Bodybuilding Tips and Techniques
Almost any kind of exercise will increase muscle mass. But, some types are more effective than others. Weight lifting is the most effective way of achieving this. On this page I will discuss a few ways to make weight lifting more effective for weight gain.
Putting on muscle is not a simple process. The physiological adaptation requires you to stress your muscles to the point where the small fibers tear. Because of this damage to the fibers the body will adopt by rebuilding them stronger. In this process the fibers will become slightly bigger. As you repeat this process the muscles become stronger and bigger. Be aware that genetics plays a big role into how big you can make a muscle. Be aware that the human body does not have the ability to create more muscle cells. During bodybuilding the number of muscle cells remain the same, but each cell increases in size to give the ‘bigger’ effect.
To achieve this gain in muscle size you need to damage the muscles by stressing it, then to allow it to fully repair. The repairing process can take anywhere from 12 to 72 hours, depending on how stressful your workout are. If you do not allow enough time for the muscles to repair, before you workout that muscle group again, you will not see muscle gains and you may actually become weaker.
- Make sure you do a good warm up first to reduce the risk of injury
- Use heavy weights. If you can do more than 8 reps the weights are too light. If you can't do more than 4 the weights are too heavy
- Do at least 3 sets for each muscle group. After a few weeks of training aim for 6-7 sets
- Allow for about 2-3 minutes of rest between sets
- Drink water throughout your workout. Muscles need water to function properly
- Every 3-4 weeks change the types of exercise you perform. Once muscles become accustomed to a specific movement the adaptation will decrease. So, keep them guessing. This is especially important if you hit a plateau
- Super sets: Doing 2 different exercises for the same muscle group e.g. Arm curls then chin-ups with no rest in between, then back to arm curls, etc. Leg extension then squats. Super sets can also involve antagonist muscles e.g. Arm curls then tricep extension, with no rest, repeated
- Slow down the movement. For example, during bench press do the movement for the count of 10 seconds. You will notice that you can only do a fraction of the reps you could normally do. This stresses the muscles at a deeper level
- Speed up the movement. You may have to decrease the weight a bit, but this is good for building power and for stimulating the muscles in a different way
- Do max one rep. This involved using as much resistance as you can lift for only one repetition. This is also a good way to monitor improvement
- You should follow a split routine e.g. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: arms chest, back. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: abs, legs. Always have at least one day off per week
- Every muscle group has an opposite. Don't ignore a muscle group. Doing so can lead to injury e.g. if you do bicep work do tricep work as well
Nutrition is also vital to muscle gains. You will need to increase your caloric intake, especially of protein. However, you should do this gradually, because, this is energy. And, as with any food energy if you don't burn it off you will gain fat. And what good is muscle if it's covered in fat. If you try to lose the excess fat after gaining muscle you will probably also lose hard earned muscle in the process, so it's much better to be very careful and not gain any excess fat to begin with. Refer to our nutrition section for more information.
Rest is an area so easily ignored. If you train to the point that you need to, you will also need plenty of rest. By rest I mean 2-3 days of not working that particular muscle group, and proper rest at night. Rest is the time when the body recovers and repairs itself. So, without it you're wasting your time. The more intense you workout the more rest you will need. For example, serious bodybuilders will only train a particular muscle group once a week. It is very tempting to get caught in the thinking that ‘the more I workout the faster I will see results.’ This is a very detrimental way of thinking which will probably lead to injury or over training. And the only way to deal with this is with rest. Watch out for these warning signs of over training:
- A drop in strength
- Feeling tired during the day
- Loss of appetite or a significant appetite increase
- Irritable and anxious for no apparent reason
- Trouble sleeping at night
- Sore joints, or muscle soreness that doesn't go away
- Increased resting heart rate throughout the day
- Increased resting breathing rate throughout the day
- Getting sick regularly, e.g. colds
More information on weight gaining tips.