Hard work and preservation are two pillars of muscle growth but sometimes your determination isn’t enough to push you over the top. Here are some areas of your workout that may need some improvement to keep your muscle mass growing.
Warm up to warmups
Whichever muscle group you plan on working out, make sure to go through a thorough warmup to drive blood into those muscles. Think about a warmup as your steaming hot cup of coffee in the morning – it gets you ready for the work ahead of you! Proper warmup also helps lower the risk of injury and prepares your muscles so that you can lift heavier weights. With the right muscle groups activated, the rest of your workout will feel more natural.
Go heavy or go home
It may seem obvious that lifting heavier weights will result in muscle gain, as you stress your muscles more with increased weight. So why is this one of my tips? Some people hit a certain weight and don’t push to go higher. Building muscle is a gradual process that can hit a plateau when you can’t add extra weight – you should be pushing for an increase every few weeks. When you hit that plateau, that is the point when strategies like drop sets or supersets come in handy.
Don’t over-exhaust your muscles
Muscle growth occurs when you exhaust your muscles through movement and lifting heavier weights increases the effectiveness of those movements. A common term used is “until failure”, which involves pushing your muscles past their comfort level until they cannot perform another repetition. Soreness is directly linked to the degree to which you push your muscles to exhaustion – if you go to failure every time, likely you will need a longer recovery time aided by sleep supplements to speed up recovery.
Once you understand the limits of your current physique, you can regulate your exercises to stop one repetition shy of failure. Repetitively reaching failure will likely shorten your workout, as your muscles will quickly become exhausted. By stopping just short of this point, you can still experience muscle growth without the debilitating soreness that necessitates a few days of rest.
Give your body the right fuel at the right time
Working out isn’t all about the time you spend in the gym. The fuel that your body uses is also important both before and after the workout. Two common issues for bodybuilders are failing to get the protein and amino acids your body needs to grow your muscle and failure to consume enough carbohydrates to provide enough energy to grow new muscle tissue. Before and after workouts are the most important times to control your diet, but make sure to get enough protein throughout the day.
Eating pre-workout is all about preparing your muscles to workout. It is important to have enough energy to avoid tiring out. The best time for a large meal is a few hours before a workout. A convenient snack idea is 100% whole grain bread with protein-rich almond butter – the perfect mix of carbohydrates and protein to fuel a gym session.
As you get closer to the time that you are going to hit the gym, snacks should be foods that are easy to digest and provide an abundance of instant energy like bananas. Don’t eat a heavy meal immediately before working out or you may feel lethargic and bloated during your time at the gym.
Post-workout nourishment should take place within 30 minutes to help replace the nutrients used and aid in recovery, so convenience is the key. I suggest a VEGA Sport protein bar, which includes 15 grams of complete plant-based protein. When I have more time to prepare, I opt for baby carrots and hummus or homemade trail mix.
Don’t skip the compound workouts
Most people don’t have an unlimited supply of energy, time, and patience at the gym to perform isolated muscle exercises for all parts of their body. Compound exercises are ones that work more than one major muscle group, thereby reducing the time needed at the gym and maximizing the use of your energy. A workout regimen that includes more compound exercises will hit multiple muscle groups and tends to allow your body to lift heavier weights. Compound exercises are also the ones that imitate your everyday actions like squatting to lift a box from the floor.
For example, two extremely popular exercise are the bench press that works the chest and shoulders, and squats that works the quadriceps and hamstrings because they are an effective use of time and energy. It is also advised to move from compound workouts to isolation movements to target specific areas that are not receiving enough work.
More than just going through the motions
Weightlifting isn’t a mindless activity that only engages your muscles. Working out is in large part a mental activity as well as a physical one. To attain muscle growth, you must push yourself hard, and that means being mentally engaged while at the gym. If you are stuck in a certain routine and don’t enjoy it, maybe it is time to move on from it and try another exercise that hits the same muscle group. Mix up your routine from time to time to make sure you exercise smaller muscles as well.