to starve and you want to be comfortable being full. This may sound easy, but consuming the right amount of carbs, protein, and fat to build muscle will prove to be quite a difficult task to perform as most people aren’t accustomed to eating so much food in a day.
The goal here is to be in a calorie surplus. This means that your goal is consuming more calories than what your body burns in a day. Doing this with a CLEAN (not sweets and goodies) diet will allow your muscles to grow with adequate training and minimal fat gain.
Also, do not go to bed hungry eat about 2 to 3 hours before your bed time.
Increase Workout Intensity Overtime
This is focusing on the amount of weight you lift. You want to progress with higher weight as you move forward in your routines. This may seem like a given but what people tend to do is use the same weight for a workout without pushing their body to the next level of weight.
You have to exert your body to a level of discomfort when pushing it to the next point of weight. This is what forces your muscles to grow overtime and become stronger.
Increasing intensity also refers to the amount of time under tension with a certain movement. This means that you keep your muscle contracted at the end of your ascending movement for a few seconds, then slowly performing your descending movement while still keeping the muscle under tension.
Again, this pushes your muscle to grow much more efficiently because more muscle fibers are being damaged in the process thus allowing them to rebuild into stronger and bigger ones.
Increase Your Exercise Frequency
If your goal is to build muscle, you want this to happen with as minimal fat gain as possible. You will burn more calories in your body the more often you train throughout the week.
This means that instead of training 3 or 4 days a week shoot for 5 to 6 days a week (this is mostly for advanced athletes, if you’re a beginner you want to start off slowly with the original 3 to 4 days a week when using heavy weight to avoid injuries). If you’re in a calorie surplus you want those calories to be used to rebuild damaged muscle tissue and for recovery. However, if your body is in a calorie surplus while also maintaining a sedentary state for the most part, your body will have no choice but to add those extra calories to your body as fat because they aren’t being used.
It’s essential for muscle groups to have adequate recovery time. This is why it is helpful to exercise in a split-training style. Split-training means that you separate body parts by day (example: chest & Triceps one day, Biceps, Shoulders & back the next day, and leg day the next day).
This allows different muscle groups to have an adequate amount of rest after that specific day. It also allows for you to focus solely on the specific targeted muscle group enough to break it down and damage those muscle fibers.
If you currently train with a crossfit or an F45 regiment it would be helpful to complete this split-training style as accessory work AFTER your WOD (Workout Of the Day). This is because a WOD isn’t really focused on heavyweight but rather metabolic conditioning with a weight that may not be too heavy.
If you don’t work with heavyweight you won’t see much change in the size of your muscles and your level of strength. You might, however, see your endurance and some muscle-gain improvement due to an improved metabolic rate that occurs from Crossfit and F45 training. This isn’t the goal here though, you want maximum muscle growth.
Summing It Up
When building muscle you have to think of how to push the muscle to grow more efficiently. This means getting out of your comfort zone and pushing it to new levels that you aren’t used to doing so with weight and intensity.
You want these exercises to be done primarily with free-weights which incorporate many benefits for your body such as intramuscular coordination, more calories burned, and targeting smaller muscle groups that you normally wouldn’t hit with a machine
Building muscle also means that you must increase the frequency that you workout at, this also takes your body out of its comfort zone and allows for more calories to be burned and used correctly in your body.
Don’t forget, if you’re having all these calories being burned, you have to get them from somewhere, that somewhere is food. You want to increase your meal frequency so that your body has enough calories to build muscle and strength within it.
If anyone has any feedback or questions I would be more than happy to answer them in the comment section below, happy gaining!