Training happens in phases. There are phases where you train for strength (intensification) and phases where you train for hypertrophy (accumulation ). To build muscle favor the accumulation phases by employing a higher volume (8-12 reps) with moderate weight (65-85% of your 1 rep max) and 4-8 sets.
Train to complete muscle failure to cause muscle damage and trigger a large protein synthesis response.
Employ training periodization. Every 2-3 weeks you should change the reps, sets, loads and exercises. Switching between accumulation and intensification phases every 2-3 weeks will decrease the stress on the central nervous system.
While you should favor the higher volume phases you also should incorporate specific intense phases which favor relatively heavier weights (above 85% of your 1 rep max) and lower number of reps (5 or less).
About 70% of your workouts you should go for higher volume and moderate weight and the other 30% you should train at a higher intensity with heavier weights.
Train to trigger metabolic stress by doing higher volume, moderate intensity and short rest intervals (10-60 seconds). Start with a longer rest period then slowly decrease it.
Train based on the predominant type of muscle fiber in your body. If you have a greater amount of fast-twitch fibers with exceptional speed and jumping performance, train with heavy loads and low reps. If you have more slow-twitch fibers, go for high rep, high volume type of training.
Don’t forget to train your slow-twitch fibers. They comprise the majority of whole muscle mass and making them grow will maximize your overall muscle size.
Power and strength athletes who are trying to gain muscle mass while enhancing performance at the same time should train and grow their fast-twitch fibers.
Perform training based on slowing down the eccentric/negative part of an exercise. That’s the part when you lower/descend the weight. Start with a slower tempo of about 4 seconds and then 1-2 seconds on the concentric part. That’s when you pull/push the weight.
Progress to more advanced negative/eccentric loading with sub-maximal weights for the eccentric phase of the exercise.
To achieve greater muscular hypertrophy, you can use a dynamometer that provides a consistent resistant force that is not dependent on gravity like dumbbells. This will enable you to train at a fast tempo for optimal muscle growth.
How frequently you train is an often neglected training variable. Go for multi-joint movements separated into training splits to maximize recovery and allow for greater training frequency.
Intermediate and advanced lifters should also include specific single-joint movements because the fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers are scattered throughout separate muscles.
Recovery should be your primary focus. In addition to genetics, one of the main contributors to muscle development is the ability to recover quickly so you can get back in the gym as fast as possible and lift weights again.
Minimize steady-state and long-duration cardio. Instead, do sprints, loaded and strongman conditioning.
Choose your priority and work accordingly. Even though it’s possible to gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously, optimal muscle development is best achieved by a conducive lifestyle, meaning train as hard as you can, eat lots of food, rest, recover and avoid any unnecessary physical activity.
Always seek ways to improve your technique. Minimize cheating or using a bit of a momentum to lift or push the weight up. Follow precise lifting temps and control the weight on the descend instead of just letting it fall.
Set goals. Be as specific as possible. Specify the exact weight and reps you’ll need to hit for every movement, every workout, every week and every training phase/cycle.
Lead a lifestyle conducive to muscle hypertrophy: train, eat, recover.
Log every detail of your new lifestyle. Record everything: your workouts, how much you’ve slept, your meals. Evaluate your progress and performance each time you start a new training program to see the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the old one.
Train to get the pump. The legendary sought after muscle pump happens when train at high volume, meaning lots of sets and reps, and this type of training relies on the glycolytic energy system. The result is that the muscle cells start to swell with liquid, which the cell itself perceives as a threat, which in turn leads it to grow.
Perform forced reps to recruit the high-threshold motor units which target satellite cells, which in turn maximizes muscle growth. Pick a weight that you can lift for a maximum of 12 reps. Then increase the weight a bit and perform 4 sets of 12 reps. When necessary get your training partner to assist you.
Perform the so-called “X-reps“. X-reps are partial reps that are performed after you get to a complete full-range failure on a certain exercise. Let’s use the bench press as an example. Once you reach complete failure and can’t do any more reps, do 5 to 10-inch partials in the top range of the movement until you reach failure again. Always use a spotter for safety.
Perform drop sets. Do one high-intensity set and then immediately proceed with the same exercise only this time with half the weight. Go to complete failure.
Add some „death circuits“ which alternate between agonist and antagonist muscle movements and don’t rest between each movement until you reach a set time goal. This type of training will result in metabolic stress, lactic acid build up in your muscles and a gigantic growth hormone response.
Never ignore the role strength plays in muscle growth. Giving all you’ve got during intensification cycles will help you build more muscle in the long term.
Can’t say this enough. Eat enough protein. This goes especially for vegetarians.
Consume high-quality protein and fat at each meal. Go for foods that have at least 10 grams of essential amino acids at every meal.
Eat lots of meat. Science has already established that eating huge quantities of meat with lots of protein in it will help you achieve maximal muscle gains.
Make sure you hit your daily protein goal. Eat between 1.5 to 2.5 grams per kilo of body weight a day to maximize muscle growth from resistance training.
When it comes to building muscle high-quality calories reign supreme. Go for higher meal frequency in which you consume protein every 2-3 hours throughout the day.
Consume whey protein after your workout. Whey protein is superior to all the other protein sources when it comes to increasing protein synthesis. If you happen to be allergic to it, take essential amino acids with some extra leucine.
Depending on your body fat percentage, consume 20 grams of whey every 3-4 hours on the days that you train to repair the muscle and gain mass.
Cycle your carb intake to increase insulin sensitivity and achieve massive gains. Lower your carbs on rest days, and increase them on training days.
Consuming carbs after a workout is not essential to protein synthesis however it can decrease the release of cortisol during training. It’s generally recommended that you consume a shake with a carb-to-protein ratio of 2:1 to 1:1.
Every 5-7 days have a high-carb, high-calorie day in which you increase your calories by up to 50%.
Balance the intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Eat lots of fish, pastured animal products, take fish oil supplements and stay away from vegetable oils.
Eat healthy fats and avoid low-fat dairy products. Healthy fats increase the levels of the so-called good cholesterol which supports hormonal balance and recovery from hard and intense training.
Eat saturated animal fats such as meats, cream, butter, omega-3 and monosaturated fats like avocados, olives, macadamia nuts, etc.
Take care of your body’s PH. Drink lime water or pure lemon eats lots of nutrient-rich green vegetables and fruit to create a more alkaline environment in your body.
Stay hydrated. When you become dehydrated your body increases the release of the stress hormone cortisol and the majority of people are chronically dehydrated. Aim at drinking at least 40ml/kg of body weight. For an 80kg person, this equals to 3.2 liters.
Improve your gut health. Supplement with probiotics and take them on an empty stomach. Pair protein-rich foods with fiber-rich foods (vegetables and fruit) to improve the digestion of protein so that your body can use more of it rather than just pass through the intestines intact.
Supplement with B vitamins, especially B5, since it becomes depleted in people who are under a lot of stress, both mental and physical.
Balance your cortisol levels. Take 2-10 grams of vitamin C after your workout or anytime you feel stressed. When it comes to caffeine you shouldn’t take it when you’re anxious or after your workout.
Maintain healthy baseline hormonal levels, especially testosterone, because it’s one of the main indicators of physical performance level. Higher levels of resting testosterone mean you will achieve a greater effect from your workouts which will translate into greater muscle gains.
Get quality sleep. Sleep has been called the „athlete’s steroid“ because it can improve an athlete’s performance by as much as 10%. If you’re serious about gaining muscle aim for at least 9 hours a night.
You should train in the afternoon from 2 to 5 pm because your strength gets its peak during this time window and protein synthesis peaks at 5 pm.
Sleep according to your natural tendency, also known as a ‘chronotype’. This will optimize your hormonal balance. Men who sleep following their chronotype have been found to have higher testosterone levels.
Make sure you get enough vitamin D. Strive to maintain a year-round level of at least 40ng/ml. People who live in northern latitudes where sunlight is scarce and don’t get enough daily exposure need 2000-5000 IUs (International Units) a day to achieve the baseline level.
Test your magnesium levels by taking a red blood cell test. Scientists have concluded that lifters should supplement with 500mg of high-quality magnesium a day. Take it after your workout.
Take BCAAs that have a leucine to valine and isoleucine ratio of 4 to 1. Studies have shown that 40 grams of BCAAs taken throughout a workout can increase the rate of protein synthesis and decrease muscle tissue breakdown.
Supplement with 5 grams of creatine daily to achieve greater muscle gains. One study found that lifters who took creatine added an extra 2-4 lbs of muscle mass.
Supplement with beta-alanine because it helps your body get rid of the waste compounds that are accumulated during intense muscle contractions. Try a high/low dosing scheme of 4-6 grams a day for 4 weeks, followed by 1.5-3 grams a day for 4 weeks.
Use caffeine as a pre-workout booster anytime you feel not motivated enough, haven’t slept enough or are simply in a bad mood. It’s hands down the most efficient legal performance-enhancing compound available.
Consume up to 5 grams of fish oil after your workout to increase protein synthesis and decrease inflammation in the muscles.
Increase the intake of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) by consuming pastured, organic beef and dairy. CLA has the potential to increase muscle gains by 2-3 lbs over a placebo.
Supplement with citrulline to improve your blood flow and energy levels. Citrulline also boosts arginine which in turn increases growth hormone release.
Take several small doses of glutamine during the day. Take it anytime you feel like your immune system is suppressed or you’re feeling exhausted and overtrained to improve your recovery.
Train harder. If you deem yourself as a „hard-gainer“ chances are you aren’t training hard and eating enough.