On paper, muscle building is pretty simple.
Make hypertrophy your goal, adjust your sessions to focus on building muscle, up your training frequency by a day or two if need be, and eat in a surplus that allows you to grow, without adding a ton of excess fat.
However, when you start to put things into practice, the dynamics of said goal often change, and what you thought would be an easy, fun undertaking, isn’t as straightforward as you thought.
In an effort to simply and concentrate your efforts on what matters when it comes to building muscle, here’re 8 muscle building tips to help you do just that.
Muscle Building Tip I.
You can’t grow a muscle that you can’t feel – focus on building and harnessing the power of your mind muscle connection.
Developing a powerful mind-muscle connection should not only be a priority, but something you aggressively chase, and make a point of improving in each session. The longer you train, and the more you get skilled in different movements, the more important your mind-muscle connection becomes. Enhancing your said connection is best achieved by slowly moving through a full range of motion on each rep. As you do, be sure to flex and squeeze the muscle as hard as you can.
On a dumbbell biceps curl for example, when your arm is extended you should be feeling a deep pull and stretch from top to bottom of your bicep. When the dumbbell is curled all the way up, you should feel a powerful contraction in the heart of your bicep. These same feelings apply across all movements and should be the feeling you’re aiming for throughout each movement.
Initially, this will mean that you have to use less weight. Such is is the nature of slowing down the pace of each rep and focusing on moving the weight with your target muscle as opposed to trying to move the weight in the most efficient manner. As weeks go by, your strength in training like this will build, your muscles will grow, and your ability to connect with your muscles will hit new highs.
Muscle Building Tip II.
Track what you eat – chances are, you’re eating much less than you need (and than you think).
Not eating enough = the death blow to any lifters muscle building aspirations.
Arguably the best thing you can do to help get your nutrition in check is to track what you eat. Whether that’s with an app or by writing everything down, is up to you. Doing so teaches you awareness around what and how much is going into your belly each day. Once you’re able to paint a clear picture, you can start to look for patters, habits, and reasons why you are or aren’t moving towards your goal.
Trying to auto-regulate your food for muscle growth becomes a challenge in that you need to be eating in a surplus to grow, which isn’t a homeostatic state for your body. It’s tough to push yourself into that surplus if you aren’t actively aware of how much you need to do so.
Once you know how much more food you need to eat (if that’s the case), you can do things like eat an appetizer before most meals, add healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, butter, palm oil, etc) to your meals or simply jack up your carb intake.
Muscle Building Tip III.
Up your training frequency – sometimes you just need a little more of what you’re doing.
For muscle building to occur, a certain degree of muscle fibre stimulus is required. In some cases, this can be as easily achieved as adding an extra training session or two per week.
On the other hand, if you’re already training 6 days or so per week, you may want to look at gradually building up and pulling back your training intensity, as well as frequency. This allows you “room to grow,” so to speak.
Here’re two other options to bring up your training frequency; 1) Train 2 muscle groups per day, and aim to go through each session twice per week. 2) Each week, add 1-2 more sets to each exercise and build up your volume in this way.
Muscle Building Tip IV.
Take anabolic cat naps – because, gains.
Seriously, cat naps after training are one the most anabolic things you can do to support recovery and thus, muscle growth. While taking a nap after you train may not be practical for everyone, if you happen to have 15-20 minutes where you can lie down and close your eyes, do it.
When your body is at rest, is when recovery and repair begin to happen. The better you can recover, the better your growth will be. Or, the more you can sleep and eat, the better said recovery and growth will be.
Muscle Building Tip V.
Enough with the fasting. While it’s a useful tool for fat loss, it’s terrible for building muscle.
I’ve gotta be honest here. I’m not a fan of fasting. Not one bit. Not because I don’t believe it works, but because 1) I really, really like food, 2) Muscle building is my sneeze, and fasting alludes to the opposite of muscle growth, and 3) I believe in approaching a goal in the most optimal approach possible. Sure, you can probably wrangle some growth out of following a fasting method, but you’ll build muscle much more optimally if you spread your food out over the course of the day.
While a handy method of calorie control when it comes to fat loss, it’s less than ideal for muscle growth. Building muscle requires regular stimulation of Muscle Protein Synthesis, and that’s something that can’t occur if there’s no food in your body. If you’re fasting for 16hrs per day, that’s 16 hours where not much in the way of muscle building is going on.
Fasting is simply another tool in the belt of any lifter. Use it if and when it vibes with your goal in an optimal manner.
Muscle Building Tip VI
Don’t live and die by the numbers on your macro calculator.
We’ve all been guilty of this at one point or another.
“But this is what the calculator said my numbers should be.”
Bro, if you’re not growing, your numbers are likely too low. Using a macro calculator to establish your base numbers is a great idea, and typically works pretty well. But you need to be willing to stray from and adjust those numbers upward if you’re not growing.
Because if you’re not growing, you’re simply not eating enough (reread point #2).
There is one caveat to the “why aren’t I growing” question. You also need to look at your training intensity, volume, and recovery. But all things being well and equal, you’re likely not eating enough.
Muscle Building Tip VII
Commit to building muscle – don’t subscribe to “goal amnesia.”
Goal amnesia is that terrible affliction where you have a new goal each week, jump from program to program, and have little clue as to what you actually want to achieve. This is a death blow to any of the following;
Fat loss, muscle gain, and getting strong like bull.
All of the above require a long-term commitment if you want to have any degree of success and create a noticeable change. Think about other aspects of your life. When have you ever had success in going all in on something for one week, then totally forgetting about it the next?
Yeah, that’s what I thought. Never.
Commitment to your goal, and developing consistency in the actions that support your end goal is the “one weird trick” to muscle growth.
Spending one week focusing on building muscle is great, but you need to compound those efforts over time to achieve any sort of progress.
Muscle Building Tip VIII
Adding volume is one thing, but make sure that its quality, not junk, volume.
Adding volume to your training is arguably one of the most powerful tools in your muscle building tool belt. As with anything in this realm, though, there’s a big caveat.
The volume you add must be high quality.
Meaning that if you bang out your 4 sets of 15 and go to add a 5th set but only get 4-5 reps, that’s not quality volume at all. That’s straight up junk volume that isn’t going to contribute to your end goal.
Rid your sessions of the junk, focus on creating more high quality, effective volume, and you will grow.
The Final Rep.
At the end of the day, building muscle should be both fun and challenging. The feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction you’ll feel when you first pull that favourite t-shirt of yours over your head and realize that the sleeves are a little too tight or when you pull on your shorts from last summer and notice that they’re a little more snug around your quads are absolutely incredible.
Those are feelings that I believe everyone should experience at least four times in their life, and the 8 proven muscle building tips above will help you do just that.
Yours in MASS,