Weight training is the most potent and powerful way to build lean muscle mass, and according to research, burn fat and increase total body strength. However, numerous factors come into the muscle building puzzle, and if you’re a beginner, or even an advanced lifter, you might find it hard to keep track of all of the variables to maximize your results.
Specifically, the problem in building lean muscle on a consistent basis might lie in inadequate muscle adaptation, or how your body responds to external stimuli – weight training. Here are the essential elements you need to keep in check in order to maximize hypertrophy, and optimize your time inside and outside the gym.
The foundation of strength
Strength and hypertrophy work hand in hand in transforming your body to become stronger, leaner, and bigger over time. If you are a bodybuilder solely interested in muscle hypertrophy, you mustn’t shy away from strength training, as it is one of the main drivers in increasing overall muscle size. In essence, strength helps build muscle faster.
Research has concluded that the body adapts to high-intensity strength training by increasing muscle and nervous system strength, muscle size, bone density, and total body dexterity. Therefore, even though there are numerous factors that contribute to muscle hypertrophy, strength training should be an inextricable part of your program.
Creating a foundation of strength by executing compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and various presses will elicit faster muscle gain and help add size to your frame.
Muscle hypertrophy and isolation
Compound movements are excellent drivers of force and explosive power, adding slabs of muscle to major body areas; however, they are not adequate and specific enough to target all muscle groups in the body, especially the smaller muscles that require direct work.
As a general rule of thumb, isolation exercises should follow your strength work, while big compound lifts should be executed at the beginning of the workout when your strength is at its peak. Both strength and isolation training should use some form of progressive overload.
Progressive overload can happen in three different ways: increasing the weight, decreasing rest times, or increasing the number of sets and reps over a period of your training cycle. Managing training volume and intensity like this will be crucial in providing the needed overload to elicit muscle growth.
Training variables and exercising safety
Training to failure every time you go to the gym is not the way to build muscle mass, or strength. In fact, it is probably the worst way to elicit muscle growth. The myth that more is always better still rages strong throughout the fitness industry, resulting in young athletes getting hurt and achieving subpar results.
The key to stay consistent with your training and building muscle on a regular basis without having to back down, is to manage your training variables and exercise safety at all times. Intensity, volume, and training frequency will be the main elements of your training cycle.
You can train with maximum intensity, but you can’t do it all week long. You can train to rep and set failure, but you can’t add intensity or frequency. You can train seven times a week, but you won’t be able to add the needed intensity or volume. You need balance.
And you need to stay safe while doing it. No matter if it’s your heavy deadlift day or your light squat day, no matter if you’re doing your conditioning or throwing kegs above your head, you need to wear the proper lifting clothes, such as breathable compression shorts and shirts to stay warm and flexible. You also need to wear protective gear such as knee and elbow sleeves, wrist wraps, and a lifting belt to protect your spine.
Remember, injuries rarely occur in one single moment, rather develop over a prolonged period of time.
Recovery and nutrition
Weight training serves as a disruptive stimulus that causes micro-tears in muscle fibers. This is to say that training alone does nothing to increase muscle size and strength, if it lacks subsequent nutrition and recovery. In fact, training on a regular basis without adhering to proper nutrition and recovery methods will almost certainly result in muscle, strength, and weight loss that can be detrimental to your overall health and wellbeing.
Therefore, in order to maximize muscle hypertrophy and stay consistent with your training without the risk of overtraining or injury, you need to follow a structured meal plan and, at the very least, a consistent sleep schedule.
Start by calculating your daily caloric needs and assessing your daily macronutrient requirements in order to make a calculated plan that will maximize muscle growth over time and keep the fat percentage as low as possible. Supplement your diet plan with vitamins and minerals and you will have an easier time recovering from your workouts.
Sleep and recovery are also crucial for muscle adaptation and continuous growth. Doing post-workout stretching routines coupled with myofascial release exercises using a foam roller or a lacrosse ball will help alleviate the pressure from the joints and ligaments, while stretching the shortened muscle fibers and allowing faster regeneration.
Be sure to stay consistent with your sleeping schedule to allow your CNS to recover, your muscles to rebuild, and your body to come back stronger than before.