We’ve all been there: using weights and resistance to chisel your physique in the gym and not seeing the results you were hoping for.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced bodybuilder, these 5 adjustments to your training programme will move you in the right direction to accelerate your results and even help you to break through a plateau.
Here are the main points to know:
Focus on major compound lifts
The Pareto Principle, better known as the “80/20 rule” is none the more evident when it comes to building and strengthening your body. This principle says that 20% of what you do (causes) will produce 80% of your results (effects).
Exercises that simultaneously target more than one muscle group are the surest way to skyrocket your muscle building efforts due to the sheer intensity placed on your central nervous system (CNS) and muscle tissue.
For example, exercises such as squats, which works your glutes and quadriceps, deadlifts which works your lower back and hamstrings and the bench press which works your chest, triceps and front deltoids provide the greatest return on time investment due to the added muscle activation involved.
If that wasn’t enough, compound exercises will help you to progress over time which will provide the added mass and strength needed to lift heavier.
Tip: Avoid exercises that target only one muscle group unless you are looking to increase their overall size and strength specifically. Compound lifts burn more calories and contribute to greater lean muscle development.
Avoid training to failure
Whilst pushing your muscles beyond its current pain threshold will stimulate muscle growth, training to a point where you are unable to carry out the exercise or subsequent exercises that will follow can do more harm than good.
Training to failure will over-fatigue your muscles which will prevent optimal muscle fiber stimulation and can increase the risk of injury. Failing on every single exercise will also tax your CNS very heavily and is not encouraged if you are looking to grow over time without any issues.
Instead, aim to stop at least 2 repetitions of an exercise before failure to prevent fully tiring out the working muscle(s) where you are unable to complete the exercise and are forced to take time off to rest which could of been used exercising more strategically.
Tip: Avoid overtraining. Focus on pushing your body beyond its limit that is safe and controlled which will enable you to complete the exercise.
Look to progressively increase resistance and intensity over time
Variety is the spice of life. Without variety in your training routine, you will always find yourself stuck in a rut without being able to fully progress.
In order to avoid this bottomless pit, you do not want to perform or be on a training programme for any longer than 3 – 4 weeks. This is because it is easy for your body to adjust to the exercises you do including intensity, tempo and duration.
The body is a very intelligent mechanism and it will adjust to the level of stress it is continually under to make what you do in the gym a lot more easier.
Instead, look to adjust your rest periods if required (such as making it shorter) in order to shock your cardiovascular system. As well as this, change the number of sets and repetitions you do to a higher volume or increasingly add more weight over time to really stress the working muscle(s).
Making these small alterations will help you to avoid being stagnant and allow you to stay motivated for longer.
Tip: Change your workout routine every 3 – 4 weeks to challenge your body to grow and to avoid remaining in your comfort zone.
Fuel your body the right way
No training programme is complete without proper attention to diet and nutrition. Without the right intake of key macro nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, fat and fiber it is extremely difficult to build muscle effectively.
It is important to feed your body the right nutrients before and after exercise to ensure you are getting maximum benefit from your efforts.
On top of eating lean meat and fish, dairy, whole grain carbohydrates such as brown rice and wholewheat fusilli and healthy fats such as nuts and seeds, purchasing a pre- and post-workout protein supplement will do more to benefit you than if you are merely getting all of your fuel from food.
Supplements such as creatine, BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) and whey protein will ensure you are getting an adequate amount of amino acids and protein for effective protein synthesis, which is needed for muscular turnover, repair and growth.
Tip: Ensure you are eating as clean and unrefined as possible. Using a pre- and post-workout protein supplement will help you to reach your daily macronutrient intake faster than eating food alone.
Often times you may be very dedicated to building muscle that resting is the last thing you want to do. Unfortunately, without having high quality rest which includes sleeping for at least 8 hours a night, you will often struggle to see results.
This is because while you sleep, your body begins undergoing maintenance work to help it repair and recover from the damage and stresses of the day through the secretion of certain hormones.
If your sleep is interrupted, or you simply aren’t getting enough, this process will often be slowed down or halted completely. As a result, all of the muscular gains you have made or were making may be reversed and you will often find yourself a lot more fatigued and very sore from training sessions more often.
Ideally, you should take one day off between workouts to give your body enough time to rest. This will help prevent you burning out and avoid potentially causing serious injury.
Tip: Aim to get at least 8 hours of high quality, undisturbed sleep a night followed by appropriate days off in the gym to allow for muscular recovery.
Overall, the old adage holds true when it comes to building muscles effectively, “work smarter, not harder”.
Apply the 80/20 rule to your training programme and select exercises that activate more muscle tissue, avoid training to failure to prevent injury, look to continually better yourself over time, feed your body the right way and don’t overdo it.
If you do these things, the results will come naturally provided you are dedicated and consistent. So have fun, enjoy the process and watch yourself grow (literally).