To build a solid foundation for muscle and increase your strength, lifters and fitness enthusiasts in general need a well-rounded approach to their life that combines technique, nutrition and consistency.
No matter if you are in the gym as a meathead or someone who has never stepped foot in a squat rack, understanding the fundamentals of muscle building can help you achieve your goals quickly and effectively.
Today, you are going to be exploring essential tips and techniques that will assist you on your journey (remember the First Ideal: Journey Before Destination) towards your progress in the gym with muscle gains, improved strength and a more balanced life-style.
The Importance of Strength Training
Strength training is the absolute foundation of building muscle in your body. Strength training involves doing exercises that hit specific muscles and muscle groups to promote growth and enhance overall strength.
But you knew all of that.
The key here is to emphasize the importance of what happens when you train regularly. By engaging in regular strength training sessions, you will create microtears in your muscle fibers which encourages an increase in muscle mass and will improve your overall physique.
Another added bonus of strength training is that you will see other improvements that are not directly related to overall strength, but help improve your quality of life. Proper strength training will help correct posture issues (which may alleviate back pain), increase the rate that you burn calories to help with weight loss, and will also ensure that simple everyday tasks are easier, like opening pickle jars!
Designing an Effective Strength Training Program
After you realize that strength training is the way to build strength, designing an effective program is a CRUCIAL step to maximize your efforts.
While we won’t be diving into actively designing a program in this article as it is a complicated and varied process, we will give you some key factors to consider when building your program.
Set Clear Goals:
If you think you want to design an effective training program, you have to know what, like any artist, the design is for. Are you wanting a strength training program for powerlifting? Bodybuilding? Strongman? Or maybe it’s just hitting a 2 plate bench for the first time.
No matter that path you’ve determined, your goals must be SPECIFIC and CLEAR. Having that in place will make it easier for you to keep walking forward, even if it seems difficult.
Determine your desired muscle gain and strength targets to tailor your program accordingly.
If you are looking at how to challenge yourself through the program, you can gradually increase the volume, weight or intensity of your training sessions to keep your body moving.
Generally, if you are wanting to increase size, add volume, strength, add weight, and overall conditioning, intensity. While these aren’t hard and fast rules, they are something to consider when building your program.
Optimal Nutrition for Muscle Building
Optimal nutrition plays an instrumental role in supporting the growth of muscles and how they recover. If you don’t fuel your body in the right way, you may be prone to setbacks and injuries that will negatively affect how your training goes.
Here are a few tips that you can use to optimize your nutrition:
Muscles repair through the use of protein and protein sources, so it is important to consume an adequate amount of protein throughout your day.
We recommend looking into lean meats, poultry (if done right, dark meat is supreme), fish, eggs, plant-based, and if your digestion system allows, dairy products.
Making sure that you eat enough protein is a massive part of optimizing muscle growth. Generally it is recommended to consume .7-1g of protein per pound of body weight.
The equation on this would look simply like this
175lb male x .7 - 1g = 123-175g of protein per day
While this isn’t a perfect equation, it is a solid starting point for anyone looking to start trending your health in the right direction.
When it comes to the balancing act of your diet, macronutrients are the building blocks for any big body.
If you are looking for a full article HERE is a link to one we have written recently.
A brief overview however, is that you need to balance complex carbohydrates for general energy during workouts and healthy fats for cognitive function along with general well being.
For carbs we recommend looking into whole grains, fruits and vegetables, along with the bodybuilding standard of white rice. Getting a good variety in your diet will help you also get fiber in, which will keep your system regular, if you know what we mean.
On the healthy fats side, your basic nuts, olive oils, and avocados are great to sub into any meal to help you maximize taste and thought processes.
While not the base of the pyramid, meal timing can help play a role in keeping you fueled for training and recovery.
By distributing your macronutrient intake properly through the day, you will ensure that pre and post-training meals will support muscle recovery.
There are different schools of thought for meal timing, and what to eat when. Some people won’t have any added fats pre or post workout, but will increase their carb levels to add fuel to the training/recovery fire. Others keep everything evenly spaced through the day to make it easier to consume.
Neither idea is right or wrong when you are just starting out, because it is more about building your habits and sticking to them.
While an object in motion stays in motion, if your body stays in motion, you will never get jacked and juicy.
It is important to allow your body time for ample rest and recovery for prime muscle growth. If you are really wanting to take yourself to the next level, here are some things to consider.
One of the most overbeaten pieces of information, especially in modern training, proper sleep hygiene is the cornerstone for any fitness goal (or life goal if we are being honest).
While not everyone functions off of the same amount of sleep, you do need to make sure you are setting a standard to follow for yourself. The human body’s sleep cycle follows a general pattern, where every 90ish minutes you hit the end of a sleep cycle. That might mean you are better off getting 7.5 hours of total sleep time instead of a full 8. If you are able to, track how you feel around your sleep schedule and make adjustments.
You may also look at “hacking” your sleep to try and “optimize” your rest. So if you are wanting to get the most out of your rest, here are some tips you can try:
Put your phone down. Stop looking at your phone X amount of time before bed. While that isn’t necessarily possible, another way you can go about it is to simply not look at your phone while you are relaxing in bed. Creating a separation between sleep and engagement will help you disconnect and get some rest.
Caffeine and Zzzz’s:
Be careful how much caffeine you consume and when you consume it. General research shows that the stimulant may be active in your system for upwards of 6-7 hours after that last sip. This means your rest will come harder and you may struggle to get great quality sleep. Again, as always, this doesn’t mean stop sipping your afternoon coffee, just be aware of what the effects might be.
This may just help you get a little more out of your sleep by putting your brain at ease and knocking out any distracting noises. We personally use a fan for both white noise and keeping us cool.
Active recovery is a great thing to incorporate into your daily routine, and not just on “rest days”.
Doing active recovery can help promote blood flow through your body, meaning nutrients are more easily distributed, your heart rate and blood pressure may improve, and your body won’t be nearly as sore for as long.
We recommend looking into low-intensity cardio for 10-20 minutes one time a day, whether this is a walk with your dog, a simple bike ride or another activity that falls within that range, it will be a huge step in the right direction.
You can also look into doing something like a low intensity yoga class online or in person to help get similar effects and build your body up to the next level.
Supplementing Your Muscle Building Journey
If you are looking to complement your efforts in the gym, you can look at adding supplements into an already balanced diet.
One piece of advice that we would like to give across the board is that when conducting research, please do your best to avoid products that are not transparent in their formulas. Companies that have ‘proprietary blends’ in their formulas are able to mis-lead the public by being technically correct with what is in there, but not actually having a significant amount.
For those wanting to add products in, consider the following supplements or supplement types:
As a warning, not every supplement works for each person, and not every person should take all of what we mention. Please consult a medical professional or experiment at your own risk.
While we recommend that you try and get your protein sources from ‘whole’ sources, like those mentioned above in the nutrition section, we understand that sometimes, it isn’t always possible. Whether this is due to dietary restrictions, time or cost, there are plenty of options for people who are wanting to supplement their protein.
If you are looking to pick a protein, make sure you read the label, as there are some keys to keep in mind:
- Are there any sneaky carbs in the protein powder?
- What is the serving size? How many servings per container is there?
- Are there any allergens included you should avoid?
Those with dietary restrictions should know that there are options other than whey protein out there. While we can’t dive into every detail, there is soy, pea, and other plant based proteins that will help you solidify your body against the loss of gains.
As an additive to your strength training routines, creatine is probably one of the most popular and most studied. It plays a crucial role in the production of ATP, which is the primary source of energy during short bursts of physical activity which is intense, like strength training!
When you want to enhance your athletic performance adding creatine is believed to enhance performance, strength and mass. This is done by increasing water content in muscle cells and creating protein synthesis.
We are keeping this specific section as broad as possible because everyone’s pre-workout of choice has a little bit of a different vibe for everyone.
Some people just simply want a jolt of quick caffeine so they will brew a fresh cup of coffee and just get after it. Others will want a MASSIVE slap of caffeine so a pre-pre with 300+mg of caffeine may be in the works for them.
However caffeine isn’t the only thing that people take before their training sessions to maximize their potential. Other supplements include trying to get that tingle from beta-alanine, the super pump from … and others just use nootropics to help boost focus and mental clarity for lifting weights.
While we aren’t officially affiliated with them, one of our favorite companies to purchase pre-workouts from is 110 Percent, a New Jersey based team that takes pride in their open formulas and crafting flavors that will blow your mind.
If you are looking to build muscle, you need dedication, consistency and what many consider a well-rounded approach. By implementing the essential tips and techniques you learned about in this article, you will be able to optimize your muscle-building journey.
Results take time, so it is up to you to stay committed to the training and nutrition plan that you have laid before you, no matter what obstacles come your way. If you harness the inner power of determination (much like your Ki) and enjoy the transformative journey towards a stronger you, nothing will be able to stand in your way.