Follow these tips to pack on pounds of lean muscle mass.
1) Increase Your Training Frequency
Hitting the gym twice a week is fine if you want to maintain the muscle you already have, but if you are shooting to add some size you should consider increasing your training frequency to 4-5 times per week. Even though these sessions may need to be a bit shorter to allow for recovery, the increased exposure to a training stimulus can be helpful in packing on mass.
2) Vary Your Strength Qualities
While it’s true that sets in the 8 to 12 rep range are very effective for gaining muscle, keep in mind that your body is an adaptive organism that needs to be challenged to change. So rather than sticking with a set and rep scheme for the entire season, consider doing some lower rep strength work for 4 weeks as well as some higher rep (20-30 rep sets) strength-endurance work for a training block. The variety can help stimulate muscle growth.
3) Focus on the Big Lifts
Compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and pull ups use a lot of muscle and deliver a lot of mass building benefits very efficiently. Plus you’ll be able to load the bar with more weight during these exercise and, last we checked, moving more weight is a key component to adding more size.
4) Use Targeted Isolation Movements
Just because you should focus on the big lifts does not mean that there is no room in your program for isolation movements like biceps curls or calf raises. These exercises allow you to add volume to your program (another key component in building muscle) and bring up lagging body parts. And since you can’t overload them with the same weight you can in a squat or deadlift, they are not as taxing on your nervous system so you’ll be able to recover from them much more quickly.
5) Focus on Recovery
While your time in the gym is certainly responsible for creating a training effect, your time outside the gym is responsible for repair and growth. On top of making sure your nutrition is on point, be sure to get solid, consistent sleep (8-9 hours per night) and try to reduce outside stress as much as possible. You’d be amazed at how much these factors truly effect your ability to improve your body composition.
6) Add Supplements
While supplementation may not be necessary for everyone, it can definitely be helpful in plugging up some nutritional holes and improving performance. Things like creatine, fish oil, multi-vitamins and workout shakes have shown to help with strength, performance and recovery. And while the effects of supplements are far from magical, If you have not tried any of these strategies before, they may be worth looking into.
7) Stick with the Program
While it is important to change your training frequently enough to stimulate adaptation and avoid plateaus, it is just as important to stick with a training program long enough to reap it’s benefits. Allowing your body to improve it’s strength and efficiency by consistently exposing it to similar movement patterns over a period of time is important. It’s called “training” for a reason.
8) Find a Great Training Environment
It’s very difficult to become a great powerlifter in a room full of marathoners. You must find a place to train that is not only equipped for your goal, but is also full of like-minded people who are training hard. You’ll see your enthusiasm to train and your results sky-rocket if you find the right training environment. Even better, make one of those like-minded people your training partner and you’ll be more likely to show up for every session and push yourself that much harder.
9) Attitude is Everything
This goes for gaining mass, losing fat, getting a scholarship or being great at your job – the attitude that you bring to any task will go a long way in helping you succeed. In fact, a mediocre program done with a committed, enthusiastic attitude will trump a perfect program done half-assed. So walk into the gym happy, determined and ready to tear the head off a lion and you’ll be packing on size before you know it.
10) Get Plenty of Protein
You know that protein is the building block of muscle and that you need a lot of it, yet most people wildly under-consume the amount of protein they need on a daily basis. Shoot for .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight if your goal is to pack on some quality size.