Today I want to answer the age old question, how to build muscle, expectations versus reality and how to optimise your muscle growth.
From what we know there are 3 main ways to stimulate muscle growth:
1. Mechanical Tension – Applying resistance/tension to your target muscle.
2. Metabolic Stress – Training at a high enough intensity that metabolic waste builds up on that targeted muscle.
3. Muscle Damage – Creating micro-tears in your target muscle.
The question is though how do you go about applying all 3 of the above stimulus in the gym. Which is more important? Can you do all 3 at once?
The truth is all 3 would interpose each other at some point in your training regime. As I like to reiterate all great things have a strong foundation and in terms of muscle building that comes from how effectively you can activate those said ‘target muscles’.
Activate? Yes, activation in its simplest meaning is ‘re-establishing the connection between your brain and muscles’, the ‘mind-muscle connection’ you may have heard about. This is mechanical tension.
This would also fit well with the number one principle of hypertrophy training, specificity. Specificity in terms of muscle building means in order to grow the desired muscle/group, you have to work those muscles, directly. Sounds simple right? Yes, however, there are some complexities to it too.
You have to be able to FEEL the target muscles working when directly targeting them in order to get the MAXIMAL benefit in terms of muscle growth. DO NOT move on reading until you ingrain this into your subconscious.
You can lift weights till you are black and blue, lift a 1000 tonne and it won’t make a difference (hyperbolic). If you don’t know how to create tension in the targeted areas, the very least it will be suboptimal and will most likely lead to injuries. So take the time to learn how to create and MAINTAIN TENSION on the target muscles.
Easiest way to do that is focus on the target muscles for example chest. Squeeze the chest as much as you can without any external resistance just using your arms push both sides of your chest together. Hold the tension for 10 seconds at a time and relax for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times. As time goes on, try to tense your chest without using your arms as much.
Muscle growth influences encompass a range of factors; one of the key influences is metabolic stress caused by training. In order to promote muscle growth, muscles need to be placed under stress to be forced to adapt. Increasing frequency, weight and volume of training can in turn increase the stress on the muscle, leading to consistent progression in muscle growth.
Progressive overload is a HUGE factor which will either make or break your hypertrophy journey. If you do not properly utilize this concept and apply it systematically in your training program you will be missing a huge potential of growth, long term. A good indication of muscle growth over a long period is the reflection on the amount of volume and load accumulated over different phases of your training; being able to see a drastic improvement in load and total volume over a period of 6 months from the start to the end will give you a good indication of how effective is your training regimen.
Until the next one, stay strong and conquer my fellow ALL STRENGTH athletes!
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