Building muscle is something many people train for, especially men and those who play sports like football and hockey. In addition, bodybuilding is all about building more muscle. While often thought of as the reserve of the male exerciser, more and more women are getting involved in muscle building training as they come to realise that muscle helps burn fat.
The main problem with learning how to gain muscle is that most of the information around comes from genetically gifted bodybuilders and athletes who can build muscle very easily. The routines and information in typical bodybuilding magazines can be effective, but only for the genetically-gifted few. Just because a particular training program works for the current Mr. America does not mean this is how you should attempt to gain muscle. Chances are that if you train like the guys in the magazines, you’ll end up making little or no progress and that’s if you don’t end up injured.
Another fact to consider is that, for better or worse, in addition to having superior muscle-building genes, professional bodybuilders use anabolic steroids to help them achieve their amazing physiques. This is part and parcel of their chosen sport but means that, again, the training routines they use are not necessarily going to work for you.
So, how do you gain muscle?
Firstly, you need to understand that generally, a stronger muscle is a bigger muscle so forget high repetition training and start loading up those barbells and dumbbells. Traditionally, the accepted repetition range to building muscle has always been 6 to 12. Personally, I believe that the most effective repetition range for building muscle is 5 to 8, especially on compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, leg press, bench press etc. By developing strength, you will create thicker muscle fibers and a more powerful looking physique.
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Isolation exercises, such as calf raises and triceps extensions, are useful but don’t add muscle to your frame as effectively as heavy compound lifts. By their very nature, you can’t load up an isolation exercise to the same degree you can load up a compound exercise. Which do you think places more tension on your biceps for example, dumbbell curls or weighted chin ups? By all means use isolation exercises but only after you have worked really hard on some heavy compound lifts. Use the isolation exercises to “finish off” your muscles once the real work has been done. For isolation exercises, use a slightly higher repetition range – say 8 to 12.