7 Tips to Build More Muscle Than Ever This Year
By JASON FERRUGGIA
Maybe this is your year to finally build some serious muscle. What do you think? To do that, you may have to address some mistakes you may have made in the past and eliminate anything that's been holding you back from hitting your goals.
Pick a proven muscle-building plan and stick to it for 12 weeks without second-guessing or doubt. Don’t fall victim to information overload and start suffering from paralysis by analysis. If you want serious results, you must have laser focus and be relentless in pursuit of your goals. Here are seven tips to get you going:
1. Train 3-4 Days Per Week
Nobody ever built a head-turning physique on less than three days of serious training per week. You have to commit to that, at the bare minimum. That could mean three strength-training sessions and one sprint workout or three strength-training sessions with conditioning after two to three of those workouts each week.
2. Follow an Upper/Lower Split
Forget about breaking your workouts up into shoulder day, chest day, leg day, arm day, etc. That's what professional bodybuilders do, and these guys (and gals!) have been training forever and they have incredible genetics. If you're an average guy or gal looking to pack on some size, splitting your workouts into upper body and lower body days will be the most effective plan. This allows you to train each muscle group more frequently and provide twice the growth stimulus each year.
If you train four days per week, you will train each muscle group twice per week. If you can only train three times per week, you can simply rotate through the four days over a ten-day schedule or just do upper/lower/upper on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In the latter case, I'd recommend adding a lower body-based finisher on the second upper body day of the week or running some sprints on the weekend.
3. Don't Do More Than 16-20 Total Work Sets
The focus of your workouts should always be to do slightly more than you did last time. So you either do more weight or more reps, and you aim to steadily improve from week to week. If you do an endless amount of sets and train for two hours at a time, recovery becomes increasingly more difficult as does your ability to make progress. By limiting the total work sets per training session, you are forced to focus on high quality sets and progressive overload.
4. Do 2-4 Big Barbell Lifts Per Week
Exercises like squats, presses and trap bar deadlifts build strength and size very effectively and should be a cornerstone in your program. Each week, your program should have 2-4 of these lifts that you strive to get progressively stronger on.
5. Always Include Body-weight Exercises
Big barbell lifts are great, but for overall development and athleticism, as well as the avoidance of injuries, your program should always include numerous bodyweight exercises. However, don't make the mistake of using easy variations that don't provide enough resistance to build muscle. Work progressively to more advanced exercises like ring chin-ups, front lever holds, divebomber push-ups, glute ham raises and single-leg squats.
6. Reduce the Injury Risk
The one thing that holds people back from building muscle that is rarely discussed is the injury factor. People get all fired up and start training hard for a month or so, and then they get injured and are back to square one. The way to avoid getting caught up in this revolving door is to make sure you warm up thoroughly, listen to your body, and never do anything that hurts. Also, use ice and other appropriate recovery methods, and never allow yourself to go too heavy to the point where you use less than perfect technique on any exercise.
7. Minimize Rest Periods
Training should be hard work. That means you shouldn't be standing around chatting or texting between sets. You need to be intently focused on what you're doing and always push the pace in your workouts. After you complete a set, you should rest for an average of 45-90 seconds. Shorter rest periods are more effective for building muscle because they help you accumulate the type of fatigue that is necessary for growth. There are also positive hormonal changes that occur during training that are associated with shorter rest periods.
During that time, stay on your feet and mentally prepare yourself for the next set. Training should be taken seriously and you should never let your mind drift to work or other outside issues. Turn everything else off, and go to battle for an hour. The world will still be there when you're done.
Readers — What are your fitness goals and what are you doing to achieve them? What workout mistakes have you made in the past? What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to building muscle? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Jason Ferruggia is a professional fitness coach who specializes in high-performance mass development. A former 98-pound weakling, Jason has gained over 60 pounds of muscle since he began his journey more than two decades ago. He has given strength training workshops and lectures around the country and his innovative methods have been featured in numerous magazines and on radio stations such as ESPN and CBS. You can find more from Jason on his website.