How many times have you heard about THE BEST WORKOUT TO BUILD MUSCLE either in magazines, books, or online? Probably more times than you care to count, right? How many of them did you actually try for yourself? I’m willing to guess most of them. Did they work for you? More than likely not. Why is that? Well, there are many different reasons and I hope to shed some light on this overused “clickbaity” statement.
And just so we are clear, yes, my title is clickbait. Only kind of though. I’m using it to make a point. It drew you in, no? So, if you thought I had the secret sauce, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I’m sure you will find a ton of value in what I’m about to cover.
Building Muscle is More Complex Than a Workout Program
In the same way that trendy diets don’t provide lasting results, the same can be said out the claims that someone has the best workout to build muscle. In order to build muscle, you’re going to need a few different things to align since it is multifaceted.
I was naïve once regarding this topic and I, myself, was suckered into trying all sorts of workouts only to get frustrated that I wasn’t achieving the results I was “guaranteed” by the workout program. But hey, you live and you learn and after you learn you’ll better understand the complexity that we like to call muscle-building (or hypertrophy).
In order to build muscle, you’re going to need to pay particular attention to your nutrition as well as your rest. These are the three keys to helping you see results from your efforts:
Training in the grand scheme of things is a small part of the results you can yield. Sure, going in the gym and training to build muscle is a must if you want to see size gains, but it’s what you do outside of the gym that matters most.
You can work out until you’re blue in the face, spending hours upon hours in the gym and never see results if you aren’t eating and resting properly. Let’s dive into this a little deeper.
You Really ARE What You Eat
Unless you’re genetically gifted with a California wildfire of a metabolism, it’s going to be impossible to out-train a poor diet. If you eat junk day in and day out and don’t pay attention to your caloric intake and macros, you’re going to end up looking like the Michelin Man. But when you nail down your nutrition and get things in order, that’s when the magic can really happen.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition just like there is no one-size-fits-all workout that will help you build muscle – although, there are some things that can help which I’ll touch on later in this piece.
If you want to put on quality muscle mass, you’re going to need to put yourself in a caloric surplus. That means consuming more calories than what your maintenance would be. By simply adding anywhere from 250 to 500 calories above maintenance, you have the ability to start seeing some results in terms of gains. The downside is, depending on how your body reacts to various macro ratios, some of the weight could be body fat.
That’s where the fun begins. When you want to change your physique, you’re going to learn things about your body that you never knew. When you’re trying to figure out your body you will see how your body reacts to a higher intake of carbohydrates or fats and from there you can pinpoint what you need to get the results you desire. But at first, it’s going to take some trial and error.
You Need to SLEEP in Order to GROW
Do I really need to tell you that you need to sleep more? I mean, that should be a given. Far too often, we are burning the candle from both ends. However, when it comes to building muscle, you need to slow things down and rest.
Each night, you should be striving for a minimum of seven hours of quality sleep. No, that doesn’t mean laying in bed until 1am scrolling through your social media feed seeing what all of the people who you don’t really know are up to.
Sleep is not only essential for your health but also your ability to build muscle mass. When you rest is when you grow. If you’re constantly tearing down the muscle without feeding it and allowing it to recover fully and have the muscle fibers grow back bigger and stronger, you’re cutting your gains short. It’s a vicious cycle of building and tearing down and when a muscle isn’t recovered, you’re further breaking down already damaged muscle tissue and you’ll be going in the wrong direction with your efforts.
It’s a very simple process that seems to be overcomplicated these days. What you need to focus on is as simple as this…
TRAIN EAT SLEEP GROW REPEAT
It’s as simple and as complicated as that. Nothing more… nothing less.
Then How Should You Train to Build Muscle?
Ah, what you’ve all been waiting for… the BIG REVEAL. Well, don’t get your hopes up. Again, it’s not as simple as telling you to do certain exercises and calling it a day. Sure, I could give you some of the best exercises to build muscle, but what happens if you aren’t giving it your all in your workouts? What if you’re sandbagging it just to hit your reps and doing it without intensity or pushing the muscle to exhaustion? Well, you’re not doing yourself any favors then.
You see, rather than focusing on specific workouts, focus on what you’re doing IN those workouts.
Here are a few things you need to focus on in your workouts to truly help build muscle…
- Time Under Tension
When it comes to resistance training, one of the methods to help tear down muscle fibers is time under tension or TUT. Now, what’s so great about time under tension? Everything actually. You should be paying attention to how quickly or slowly you are moving through the concentric and eccentric portions of the repetition.
Looking at most people in the gym today, they are moving the weight up and down way too fast. They need to slow things down. If you were to time their cadence, it would probably be one-second up and one-second down. WAY too fast. The eccentric portion of a rep is actually where the majority of the muscle fiber damage takes place. For that reason, the eccentric portion (or elongating portion) of the movement should be around three seconds. The concentric portion should be anywhere from 1-2 seconds.
You want to be sure that you can control the weigh through the entire range of motion. If you’re needing to swing the weight to complete a rep or you feel other muscles kicking in to assist, you’re taking tension off of the muscle you’re trying to work which is counterproductive to what you’re trying to achieve and won’t allow you to effectively build muscle.
- Progressive Overload
The second method you want to focus on when trying to build muscle is progressive overload. Now, the terminology might not be something you’ve heard before but I’m sure you’ve heard the principles behind it.
In a nutshell, progressive overload is consistently stimulating the muscle with an overload greater than previous workouts so that you can build muscle. What exactly does this mean? It means a few things and actually can be accomplished in a few different ways. Let me explain.
3 Ways to Implement Progressive Overload
- More Total Sets
In order to use the progressive overload strategy here, what you would need to do is increase how many sets you do for a given body part. For instance, if you were doing chest and completing 10 sets, the next workout bump it up to 11 sets.
- More Total Reps
Similar to what I just mentioned in the strategy above, in order to overload the muscle, you can push for more reps than your previous workout. Here, if you were doing chest press, you could keep the number of sets the same but simply increase the number of reps completed. So, if each set you were hitting eight reps, this workout push for 10 each set to help build muscle.
- More Total Weight
Lastly, for this strategy, it’s as simple as increasing your weight. If the previous workout for bench you were doing 225, try for 230 or even 235. The key to build muscle with progressive overload is to keep challenging the muscle. Give it a stimulus that it’s not used to.
I love the saying, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” If you want to build muscle – I’m talking serious muscle, you need to understand the principles and strategies I mentioned above. And as I’ve been saying all along, there is no ONE workout that is the best. It all comes down to your intensity, how you stimulate the muscle, your nutrition, and your rest.
Stop complicating things and making them harder than they need to be. It’s hard enough figuring out your nutrition to see results, don’t start overthinking your training on top of it or you’ll drive yourself nuts.
All in all, don’t believe all the hype you hear and see out there. Be consistent with your training, eat properly, and rest to recover. It’s truly as simple as that. Now get out there and get those gains!