Muscle Up

Some people seem to be able to put on muscle by simply throwing some weights around. For most people, though, it’s a challenge — the simple fact is that they are just not lifting properly or using the wrong types of programmes.


The key component to any successful programme is to fully understand the elements of muscle-building routines. These principles are intensity (weight of the load), volume (repetitions and sets), exercise selection (compound or isolated), tempo (lifting speed), and rest intervals.


A successful programme utilizes these principles to place the muscles under the required mechanical tension, to cause enough minor muscle damage and metabolic stress to stimulate muscle development. We used to think that hormones were the most important component when trying to build muscle, so we focused mainly on eliciting testosterone, human growth hormone and IGF-1 response.


But today we know that these anabolic hormones are not the driving force for muscular growth. Instead, researchers have found that mechanical tension, muscle micro-trauma and metabolic stress are the primary causes of muscle development.


These are quite complicated processes to explain but easy enough to put into action. For those of you wanting to muscle up in the last five months of 2016 here are 10 tips that will see you pack on some good lean pounds.


1) Know what you’re doing = set goals. Every time you exercise, have specific targets for load, volume and intensity that you need to achieve for every lift, every workout, every week, every training cycle.


2) Periodise your workouts. The most common problem is that people perform the same programme for months and even years. Sets, reps, loads and exercises should change every three to six weeks (maximum eight weeks). Alternate between accumulation and intensification phases in each cycle to reduce injury via pattern overload and central nervous fatigue. For maximum muscle growth, periodisation should be structured so that 70 percent of workouts should push volume and moderate loads, and 30 percent should be trained at a higher intensity with heavy weights


3) Improve your training technique. Correct technique is paramount. If the muscles can’t activate properly they will not grow. This is the quickest way to obtain no results and become friends with a physiotherapist. Avoid regular cheating, or always using momentum to get the weight up. Keep a strict tempo (speed of lifting) and avoid letting weights fall with gravity. Look to improve eccentric loading by beginning with a longer tempo on the eccentric (lowering) motion. Aim for four seconds lowering with one to two seconds concentric contraction


4) Focus on work/rest ratios. Workout to produce metabolic stress by exercising with higher volume, moderate intensity, and short rest periods (10 seconds to two minutes, depending on protocol)


5) Know your body. Your muscle fibre type should determine your repetition and load variables. For example, if you excel at speed and jumping skills your muscles comprise mostly fast-twitch fibres. Therefore, you should train with heavy weights and low reps. Slow-twitch individuals should opt for high-repetition, high-volume routines.


6) Recovery is king. Your body grows and repairs during rest. When not lifting you must optimise your recovery. Eat lots of antioxidant-rich foods and embrace sleep. Sleep has been labelled the ‘athlete’s steroid’ because it has been proven to improve athletic performance by as much as 10 percent. How much sleep is required depends on the individual but a number of world leading strength coaches recommend aiming for at least 10 hours a night if you’re trying to gain muscle.


7) Avoid steady-state and long duration cardio. If you’re looking to put on muscle then steady-state, long-duration cardio is not your friend. Instead, use sprints and loaded conditioning for improved fitness and great body shape. For best results include some modified strongman training; this especially applies to women.


8) Train at the best time. The best time is really one that you know you can make, be consistent with, and fits your schedule. However, scientifically the best time to work out for strength is between 2pm and 5pm. Muscle strength peaks during this period and protein synthesis peaks at 5pm.


9) Pile in the protein. Charles Poliquin recommends: “A minimal dose of 2.38 g/kg/day of protein is the amount that reliably produced the most muscle development.” Other experts suggest that strength athletes should eat upwards of 1.6 g/kg of protein/day. These are considerable amounts and it seems that eating meat instead of supplements is more beneficial. Studies have shown evidence that there is something about the meat itself that yields maximal muscle gains.


10) Train smarter and safer. Leave the ego at home. Don’t compromise the principles of muscle development just to have more weight on the bar.


Phil is founder and master trainer at Body Expert Systems. Contact him on 0934 782763, at his website or through Star Fitness (

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