In 2014 you can access literally millions of articles, research and studies on a huge variety of muscle building training methods at the click of a mouse and the tap of a keyboard. The supplement industry is growing massively at a constant and continual rate with many products all offering you the latest edge and advances in muscular gains. There are what seem to be endless and often somewhat contradictory training routines and programs out there all promising to deliver results.
All of these avenues can be beneficial to explore but can also leave you feeling confused and potentially frustrated. Rather than overcomplicating the matter of building muscle I suggest focusing on the following 6 areas with regards to your training. If you are just starting out then this a great foundation for you and if you have been training a while this is good reminder of some fundamentals which often get overlooked. In my experience many gym users are still not doing these 6 things on consistent basis.
I have mentioned this before, and ranted about it massively but this is one the biggest areas I see where improvements could be made in my experience. It is essential you create time under tension (TUT) and place as much stress/emphasis on the working muscle as possible. To extend TUT you must work on your tempo (speed) with particular focus on how you the lower the bar/dumbbells/machine.
The lowering phase of the bar/dumbbells MUST always be SLOWER than the lifting phase. My golden rule /mantra is ‘ALWAYS LOWER SLOWER’!
Sadly I see the complete opposite of this on a pretty much daily basis. A slow lifting of a weight (that’s often too heavy) no pause or contraction, followed by the weight crashing back down in a fast uncontrolled manner.
My recommended Tempo for hypertrophy based goals is 3121, which in terms of practical application translates as:
-Lower the weight for 3 seconds
-PAUSE at the bottom phase of the movement for 1 second
-PRESS the weight over 2 seconds
-SQUEEZE at contraction (top of movement) for 1 second.
Doing this would give an average TUT of 40-60 seconds per set of work (based on performing 8-12 reps).
Basic Hypertrophy ranges are typically based between 8-12 repetitions. Whilst a period of strength work can definitely be of huge benefit within the application of training, for the most part the range of 8 to 12 will be optimal when looking exclusively at hypertrophy. The key here is to ignore the ego and stick to the required rep range. Anything less than 8 and you are beginning to work towards strength training. In terms of sets you are ideally looking at 3 to 4 sets per exercise.
3) Weight selection
You need to fail with the 8 to 12 rep range. This will require you to work at a load of anywhere between 70 – 80% of your 1RM. Log all of your reps and weights performed every session and look to increase. If you can comfortably perform 12 reps, look to increase the weight. For example: A challenging set of 8 reps is going to be more beneficial than an easy set of 12 reps.
4) Rest Time
Time your rest! This gets massively overlooked, but when rest times are recorded and adhered to can lead to increased focus and concentration and can also be a true measure of intensity. Take an average of 30 to 90 seconds between sets. Generally speaking, more volume and more weight will equal more rest.
Consistency is king with regards to training and results. Work every area of the body with precision and consistency, hit each muscle group with equal enthusiasm and focus, and do not skip leg day! If you structure your routine efficiently, you can hit everybody more than once per week.
6) Under recovering
I didn’t label this as ’overtraining’ as for the most part I believe people under recover opposed to overtrain. To recover: drink sufficient water, plan and prepare your meals all focusing on nutrient dense foods, take into account any required pre/intra/post workout supplementation, structure your routine to avoid hitting the same muscle groups on consecutive days, ensure quality of sleep (I emphasise quality not quantity), look at potential for steady state cv to allow fresh blood flow, if appropriate introduce foam rolling flexibility & mobility work, and for some individuals allow between 1to 3 rest days per week(all of these points are very case specific).
If you need any help on how to implement these strategies into your routine on consistent basis or require any further advice, please do not hesitate to contact me, on here or on Facebook.