The summer season may be coming to an end but that’s no reason to stop going after your muscle building goals.
Fall and winter, in particular, are ideal for the muscle-bound lifters, as it is traditionally considered bulking season.
If you want to start putting on some serious size, the name of the game is hypertrophy. Average muscle hypertrophy is best supported by resistance exercises, which may or may not include additional weight.
When you’ve hit a plateau or you want to kick muscle growth into overdrive, hypertrophy comes down to mastering foundational principles that you may not ordinarily think about.
Let’s take a look at the top essential tricks for triggering insane muscle gains.
1. Mind to Muscle
First up, you must build a mind to muscle connection. I cannot stress this enough as it is one of the most fundamental principles of muscle building.
Whenever I am training a client, I sound like an annoying broken record as I remind them to visualize the working muscle as it moves throughout the exercise.
I’m not the only one who is a big proponent of stressing the mind to muscle connection. Dorian Yates, the bodybuilding legend, for example, hammers this into anyone who steps into his gym.
Want to form this connection? Try this:
- Using light weight, move through exercises with a lifting tempo of 3 / 1 / 4 (seconds in concentric / isometric / eccentric phases)
- Lift in front of a mirror and watch the muscle as it moves
- Visualize the muscle moving as you exercise
2. Squeeze Until It Hurts
Continuing with the point above: No matter which exercise you are performing, it isn’t enough just to acknowledge that the muscle is moving. If you want to see muscle growth, you need to fully contract the muscle.
A full contraction, or squeezing of the muscle, forces the greatest work load upon the muscle. When you do this for every repetition, you are ensuring maximum tearing of the fibers. Don’t worry, this is what you want. Hypertrophy is triggered by a healthy tearing of the muscle fibers so that they can recover and grow.
For every exercise and every repetition, visualize the muscle working and squeeze the muscle as hard as you can throughout the exercise.
Here’s the best example of ensuring a full contraction: When you’re performing a bicep curl, squeeze the handle of the dumbbell as hard as possible. Keep squeezing as you slowly move the dumbbell up towards the shoulder. Pump the bicep muscle at the top and then slowly descend. Do this for every repetition. Yes, it’s going to burn. Push through it.
3. Try Negatives
An excellent lifting methodology that you can use with a partner is called negatives or negative training.
Depending on the exercise, you may need two lifting partners, so don’t be shy. Call over someone else who is in the weight room to give you both a hand.
Negative training involves using weight that is around 150% to 200% of your one-repetition maximum. Your lifting partners will lift the weight as you control the descent or the eccentric portion of the exercise.
Studies show that the eccentric portion of the exercise, which is what negative training focuses on, can trigger a higher level of hypertrophy when compared to the lifting or concentric phase. (1)
For example, let’s say your one repetition maximum for the bench press is 100 pounds. You would place 150 to 200 pounds on the barbell. Position yourself for the exercise and your lifting partners would safely lift the barbell up. They’ll confirm that you have control of the barbell then they’ll let you lower the bar. Once it nears your chest, your lifting partners will lift the bar back up. Repeat this process.
When it comes to building muscle mass, there’s no need for fancy tricks or gimmicks as mastering the basics can produce serious results. Do you have any essential tips for muscle building that I missed? Let us know!
- Roig, M., K. O'Brien, G. Kirk, R. Murray, P. McKinnon, B. Shadgan, and W. D. Reid. "The Effects of Eccentric versus Concentric Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Mass in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis." British Journal of Sports Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2009. Web.