Factors for Muscle Growth
There is a great debate on what works best in the strength-training world for muscle growth. The simple answer is it depends on your goal and your experience level. There are many ways to construct a strength-training program and many variables that will determine your success. Sometimes you can use a periodization model to include multiple workouts splits in a given year. You can also follow an undulating periodization model where your workouts vary from one to the other.
How many reps, sets, and how much weight you should use are also very important factors that will determine muscle growth. Research shows that many rep ranges, sets, and loading parameters can help produce muscle hypertrophy.
So, what should you do to help increase muscle since there are so many ways to do it? Well, let’s take a look at some different principles that work across the board that can be implemented into almost anyone’s training program without too much confusion.
1.Train Muscle Groups More Often
Repeated bouts of resistance exercise (on a target muscle) and protein ingestion trigger an anabolic response and growth. In other words, train your muscle groups more often. Hit the biggest muscles in your body 2-3 times per week to increase protein synthesis and build muscle.
At State Of Fitness, our goal is to work for every muscle group hard, frequently and with an intensity that creates a massive “metabolic disturbance” — or “Afterburn” that leaves the metabolism elevated for several hours post workout. As long as you ingest an adequate amount of protein each day, you will help further induce protein synthesis (layman’s terms, rebuilding muscle).
A study by Schuenke MD, Mikat RP, McBride JM.et al. used a circuit training protocol of 12 sets in 31 minutes. EPOC was elevated significantly for 38 hours post workout. 38 hours is a significant time frame for metabolism to be elevated. If you trained at 9 am until 10 am on Monday morning — you’re still burning more calories (without training) at midnight on Tuesday.
In my experience, FREQUENT full body training in a superset, tri-set or circuit format (with noncompeting exercises) in a rep range that generates lactic acid (and pushing the lactic acid threshold or LAT) seems to create the biggest metabolic demand. Training legs (hinge, squat), back (pull) and chest/shoulders (push) will burn more calories and elevate metabolism more than an isolated approach training one of them. The rep range that seems to work best is the 5-12 hypertrophy range. Going higher will work just as well with a less trained population.
2. Explosive Rep Speed
Lift each rep explosively to muscle fiber recruitment. By moving weights as fast and as hard as possible, you’ll recruit more muscle fibers and maximize nervous system recruitment for greater performance.
During my bodybuilding years and even beyond, I utilized a slow eccentric phase (lowering the weight), a slight pause, a moderate speed concentric phase (raising the weight), and another pause. In other words, a somewhat slow, controlled rep speed was what I performed and preached. There is some significant research that the eccentric phase of the repetition is where you are the strongest and cause the most muscular tissue breakdown. But some studies show that lifting weights faster, especially on the concentric phase, can produce more muscle growth by recruiting more muscle fibers.
So, instead of always worrying about controlling the movement, lift the weights a little faster.
3. Take A Break Between Sets
This one may not apply to everyone but with the adult clientele I work with, it does. Most powerlifters and Olympic lifters have to rest ample amounts between sets to let their nervous system recover. This is essential for them to recover enough to lift a heavy weight for say 1-4 reps. Their goal is not to build muscle but to rather increase strength and power.
College students or the old-school bodybuilding buff simply rest too much due to either scrolling through Instagram, or because they just don’t feel like working hard.
For the rest of the population, in my experience, need to rest a little more. Fat loss and general fitness clients tend to move from one lifting exercise to the next too fast because they either just want to get it done, do more work in less tie, or feel that the faster they move, the more calories and fat they will burn. Unfortunately, this does not result in building muscle.
In order to build muscle, you need proper time under tension and sufficient weight. To accomplish this properly, you need to let ATP regenerate. Now, this does not mean you need 2-3 minutes between sets. Instead, try this example:
- Dumbbell Bench Press x 10 reps
- rest 60-seconds
- 1-Arm Bent Over Row x 10 reps
- Rest 60-seconds
You can also dial rest back periods by performing exercises in-between sets of heavy/explosive exercises with mobility and stability work, and include agonist/antagonist supersets.
4. Progressive Overload
Training with high focus and progressively adding weight to the bar or bells will create the anabolic response necessary for growth. This is one of the oldest tried and true methods to build muscle that lifters have been using for years. The simplest way to gain muscle is to do a little more each time you lift.
Now it is unrealistic to think that you can lift more weight each time you workout. You can increase progressive overload by increasing reps with a certain weight, add more sets, and even include a new or extra exercise in your workout. In short, don’t do the same exercise with the same weight and same reps each time you workout. You need to push just a little extra in about 70-80% of your workouts.
5. Utilize The Big Movements
If you want to increase muscle growth which in my opinion, that should be everyone, you need to perform compound movements. Using small dumbells, weak resistance bands, along with doing just isolation work like bicep curls and lateral raises won’t get the job done. This means dominating the big, multi-joint movement patterns is the meat and potatoes of training. Use squat, deadlift, press, and pull variations (chin-ups, rows) that best suit your training goals. Switching between moves within those movement patterns.
Read number 6 to see why.
6. Perform Full-Body Strength Training
If I had to pick one method, I would choose full-body strength training. Implementing a well-designed full-body strength training routine 3-days a week. The majority of the population would benefit most from this method. The first reason is that of the time factor. Most people just don’t have enough time to devote to exercise. Three days a week is a reasonable goal that people can fit into their lifestyle. It is also enough strength training volume to produce some significant benefits regardless of age and experience.
Working multiple muscle groups in a full-body strength training fashion is shown to increase growth hormone. The increase occurs at a larger rate compared to traditional bodybuilding type of workouts where only 1 or 2 muscle groups are worked at a time. The more muscle worked, the more neural and physiological demand, thus increasing the metabolic rate and burning more calories. The bottom line is: most people want to lose body fat and be more fit. Three full-body strength training routines a week is the perfect combination for the majority of the population.
There are many ways to build muscle and there is no clear cut way to do so. However, there are many principles and philosophies that can work very well for a variety of people. Try these 6 tips out if you are looking to improve your physique and reduce muscle wasting as you age.