Top 5 Muscle Building Tips
My Top 5 Tips To Build Muscle
After a long period of inactivity on this blog, we’re coming back to you with a few key tips on building muscle. Some of these include how to train, some include how to eat, and some include how to rest. So sit back, relax, and get ready to build some muscle.
1 - Compound Movements
The first thing you need to do to build muscle is to lift weights. Obvious, right? But going to the gym without a plan is like driving your car with nowhere to go. And just hitting random machines isn’t going to do it either. What you need to build muscle are Compound Movements. Compound movements, basically speaking, are movements that include multiple joints. So while bicep curls truly are awesome, they don’t fit the bill here. Don’t worry, you can still do them, they just aren’t going to be your primary focus. Multi-joint movements are things like the Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Pull-up, Barbell Row and all of their variations. These movements can further be broken down into a vertical push, a vertical pull, a horizontal push, a horizontal pull and a hip hinge. All of these movements give you the most bang for your buck. If you’re like me and time is a valuable asset, you want to spend the majority of your training time doing this movements. Now when you watch YouTube, or see your favorite bodybuilder on instagram, you may notice the majority of their training might not be these compound lifts. That’s because they have a very specific job and they NEED to isolate certain muscles more than others. Unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder, that’s a wasted effort. High level bodybuilders usually train twice a day, or have very long training sessions where they isolate certain muscle groups. Not to mention the steroid factor in pro bodybuilding, which we could get into an entire different conversation about. So unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder, or are using performance enhancing drugs, make compound lifts the bulk of your training.
2 - Progressive Overload
Along with compound movements making up the bulk of your training, Progressive Overload is the next key to building muscle. Progressive Overload, in basic terms, is doing more than you did last time. When you’re a beginner, this is very easy. You simply add weight to each training session. For example, if you squatted 100lb for 5 sets of 5 reps, then for your next training sessions you will squat 105lb for 5 sets of 5 reps. And you keep adding weight every training session until you can’t lift the weight with proper technique. This lasts for a very long time as a beginner. It’s not uncommon for a newbie to be able to do this for over a year. When you get to the point of not being able to add weight every session, or if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter, there are other ways to achieve progressive overload. Progressive overload isn’t just adding weight to the bar. It can also be achieved by adding reps, adding sets, throwing in tempo work, or increasing the speed in the concentric motion of the lift (concentric is the “finish” of the lift - standing out of the bottom of a squat, pressing the barbell off your chest, etc). So getting back to the beginning of this section, you want to do more than last time. In the 5 sets of 5 reps for squat example above, you can even keep it at the same weight and increase the reps. So instead of moving to 105lb, you would stay at 100lb and do 5 sets of 6. Then the following session you would move to 5 sets of 7 reps, and so on. Or you then go back back to the 5 sets of 5 reps, and add weight at that point. There are many ways to progress in this manner, and those become more important as you get stronger.
3 - Eat Enough Protein
Food is also a very important aspect of building muscle. And at the very core of that is Protein. There have been many people who have built incredible amounts of muscle on a high carb/low fat diet. There have also been a large amount of people that have built an incredible amount of muscle on a low carb/high fat diet. Carbs and fats are your energy sources, but protein is the muscle builder. What’s always in common is a diet that is high in protein. Not only is protein important when you’re building muscle, it may even be more important when you’re trying to lose fat. If you keep you protein at 1 - 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight, when you’re in a caloric deficit, you’ll lose fat and keep your hard earned muscle. Speaking of caloric deficit, you actually need to eat enough food to build muscle.
4 - Caloric Surplus
Enter the Caloric Surplus. If you’re a newbie, you can probably gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. For the rest of us, we have to choose. Do we want to lose fat, or gain muscle? Gaining muscle means gaining weight. The only way to gain weight is to eat. And you have to eat above your maintenance calories. That’s called a caloric surplus. There’s also a fine line with how much above maintenance you eat. Too few calories, and you won’t gain weight. Too many calories, and you’ll gain more fat than muscle. What I usually recommend (after you find your maintenance calories) is to increase your intake by 100 calories at a time. The easiest way to do this is to add 25 grams of carbs into your day. Do that for a week or two. If you gain 0.5-1 pounds per week, just stay there and ride it out for as long as possible. But if you didn’t gain any weight, increase by another 100 calories, or 25 grams of carbs. Do that for a week or two, and then see if you’re gaining that 0.5-1 pound per week. You want to gain the weight as slowly as possible to make sure you’re gaining mostly muscle. Gaining fat is inevitable, but you can manage how much fat you gain by doing it slowly. I definitely do not recommend eating a YOLO diet, where you just stuff your face with whatever you want. Eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you enjoy eating more fats, eat more fat and less carbs. If you enjoy more carbs, eat more carbs and less fat. What I do personally right now is 185 grams of protein, 50 grams of fat, and then I adjust my carbs up or down depending on if I’m reducing, increasing, or maintaining my calories. What can I say? I’m a carbie girl, in a carbie world. My general rule of thumb is to first get lean enough where I see my abs. Once I’m satisfied with how lean I am, or am just sick of restricting my calories, then I start to add more carbs back into my daily diet. I continue doing that until my abs start to lose visibility, then I bring my calories down again. I don’t like to constantly cut and bulk though, so I do spend a good amount of time eating just maintenance calories and staying around the same 2-3 lb weight range.
5 - Sleep
This last one tends to be the most difficult for most people. Me included. Ideally, you want between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. The more, the better. Many things happen when we get good, quality sleep. First, you get more restorative sleep. That’s critical for muscle recovery and avoiding being too sore for too long. Second, it increases your testosterone. I’ll get into the detailed importance of testosterone in a later blog post. But testosterone is the main driver of building muscle, as well as reducing body fat. A good way to tank your testosterone? Go out drinking one night and get just a few hours of sleep. If you’ve ever done that, you know how rough that next day is. Even without the drinking, testosterone levels drop drastically if you don’t get enough sleep, and that compounds if your sleep sucks consistently. We want our testosterone levels operating at peak levels if we have any sort of strength or physique goals in mind, and getting good sleep is a key to achieving that. Here are some simple things you can do to improve your sleep: the easiest step is to sleep in a cool, dark room. If you’re hot while you sleep, your sleep will be poor. If light comes into your room, your brain will be alert, even if you remain asleep. Another thing to do to improve sleep is to get off your phone. The light from our cell phones at night keep our brains wide awake, and it takes a while for our brains to shut off after being exposed to it. So scrolling Instagram while laying in bed isn’t going to help you sleep. Try to put your phone down for the night about a half hour before bed. Another thing that has helped me is to wake up earlier in the day. I train early in the morning, so I wake up at 5:45am. I’m also very busy during the day, between work, my kids’ activities, cooking, etc. So after my kids are in bed, I’m so tired that I just go to bed shortly after them. And since I’ve already been awake for about 16 hours, my body is ready to crash into my bed.
BONUS TIP - Supplements
This isn’t meant to make you buy our supplements. Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re already a customer, or at least follow us on social media. Supplements aren’t a magic pill. They ARE NOT a magic pill. No legal supplement will replace any of the 5 tips above. But if you’re putting in the work, if you have other aspects of diet and training dialed in, supplements certainly can help.
Take protein powder for example. If you need to eat 200 grams of protein a day, that might be difficult to get that all in as whole food sources. So a protein supplement can certainly help. Our 100% Whey Protein Isolate has 27 grams of protein per scoop, along with 0 fat and 0 carbs. Another thing protein powder is good for is convenience. You’re not always in a position where you can bring your Tupperware of chicken with you, so a quick on the go protein shake can help when you’re between meals.
Another great supplement is Creatine. In my opinion, everybody that lifts weights should be taking creatine. It’s the most studied supplement there is. It’s completely safe (unless you have a kidney condition) and the benefits are many. It brings water into your muscle cells (not under your skin, it doesn’t actually bloat you). The most important benefit from the standpoint of this article is that it helps build muscle, it increases muscle endurance, and it increases strength. Our Healing Factor Post Workout has the full clinical dose of 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per serving, as well as containing Branch Chain Amino Acids, some electrolytes, and other ingredients to help with recovery.
Another very popular supplement is pre workout. This one definitely isn’t mandatory by any means, but the only supplement more popular is protein powder. A main reason for this is because of all the supplements out there, this is one that you “feel” immediately after taking it. You don’t feel creatine because it has a build up effect. After a few weeks of creatine use, you notice your muscles looking a bit fuller, and your performance in the gym increasing. With a good pre workout, you feel the energy boost and focus right away. We have two offerings for Pre Workout. Our original Super Soldier Pre Workout is a moderate stimulant pre workout. It contains a total of around 250mg of caffeine. Not a crazy amount, but enough to give you a boost of energy. It also has great ingredients for focus, muscle endurance, a push in strength, as well as blood flow aka pump. Our Mad Titan Pre Workout is our high stimulant offering. It has 400mg of total caffeine, along with Eria Jarensis, which is a central nervous system stimulant. That one hits your faster and harder than Super Soldier, and is proving to be very popular. Like Super Soldier, it also contains ingredients for focus, pump and muscle endurance. Both pre workouts are fully dosed with all of the ingredients included at their clinical doses, and the ingredients are fully transparent. What you see on the label is what’s inside the bottle. So depending on your energy needs and caffeine sensitivity, we have an option for you. Remember, a pre workout won’t do the work for you. But it certainly does give you an energy boost, and that can be the push or motivation needed to have a great workout.
So there you have my top 5 tips to build muscle. Of course there are more things out there, and this list will differ depending on who you ask. But ever since I’ve started Fusion Sports Performance, I’ve implemented these changes and made the best gains of my life. I’ll be 37 next month, and I’m the strongest I’ve been in my life. I’m also the most muscular, and over the summer, I was the leanest I’ve ever been, and at a heavier body weight. I encourage you to take some of these steps to help you on your journey. We have a free 4 day push/pull training plan under the “E-Books” tab on the website. Use that as a starting point if you’re new or just getting back to training. Pick up some supplements while you’re at it. They certainly aren’t magic pills, but they do help along the way. Until next time.
Fusion Sports Performance