1. Forget The Mantra, “Go Heavy Or Go Home”.
Go heavy motto suits best to pure strength training and powerlifting, not muscle building. Certainly, size and strength are co-related but they’re mutually exclusive as well. It means that you can grow bigger without resorting to heavy loading methods all the time. In fact, it’s been shown that a lighter load of 30% of 1 RM produced equal hypertrophy gains as a heavier 80% load (Cameron).
If your goal is to build as much muscle as you can then you should use varied repetition brackets between 6 to 20 reps so as to hypertrophy all the muscle fibers to their fullest (Prestes; Miranda; Simão; Bartolomei). An occasional foray into the 50 to 100 rep range also serves as a potent stimulus to trigger growth in stubborn body parts.
Moreover, how you execute the rep is also important for muscle building. You should focus on feeling the target muscle working rather than moving the load from starting to end position. The better you feel the muscle working, neater the neuromuscular connection & muscle firing and greater the muscle growth. For best results, use a mix of heavy and light loads with undulating periodization (Rhea MR).
2. Follow A Progression Plan
If you don’t progress, you regress. Progression is the name of the game in strength training. Always plan ahead your workouts, and use a definitive progression plan to make progress. You can use some sort of periodization here. Blocks of six to eight weeks are ideal for muscle building goals. Don’t just plan your training, plan your rest and de-loads too.
You also need a progression plan with your eating. If your goal is weight gain you need to assess it at regular periods, say 3 weeks, whether you’re making progress or not. In case you aren’t making any progress, make some changes like increasing calories or reducing cardio. If you’re gaining too much fat again make some alterations to keep progressing.
Lifters who just go by feel are those who don’t make any progress and their lifts stall endlessly. So don’t justify your laziness by calling it instinctive training. Keeping a log book for both training and nutrition not only bears your program details & record but also keeps you accountable. Consistency is critical, it can make or break your efforts.
3. Don’t Rely Solely On Big Lifts
Big compound exercises are best suited for steady progression. Due to being multi-joint in nature, these exercises divide load over two or more joints to split stress into multiple muscle groups. This ensures a smooth progression for an extended period. Also, it reduces wear over one particular joint.
But when your goal is to develop a specific muscle, then it’s not a good idea to work this muscle only by multi-joint exercises. You also need direct focus through isolation exercises for better stimulation. These specialized exercises divert stress upon different areas of a muscle and induce growth in a different manner.
A few studies of the hamstring muscle have shown that it’s possible to stimulate different parts of the muscle by using different exercises (Schoenfeld; McAllister). It shows that a combination of compound and isolation exercises is necessary for complete muscle development.
4. Train Harder.
Training harder is harder than you think it is. Most tough guys who think they’re training hard enough aren’t putting in that much effort. One thing that powerlifting teaches you is training harder. To move a heavy weight you need to generate as much force as you possibly can with full power.
But it’s ‘easy’ to train harder with heavy weights because if you won’t push hard the weight won’t budge. To train harder with light weights for muscle building requires a different kind of mettle. You need to rep out till your eyes blew out of their sockets. A tremendous focus is required to continue a set when your muscles are screaming in agony and your mind is pleading you to stop. By the way, we’re not talking about training with insanity day in and day out. This type of intensity also needs to be periodized.
5. Put Your Health On Priority
You should attempt to take a good care of yourself. As they say, your body is the God’s abode, so maintain it well. Even if you are only concerned about your looks, don’t discount health because a serious illness or injury can keep you out of action for quite a while. Make stretching and mobility part of your training regimen. Take regular massage, foam rolling or soft tissue therapy to get rid of tissue adhesions and tensions.
Do not ignore minor aches and pains. When something’s not right your body communicates it via painful sensation. Don’t be a tough guy and try to work through pain by taking analgesics and wrapping the sore joint. Instead get the problem fixed as soon as possible. Ignoring such issues for weeks on end makes it difficult to get it fixed and takes even longer to become pain-free.
Get your body evaluated by a professional practitioner at regular intervals. If you want to build a high-quality physique, you need to call forth for professional assistance.
- Bartolomei S, Stout JR, et al. Block vs. Weekly Undulating Periodized Resistance Training Programs in Women. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Oct;29(10):2679-87.
- Cameron J. Mitchell, Tyler A. Churchward-Venne, Daniel W. D. West, Nicholas A. Burd, Leigh Breen, Steven K. Baker, and Stuart M. Phillips. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Jul 1; 113(1): 71–77.
- McAllister MJ, et al. Muscle activation during various hamstring exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jun;28(6):1573-80.
- Miranda F, Simão R, et al. Effects of linear vs. daily undulatory periodized resistance training on maximal and submaximal strength gains. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jul;25(7):1824-30.
- Prestes J, Frollini AB, et al. Comparison between linear and daily undulating periodized resistance training to increase strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Dec;23(9):2437-42.
- Rhea MR, Ball SD, et al. A comparison of linear and daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 May;16(2):250-5.
- Schoenfeld BJ, et al. Regional Differences in Muscle Activation During Hamstrings Exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jun 24.
- Simão R, Spineti J, et al. Comparison between nonlinear and linear periodized resistance training: hypertrophic and strength effects. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 May;26(5):1389-95.