If you ask a number of random jacked guys at your gym,
“How do I build bigger muscle?”
…you’ll probably hear different replies.
“Lift your 1 rep max,” says the powerlifter…
“Pump ’em out with isolation,” says the bodybuilder…
“Switch up your workouts,” says the crossfitter.
This means that you may have to follow a PUSH-PULL-LEG split, add a whole body HIIT workout somewhere in between, and feel extremely exhausted after your workouts because the last meal you had before going to the gym was 5 hours ago!
If you are a busy professional, I know it’s a struggle to even fuel your body throughout the day, much more give all that you’ve got when you train after work hours.
To add to that, it’s confusing enough to know exactly what you need to do when you finally make it to the gym. You spend half the time trying to guess where to start or what to do.
Your time is limited.
You can’t waste a second doing random exercises that will never give you results.
Build Massive Muscle 101
According to a review paper by Brad Schoenfeld in 2010, there are three (3) ways to build more muscle:
mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage.
Each one of these answers above could be true to some extent, but in reality, a combination of these three is important to build massive muscle.
1. Mechanical Tension, a.k.a., “Lift Heavy“
The first key is to generate the largest amount of force (heavy weight) possible through the full range of motion.
Mechanical Tension is maximized by doing compound lifts like Barbell Squats, Rows and Bench Presses.
Begin your workouts focusing on MOVEMENT first, before going for isolation.
It is important to incorporate these basic movement patterns:
1. Hinge – Deadlift, Barbell good morning, Swings, Hip thrusts
2. Lunge – Split squat, back lunges, Bulgarian split squats
3. Push – Bench press, Shoulder Press, Push-ups
4. Pull – Pull-up, Bent-over row, seated rows, Unilateral rows
5. Squat – Back/Front squat, Goblet squat
6. Carry/Stride – Farmer’s Walk, Overhead Carry
Interestingly, mechanical tension does not mean you have to do your max every single time! In fact, a 2013 study by Pinto suggested that staying around 90% max is optimal for muscle growth on the bench press with an isometric contraction.
Also, each movement has a different ‘sweet spot‘ of mechanical tension. Test out your capacity for each lift – exercises like the squats and bench press is great at 3 to 5 reps for 4 to 6 sets at up to 90% your max, while others like the barbell rows and hip thrusts can benefit from a range of 8 to 12 reps of 2 to 4 sets below 90%.
EXERCISE: 3 to 12 reps at 4 to 6 sets at 70 yo 90% max.
2. Metabolic Stress, a.k.a., “Feel the burn“
Your body experiences metabolic stress when you start feeling the ‘burn.’ This means that there’s ‘metabolite‘ accumulation in the muscle, including lactate, phosphate and hydrogen ions in muscle cells.
Metabolic stress happens when a person does steady muscular contractions without any rest in between reps (reverse direction before lockout on the joint) which prevents blood from escaping the veins, causing the muscle to ‘swell.’
To train for the pump, work each set to failure by doing as many reps as possible (AMRAP) with short rest periods in between sets.
Exercise: 3 to 4 sets x 12 to 20+ reps at 1/0/1/0 tempo.
3. Muscle Damage, a.k.a., “Sore but not sorry“
Your muscles experience fatigue when you perform slow negatives at full range of motion and maintain high tension. Adding variety to your exercises also contributes to this.
To get to the point of muscle damage, volume is your friend.
More reps, more sets, and even more exercises on the same muscle does the trick.
Exercise: 2 to 5 sets x 8 to 12 reps at 4/0/1/0 tempo.
Putting it together
Now that you’ve filled your arsenal with these three keys to build massive muscle, it’s time to put it in your program.
You’re probably doing most of the exercises, and we only need to make a few changes on how you do them!
There’s two ways to incorporate these in your workouts:
1. Undulating Periodization – instead of just following a strength focused workout at 8 reps for the next few weeks, cycle through these three keys over the course of one week.
Day 1 – go for mechanical tension, focusing on compound lifts for 2 to 5 sets of 5 to 12 reps, up to 90% of your max.
Day 2 – work on metabolic stress getting the pump, and
Day 3 – say hi to ‘volume’ doing more reps, sets, and various exercises for muscle damage.
2. Concurrent Periodization – this is good news for you if you are a busy professional who have a limited time for the gym!
No need to train 7 days in a week.
You just have to suck it up and go over the three keys to massive muscle. And being a high performing individual that you are, I know that you can push through it!
Start with one or two compound lifts focusing on mechanical tension. Then transition to metabolic stress, adding more reps, and then finish off with muscle damage
Are you a busy professional ages 27 to 35 years old who wants to…
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