Building muscle is not an overnight process. It takes consistency, dedication, and a lot of hard-work. However, if you’re applying these key traits and still aren’t seeing results, it may be a sign that your approach is off. Plus, even if you are seeing progress, there’s no reason you can’t rev up your results to see even more.
How, you ask? Here are 7 different ways you can optimize your muscle building results.
#1 Increase Your Training Volume
Training volume is your total workload per exercise, session, and week; and can be easily tracked with this equation (Sets x Reps x Load). Your training volume is a main determinant of hypertrophy— a term for the growth and increase of the size of muscle cells, most commonly resulting from weight lifting. Training for hypertrophy has both an intensity and volume component. Surprisingly, volume is the more important of the two. Research has shown that you can gain muscle across a widespread level of intensities. Thus, lifting super heavy isn’t necessarily required to build muscle. In fact, it has been found that multiple sets are associated with a 40% greater effect size than single sets. Researchers’ believe that higher training volumes may be more effective because of the longer duration of tensile force placed upon the muscle. By increasing your training volume, you simultaneously increase your 'time-under-tension' (TUT). It has been claimed that greater TUT leads to increased hypertrophy.
#2 Decrease Between-Set Rest Intervals
Checking your phone between sets will cost you; if you’re not careful about how much time you spend checking it. Shorter rest periods of 1-2 minutes between sets cause a greater release of muscle-building hormones in your body than long rest periods and also ensures that you truly fatigue your muscles. Research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that, regardless of rep and set structure, fatiguing your muscles is a prerequisite for hypertrophy. Muscle fatigue, caused by lactate production, has been associated with strength gains and significant hypertrophy. Along with increased lactate production, shorter rest periods also increase blood flow to the targeted muscles. It has been shown that the increased blood flow to your muscles helps protein get there quicker. This can also be achieved by supplementing with a nitric oxide booster, but more on that later.
#3 Slow Down Your Rep Speed
As you can see, weightlifting has quite the science behind it. Everything from the food you eat to the speed you lift can affect your results. It has been shown that when lifting for hypertrophy, it is best to lift slowly. Don’t be afraid to feel the burn. Tim Santiago, an IFBB Pro-Athlete and natural bodybuilder, was quoted saying, “Muscles grow when they are under tension for longer periods of time," Santiago says. "Slow and controlled reps mean longer time under tension for that muscle." He adds, "Using slower reps also allows you to concentrate on using proper form and really feel the muscle working." Time-under-tension, or TUT as we mentioned above, is a sure-fire way to increase your muscle growth. The standard advice is that to maximize strength, the ideal time under tension is about 20 seconds or less and to build muscle, it's at least 40 seconds. Everyone from the new guy at the gym to the most experienced lifters can benefit from TUT. I challenge you this week to increase the TUT your muscles experience. I believe you’ll be quite impressed with your results.
#4 Eat Lots of Protein
Weightlifting creates tears in your muscles known as micro-tears. Your body then repairs and adapts the muscles to better handle the stimulus that caused the damage. This is the process by which muscles grow (scientifically termed hypertrophy). Eating protein builds your muscles back up. The harder your workout, the more important protein intake is to your recovery. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that to increase muscle mass one should consume between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. For a 175-pound person, that works out to 20 to 24 grams of protein at every meal. A few good sources of protein I’d recommend come from eggs, chicken breast, lean beef, greek yogurt and tuna.
#5 Eat Plenty of Carbs
Carbs are important for two reasons: avoiding catabolism, a term referring to muscle loss, and for creating glycogen, which fuels your workouts. Typical hypertrophy training (moderate-heavy weight, 6-12 reps) draws energy from the ATP-PC and glycolytic system. The glycolytic system gets most of its energy from the carbs you eat. Under cutting carbs when trying to build muscle is one of the biggest mistakes many people make in the hopes of trying to staying lean while building muscle. See, your body will prioritize burning carbs first, protecting your protein stores. If there are no carbs to burn however, your body will turn to protein for energy. You should always aim to eat a healthy source of carbohydrates before a workout so that they may be broken down and used as fuel, and after to replenish those depleted glycogen stores.
#6 Prioritize Sleep
We know that the journey to building muscle is much more complex than simply lifting daily. Proper nutrition and exercise regimen are vital for muscle growth. Recovery is also vital for muscle growth and development, and sleep is vital to recovery. When you sleep, your body releases human growth hormone, or HGH. HGH helps muscles grow and keeps the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in check. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 sleep seven to nine hours per night to receive and adequate amount of sleep. There are also certain supplements one can take to help improve recovery; however these should not be considered substitution for a good night rest.
#7 Supplement Smartly
While a proper diet, nutrition, and training regimen make up the foundation for success when it comes to weightlifting and overall health in general, supplementing can add an extra edge to your training regimen. Natural nitric oxide boosters and muscle builders, such as OptiNOs, will help increase blood flow, thereby getting protein to your muscles quicker, allowing you to lift more. Pre-workouts, such as OptiForce, will give you the extra energy and drive needed to take your workouts to the next level. OptiForce also has BCAA’s in its formula, which helps boost performance. Combining these two will give you a synergistic edge, improving your energy, endurance, and pump.
All in all, there are many different key factors you should incorporate into your quest to build muscle that will benefit your journey, but like I said before, it is not an overnight process. It is a 24/7 commitment. When it comes to building muscle mass, the closest thing to a ‘magic pill’ is dedication. Train hard, eat clean, rest well and stay consistent, and you will see the results you’re looking for—in time. And when that time comes, it will be more than worth it. See you in the gym.