Do you already have the habit of exercising, but you are not getting results in the gym? Don’t worry! In this post, you will learn some essential strategies and practices you should adopt for building and maintaining muscle.
The most important thing is to understand that there is a big difference between just lifting weight and training effectively. Besides that, several factors must be considered before, during and after working out – such as sleep quality, eating habits, and how you exercise.
Are you ready to learn some of the muscle-building fundamentals? Here are nine tips on getting the most out of your workout and improving your muscle gains!
1. The importance of sleep for muscle growth and recovery
Although many people neglect the quality of sleep, getting too little (or not enough) sleep has several harmful consequences for your body. In addition to altering your eating behaviour, blood pressure, and cognitive and hormonal processes, the lack of rest can harm the growth and development of your muscle mass.
Poor sleep increases the secretion of cortisol (the stress hormone), in addition to causing a reduction in testosterone, which is considered the most important hormone for muscle growth.
There is also the hypothesis that lack of sleep decreases the activity of protein synthesis pathways, favouring the loss of muscle mass and making it difficult to recover after exercise – which can also make your body more prone to injury.
If you tend to sleep poorly, read our article on six tips to sleep better! There, we share simple tips to improve your night’s sleep and, consequently, your life!
2. What you should eat for muscle growth
Another critical factor for building muscle mass is your diet. Adequate macronutrient intake is crucial for you to progress on your fitness journey. It doesn’t mean that you will have to diet for the rest of your life, but you need to understand basic concepts about carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Proteins play a key role in building muscle, while carbohydrates are the primary energy source for your body, and healthy fats are essential for maintaining good hormone levels. Don’t forget that just eating is not enough. Betting on healthy foods is definitely the best strategy to grow your muscle, especially since junk food, processed or frozen foods tend to have low nutritional value and are high in calories.
Remember: you need to give your body what it needs to develop – quality nutrients in adequate amounts for your body.
3. Have an effective workout plan
An appropriate workout routine is essential to building muscle mass, especially since going to the gym is just the first step. The second and most important thing is to understand which exercises work for your body so that you can stimulate your muscles in the right way.
Many people go to the gym and do crazy workout routines, with highly complex exercises or loads that aren’t right for their bodies.
It is crucial to understand that, in this sense, training is an art. You need to know what you’re doing to activate your muscle groups correctly – and basic exercises can be highly effective in learning how to engage your muscles properly.
If you are a beginner, we strongly recommend that you speak with a personal trainer to learn how to work out correctly and, more than that, have a workout plan that supports your gains – rather than harming your body. If you can’t afford a skilled professional, forget about your favourite influencer’s routine and start with the basics!
In this article, I’ve shared some interesting insights into how I usually split my workout plan – for informational purposes only. Understand that each is unique and that what works for me will not necessarily work for you. Remember, we aim to motivate you, not replace professional advice!
4. Proper technique: Perform exercises correctly
Performing exercises correctly is essential to maximise your results, promoting muscle gain and, most importantly, preventing injuries. If you don’t know or aren’t sure how to perform the move, don’t do it. Focus on the basics until you can build your strength and body awareness to progress to more complex exercises.
The most important thing is not to lift as much weight as you can or do exercises with the most challenging mechanisms but to stimulate the correct muscle appropriately. For example, it is common to see people doing back workouts and engaging the biceps much more than the back because they don’t know what they are doing – or because they put on more weight than they can handle.
Remember that simple exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and other bodyweight exercises are also highly effective – as long as you know what you’re doing. Focus on what you know how to do, use proper weights, do your best, and the results will come. Knowledge of your own body and the exercises in your routine is your most powerful weapon for building muscle mass!
5. Full range of motion vs partial range of motion
In case you are not already familiar with this term, your range of motion (ROM) is the degree to which you can move your joints – from full extension to full flexion. It is essential to mention it because there are several controversies in the fitness universe regarding the importance of performing exercises with a full range of motion to maximise your muscle gain and improve your strength.
Therefore, we searched for relevant scientific research that could support this theory but did not find many answers. A first study, which sought to analyse the effects of ROM on muscle development during resistance training, concluded that performing exercises with full ROM confers beneficial effects on lower body hypertrophy. Still, according to the same research, the results conflicted regarding the benefits for the upper body.
The second research sought to analyse the full range of motion vs partial range of motion training in the development of strength in untrained men. Although the findings suggest that partial range of motion training can positively influence strength development, the same study indicates the need for more research in this field to conclude on the effectiveness of a partial range of motion training.
Considering that there is still little evidence on which practice – full or partial ROM – would be best for building muscle, you must notice how you can best engage your muscles. Many people lift more weight than they can handle, which is why they do exercises with partial range of motion. The problem with this practice is that overloading can compromise your posture and the quality of the movement – and if you make the wrong move, you lose stimulation potential for that muscle.
Mainly, I prefer to perform exercises with a full range of motion. I always prioritise performing controlled, slow movements with full flexion or extension of joints. I believe that with this, I gain more movement quality and have a more realistic view of my strength and body capacities.
6. Resting time between sets and exercises
Rest between sets and exercises is another factor that can be a determining factor for muscle growth. It’s not that you only need to rest 30 seconds between each set, but if you often chat or stay on your phone while resting, you’re probably compromising your workout’s gains potential.
There is no rule regarding how long you should rest between exercises – as each is unique. Still, you should aim for rest intervals between 30 and 90 seconds, or even two minutes – if your workout is very intense.
Remember that you will need to fatigue and push your muscles to the limit to promote hypertrophy and muscle gains, so your rest should last until you’re ready to do the next set. Also, remember that if your workout is too long, your body will need to perform longer, which can impact your strength levels during the last exercises. Rest as long as necessary to recover, but watch out – you have to push the workout to its limit, always!
7. The role of progressive overload in muscle growth
One of the best-known and most effective strategies to promote hypertrophy or muscle growth is progressive overload. The central concept is to constantly increase the load of the exercises so that you force your body to develop your muscles to adapt to the new weight.
That doesn’t mean you have to double the load from one week to the next! It is necessary to increase the load progressively and consistently, keeping the movements’ quality in mind. Remember that your workout should never be linear. If you do four sets of a given exercise, start with a lighter weight and increase progressively to perform that exercise with as much weight as you can handle in the last set.
The following week, when you train that same muscle group, see if you can increase 1 kg, for example. If you were doing lateral raises with 5kg on each side, try to increase it to 6kg while maintaining the quality of the movement. The main concept of this strategy is to get your body out of its comfort zone, making workouts harder over time.
8. Consistency is a must for muscle gain
As with anything in life, we tend to evolve and perform better when we do something consistently – and it is no different with your workouts. In most cases, your determination and consistency will define your results.
Consistency doesn’t necessarily mean working out 5 or 6 times a week, but doing what you set out to do – regardless of the challenges. When it comes to planning your workout, being consistent will allow you to stimulate different muscle groups at a regular time interval – and this will help you to promote continued gains.
The key to consistency is being honest with yourself, understanding your limitations, and organising your day or week to execute that plan. If your routine is busy and you can only exercise twice a week, no problem! If you are consistent these days, your body will develop anyway.
In most cases, frustration is the main enemy of consistency, so avoid getting frustrated by making plans you can’t achieve. The first step to being consistent is being realistic about what you can and want to do.
9. Changing your workout routine
The last tip in this article is about changing your workout routine every time you feel like it’s getting too easy. Our body tends to adapt quickly to new situations, so avoid performing the same workout for many months.
Remember that there are several specific exercises for each muscle group, and each stimulates the muscles differently. There are loads of different movements, angles, and grips, so don’t get too attached to your workout.
An interesting strategy might be to change your training every 2 or 3 months – depending on how you evolve and adapt to the exercises. That will make all the difference! The factor to consider here is common sense. If you feel like you haven’t mastered the moves in your current routine, stick with it until you feel like you’ve learned all of them. From there, try working with a different workout routine.
The key to gaining muscle throughout life is understanding that your body will develop whenever it is out of its comfort zone – but you should never rush these things. You must push your body to the limit but know what you are doing. Train hard, but always pay attention to your body’s signals and seek to learn about the exercises you are doing. From there, the sky is the limit!
Founder and Editor of TheLifesty. Passionate about Health & Fitness and enthusiast about changes. Interested in everything that improves the quality of life.