Gaining muscle is more complex than just lifting and loading up on food.  If you want to increase a decent quantity of lean muscle mass you need to include several components in your plan.  Just eating more without a plan can simply result in an increase in bodyfat with minimal increases in muscle.  Bulking up and stripping down is an old fashioned and efficient technique to gain muscle, if you follow these tips you can increase mass and get leaner at the same time:

  1. Eat more protein.

You must be consuming sufficient quality protein to build lean muscle.  It is probably more than you think. There is still much debate about the exact quantity but 4 grammes per kilo of lean body weight (total bodyweight less fat).  Work that out and you may be surprised – You can assess your lean bodyweight roughly via appearance then calculate approximate lean mass and go from there. Track your calories and macros here

  1. Include essential fats in your diet

Healthy fats support your immune system and help transport vital nutrients around the body they may also lower inflammation. If you consume your fats as food rather than supplements (which you should) then foods like avocado, oily fish, nuts and oils provide up to nine calories per gram. For size we have to add calories to our diets so don’t miss out on the fact that fats should form at least 30% of your daily calorie requirements.

  1. Consume enough calories

Depending on how much you are training (and during isolation what kind of training you are able to do) If you are training 4 times per week then you should thing about 35-40 calories per kilo of lean bodweight as a calorie target. work on 18 – 20 calories per pound of body weight. If you are  a 100kg male at 12% body fat, I would recommend 3080 – 3520 calories per day. If you’re not eating enough then don’t expect to put on muscle.  

  1. Train wisely

With a plan in place (click here if you need help with that) you shouldn’t need more than 1 hour of actual workout time.  Get the plan done, hit the warm up hard, train and then relax. The plan is the key and you need one just for you not anyone else.  Ideally with a coach or friend to keep you accountable too.

  1. Use time under tension

People, especially but definitely not exclusively men, like lifting heavy weights.  They judge their progress on the load.  Very often however they do not have the strength to lift weight slower and for longer.  To gain muscle you need to lift in a manner which promotes muscle hypertrophy.   Ideally your sets should last between 40 – 70 seconds.   Lift controlled not quickly if you’re looking to gain mass. 12 reps lifted very quickly with gravity dropping the bar could take 20 seconds.  You get a completely different effect if you try the same 12 reps with a 4 seconds lowering tempo, 1 seconds pause at the bottom position and 1 second on the way up with 0 pause at the top.  Try it (and be prepared to decrease the weight because it makes a big difference)

  1. Learn how to contract your muscles properly

Lifting correctly without compensation and with tempo (as described above) takes discipline but it helps with results.  It can be disheartening because very often you will have to reduce the loads you are used to.  To grow muscle, you must learn the connections between brain and muscle to contract it effectively. To see what I mean try this, stand up and flex your pecs. If you can’t do it, you don’t have very good muscle connection. If you want to try a harder one the while standing put one leg behind, then with your heel raised and toes pushing into the floor, try and contract your calves and hamstrings at the same time. This is tough for many people!  A great way to check if your connections are working is to physically touch the muscle you’re trying to flex.  Put your index finger on it then flex.  Next session, slow down your reps and focus on the muscles you’re training in each movement.  Visualise the contractions and extensions of the muscle itself. Don’t be scared to decrease the weight, remember it’s your body you’re training, not anyone else’s! 

  1. Sleep properly

You must sleep at least 7 – 8 hours per night. Lack of sleep increases your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and high levels of the stress hormone lowers your testosterone level. Testosterone is essential for muscle growth! Your muscle growth happens when you’re resting not when you’re lifting so don’t neglect it.

  1. Try and eat before during and after your training sessions

It can be difficult because it’s unusual (especially the during) but this is the most effective time to eat – your muscles are crying out for fuel so give it to them.

Decide on a good pre-workout feed, not too heavy on the carbs (to avoid any crashing).  Get some lean protein, vegetables and some light carbs and some essential fats.  A coffee can be a good boost and can help with the training.  During the workout something easy to eat like a shake is optimal and should have both protein/aminos and carbs.  If you have been reducing carbs in your general diet then the first place to add them back would be during this time.

Post work just like intra workout is easiest taken in liquid form. It’s absorbed by the body so much quicker and it’s often hard to face proper food after a hard session. Nutrition right after your workout replenishes your glycogen stores, decreases protein breakdown and also increases protein synthesis. I use 50 – 100 grams of carbs post workout, again this depending on how hard the session was

An optimal post workout drink if you’re above 15% body fat, would be glutamine, glycine, and whey protein. If you’re leaner i.e sub 12 – 14% you should consume whey protein, high glycemic index carbohydrates in the form of maltodextrin or vitargo. Start a bit lower around 35 grammes and see how you get on

  1. Review your training programme frequently

At StrongBox the programmes usually work on 3 – 4 week cycles. If you have been doing your current programme for a lot longer, chances are your body has become accustomed to it and your gains will have ceased.  Your coach will adjust your programme frequently to keep the gains coming but if you don’t have a coach keep this in mind.  If you have been working on a 10-12 rep range try changing that to 8-10 (with appropriate adjustments in weight)

  1. Vary the exercises you use

As above to grow muscle, you must expose yourself to as many variables as possible. Always doing the same back squats to train legs isn’t going to work long term If you really want to grow you need to train your muscles from as many angles as possible.   The variations on training legs alone are enormous e.g.

Narrow feet back squats, wide feet back squats, heels elevated back squats,  front squat, hack squat, using bands, 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.

A small selection but there are many more, the key is to train the legs (and all body parts) from as many angles as possible. If your changes start to slow down then consider mixing it up – or better yet ask your coach if he/she are not doing this already 

You can implement these tips into your current training plan but if you need some help why not get a FREE online personal training consultation from one of our coaches?  Just click here to book your appointment or give us a call on +974 5050 2954

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