The keys to building muscle have always been straightforward, despite the legions of muscle and fitness magazines that all seem to have different methods. Lift heavy weights, make sure your nutrition is optimal, and rest to recover – after all, you’re not building any muscle during the actual workout. When you work out, you’re actually tearing down your muscles; it’s during the eating and resting phases that you repair the damage and build your muscles up past their previous threshold.
Compound Exercises for Muscle Growth
Far too often you’ll see people at the gym doing countless repetitions of dumbbell weights, and performing assisted workouts with Smith Machines. If you want to really step up your muscle growth, however, it’s time to eschew dumbbells in favor of barbells, because the latter shocks your muscles and causes them to gain more muscle fibers.
Similarly, you would be surprised to learn that you can barely lift half the free weight you’re capable of with the assistance of a Smith Machine, because it supports so much of the weight for you. As such, doing the free weight version forces your body to allocate energy for balance, which allows you to both burn calories and build muscle.
What’s the takeaway from this? Avoid the machine-assisted leg press, in favor of the squat. The squat is easily one of the best exercises for packing on serious muscle mass, and is a true barometer of lower-body strength. You may see people leg-pressing 700 lbs, but those same people would struggle with one-third of that weight on the squat rack.
Similarly, forego the lateral pull-down for back and shoulders and opt for the muscle-searing deadlift. The added advantage of these two latter exercises is that they force you to use your entire body to properly execute them – which means you’re building muscle in more places than just your legs and backs. For upper body compound workouts, choose the bench press and overhead military press to properly build the chest and shoulders.
Consuming the Right Nutrients for Muscle Growth
Once you’re finished at the gym, the next order of business is nutrition. You’ve burned a lot of fuel and your body is starving for sustenance. To this end, make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet – you’ll need a lot more than the average sedentary person if you’re trying to gain muscle. Amino acids are outright building blocks, which serves as the cornerstone of your diet – consume protein with every meal, and make sure you don’t neglect carbohydrates, fats and vegetables. Depending on your goals, it can be difficult to eat the required amount of protein to really stimulate muscle repair and growth, which points to the importance of supplements.
Protein doesn’t just help you build muscle, it also aids recovery. The latter is important so that you can get back to the gym as soon as possible and work out again; being too sore to exercise the same body part later in the week will seriously inhibit your muscle growth, and force your body to start breaking down some of the muscle you already have in order to sustain itself. Lastly, rest! Getting adequate amounts of sleep is just as essential as eating well and working out.