Training Considerations for Building Muscle
There is no perfect training plan. There is no perfect sets and rep scheme. There is no perfect exercise(s). There are guidelines that can be useful to follow but ultimately an individualised approach needs to be taken to come to a routine that works best. The following though is of prime importance when trying to build muscle and should not be overlooked.
- Your first priority when it comes to building muscle is technique. If you don’t respect this you will never reach your full potential, you will literally waste hours in the gym underachieving and you will most definitely risk injury. Learn to be Strict!! Don’t be the person chucking the weights about the gym or smashing out the half reps.
Top Tips for form
- Hire a very good PT who can coach you through some of your sessions and teach you how to do exercises correctly
- Do not ego lift, correct optimal form and range of motion should be your main priority in a lift and determine the weight that is chosen.
- You need to be in it for the long game and you need to turn up and keep turning up. If you are not prepared to commit to 3-5 training sessions every single week of the year, year after year then you’re not really committed to building muscle. That’s ok not everyone wants to do this, not everyone can do this, but be under no illusions if you want to build muscle you need to be consistent, patient and have a long term mentality. Focus on the process not the results.
- Don’t be the person who KILLS it going every day for a week then goes once the following week, get a sensible plan and stick to it.
Top tips for Consistency
- Find an approach that works for you, that you can stick to long term and is realistic to your lifestyle.
- If you can only commit to 3 sessions per week that’s fine, programme accordingly, you don’t want a chest day for example if you’re training 3 x per week. You want to be hitting each muscle group in each session and a Full Body Approach will be better suited.
- Turning up is only part of the equation. The time you spend in the gym needs to be of the highest quality you can produce. This comes back to form and technique, not ego lifting, connecting with the target muscles, and understanding that you need to actively contract muscles as you train them.
- Could you train harder? Could you spend less time chatting or being distracted by your phone? Could you concentrate more during each set on engaging the target muscles? Could you maintain your form better on the last few reps? Could you do it better with less load? If you answered YES to any of these then you can increase the quality of your session and improve the quality of your results.
- Don’t be the person that leaves the gym knowing they could have worked smarter.
Top Tips for Quality
- My advice would be employ a VERY GOOD personal trainer to guide you through some of your sessions who has muscle building experience, has noticeably built muscle themselves and has achieved results with other people like you.
- Ask yourself after each movement what muscles did I feel, was it the target muscle or was it somewhere else. If it was somewhere else consider going lighter, slowing down the movement, pause in both the stretched and contracted portions of each rep and visualise the target area moving and working as you complete each rep.
- Are you progressing? Do you know how and when to progress? Over time you need to see some degree of progression in your sessions. Progressions can come from various forms.
- Increasing the Frequency
- Increasing the Load
- Increasing the Volume
- Increasing the frequency refers to the amount of days you train per week. For example going from 3 days a week to 4.
- Increasing the load refers to lifting more weight for the same amount of reps within a set
- Increasing the volume is referring to increasing the reps of an exercise for the same weight or adding a set
- Generally a programme will look to have some small progressions over a 3-4 week period with a de load week added at the end. A de-load week represents a drop in intensity and or training volume to allow for the body and nervous system to recover from the previous weeks training. It can be a useful recovery tool to avoid overtraining, fatigue and training plateaus.
- Don’t be the person that does the same routine, same exercises week in week out with no variation or progression; similarly don’t be the person that does a different routine each week. You need consistency in your routine to improve but know when to vary your routine also.
Top Tips for Progression
- Don’t use all your tools at once. Give yourself plenty room to progress. If you have to regress your training or miss sessions then you have gone too hard too soon. Choose a frequency that works for you.
- Remember you’re in it for the long game, make small progressions that your body can handle each week.
- You don’t need to progress everything, focus on 1-2 exercises per session as the KEY movements that you will look to progress on. Adding reps to a set is a progression; you don’t need to add weight each week.
- Some exercises are better suited to adding reps versus weight. For example sometimes when you use a machine, the weight stack goes up in 5kg, this could represent a high percentage increase. It is unrealistic to assume you will add 5 kg every week. I think I have added 5kg to my Prone Ham Curl in the last year. For movements like this it is important to understand that progress will be slow, adding a rep to a set each week would be a much more realistic way to progress this movement. For example week 1 I might do 2 sets of 8 on this exercise. Week 5 I might be up to 3 sets of 12 using the same weight.
- Follow a plan for 4-6 weeks then change it. Vary some movements and tweak the rep ranges.
- Know Your Level
- Beginners need less. Less sessions, less sets, less changes, more simple training methods. The goal when you first start out should be to learn how to perform movements correctly. The more advanced you are the more you require different training methods. Greater frequency, higher and lower rep ranges and more advanced training methods.
- If you can’t lift properly yet and or you haven’t been consistent enough in your approach you don’t need any more than the basic of programmes to progress. No programme is going to work if you cant lift with correct form. Focus on this first.
- Don’t be the person that does all the advanced training methods, giant sets, drop sets, eccentrics, complex movements, high volume training when you cant actually lift properly or haven’t mastered the most basic of routines.
Top Tips for knowing your level
- Beginners focus on training 3 Days Per Week – 3 x Full Body
- Intermediate lifters progress to 4 days per week and chose either 4-x Full Body sessions or 2 x Upper 2 x Lower as your split.
- Advanced lifters stick to 4 days per week or progress to 5-6 days. A good 5-day split is (Upper, Lower, Rest, Push, Pull, Lower, Rest). A good 6-day option would be (Push, Pull, Legs, Push, Pull, Legs, Rest).
- To follow advanced approached you really have to have your nutrition, rest and recovery nailed down. I consider advanced lifters to be those competing professionally in bodybuilding.
- 8-12 Rep Range ideal for a beginner. Lower and higher rep ranges not ideal for those new to lifting. Lower rep ranges have a higher neural demand; higher rep ranges will push you closer to technical failure. Advanced lifters will benefit from including some lower and higher rep ranges in their sessions.
Hopefully this info will help you to improve the quality of your sessions and increase your results. If you would like me to help you design a programme that will be optimal for you please get in touch. Also check out our e-books, the training manuals are excellent resources for those who are looking to improve on the technique of their lifts and give ideas on different movements for each muscle group.