- Eat more
“Extra calories combined with training leads to growth,” says Sean Hyson, C.S.C.S., the group training director for Men’s Fitness. It’s really that cut and dry. More muscle comes from more food. The right kind of food, that is—like the 9 best foods for effective clean-bulking.
- Power up with protein
Proteins are the building blocks of muscle. They assist with the rebuilding and recovery process. Shoot for 1-1.5 grams of protein per lean pound of body weight. We like these 12 protein-filled foods for your physique.
- Don’t cut carbs
Numerous studies have pointed to the benefit of protein supplements in muscle building, but many of them also mention carbohydrates as a hormone-balancing component that maximizes your gains after workouts. Here are 7 more reasons to keep the carbs.
- Use dumbbells
Andrew Sakhrani, C.S.C.S., a Montreal-based strength coach, encourages occasionally swapping out barbell work with dumbbells. Why? “Dumbbell presses open up the chest and recruit more muscle fibers.” This works for other exercises, too.
- Work your back
It’s easy to focus on your arms and chest. However, too much training on those areas can lead to imbalances and injury, most of which can be avoided by doing plenty of rowing/pulling work.
“Most of your growth hormone release in a day comes during sleep,” says Hyson. Stick with eight hours as a guideline. Here’s everything an athlete needs to know about sleep and recovery.
- Pump up the volume
Bodybuilders, widely known as the biggest guys on the planet, have an age-old training method that has withstood the test of time: volume training. They typically do five or more exercises per body part, four sets of 8-12 reps, amounting to approximately 200 reps per body part.
- Go heavy
Circuits might get the blood flowing, but heavy lifting skyrockets testosterone levels throughout the body. Hyson recommends using the heaviest load possible for “sets of five or fewer reps.”
- Move with multijoint exercises
The foundation of a big, muscular body comes from big, compound lifts, defined as motions that incorporate at least two joints. One example: the chinup/pullup. “The chinup is the original biceps curl,” Sakhrani says. This principle holds true for all muscle groups, he adds.
- Ease off your workload at times
Sometimes, the best way to increase your strength is to throttle back for a few days to give your body a chance to rebuild and recuperate. Decrease the weight, up the reps, and slash the last two sets. By scaling back occasionally in sequence with your workout routine, you allow for full recovery.
- Change things up
Although we follow workout “routines,” there’s always a need for variety. A workout shouldn’t just be a weightlifting challenge—there should also be a level of complexity and variation to each move. Alternatively, try to work in a little bit of high-intensity interval training or cardio moves into each workout to make sure your body is constantly adjusting. Here are 11 reasons you’re not breaking training plateaus.
- Work your legs
Big powerlifting moves like squats and deadlifts stimulate your body to release high levels of testosterone, resulting in total-body growth. These two moves alone will add muscle everywhere.
- Use your bodyweight
Remember, Bruce Lee was ripped and his muscles certainly weren’t small. He always touted the importance of body-weight exercises. Build strength from the ground up with these lower-body moves.
- Train with a partner
“Competition in the weight room boosts testosterone and makes you enjoy your workouts more, so you’ll stick with them. You’ll also be forced to train harder,” says Hyson. So grab a buddy and get after it.
- Take creatine
Creatine, when taken responsibly, has been linked to muscle gain in almost every study that has been performed on it. Don’t believe us? We’ve got plenty of great reading material on the benefits of creatine.
- Always focus on form
It sucks to sit out with an injury, especially because it kills your progress. Keep your form strict, and you’ll build more muscle while reducing the risk of getting hurt.
- Be consistent
Going to the gym once a week won’t get you bigger. Pick a number of days to work out (3-4 is optimal), show up, and work hard, and you’ll see results quickly. Here’s how to stay motivated to work out.
- Chill out
Tension and stress stimulate your body to release cortisol, a stress hormone that inhibits muscle-building and promotes muscle breakdown. Try to breathe easy throughout the day, and practice mental exercises to keep stress at a minimum throughout the day. It’ll maximize your muscle, and improve your overall sense of well-being.
- Don’t limit yourself
If you’re stuck at a weight and unsure if you can make that jump up to 225 from 215 on the bench press, don’t just walk away from it. Grab a spotter who knows what they’re doing, and give it a shot. Worst-case scenario? You fail, then you can try again next week. Best case? Boom—you’ve got a new PR.
- Use a spotter : Spotters help you get that extra rep, and can help you keep an eye on your form and count reps when you’re focused on moving a massive weight. Those extra reps and improved form will lead to muscle gains in the long run.
- Consult a professional
There’s a reason that most trainers are muscular and fit—they know what they’re doing. Search out an educated trainer and have a session or two with him or her to learn some new moves or some new nutrition tricks to employ in your fit lifestyle.
- Find your “zone”
Whether it takes a certain playlist on your iPod or you have to wear that weird pair of shoes, it’s important to have the right mindset when you enter the gym or you’ll be distracted and feel like you can’t get anything done.
- Be intense
Joking around, texting, and being social are great—just not in the gym. Focus on your workout, that’s what you’re at the gym for. If you have to respond, keep it short and do it during your rest interval.
- Always warm up properly
Every time you lift, you’re waging a war on the weights. However, you won’t see any benefit without preparing properly for that war. Take care of your joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Warm up!
If you’re following a program, be sure to give it at least 6-8 weeks. If you’re not happy with your results, don’t be afraid to try something completely different. Change the exercises, amount of weight, reps, rest periods, amount of days, you name it.