So, you’ve made the decision to hit the gym to try and get healthy and build a better body. Great! Now what? The internet is a fountain of information on the subject, but there are so many methods and opinions out there that many first-time muscle builders lose hope before they pick up their first barbell. Fortunately, muscle building is only as complicated as you want it to be. If you want to get more serious about your gym time and are looking to transform into a lean, chiseled machine, keep these tips in mind to help you stay on track.
You don’t have to spend hours a day, 6 days a week in the gym to see progress – in fact, that’s more likely to hold you back. 3 strength training sessions a week is going to be enough for most people to start seeing some serious gains. You also don’t have to worry about splitting your workouts into complimentary muscle groups unless you really want to. Keep things simple with your 3 training sessions and do 3 full body workouts that hit all your major muscle groups, with at least one rest day in-between. Or, you can do a simple split by doing an upper body session, a lower body session, and one full body session, with a rest day in between. It doesn’t have to be extreme, it doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to work for you.
- Use Compound Movements & Lift Heavy
The exercises that are going to benefit you the most are heavy, compound movements. Compound exercises are movements that use multiple joints and activate at least two muscle groups to complete. These exercises include barbell squats, presses (bench press), chin ups, pull ups, and rows. By building a workout that uses mostly compound exercises, you activate the most muscles in the least amount of time. Imagine if you tried to target every single muscle with one particular exercise, like the bicep curl or quad extensions – you would be in the gym for hours and still not hit every one. There is a time and place for isolation exercises, but especially as a beginner, compound exercises will yield the best results.
You will also build stronger muscles if you lift heavy for fewer reps, rather that lift lighter for more reps. In fact, studies have shown that big, compound exercises like the barbell squat performed at medium intensity produces a higher hormonal response, meaning your body produces more testosterone, which is excellent for muscle building. Try doing 3 sets of 6 – 10 reps for each compound movement you perform. The weight should be heavy enough that the last few reps of each set are difficult to finish. To make the most of your workout-induced testosterone boost, try incorporating testosterone support supplements like HF Labs Delta Prime into your daily routine, which helps support the body’s natural testosterone production.
- Stay Challenged
Your muscles adapt quickly, so it’s important to keep them challenged. Aim to try and up your weight at least every few weeks to keep your progress moving forward. If you’re finding it hard to move up to the next plate, increase the number of reps for a few sessions and then try again, or lower your target number of reps at the higher weight. You can also try different variations of exercises to help prevent your muscles from adapting as well. Again, only make it as complicated as you want it to be.
- Don’t Neglect Your Diet
Diet is just about as important as strength training if you’re serious about building real muscle. Your body can’t build muscle from nothing, so you have to make sure you’re getting the right nutrition. Most people know that protein is a big one, but don’t neglect your carbs and fats. An ideal macro split for packing on muscle is roughly 50% of calories from carbs, 30% from protein, and 15 – 20% from fats. Again, nothing about your diet has to be complicated, just be mindful of what you’re eating and what you need, and try to stick to whole, unprocessed foods as much as you can.
- Always Make Time to Recover
Recovery is an integral part of the muscle building progress, and can’t be neglected. While you may want to hit the gym every day to make gains as quickly as possible, your body needs the chance to repair and build up from previous sessions. Use your rest days as a chance to stretch or foam roll sore muscles, or work on mobility and flexibility with yoga, which will help your overall weight lifting progress. Part of the recovery process also includes getting adequate amounts of sleep, so if you’re serious about making some real gains, make sure you’re getting your 8 hours. This is when your body gets the real heavy lifting done.
Strength training and muscle building isn’t reserved only for those who have hours of time to dedicate to the gym or research the best methods for sculpting each individual muscle. All you need is a little dedication, a little knowledge, and some encouragement, and you’ll start seeing bigger muscles in no time.