Everything you NEED to know about muscle building
I can pretty much summarise the main factors of muscle building in 3 simple rules...
Rule 1 - Track calories & macros
First thing is always nutrition, you need to be in a calorie surplus in order to develop some serious muscle tissue. If you don’t eat enough it will be extremely difficult to gain muscle, you might get some good results initially, AKA newbie gains, but eventually you’ll need to address your calories.
Food is the most anabolic substance you can utilise. Think about its, the bigger you get the more calories you need, your body will not justify expending all that valuable energy building and maintaining muscles tissue unless there is already a sufficient amount to work with.
Let’s take that one step further and break food down into the three macronutrients, or macros, these are carbs, fats and proteins. You’ll need a respectable amount of all three for the following reasons…
- Carbohydrates for energy and to replenish glycogen
- Healthy amount of fat to support cell growth and produce important hormones, most important one in this topic is testosterone.
- Obviously plenty of protein to help build and recover muscle tissue.
Rule 2 - Incorporate all three mechanisms of hypertrophy
The three mechanisms are - mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage.
1. Mechanical tension - Focus on lifting heavy weights! Mechanical tension is providing a maximum amount of tension through a full range of motion, basically providing a lot of resistance in relation to your one rep max, you don’t develop big muscles by lifting small weights. This mechanism is the quickest way to optimise strength gains and is the most important mechanism.
2. Metabolic stress ("the pump") - You know when you’re training and your muscles start pumping up and your feel insanely pumped, well that pump will actually help you build more muscle. To optimise metabolic stress you need to maintain constant tension on the muscles. Focus on the pain building up in that muscle, stay with it and embrace it. This way, as blood gets pumped into the muscles by the arteries, the steady muscular contractions will prevent the veins from letting blood escape, resulting in high levels of metabolic stress and cell swelling AKA pump.
3. Muscle damage - When you lift weights you create a certain amount of damage to the muscle, when the muscle is damaged it will repair, to help prevent this damage from happening over and over again it will compensate by increase muscle tissue and strength. The best way to influence this damage is by focusing on slow negatives, extended range of motion and high tension in the stretched position of the muscle. This obviously reinforces the importance of strict form.
The best lifts are those that can be manipulated to target each of the three mechanisms. The basic big lifts do the trick - squat, deadlift, hip thrust, bench press, military press, pull-up/pull down and rows. These exercises should feature highly in everyone's programming and tweaked accordingly to hit the three mechanisms.
You can use these three mechanisms in a single disgusting workout, or cycle through them over the course of a week
Rule 3 - Track Progressive overload
The main thing you need to look at when it comes to building muscle and strength is progressive overload, basically progressively lifting more.
The simplest way to think of progressive overload is the story of the guy on the film “Holes” carrying a pig up the mountain, each day he carries this pig up a mountain, each day the pig got bigger, which meant each day he got stronger.
Progressive overload requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency or time in order to achieve the targeted goal of the user.
- Volume - how many reps and sets you do
- Intensity - in the context is how much weight you’re lifting
- Frequency - How often you train
- Time - How long you train
Obviously you don’t want to constantly increase how often you train and how long you train for, so a more realistic thing to focus on is the amount of weight you’re lifting. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing your one reps max or three reps and focusing on increasing that. You can work in a more optimal body building range between 6 to 15 reps and increase the weight you’re doing on those exercises. For example, if you do 3 sets of 10 reps back squat using 100kg, try and do the same amount of reps with 105kg next time you do it, alternatively you can increase the volume and do the same amount of weight but increase the reps to 12, instead if 10, or potentially do an extra set, this is progressive overload, there is more than one way to skin a cat and there is more than one way to progressively overload muscles. You should change up the rep ranges as you go, but try and work in a rep range between 6 to 15 reps. This can change for specific sports such as powerlifting and strong man competitors, but for muscle building this will be a glorious rep range to work with.
When exercising, your body will adapt to a point, but if you want to make further development then you need to exert greater demand on the body by TRAINING HARD and TRAINING SMART. If you don't progressively overload the muscles by forcing them to do more than they're accustomed to, they have no reason to make further adaptations. Simply put, your body will not develop unless it needs to!