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Have you tried to gain muscle, but are struggling to reach your goals?

This is the case for a lot of people, because the process of gaining muscle mass isn’t as simple as just working out calorie requirements and loading up on large quantities of food – unfortunately. The truth is there are rules.

As with any form of discipline, there are rules that must be followed if you are going to reach your goals and gain lean muscle mass. In fact, many people gain weight but end up trying to lose it all again. This is because they realise that they have actually been gaining fat with minimal amounts of muscle.

Science has moved on and progressed – we now know that bulking up and stripping down isn’t the only option. You can gain large amounts of muscle mass whilst getting leaner at the same time.

So, if you are in this position, you may want to consider these tips and add them to your training plan.

Eat enough protein.

You must be consuming enough quality protein daily to build lean muscle mass. There is still a lot of controversy out there about the quantity you should eat each day, but it is recommended that 2 grams per pound of lean body weight should be consumed for muscle gain.

Use a varied pool of exercises

The best way to grow muscle is to expose them to as many variables as possible. One of those is exercise selection. Simply put, just squatting to build up your legs won’t cut it. If you really want to grow you need to train your muscles from as many angles as possible. So to use legs as an example, here’s a selection of exercises you could use:

  • Narrow feet back squats (cyclists squats)
  • Wide feet back squats
  • Heels elevated back squats
  • Safety bar squat
  • Front squat
  • Hack squat
  • Back squat with chains
  • Back squat using bands
  • Leg press feet low
  • Leg press feet high
  • Leg extension toes out
  • Leg extension toes in
  • Lying leg curl(toes in toes out)
  • Kneeling leg curl
  • Lying leg curl gironda style (sat up on your elbows)
  • Dumbbell and barbell split squats
  • All the various lunges
  • Romanian deadlift off the platforma and off a deficit (hands hip width and snatch grip)
  • Good morning
  • All deadlift variations.

Now, this is just a selection – there are countless other exercises to do. What you can see through, is that there are many different exercises you could use for one part of the body. All of them train muscles at different angles and ranges.

So the next time you wonder why your not seeing any results, ask yourself if you:

  1. know enough exercises or 
  2. if you’ve changed the exercises you’re using recently.

Don’t spend too much time in the gym

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t really need more than 1 hour of actual workout time in the gym. We’ve all seen it – guys spending half the time talking and the rest of the time pretending to train. Therefore, it’s a good idea to prepare your sessions ahead of time. You want to get into the gym, train hard, and then get out. A little over or under an hour is fine, but spending excessive hours training is counterproductive. It can also help if you have some way to hold yourself accountable – get one of the staff members or a friend to push you to avoid getting distracted.

Eat enough essential fats

Healthy fats support your immune system, which is essential for muscle building, and lower inflammation, as well as help to deliver other vital nutrients around the body. However, although you may think eating fats is counterproductive, the opposite is true – the right fats help you build muscle. Certain foods, like avocado, oily fish, nuts, and oils provide approximately 9 calories per gram. Therefore, if you want to add calories to your diet, then this is the way to do it. Healthy fats should fill at least 30% of your diet. So, don’t ignore your fats.

Consume enough calories

If someone is training 4 times per week it is recommended that they consume 18 – 20 calories per pound of body weight. So for a 200 lb male at 12% body fat, 3168 – 3520 calories per day would be sufficient. Without a sufficient number of calories in your diet, there’s not going to be the nutrients for you to build muscle. So, if you’re nowhere near the calorie requirements you need to gain mass, you shouldn’t expect to see many results. Don’t be afraid to eat – in fact, make it your priority!

Get the right timing during lifts

One area where a lot of people can go wrong is their inability to lift weight slower and for longer. You need to make sure that the amount of time you’re physically lifting weights is enough to support muscle hypertrophy (the increase in muscle mass). For this to happen effectively, it is recommended that you make your set last a minimum of 40-70 seconds.

So if you lift quickly and you’re looking to gain mass, you might want to change your technique. The chances are you aren’t lifting in a range that will help you to grow. For example, 12 reps lifted very quickly could take between 15-25 seconds. However, you are likely to get a completely different result if you try the same 12 reps like so:

  • 4 second lowering tempo
  • 1 second pause at the bottom position
  • 1 second on the way up

You would then repeat this for your 12 reps.

Get enough quality sleep

The recommended amount of sleep for adults is at least 7-8 hours per night. A lack of sleep increases your cortisol levels (the stress hormone). This in turn can lower other hormone levels (like testosterone) if your cortisol levels are high enough. These hormones are what your body needs to aid in your growth. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make sure you sleep long enough and well enough to ensure that your body is well-rested and prepared to build muscle.

Change up your workout routine

Some programmes work on roughly 3-4 week cycles. If you have been doing your current programme for a lot longer, there’s a chance your body has become accustomed to it. As a result, your gains will have ceased (this is the law of diminishing returns). A simple step could be to move from a program using a higher end hypertrophy rep range of 10-12, down to a lower end hypertrophy rep range of 8-10 rep. It’s a simple change but enough to elicit a response.

We hope that the points above might help you realise where your muscle building goals might be falling short, so hopefully these tips will help you move forward on your journey to growing more muscle.

Primal Bite

  • There are several tips to help build muscle, like eating enough and getting enough nutrients.
  • Getting your timing right – the right time during lifts, the right amount of quality sleep, and the right time to spend at the gym.
  • Keep your workout varied to make sure everything gets a good workout, not just a specific set of muscles.