You can argue about shape and symmetry until you’re blue in the face, but when it comes down to it, muscle mass is the single most important aspect of a well-defined physique. You can think of building muscle as a three component equation that combines a solid diet strategy, high intensity training, and a science-powered supplement regimen. You don’t need a PhD to succeed so long as you follow some simple rules. In order to help you get on the right track as quickly and painlessly as possible, we’ll go over 10 tips that will get you a running start on anabolism and set up a positive nitrogen balance – key to build muscle.
1. Two-Phase Tension
Muscle growth comes from the repeated contraction of muscle. A lift has two phases – concentric and eccentric. The concentric phase is where you are lifting, causing the muscle to contract and become shorter. Most people emphasize this phase almost exclusively. The eccentric phase of a lift is where you are releasing, allowing the muscle to lengthen. By maintaining tension during the eccentric phase, you can effectively double the amount of exertion on the muscle being used. Keeping tension during the lengthening of the muscle can in fact cause hypertrophy. By keeping tension throughout both phases of a lift you can easily promote massive increases in muscle mass.
2. Get Fishy
Fatty fish like salmon are a great source for omega-3 fatty acids. This is important because omega-3s serve to sensitize the muscle to insulin. By doing this, omega-3s facilitate glycogen storage and encourage the entry of amino acid into muscle tissue, while at the same time preserving stores of glutamine.
3. Bring On The Salt
You’d think it was a joke – sodium is generally not something you want to be shoveling down. Sodium is avoided because of its tendency to cause water retention, but it is also an important mineral for growing muscle. Competitive bodybuilders may fear water weight, but sodium enhances the body’s ability to store carbohydrates and absorb amino acids, and at the same time improves muscle’s insulin responsiveness.
4. No More Aerobics!
Doing aerobic exercise is great for some, but it is counterproductive when you are trying to build muscle. Strength gains and recovery are hampered by aerobic exercise due to the fact that they burn up the body’s stores of glycogen and branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is best elevated by adding mass. The effect is exponential as well – the more elevated your RMR, the more calories the body burns which in turn makes staying lean easier.
5. Lift Faster
How much force is generated by the muscle is proportionate to the growth you can achieve. From physics we learn that force is the product of mass multiplied by acceleration. In other words, the force generated is a function of both how much weight you lift and how fast you lift it. While still increasing the weight you lift, aim to also lift it faster. Increased speed during the second half of the rep is the goal in this case.
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6. Three Day Chow Down
Low calorie diets make it impossible to reach a positive nitrogen balance, so increase the calories you consume for a three day period. To support recovery and build muscle, you need the raw building blocks – proteins, fats and carbs. A 50% increase in calorie intake for three days will give you a big boost without adding hardly any body fat. If you would be eating 3,000 calories, eat 4,500 for that three day push. The important thing is that you restrict it to those three days so that you stimulate growth without packing on fat. Again, this will help increase muscle’s sensitivity to insulin and provide carbs for the body to store as glycogen. You might be overtrained and not gaining any new muscle despite continuing to work hard – this calorie burst will promote anabolism and get you back on track before things start getting stashed away as fat. Once the three days are over, return to your usual diet.
7. Take a Break
A lot of bodybuilders train constantly, which prevents them from really packing on mass as the body is constantly trying to recover from hard workouts. Taking a break of a couple days or so will allow the body to rebuild glycogen and bring testosterone and cortisol levels back up to their proper levels. Giving your body some time off will also increase anabolism.
8. Midnight Munchies
The key to anabolism is having a caloric excess. Everyone knows that eating between four and six times a day provides a constant stream of protein, fat and carbs for the body to absorb. Adding a midnight drink is a continuation of this idea which can help to build muscle. A great option for your middle of the night drink is Glutamine EFX which provides 30 grams of protein and carbs as well as the “essential trifecta” (see the last tip below).
9. Get a Strength Boost By Powerlifting
There are three possible responses for your muscles when you train. A high number of reps (15 or more) increases endurance but does not improve strength or increase size. Decreasing down to between six and twelve reps (a number typical of most bodybuilders) increases size and strength alike. Powerlifters take it a step further, doing two to four reps in a set. Designate a powerlifting week where you add on more weights and do low numbers of reps. After you have done this, you should find that you are stronger in your regular six to twelve rep sessions. It boils down to the fact that an increase in strength equals a greater tension on muscles, leading to an increase in muscle growth.
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10. Supplement with The Essential Trifecta: Glutamine, Creatine and BCAA
Also known as the immunity amino. The immune system responds to a cold, but it also jumps in when you’ve been stressing the body out with a lot of dieting and training. When the immune system consumes glutamine, your body has less available for building new muscle. Adding glutamine to the diet allows your body to have enough for both muscle growth and immune response.
Creatine is a precursor to the body’s source of fuel – adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Supplementing with creatine increases its levels in muscle tissue which in turn creates more ATP, enhancing strength. By feeding the body creatine you can increase the energy available to the body without having to consume so much food.
BCAA stands for branched chain amino acid, and it is a kind of energy reserve that is good to have for when glycogen levels drop. By adding BCAA to your diet, nitrogen balance increases while simultaneously preventing the catabolic state that can be caused by excessive training and eating.?