1. Eat more calories and protein More protein is always a good thing when you’re trying to build muscle. Photo by Sarah Boudreau on Unsplash. Bodybuilders know the phrase “mass builds mass.” Muscle growth is an output, and all outputs require inputs. If you’re trying to build muscle, you need to eat more calories than you burn each day — ideally, many of those calories would come from high-quality sources of protein. Many people who say they can’t build muscle are really just afraid to eat more, fearing the “bulking” phase of muscle growth during which you gain weight. While it is somewhat possible to maintain a lean body composition while building muscle, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that building muscle temporarily means gaining a little bit of body fat. Instead of focusing on weight gain, use your muscle-building phase to enjoy the strength and energy that come with extra calories. 2. Follow a structured training program A periodized training program developed by a personal trainer helps you build muscle faster. [this image came from the ShareFile). Do you walk into the gym with a plan, or do you blindly throw down weights each time? To build muscle (or to meet any fitness goal), you need to put intention behind all of your workouts. Without intention, there is no plan, and without a plan, you won’t build muscle — at least not as quickly or efficiently as you could with a plan. A periodized training program accounts for your fitness goals, training history, and current fitness level. Over the course of 6 to 12 weeks, a structured workout plan takes your physique from “clearly works out occasionally” to “wow, I want to look like that person.” Muscle comes quicker on a periodized plan because your trainer can carefully manipulate variables like intensity, volume, and frequency to keep you progressing. 3. Do less cardio Too much cardio can stall your muscle growth progress. [this image came from the ShareFile] Before getting into the details about cardio and muscle growth, let’s clear one thing up: Cardiovascular exercise has its place. It’s essential for your overall health and can help you lose body fat, among other benefits. However, too much cardio does have a negative effect on muscle growth. Muscle grows in response to activities that require strength and power, while on the flip side, muscle growth stalls when endurance is the necessary outcome. To visualize this, picture an Olympic sprinter and an Olympic marathoner — two phenomenal athletes with insane fitness. However, the sprinter typically has thicker, more defined muscles, while the marathoner typically has less definition. Both athletes run, so what’s the deal? Sprinting requires maximal output for a very short time (i.e., explosive strength) and a sprinter’s body reflects that. Running marathons requires submaximal output for a very long time (i.e., endurance), and because muscle takes up a lot of energy, a professional marathoner’s body will utilize as little muscle as possible to get them across the finish line. Moral of the story: If you’re hitting the treadmill every day, tone it down a notch if you want to build muscle. To learn more about building muscle, ask a World Gym personal trainer about workout plans and muscle growth strategies.
A good warmup always precedes a good workout. Whether you like it or not, getting warm is a key part of improving your strength, mobility, and overall fitness. This complete warm-up routine only takes five minutes — that’s all you need to drastically improve your workout. Related: How many reps will build muscle? Warmup Format Flow through 10 reps of each of the following warm-up movements. Complete two to four rounds, or until you feel ready to attack the weights. Cat-Cow Pose Also known as: spinal flexion/extension Cat-cow pose is a great starting place for any warmup, as it helps to loosen up your neck, back, chest, and shoulders. How to do cat-cow pose: Start on all fours on the ground. Stack your shoulders, elbows, and wrists so your arms make a straight line perpendicular to the ground. Stack your hips over your knees to make your thighs perpendicular to the ground. Engage your core and find your neutral spine position. Inhale and round your spine, tucking your chin and pressing your palms into the ground. Once you reach your end range of motion in cat pose, exhale and begin to arch your back. Lift your chest and chin high, keeping your palms pressed into the ground. When you reach your end range of motion, return to your neutral position and reset for another rep. Bootstrappers Also known as: squat-to-stand mobility Bootstrappers should be a go-to warm-up movement for anyone who struggles with hip or spinal mobility in the squat. In addition to priming the squat position, bootstrappers prepare you to engage your core for weighted movements. How to do bootstrappers: Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart. Bend down to touch your toes. Keep your spine as neutral as possible (don’t round) and clasp your fingers around the toe box of your shoe. Hang out in this position for a second. Still holding onto your toes, slowly lower yourself into a squat. Bring the crown of your head to the sky and look forward. Hold this bottom position for a few seconds. Maintain the hold on your toes and send your hips upward so you return to a forward fold. Downward Dog to Cobra Also known as: divers Downward dog to cobra combines two classic yoga movements that prime and prep your shoulders, as well as mobilize your upper spine and ankles. How to do downward dog to cobra: Start in the downward dog position. Your body should make a triangular shape with the ground. Bend your elbows to slowly lower your head to the ground. Just before your head touches the ground, extend your arms and push your torso up. Finish with your back arched, arms fully extended, and chest high. To get back into downward dog, straighten your spine, send your hips upward, and press your head through the window of your arms. Cossack Squats Also known as: deep side lunges For those looking to maximize hip and ankle mobility, cossack squats are a must-have in any warm-up routine. cossack squats also build your single-leg strength and prepare your knees for the stress of a loaded movement. How to do cossack squats: Start by standing with a wide stance, as if you were preparing to perform a sumo deadlift. Keep your toes forward or pointed out just slightly. Lower to one side, dropping into the squat as deeply as you can, breaking the parallel plane if possible. As you descend, keep the foot of your working leg planted firmly, but raise onto the heel of your non-working foot. The toes of your non-working foot should point to the sky. Pause and then push back to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite leg. Forward Fold With Spinal Rotation Also known as: folded windmill Forward folds alone are great for improving flexibility but adding a spinal rotation into the mix is better for improving mobility (yes, there’s a difference). How to do forward folds with spinal rotations: Stand with your feet together. Hinge at the hips and reach down to touch your toes, or as far down your leg as you can. It’s fine to grab your calves or ankles. Anchor your hands beneath your toes or around your legs. Take a deep breath. Exhale as you lift your right hand to the sky, following it with your gaze. Twist until you feel slight tension in your spine, keeping your left hand anchored to your body. Inhale when you reach your end range of motion. Then, exhale and bring your right hand back to center. Repeat on the opposite side.
You just finished a set of bicep curls and your muscles feel like they’re about to explode out of your arms. You look in the mirror and admire your suddenly huge biceps. Congrats — you’ve achieved the coveted muscle pump. The science behind the pump What you know as the “muscle pump” is actually called “transient hypertrophy.” Don’t let that super-sciency-sounding word scare you. Hypertrophy is the term for building muscle, and transient means it only lasts a short time — if you’ve ever gotten a muscle pump, you know just how fleeting it is. Muscle pumps occur largely because of fluid buildup that accumulates in your muscles when you work out. When you lift weights, blood rushes to your working muscles, and lactic acid begins to build up and draw water into your muscle fibers. Together, these two triggers — increased blood flow and lactic acid buildup — cause individual muscle cells to swell, ultimately making your muscles look bigger while you’re working out. If you’ve had a muscle pump before, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of fullness or heaviness you get in your muscles after an intense set. That’s all the fluid building up in your hard-working muscles. Does a muscle pump help you build muscle? Getting a muscle pump certainly makes you feel fitter, stronger, and bigger — but those results aren’t necessarily long-lasting. It’s called “transient” hypertrophy for a reason. Muscle pumps disappear about as fast as they come on, because once you finish working out, your body has no reason to hold onto all that blood in non-working muscles. As for the lactic acid, your body wants to flush that out as fast as possible. Getting a muscle pump is a good sign you got in a good workout, but don’t count on your muscles looking pumped when you wake up the next morning. It is worth noting that getting a pump typically means you worked your muscles hard enough to induce adaptation (growth), although evidence is inconclusive. How to get a muscle pump The most efficient way to get a muscle pump is to lift weights, specifically at high volumes (more reps at moderate loads). The repeated contractions and extensions of your muscle fibers during weightlifting makes it easy for fluids to enter your muscle cells. To maximize your muscle pump, try these tips: Do high-volume weightlifting instead of high-load weightlifting. More muscle contraction means more reason for your body to send blood to those muscles. Plus, science says high-volume weightlifting is the best way to build muscle overall. Hydrate before and during lifting weights. Getting a pump is all about fluids, and if you’re dehydrated, your body has less water to pump your muscles with. Eat carbs before you work out. Carbohydrates hold onto water in your body, which might contribute to a better pump. Utilize supersets and tri-sets. Like mentioned before, getting a pump is all about volume. Implementing supersets (two exercises back-to-back) and tri-sets (three exercises) is a simple way to increase your overall volume and decrease overall rest time, which should increase your chances of getting a muscle pump. Want to learn more about getting a mad muscle pump? Talk to a World Gym personal trainer about individual training plans to maximize muscle growth.