8 Muscle-Building Tips for Bigger Gains

Here are eight proven muscle-building tips garnered from more than 40 years in the trenches.

When you’re a newbie weightlifter, you don’t have to work too hard for your gains. Because you are putting new stress on your body, it responds well and your strength and muscle gains come quite quickly. But the longer you stick at it, the harder it is to continue making progress. That’s when you need to start employing more advanced training techniques to force your body to respond. Here are eight proven muscle-building tips garnered from more than 40 years in the trenches.

1. The Pump Set

Make your final set of an exercise a high-rep set where you drop the weight way back and perform perfect-form reps in the 30-rep range. Research has shown that when you finish your set this way, you not only get an awesome muscle pump but you also increase the muscle’s strength and size.

2. Focus on Explosive Movements

The fastest and most effective way to build strength is through explosive movements. Strength trainers all over the world use this method to create better and stronger athletes. A slow, controlled negative, in which you resist gravity, followed by an explosive positive, is a surefire way to achieve significant strength. This method is best used with moderate to heavy weights – using an explosive motion with light weights can cause you to hyperextend a joint.

3. Injury Avoidance

Nothing stymies muscle growth like a training injury. The majority of training injuries are strains, overstressing, or overstretching muscles and tendons. A proper warm-up, a little dynamic stretching, and pyramiding your sets from high down to low, are all key to preventing injuries. A good rep range that will ensure your muscles ease into the load is the following:

Set one – 30 reps

Set two – 20 reps

Set three – 15 reps

Set four – 10 reps

Set five – 8 reps

If a strain occurs, you need to rest the area. You should also elevate the area to promote the venous return of blood and apply compression. Later in the healing process, heat can be used.

Most joint and tendon problems in lifters are the result of years of wear and tear on the body. As you grow older, you need to adapt your training. Guys over the age of 50 should stop doing overhead presses and avoid training to failure.

You can go a long way to alleviating joint, tendon, and muscle soreness issues with smart nutrition. Supplementing with glutamine, fish oil, and psyllium are three of the best options.

4. Train With a Stronger Partner

When you train with a partner who is slightly stronger than you, you will make more progress than if he is at your level or not as strong as you. A partner can spot you and assist with forced reps to help you keep going after you’ve reached positive muscle failure. When your partner is a bit stronger than you, you will get a mental boost from observing him lifting more as your competitive juices kick in.

5. Eccentric Training

Eccentric training involves focusing on the lowering or negative part of the rep. This involves lowering the resistance more slowly than you normally would. Research confirms that eccentric straining brings about greater gains in terms of strength and muscle gains than positive or concentric reps.

Use eccentric reps sparingly as it is a pretty intense technique. Just throw it in every few weeks or so. If you have a training partner (see the previous tip), load up 20 percent more weight than you normally use and have him help you get the weight during the concentric part of the rep. Then resist gravity as much as you can only in the eccentric part of the rep. It should take as long as five seconds to lower the weight.

6. Choose Unilateral Exercises

When you do a bilateral exercise, such as the bench press or squats (or any exercise with a barbell), your stronger arm or leg will take more than its fair share of the load. However, when you do unilateral exercises, each limb must carry its own load.

Doing unilateral exercises also involves more core engagement due to the instability in the load. In addition, unilateral exercises are more functional as they more precisely mimic such everyday activities as lifting shopping bags, carrying children, or throwing a football.

To benefit from unilateral movements, simply choose dumbbells over barbells. Here are six of the best unilateral movements you should be doing:

• Dumbbell Bench Press

• Dumbbell Row

• Alternate Cable Curl

• One-Arm Lat Pull-In

• Single-Arm Triceps Pushdown

• Seated Double Pulley Shoulder Cable Press

Choosing these exercises over barbell versions will activate your muscles more, allowing you to bring your hands in together, something you cannot do on a barbell.

7. Do Cardio After Your Weight Training, Not Before

Doing cardio before a workout can negatively impact your weight training because it depletes your glycogen energy levels. By doing cardio after weight training, your body will start to tap into fat stores for energy more readily, as your muscle glycogen stores will already be significantly depleted.

8. Train by Feel

When you begin working out, you need to train according to the basics. However, as you gain experience, you will more and more rely on instinct or feel to guide you. Experiment with your workouts; think about what you are doing. Try training body parts by themselves and then supersetting, say, the back and chest. Do each one for six weeks and then compare the results that you’re getting.

The key to success is to learn all the relevant techniques and then analyze how each one affects you as an individual. The first step is to understand exactly what you’re doing in the gym. Then you need to be able to interpret the feelings you experience from day to day as you go through your training routine.

If you plan on ever becoming a competitive physique athlete, your opponents will probably know just as much about technique as you do. What will make the difference is the degree to which you have been able to utilize your instinct and feelings.

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