There is a lot of research investigating muscle building and what factors contribute to the most effective way of maximising muscle hypertrophy. From our training and years of experience we have found some main factors that we believe contribute to this. Taking into consideration these factors, the process of muscle building should become easier:
MECHANISMS OF MUSCLE HYPERTROPHY
1) MECHANICAL TENSION / LIFTING HEAVY
- The first factor in muscle building is lifting heavy. This does not necessarily mean loading the bar up to the weight where you can only just lift the bar once and with bad technique.
- This concept is lifting heavy at 80-90% of your max for a given rep range. You can still be classed as lifting heavy even during a 12-rep set, as long as you push yourself through each of the reps till near failure when the set is complete.
- Therefore, this only represents the amount of mechanical tension for each rep in a set. You should always make sure you push yourself during your workouts, ensure you progressively overload to prevent plateaus in strength. However, be careful not to push to the absolute max each session, as this can lead to burnout and is less sustainable for the future.
- For muscle gain you should aim for lower rep sets such as rep ranges form 4-10 and have more rest between sets. The more rest you have, the greater the intensity you will be able to give into the set, making the session more effective.
“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder but don’t nobody want to lift heavy ass weights!”Ronnie Coleman (The King)
2) METABOLIC STRESS / TECHNIQUE & ISOLATION
- Isolating the movement with the correct technique works alongside the principle of lifting heavy, as each rep you do during a set should be done so with control to ensure the correct muscle is being worked properly. So, controlling the movement and focusing on the muscle working also known as ‘mind muscle connection’ can actually help to feel the muscle being worked more and help you to activate more muscle fibres.
- Furthermore, the more control there is during the set, the more time under tension there is, meaning the muscle is being worked for longer due to the greater control during each rep. If you break this down, if you control each rep of a 12-rep set, the whole set time will be longer, so the muscles will be working for longer than if the set is rushed. So, keep the control and technique during each and you will notice greater muscle stimulation.
3) MUSCLE DAMAGE / CONTROLLED MOVEMENTS
- To maximise muscle hypetrophy controlling the eccentric/lowering phase of the movement is vital!
- The eccentric part of the movement is the strongest part of the movement, so ensuring you control it will maximise the time under tension, or the time the muscle is under mechanical work. Additionlaly, a squeeze and full stretch on each rep will contribute to greater time under tension as well as helping isolation.
- For example, during a leg extension squuezing at the top of the rep and controlling the downward phase of the movement will allow for greater the tension upon the muscle fibres in the quadricep muscles.
4) CALORIE SURPLUS
- When looking to increase muscle, diet is the most prominent factor. If you are not consuming more calories than you are expending, then you won’t gain weight.
- Muscle weighs more than fat so then it is likely you won’t gain muscle without gaining any weight. To gain muscle there must be some gain in bodyfat but alongside this with correct training and nutrition you will gain muscle too, this over an extended period of time.
- You should train with lower rep ranges and eat sufficient protein and carbs; this will support the muscle damage and rebuilding process needed for hypertrophy.
5) RECOVERY AND PROTEIN DISTRIBUTION
- This is an important concept to consider. The best time for hypertrophy occurs is through the body being in a state of rest. Here the muscles have time to recover and build after an effective workout. When at rest the blood will distribute to the sites of the body that need it most, hence to the muscles at night during sleep due to effective workouts during the days, it will also distribute to the digestive system to breakdown the foods, so make sure you are getting the correct foods into your body too. You should aim to have around 7 hours sleep minimum and this is higher at younger ages.
- Also ensure that you have rest days during your workout plan, as if not you can burnout and the muscles will not have sufficient time to recover and rebuild, so training will be causing you muscles to be utilised for energy inhibiting growth causing muscular atrophy.
- With regards to diet, the best thing to do is distribute your meals. You should have around 3-4 hours between each meal and it is better to have more regular meals throughout the day.
- If you can get in 20-25g of protein every 3-4 hours in regular intervals this has proven to be the most beneficial for muscle growth. The body can only absorb this amount of protein, anymore that is consumed will be wasted as it cannot be digested. But if it is better spread out it can be utilised more efficiently.
- Not only this but it is best to be consuming carbohydrates throughout the day as they are used for energy. Therefore, it would help with energy for your workouts making them more effective as well as increasing energy for the muscle rebuilding process.