If you’ve built a good amount of muscle mass so far and you’re satisfied with the results, then congratulations. You might have been using the same workout and nutrition habits for months or years on end to achieve the body you have right now. But that doesn’t mean that you can use them indefinitely.
Eventually your progress will stall and you will reach the dreaded plateau. That means you will no longer be able to gain new muscle tissue by using the same strategy you’ve been using. That’s why you would have to incorporate a whole new strategy altogether to keep progressing. Those willing enough will find a way. What this article is meant to do is help you with a set of rules that will help you do this.
There is this thing called “muscle memory” you might have heard of, which basically means that the muscle tissue remembers it’s been trained before, so if you go through a cutting period in which your muscles might shrink or simply take a lengthy break from lifting due to numerous life circumstances, then it will regrow faster if you start training it again. It’s like it knows it had gained a certain level at one point, so it can easily find its way back to where it was.
However, when you reach that level where you once were, increasing muscle mass past that point becomes a bit challenging. In order to keep progressing, we need to understand how muscles function. Athletes will often try different types of challenging training programs with no regard as to how and why muscle grows.
We guarantee you’ll see unforgettable results once you understand how these 8 rules work and apply them into your workout regimen. Here they are:
1. Change the training variables
The human body is very efficient at adapting to new stimulus in whatever form, so no matter how long and effectively you’ve been using a certain training program, your body will quickly adapt to it and will soon stop growing. Even one of the most widely used techniques, negative reps, which is basically slow execution of the exercise in its eccentric part which causes a great deal of damage to muscle fibers, can become quite ineffective after only a few workout sessions.
When you keep giving the same kind of stimulus to your muscles over and over again in consecutive workouts, they adapt and progress inevitably stalls. They simply stop growing. A lot of inexperienced athletes think that cranking out a few more reps with a certain weight or simply adding slightly more weight than before will help them overcome this. Unfortunately, this is not an efficient approach once you enter the advanced stages of training.
Solution: There are numerous ways in which you can change two consecutive workouts. These include changing the rep ranges, increasing TUT(Time under tension), load used, rest intervals etc. You should always have an ultimate specific goal for each workout, but always keep them confused and guessing.
2. Allow your muscles to adapt
This next rule might come at odds with the first one, but it complements it perfectly. In order to induce muscle growth you need to present mechanical stress, but you must allow it to recover properly afterwards. It is the recovery process itself that builds the muscle.
If you push your training too intensely without proper rest times, you risk overtraining. No matter what kind of fitness athlete you are, incorporating recovery phases into various forms in your training regimen is a must. Otherwise, you rob yourself out of optimal muscle growth.
Solution: The frequency in which you train every body part should be no more than 2-3 times a week. Even three times is an exception, which pros do only. You shouldn’t train a specific body part for more than six weeks either. Your body needs to rest and adapt to body-part-training too. A general rule is to include at least one full rest day per week, two preferably. Every 12 weeks, take a whole week off.
3. Change your training routine every 6-8 weeks
As we said previously, muscles remember and will adapt to new stress pretty fast.You can follow the first rule, and change the little training variables quickly, but after 6-8 weeks the muscles will adapt. This is where the point of diminishing returns comes, but too many people keep on doing the same workouts thinking they’ll get better results.
This is the reason why you should make a big change in your training routine approximately every 6-8 weeks. The change will not be easy, but it will teach you new things and it is the best way.
Solution: Keep alternating between muscle-growth phases, strength-oriented phases, cutting phases, cross-training phases or start doing something new altogether. The point you need to take away from this is changing your routine every 6-8 weeks.
4. Train with free-weights first
You should always start your workout with a free weight compound exercise which stimulate different muscle groups at the same time. Your aim should be not only to lift the weight by any means necessary, thus sacrificing form, but to stabilize it with your stabilizing muscles, other than the main muscles involved. Stabilizer are often tiny muscles that keep your joints healthy and strong and prevent damage to occur to ligaments and tendons. Training with machines, takes the stress off of the stabilizer muscles, leaving them weak and untrained.
Solution: After you finish warming-up, start the workout with a free-weight exercise. It should be the centerpiece to your workout. Everything else is secondary and should be used as assistance to the main free-weight compound movement. This assistance work includes machine training which you can use to add volume and address a specific body part that is lagging behind.
5. Bulding muscle is building health
Bodybulders often get criticism from other people that their pursuit is a superficial one. While trying to look good naked and feel good about your body isn’t a bad thing per se, we should not neglect the enormous health benefits bodybuilding provides.
Besides getting health benefits in the very act of training, having more muscle mass is making you healthier in itself. Having more muscle fires up your metabolic furnace, prevents your body in storing fat and also acts a protective shield you can rely on when being under extreme stress in the form of injury, illness or surgery. Also, life expectancy has been proven to be proportional to the overall amount of muscle mass you have, as well as having a greater ability to endure stressful live-altering circumstances.
Solution: Ignore the criticism. There will always be the ones trying to downplay your success simply because your success makes them feel inadequate and lazy. But that’s their problem, not yours. Maybe they will come to their senses one day, maybe not. And if they do, you’ll be there to take them on the same path.
6. Focus On Form Above All
Your muscles have friends called tendons and ligaments. You may only think about these guys when they’re complaining, but their importance goes beyond avoiding injury. Your tendons must be healthy if you want to apply proper stress to muscle tissue. You can build muscle with sloppy form, but your connective tissues will eventually cry uncle, interrupting your relentless quest—and painfully so.
Your goal is to create stress to muscle tissue that can be repaired in a day or two—not to cause so much damage that you get injured. When you perform free-weight moves with proper form, you’re strengthening, these crucial support structures rather than damaging them. That helps lead to greater muscle growth.
How to do it: Don’t assume your form is perfect. It probably isn’t. Plenty of people think their squat is just fine when…yeesh. Have someone take a look, and prepare yourself for criticism.