So what should you do?
If your goal is to build muscle and get stronger, you must incorporate heavy, compound movements like squats, deadlifts, rows and presses.These exercises will stimulate your central nervous system to the highest degree.
Here are some other basic principles for muscle growth:
- Figure out your goals
Before doing anything else, you need to determine the purpose of your training. Do you want to get bigger, stronger, have more endurance or something else?
Whatever your objective, you need to make sure every decision you make revolves around that particular goal.
If you want optimal results, you can’t have conflicting goals. You can’t train for a marathon and powerlifting meet at the same time and expect to be great at both. Absolute endurance and absolute strength compete directly against one another.
So decide what’s most important to you. Besides, if you don’t know what you want to accomplish, how are you ever going to achieve it?
- Have a plan and stick to it
Once you’ve figured out your goals, you must develop a plan to achieve those goals. If your main goal is to build muscle and gain weight, you should focus your workouts around resistance training. That means you need to limit your cardio and other activities outside the gym.
If you want to put on 20 pounds of muscle, you probably shouldn’t spend much, if any, time running long distances and playing pick-up basketball games. Don’t be a program-hopper. Pick a program and stay with it. Don’t change it up every week or two because you’re bored or aren’t getting results. Consistency is key.
- Focus on form and “feeling” the working muscles
If you’re not performing an exercise correctly, there’s really no point in actually doing it. In order to reap the benefits of an exercise, you must be certain you’re activating the proper muscle(s).
Your back muscles don’t know they’re supposed to contract when performing a chin-up, so you must make sure you actually squeeze your back muscles when you’re pulling yourself up. Also, focus on perfecting form before worrying about adding weight. You could heave up 50-pound dumbbells on your biceps curls, but if you don’t use proper form, your biceps aren’t going to actually grow.
Learning to properly contract your muscles is one of the most important factors for muscle growth.
- Track your results
In order to determine if you’ve truly made progress, you must record the amount of weight you lift during every exercise you perform. Otherwise, you could be lifting the same weight for six months without even realizing it.
Take a notebook with you to the gym and write down the resistance you use on every exercise during each of your workouts. Once you’re able to complete all of your sets and reps at a certain weight with perfect form, you know it’s time to increase the weight your following session.
- Learn to “brace” your core
In order to get the most out of your training, you must learn to use your abs during every exercise. If you sensed someone were about to punch you in the stomach, you would tighten your abs, right? That squeezing of your midsection is abdominal “bracing.”
Your abs tie your upper and lower extremities together, so you’ll be stronger if you learn to proper engage your core.
Don’t believe you’ll be stronger? Keep your core loose and have a partner try to push you over. You’ll get pushed over easily.
Now, tighten your abs, squeeze your butt cheeks together, clench your fists and have a partner try to push you over again. You’ll hardly budge.
- Focus on progressive overload
Once form is sound, adding a little bit of weight to your lifts each time will have a profound long-term impact on your results. Focusing on using compound movements is critical, and it’s equally as important to make sure you’re constantly increasing the amount of resistance you’re using.
If you want your muscles to grow, you’ve got to place adequate tension on them. You’ll need to constantly increase the amount of tension you place of your muscles if you want to stimulate growth. Adding five pounds to your deadlift might not seem like much, but if you add five pounds every time for the next 10 weeks, that’s a 50-pound increase.
Obviously, you’ll reach a point where you won’t be able to add weight every single time, but it’s important you make sure you’re constantly getting stronger.
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