Anyone can build muscle if they follow the right training plan.
Some people think they are unable to build any significant amount of muscle size. They may have tried in the past, with little or no success, and come to the conclusion that they have bad genetics, or that they are “hard gainers”. But that is simply not true.
You can achieve your muscle increase goals by:
- Correctly targeting the area you want to build up
- Ensuring that you do not neglect any of the key components of your training – including nutrition and rest & recovery.
Key considerations for increasing muscle mass and size:
1. The set comes to an end because the target muscle fails
If you are trying to build your chest muscles, for example, but the set ends because your triceps muscles fail, you will never be able to build your chest. This problem can be overcome by implementing points 2, 3 and 4 into your training plan.
2. Correct exercise choices
People respond differently to different exercises. Generally speaking, basic compound, multi-joint exercises are better for increasing muscle mass than are single joint, isolation exercises. For example, squats are better than leg extensions, and deadlifts are better than back extensions.
However, you must choose exercises that allow you target and best emphasises the areas you want to build.
3. Correct set-up
Your foot width and position, grip width and position, back angle etc. all play an important role in building muscles, as is learning to set up correctly for every exercise.
(Usually, this is best done under the guidance of a personal fitness trainer)
4. Initiate with the target muscle
If any muscle other than the one targeted initiates the movement of any exercise then the target muscle will be deprived of a lot of the tension it needs for building. Ensure that you initiate every repetition with the target muscle and keep the tension on it throughout the range of motion of every repetition.
5. Full range of motion
Every repetition should be taken to the fully stretched position and the fully contracted position of the target area. Research shows that full range of motion is essential for building muscle, and it is a key point in any muscle building training plan. It often helps to pause for one or two seconds in the fully stretched and the fully contracted position of each repetition.
6. Avoid momentum
Often trainees will swing the weight through the most difficult parts of the movement. However, this lowers the tension on the target muscle when maximum tension is needed to build muscle correctly – throughoutt the movement cycle.
Steady, smooth, movements are best for increasing muscle mass.
7. Training tempo
‘Training tempo’ refers to the speed at which you lift and lower the weights, and length of the pause at both ends of the range of motion.
A good muscle building plan will specify the tempo with four digits. For example, a 2-1-2-1 plan means lowering the weight for 2 seconds, holding the stretched position for 1 second, then you lift the weight again for 2 seconds, and holding the contracted position for 1 second.
Different tempos work better with different exercises and varying the tempo with the same exercise is also a good strategy.
8. Constant progression
An effective training plan will ensure there is constant progression in muscle mass.
Many trainees believe the only way to progress is by using heavier and heavier weights. While increasing load is an important method of progression, there are other equally important methods. These include:
- Increasing the number of repetitions, sets, and exercises per body part
- Reducing the time spent resting between sets
- Increasing the number of workouts per week for any targeted muscle.
Maximise the benefits of your muscle building training:
The correct nutrition to support your efforts is just as important as the exercises. So to is sleep and recovery.
♦ Nutritional considerations include the correct amount and quality of macro-nutrients (calories, protein, fats, and carbohydrates) and micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and enzymes).
♦ Good sleep is essential – both in duration and quality. Recovery methods include massage, foam rolling and various types of stretching. Something as simple as regular relaxing walks in nature also do wonders for your recovery.
All of these aspects are essential parts of an effective training plan. Together they will help you maintain your muscle building goals.
Ideally, you should plan and conduct your training under the guidance of a professional trainer. See the money spent on this as a key investment in your future.
A professional trainer will ensure you target the right muscles, in the right way, from the start. This guidance will also help you maintain your muscles for the long-term, potentially saving you years of frustration.