Building muscle as a natural athlete can be a slow and arduous process and requires a great deal of commitment, both to your training and diet. However the sense of pride and achievement that comes along with it when you hit a new PR or notice results, whether it be the weights feeling lighter this week or that shirt feeling a bit tighter that usual make it all worthwhile.
When training it is important to apply the principles of progressive overload. This means ‘shocking’ the muscles, not allowing them to become comfortable with your workout. You can achieve this in a variety of ways…
• Increasing the number of days you train a week, however you must still ensure you have the appropriate rest days to allow for growth and repair.
• Increasing the intensity of your workout. This can also be done in a variety of ways, the most effective of which involves progressively increasing the weights lifted each week so the muscles are forced to adapt, growing bigger and stronger to cope with the demands being placed on them. (A great way to keep track of previous weights lifted and goals for the coming weeks is with a note pad). Another useful tool for increasing intensity is advanced training systems such as super sets, pyramid sets and forced reps to name just a few. These also ‘shock’ the muscle making a change from just basic sets and are much more intense to complete, really challenging the muscles and giving them something they are not used to.
• Increasing the time spent in the gym is also a good way to overload the muscles, however don’t overdo it! If your workout is too long it will lose some of its intensity and effectiveness.
• Changing up the type of training you do is also a great way to build muscle and break through plateaus and is often missed out in a training routine. Even though you are trying to build muscle you can’t stay in the hypertrophy rep ranges (8-12 reps) for your entire programme as you will hit plateaus and just won’t be able to keep progressing the weights. Therefore it is always helpful to periodise your training, going in cycles from hypertrophy to strength training (1-6 reps) then when you return to the hypertrophy rep range you will find you can lift more and keep progressing your muscle growth further.
In conclusion the key to muscle growth is progressive overload. Keep pushing yourself, not allowing your muscles to adapt and get comfortable with your routine. Don’t get stuck using the same weights every session, Switch up your workouts with different exercises and training methods and remember nothing works unless you do.