There are many reasons people go to the gym. Probably most commonly, it is because they wish to lose some weight, or tone up certain parts of their body. On the other side, we have people who actually want to GAIN weight (in the form of muscle, of course). This can sometimes be quite a daunting task for any gym-goer, and it is to no surprise. From word of mouth from friends to conflicting opinions of internet fitness personalities, it is hard to know what to believe. While there is an array of muscle building techniques out there, I will be providing the basic, proven principles for muscle growth.
Let’s start with exercise selection. When total muscle and strength gain is the goal, compound exercises should be prioritized. For reference, compound exercises are movements that require movement of multiple joints (when just one joint is affected, its called an isolation exercise). The reason we want to use compound movements is because more weight can be used, since more muscles are at play. More joints being affected equals more muscles being recruited. When more weight can be moved, more adaptation will take place. Remember, the deadlift, squat, and bench are not the only compounds out there. Some other great examples are bent over rows, pull ups, over head presses, and lunges.
The next set of variables to pay attention to are the principles of intensity, volume, and frequency. The easiest way to think of it is: intensity is how heavy the weight is, volume is the total amount of weight moved during a workout, and frequency is how often you do it (typically on a weekly basis). When muscle growth is what we’re chasing, it is best to exist in the middle. What I mean by this is we do not want too much volume or too much intensity. To gain mass, one must train in the “hypertrophy” range. Hypertrophy is a fancy word for tissue growth, in other words, muscle growth. The intensity recommendations for hypertrophy are about 80-85% of your one rep max. Meaning, if your max bench is 175 lbs, you should be using approximately 140-150 lbs during your working sets.There is a fair amount of freedom to be within the hypertrophy ranges for volume. It is a bit of grey area, since research is always finding new information and changing recommendations in the fitness industry. The simple way to think of this is low reps and high intensity trains power, medium reps and medium intensity trains hypertrophy, and high reps and low intensity produces endurance. While these are good guidelines to use, there may be a fair bit of overlap that is not typically accounted for. However, a 6-12 rep range is what you should aim for in general. 3 or more sets will be required as well.
Lastly, we need to determine how many times we need to exercise each muscle group. We need to hit them enough to stimulate growth, but a muscle needs time to recover to grow. All of these variables are very dependant on your fitness levels. Talking with a personal trainer will help determine your fitness level and what level you should be working at safely, as this advice may not be applicable to everyone reading this but they are good benchmarks to strive for.
Like I said before, there are an array of different ways you can get stronger and grow muscle, but the only real differences are the exercises you do, and the training variables listed above. While the guidelines set in this blog will more than likely help you with your goals, speaking with one of our trainers will help determine the best way to approach your muscle growth journey.