4 min read
Like everything in the gym, there are different ways to skin a cat, and the ways to build muscle fall under this too. Having the discipline to visit the gym every day is a great habit to have but it’s not the only tool within your arsenal to maximize your gains. That said, here are seven ways to build muscle.
1. Resistance Training
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way. If you want to build muscles you must engage in some kind of strength- or resistance-based exercise.
Anything that puts your muscles under a load of stress that they must work against counts as resistance training; calisthenics, CrossFit, plyometrics, etc. all build muscle. So just because someone doesn’t have a dumbbell in hand it doesn’t mean they’re not potentially working out to build muscles.
2. Compound Exercises
At first glance this may appear counterproductive. Common sense would dictate that you want to do isolation exercises that target a specific muscle group to build that muscle, but this is far from the actual science of how your body works.
Compound exercises recruit and activate more muscles in a movement so you hit more muscle groups, causing a larger growth stimulus and strain across the muscles.
3. Progressive Overload
The concept behind progressive overload is that over time your body gets used to the strain you place upon it when you exercise. As your body gets used to the exercises, it has no reason to grow further, therefore progressive overload is you gradually increasing the level of strain placed upon your body so that it never gets used to the strain and continues to be encouraged to grow.
The most common method of progressive overload is increasing the weight size you lift by roughly 2.25kgs/5lbs every week. However, there are many ways to employ progressive overload into a workout routine, it’s not just a matter of lifting heavier; adjusting sets, reps, intensity, frequency, volume, etc. are all ways to progressively overload (note: as you progress and begin to reach your natural physical limit, it will require a number of weeks before you can add more weights to lift – also, you have to start employing different tactics to progressively overload).
4. Appropriate Protein Intake
Protein consumption for muscle building is the worst kept in fitness, however, what is not as widely understood is that eating too little or too much of it are both counterintuitive.
Protein is the only way your body can develop muscle, therefore if you eat too little of it, your body doesn’t have enough to effectively build muscle. You’d think that means eat as much of it as you can, to make up for deficits but your body can only process so much protein at a given time, therefore when you eat too much the excess protein that isn’t used gets converted into fats or carbs – whichever the body needs at the time. Not to mention, there are negative health effects of eating too much protein.
— Further Read: How Much Protein is Needed to Build Muscles —
5. Time Under Tension
This emphasizes the duration of strain you place your muscles when executing an exercise. Most exercises fall under two types of muscle contractions: concentric (shortening of muscle fibers) and eccentric (lengthening of muscle fibers). In most exercises, the eccentric part of a movement is the lowering portion, where gravity helps you lower down – at this point, instead of allowing gravity to take over, you want to fight it and lower yourself down slower than you would if you let gravity assist.
Do this, and you’ll notice the strain on your muscle as you slowly go down and oppose gravity. This is time under tension and a lot of times we ignore this crucial part of an exercise. And while considering whether or not you employ time under tension, it’s best you also think about other negative internalized habits that you may possess stopping you from building mass.
6. Concentric and Eccentric Contractions
Understanding the role of concentric and eccentric contractions is important in maximizing the potential muscle growth that comes from them. In any exercise movement, you want the concentric portion to be quick/explosive whereas the eccentric portion should be slow and deliberate. This is because your muscle fibers respond in very specific (positive) ways to explosive concentric contractions and to slow eccentric contractions.
Lastly, the importance of rest cannot be overstated; it’s what allows your body to do its repairs and actually build the muscle (with massive help from nutrition). If you’re not getting 7+ hours of rest, you’re seriously limiting how much growth you can make.