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3 Ways You Can Optimise Your Training To Build Muscle

3 Ways You Can Optimise Your Training To Build Muscle 1748 1240 Athletic Pursuit

3 Ways to optimise your training to build muscle

Are you someone who’s trying to build muscle and wants to see better results…

Read on then because i’m going to tell you three ways you can optimise your training in order to maximise muscle growth.

The ultimate goal when building size is creating enough stimulus to your muscles consistently. If you are not creating such a stimulus you won’t give your muscles enough reason to adapt and grow.

We can do this through:

  • More Volume
  • More Weight
  • Maintaining good form (something that is overlooked more often than not.)

Our bodies are very clever and become accustomed to a certain amount of volume or weight, this is why it’s crucial to keep adjusting in order to create a bigger stimulus, thus optimising muscle building.

We can adjust and manipulate these variables each training week, month and year so you can build muscle until your hearts content.

Be warned though in order to build muscle it can take time and the techniques below need to be performed consistently to see steady gains. Learn to enjoy the process.

1: Overal volume

Volume means the amount of work you do on a set muscle in a given training week or training block. (training blocks generally last 4 weeks)

One way you can make sure you’re making continual progress is by manipulating the volume in your training program, this can be done through a few methods, these being;

  • More working sets

    Add more working sets to some or all your exercises each week/training block, this can be on specific muscles/exercises you want to focus on or it can be an overall increase.

  • More reps

    Similar to sets you can add more reps to some or all your exercises each week/training block, again this can be on specific muscles/exercises you’re focussing on or an overall increase.

  • Tempo

    Tempo is a technique that can be used to create more time under tension through each rep of an exercise. We do this by controlling the eccentric (downward phase), Concentric (upward phase) and with pauses either at the bottom or at the top of each rep. So instead of adding extra sets or reps you may prolong each rep.

An example would look like this:

Bench press 3×10 – Tempo: 3,1,1,1

3s: Eccentric phase (lowering)
1s: Pause at the bottom
1s: Concentric (upward)
1s: Pause at the bottom

Some exercises may start with a concentric, so you’d just swap the eccentric and concentric around…

Pull up 3×5 – Tempo: 1,1,3,1

1s: Concentric (upward)
1s: Pause at the top
3s: Eccentric phase (lowering)
1s: Pause at the bottom

  • More exercises

    More exercises is exactly what it says on the tin, add more exercises to target the muscle groups you want to focus on. You can add in more exercises when ever you want to, but i’d advise you to do so every training block (4 weeks) so your body has time to adapt.

The aim is not to feel too sore every workout that you can’t recover and consistently train, so start on the lower end and increase volume over a 12 week period.

What this might look like over a 12 week training program…
  • Block one: Perform 10 sets per muscle group
  • Block two: perform 12 sets per muscle group
  • Block three: perform 15 sets per muscle group

You’d follow this up with a deload week, reducing the sets below block one to give your body some rest.

After that you would repeat the cycle in the next 12 week program but starting a little higher…
  • Block one: Perform 12 sets per muscle group
  • Block two: perform 14 sets per muscle group
  • Block three: perform 18 sets per muscle group

Another way to create more stimulus when adding in more exercises is to utilise supersets, triple sets or quad sets.  This is where you’d perform two, three or four exercises back to back on the same or different muscle groups.

If you were focussing on chest, it could look like this:

Super set
A1: Incline chest press 3×10
A2: chest fly 3×10

Triple set
A1: Incline chest press 3×10
A2: chest fly 3×10
A3: Push up 3×10

Quad set
A1: Incline chest press 3×10
A2: High Chest fly 3×10
A3: Push up 3×10
A4: Low chest fly 3×10

2: Weight

Let’s talk about weight as this is the variable people focus on the most and whilst it is important, it can also be peoples down fall as form goes out the window, more on form next.

Progressively increasing weight is essential but going in trying to PB every session is just plain silly and where injuries can start to accrue. If your goal is to truly build muscle then you need to be strategic about it. You also need to feel each rep and not just go through the motions, mind muscle connection as they say.

What does this mean…

It means on the big compound lifts like squat, deadlift and bench you use percentages based off your one rep max. Alternatively if you don’t know what they are, you can use a method called RPE (rate of perceived exertion). RPE is based on how you felt in a given work set, this is done on a scale of 1-10, 1 being easy and 10 being hard.

Percentages: based off your 1 rep max, these are normally on compound movements such as; bench press, squat and deadlift.

Speed and power: 50-60 percent, 3-5 reps per set
Muscle size: 70-80 percent, 8-12 reps per set
Strength: 85-95 percent, 3-5 reps per set

RPE: on a scale of 1-10 difficulty, you can use this method on all exercises, compound and isolation.

Speed and power: 5/6 out of 10, 3-5 reps per set
Muscle size: 7/8 out of 10, 8-12 reps per set
Strength: 8/9 out of 10, 3-5 reps per set

Too many people go as hard as they can too frequently (I’ve been guilty of it) but trust me, be strategic for longevity and consistent muscle gains!

How is this applied to your 12 week training program…

Over a 12 week training program you should start somewhat easy saving a few reps in the tank on most sets, this will give you room to progressively increase week on week through the whole program. Not only will this help muscle gains but your mindset too, It’s very motivating making progress each week, so no maxing out every session.

3: Form

Form is everything and underpins all of the above, if you are not experiencing the full rep you are not getting the most out of each rep.

We touched on eccentric and concentric phases earlier during a rep, if you really want to build muscle then you need to utilise a full eccentric stretch and a full concentric contraction. The stretch and the squeeze in gym terms.

Tempo training is really helpful when practising this, as it can make you slow things down and really think about what you’re doing/feeling.

Not only will you potentially experience more muscle gains but you will also improve the chances of longevity (think more longterm when it comes to strength/muscle building) and reduce the chance of injury. Less injuries, means more consistency and ultimately more muscle gains. So stay in your own lane, it’s you vs you in the gym.

Take home points:

  • Choose at least one or a few variables to adjust each week/training block.
  • Use a mixture of strength and hypertrophy rep ranges, utilising the 1RM percentage method, RPE method or both. (See above)
  • Don’t go too heavy too soon, you want to progress week on week, month on month, so start somewhat easy and work on form. This will help build a solid foundation at the start of your program and PB towards the end.
  • Same goes with volume, start on the lower end and increase as you work through a 12 week training program. You’ll end up feeling very sore and struggle to recover otherwise, making it difficult to train consistently which will hinder progress.
  • Make sure your form is always on point feeling the eccentric, concentric and pauses of each rep. Mind muscle connection.
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