The majority of people who step foot in a gym's weight section do so in the quest for increased muscle mass. Getting bigger muscles is an adaptation that is not particularly easy to consistently bring about and thus the majority of people fail miserably. Why? Well in honesty for most beginners any sheer lack of progress can almost always be attributed to dietary failings but for more intermediate trainees who's diets are in fact conducive to training success the answer lies in the fact that they simply do not understand the basic fundamentals behind properly structured, hypertrophy specific weight training.
Try and apply these three pointers in your own training and let me know how it goes:
1) Focus on progressive overload.
I must sound like a stuck record on this particular point but I deem it as the single most important factor towards training success: do a little bit more each time. Record everything you do and focus on making small improvements session by session.
- Increase the load
- Increase the reps on a specific load
- Increase the volume (sets x reps on a specific load)
- Increase the time under tension
- Decrease your rest periods
- Use advanced techniques like super-setting, giant-setting, blood starvation, pre exhaustion etc.
Any of these methods when done correctly and in a progressive manner will force your body to recover and adapt to the ever increasing demands being placed upon it. You'll get bigger and stronger.
2) Control the negative portion and use brief isometrics
Any movement can be divided into three separate mini-events: the concentric (lifting portion), the eccentric (the lowering portion) and ideally the isometric (the portion of the movement at the very top of the concentric portion at which the muscle reaches peak contraction - defined scientifically as a muscular contraction during which the muscle does not change in length).
Everyone cares about the way they lift weights but not many people care about how they lower them - seems a bit silly considering a plethora of evidence is out there to suggest that the eccentric portion of the movement has far greater potential for muscular stress (and thus growth) due the nature of muscular contractions (you can Google "sliding filament theory" for more on that).
Well, what does this mean for me?
- Control every eccentric for 2-3 seconds. This ensures that the muscle is under eccentric loading for extended periods of time thus causing maximal trauma to the working muscle.
- Ensure you have used a full range of motion and at the very bottom of the eccentric perform the concentric portion as explosively as you can. This seeks to appease the fast twitch nature of Type 2 muscle fibres which have the most potential for growth.
- At the top of the concentric perform a brief 1 second isometric. You're going to want to imagine actively flexing the muscle at work during this time. This aids in mind muscle connection, increase the time under load and the bro's will say it helps flush more blood to the area at work.
I feel this is somewhere near what would be considering the "ultimate" tempo for hypertrophy as it takes into account all of the factors at play and seeks to utilise them in the most advantageous way possible.
3. Use proper form
It should be obvious by now but alas, as I find out every night at Virgin Active - it isn't.
Good form can basically be broken down into three parts:
- Minimising swing and ensuring that the weight is being moved in a controlled manner throughout.
- Full range of motion by ensuring that the muscle at work is being taken through it's maximal range of movement - from full extension to full flexion.
- Proper posture. This is probably the most overlooked thing on this list in terms of factors effecting proper muscle stimulation. For this a basic understanding of biomechanics is helpful but laymen can get by with remembering the following commands: knees soft, pelvis neutral, abs tight, chest up, shoulder blades back and down, head neutral and always ensure that the joint at work remains as still as possible.
There. Done. If you think your form isn't right then go lighter, watch some YouTube videos or get a good coach (namely me) and learn the correct way to do things. It will pay dividends immediately in terms of accelerated progress while ensuring that you have a long and illustrious training career.
Don't be a dingus,