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Every athlete wants to gain weight, get shredded, fill out their uniform, or just be as lean as possible…who wouldn’t want that?? Unfortunately, patience is not a virtue for most athletes when it comes to gaining weight and growing lean muscle. In fact, patience is extremely overrated – especially in the weight room and especially when it comes to those focused on a specific outcome.
Let’s be completely transparent here, this is something I tell every athlete that comes into the gym and wants to gain size: “The hardest thing to do as a strength and conditioning coach is put weight on an athlete because we can’t follow you around 24/7/365. The easiest thing to do is get you stronger because if you have never picked up a weight you will get stronger by just looking at one!”
CHANGE TAKES TIME! But if you are setting out on a quest to grow and build muscle and aren’t seeing obvious size increased from month to month, it’s probably a sign that your approach is off somewhere along the lines. A workout is by far the most terrible thing to waste. Plus, even if you are seeing progress, there’s no reason you can’t see more!
Soooooo, how do you rev the engine and supercharge your results? Here are nine scientific ways!
1. Increase Your Training Volume
Training volume or better known as your number of reps multiplied by your number of sets is a primary determining factor of hypertrophy which is what we call muscle growth! And to increase volume, you may actually need to go lower in weight than you might guess.
When training for strength we will be at a higher intensity, this is not the same when it comes to muscle growth as the intensity is going to drop during this phase. Intensity will sit between 50-75% of an athletes 1 Rep Max.
The recommendation for getting the volume your muscles need is to perform each of your lifts for 3-6 sets of anywhere from 10-20 reps.
2. Focus On The Eccentric Phase
When performing any type of lifting movement you have a concentric (hard) and eccentric (easy) phase. For example, as you go down into the squat, you’re performing the eccentric action of the lift. When you come back to standing or getting up, that’s concentric. According to research, eccentric work is far better at triggering and maximizing the hypertrophy phase!
To ultimately increase the amount of eccentric effort in your workout, you can do two things: You either slow down the eccentric phase (tempo) or implement eccentric-only variations into your routine.
Let’s look at the squat for example: To make it an eccentric only movement, you would lower to the floor, and end the exercise there. If you are doing eccentric exercises only, you’ll need to increase the weight substantially that you are using. Muscles are far stronger moving eccentrically than they are concentrically.
3. Decrease Between-Set Rest Intervals
Our biggest pet peeve is when athletes or individuals touch their phones between sets, rest assured the only reason you better be touching your phone is for an emergency or to check your rest interval timer.
When lifting for muscle growth (hypertrophy), your rest periods of 30 to 90 seconds promote a release in muscle-building hormones (including testosterone and human growth hormone) while also making sure that you really, truly fatigue your muscles.
Research shows that fatiguing your muscles is a pre-requisite for muscle growth (hypertrophy) soooo…don't be afraid to feel the burn babyyyyyy!
4. To Grow Muscle, Eat More PROTEIN
Exercise without a doubt breaks down your muscles while proteins build them back up! The harder you are lifting in your workouts, the more important of the muscle-building foods to consider is your overall protein intake to solidify recovery!
Research shows for optimal protein growth, weight lifters need to eat 0.25-0.30 grams of protein per kilogram body weight per meal. So, for a 175-pound person, that works out to 20-24 grams of protein at every meal. You’ll get that in 3 to 4 eggs, a cup of Greek yogurt, or one scoop of protein powder.
5. Focus On Calorie Surpluses, Not Deficits
Make no mistake, this next one can be really hard to get used to. In fact, most athletes feel sluggish at first, but don’t worry it is all part of your body adapting and adjusting to its new calorie intake! If you are used to counting calories don’t worry you will get through it. But to build muscle mass effectively and quickly (that means weight gained, not lost) you need to consume more calories than you burn each day plain and simple!
When your body senses that it’s in a calorie deficit, meaning you’re consuming fewer calories than your burning each day it is like a car and downshifts to a lower gear and it prompts your body to have a tendency to build new muscle. Your body thinks food is in short supply, getting ridiculously swole isn’t going to be its main priority!
You should ultimately aim to eat roughly 250-500 extra calories per day. This will make sure that any weight gained is from muscle. The bulk of these calories should come from protein which acts as an energy source!
6. Snack On Casein Before Bed
Casein protein has long been popular among bodybuilders (don’t let that scare you athletes, you aren’t going to be the next Arnoldddddd) because it absorbs slowly into the bloodstream, meaning it keeps your muscles fed with amino acids for longer compared to other types of protein such as whey and plant proteins. A study shows that consuming casein protein immediately before bed boosted young men’s levels of circulating amino acids for 7.5 hours; they built muscle all night long while they slept!
To get some pre-bed casein, try cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and milk. For smoothie lovers, casein-based protein powder works like a charm!
7. Get More Sleep
Muscle recovery requires more than the right nutrition. It takes time to recover-roughly eight hours per night of dedicated recovery time! You must get into REM Sleep to get into optimal sleep! When you sleep, your body releases human growth hormone, which helps grow muscle and keeps levels of the stress hormone cortisol in check!
According to a study sleeping for five hours, as opposed to eight hours, per night for just one week cuts muscle-building testosterone levels by a whopping 10-15%!
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults ages 18-64 sleep seven to nine hours per night. NO EXCUSES!
8. Try Supplementing With Creatine
Creatine doesn’t directly grow muscle! There are a lot of fakers out there! But by boosting your performances at high-intensity lifting workouts, the natural compound effectively promotes muscle growth.
Researchers concluded that, at a given weight, supplementing with creatine can help you lift 14% more reps than you can without supplements!
For the best results, opt for creatine monohydrate, the most thoroughly researched form of the supplement!
9. ...And HMB Or ZMA
A natural compound produced in the human body beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate prevents muscle-protein breakdown, encourages muscle growth, and speeds exercise recovery!
The downside is that it’s hard to significantly increase levels through food alone. That’s why supplementation is so important. A 12-week study of resistance-trained individuals taking HMB in tandem with a high-intensity lifting routine significantly improved muscle strength and size compared to lifting alone. Plus, in the off-chance that you push yourself too hard, HMB helps prevent the effects of overtraining-including muscle loss.
To boost your efforts to grow muscle, you can take HMB supplements solo or opt for protein and creatine powders that come with HMB baked right in.
Next, we have ZMA, there is a bunch of research playing on both sides of this supplement but I personally swear by the one we call Zinc Magnesium Aspartate. It is known to help reach REM Sleep cycle quicker, increase natural testosterone levels, and keep you in a much deeper sleep letting the body repair and rebuild throughout the night.
On top of all of that, it is a vitamin/mineral complex that will never hurt you so the risk is far less than the potential rewards you will achieve!
Gain Weight And Grow Muscle Fast
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