Adding muscle seems to be a mystery to most, yet if you pick up a copy of any fitness magazine you’ll almost always see a headline like this: “Gain 15 Pounds of Muscle in 6 Weeks.” If it were so easy you’d have millions of muscle-heads running around. Even though building muscle tissue can be a challenge, we’re going to outline some very specific principles that can pack on lean and toned muscle.
Stimulating the Muscles
In order to add muscle tissue, you must force the body to add it. Your body won’t just add a pound of muscle just because you followed a 3-set workout that you read about in some magazine. You need to give the body a reason to make improvements—in this case add muscle tissue.
You have to provide what we call a “stimulus.” This can be done in many ways. Basically, you need to force the body to add muscle by subjecting it to levels of stress
it is not used to. Some methods are more obvious than others, but all can work.
Here are a few example of how this can be done effectively. (And, before you get started on any workout program, check with your doctor first.)
First, the basic and common methods:
• Increase weight or resistance
• Perform more repetitions
• Perform more sets
• Move the resistance slower
• Rest less between sets and exercises
Some more advanced methods:
• Pre-exhaust (Perform an isolation exercise first and immediately continue with no rest on a compound movement. For example, chest flies and then chest press.)
• Static holds (Hold the resistance in the hardest position of the range of motion.
For example, top position during a leg extension.)
• Partial reps in weak range (Perform a portion of the rep where you are weakest. For example, the top half of a rep of leg extensions.)
• Strip-set (After a warm-up set, perform 3 sets back to back with no rest. Start with the heaviest weight possible and each time strip off some weight to allow you to continue.)
These are just a few methods of increasing intensity to ensure progress. The key point to remember is that whatever you do it must be progressive in order for it to elicit a physical change.
Here are some general recommendations for different goals.
If your goal is to:
Tighten and tone muscles:
Focus on increasing reps, decreasing rest, and changing exercises frequently.
Train each muscle group twice per week.
Perform fewer sets of many different exercises (1 to 2 sets per exercise).
Increase strength and power:
Focus on increasing weight.
Perform multiple sets of each exercise (2 to 5 sets per exercise).
Increase muscle size:
Focus on shocking muscles by changing variables frequently (Exercises, set and rep schemes, rest time).
Train each muscle group on a variable schedule (Experiment by training a muscle group 3 times a week, then once every 10 days).
Perform multiple sets for a while, then perform single sets for a week or two.
Some Final Reminders
The recommendations above are general and of course will need to be adapted and adjusted for your personal goals and experience. For those of you who think that you need to stick to the same basic movements like bench to build size, we challenge you to try shocking the muscles by changing the exercises you perform each week for four weeks. If you have little experience, we hope you’ll throw away the fitness magazines and learn what really works.