3 tips for building muscle strength and size
Building strength and muscle is one of the most common goals for gym-goers. “Bulking up” is a lot of fun, because it is one thing we can do where we actually see the results of hard work paying off. A friend recently asked me for some tips regarding how to gain strength and size, and I figured this would be a great way to answer his questions and also provide the information for others as well.
Women, don’t be afraid of weight training. Men and women’s bodies are different. Women aren’t going to bulk up like men do, but trust me, you’ll like what you see if you start lifting. That is a post for another time. On to the task at hand – gaining strength and muscle!
1. Focus on compound exercises – Isolation exercises are what most people think of when they think of weight training. Examples of isolation exercises include dumbbell curls for huge biceps, leg extension machines that work quadriceps, calf-raises and so on. You can get results from this type of training, but the problem with these exercises is that they only work one isolated muscle – and that is just not the way our bodies work. Instead focus on compound exercises, which use multiple muscle groups and joint motions.
My three favorite compound exercises are the bench press, dead-lift, and squats. Learn how to do these and incorporate them in your routine regularly. I promise you’ll see results.
Use free weights instead of machines whenever possible. You’ll get more from dumbbell presses than you will from bench machines. With dumbbells, you need to use your muscles to stabilize your load, as well as to lift and lower it.
2. Consume more calories – Your body is used to eating an amount of food for the size you are now. If you want to be bigger, your body is going to need more fuel. Men’s Fitness recommends adding as many as 500 calories to your existing diet. When you start burning calories through weight lifting, you’re going to start to be hungry more often. Your body burns more calories maintaining muscle than it does maintaining fat. Don’t be afraid to start eating more, just eat the right things! Focus on lean meats, proteins, and vegetables.
3. Mix up your routine – This is hugely important. When you become more efficient at certain exercises, you will eventually plateau. You get really good at bench pressing 100 lbs, 10 reps over three sets. But to continue gaining muscle, you have to keep your body guessing. Adding more weight and doing fewer reps can be a great way to make more gains. Variations within exercises can also help. Trying widening or narrowing your grip on your bench press. Lastly, be sure to add new exercises and continue learning! Don’t ever get in a rut!
Now you know what to do, the next step is doing it! I recommend going to the gym a minimum of 3-4 times per week. Make sure you give your muscles rest and a chance to recover on off days. If you are doing full body workouts, you need a day to let your muscles heal and grow. Don’t do squats two days in a row, don’t do bench two days in a row, etc. If you go to the gym two days in a row, do a different workout each time.