Hello everyone. Today’s article is a guest post from John Cammidge who owns and operates Great Weight Lifting.
I want to talk today about the important steps that need to be taken to in order for you to build muscle mass & strength. When most novices workout in a gym they usually follow routines from bodybuilding magazines, train until they get a “pump”, waste time with Isolation exercises and don’t follow a strict enough diet. If this is you stop right now, it’s a complete waste of your time and energy!
There are essentially 3 important steps that must be followed to ensure continued strength and size gains. The first important step is progressive overload, the second is supply and the third is recovery. I will now explain each step in greater detail.
1. Progressive Overload
For the body to increase muscular size and strength you must make use of the progressive overload principle. When you place the muscles under unaccustomed stresses (weight) they adapt to those stresses by increasing in size and strength to cope with that weight. Once your muscles can handle the weight it must be increased for overload to take place.
Let’s assume you are aiming for 8-10 reps on each set and on bench press you can manage 200lbs for 9 reps, then the week later you manage 10 reps. Your muscles have adapted to the stresses and become stronger, so now you need to increase the weight. So, the next workout you put 202.5lbs on the bar and aim for 8-10 reps.
This processes is repeated for every exercise, as soon as you stop increasing weight you stop building muscle & strength. The key to progressive overload is small progressions, 2.5 – 5% increases in weight is perfectly adequate, don’t make the mistake of jumping 10-15% as this will only lead to injury.
There will be exercises where you can make higher poundage jumps, for example 5lb-10lb increases on squat is generally fine, but not for smaller muscle groups such as chest (bench press) and shoulders (shoulder press).
I have seen numerous guys in the gym lifting the same weight they lifted 12 months ago, when I tell them that the key to build muscle is progressive overload their eyes glaze over. But hey, that’s their choice, they will be the one in 2 years time wondering why they made little progress, don’t you make the same mistake.
A lot of novices think they can consume a protein shake after a workout and this constitutes as an effective diet. Unfortunately this couldn’t be further from the truth, for your body to make use of the progressive overload principle as effectively as possible you need adequate calories from carbohydrate, protein and fat intake throughout the day.
Your body needs a certain number of calories per day to function, known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the number of calories your burn at rest (to keep the heart beating, lungs breathing, maintaining body temperature etc) basically the number of calories required to keep you alive.
Of course you also need more calories than this to provide energy for everyday activities, such as lifting weights, playing sports, walking, eating and so on. You must ensure you are getting adequate calories from natural food sources to fuel and repair your body, this is more important for someone who lifts weights compared to someone who plays soccer, basketball or any other endurance sport.
I will now briefly explain the 3 macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrate & Fat
Amino acids from proteins are the building blocks for new tissues and the repair of body cells. Protein is therefore used to repair muscles, making them grow bigger and stronger, protein also provides a small fuel source for exercising muscles. As someone that lifts weights you will have a higher protein demand than a sedentary person, this extra protein is used to compensate for the stresses placed when lifting weights.
For a basic estimation of protein requirements you should aim to consume between 0.5g – 0.8g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. So a 200lb weight trainer would consume between 100g – 160g of protein per day.
Here is a quick list of some healthy protein sources: Salmon, steak, tuna, chicken, turkey, cottage cheese, milk, almonds, cashews etc.
Carbohydrate is broken down into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles for fuel. Glycogen is used to fuel just about every activity you can think of and the amount of glycogen stored in the liver and muscles will have a direct impact on your performance.
When you lift weights it uses stored glycogen in the muscles to provide energy. If you have low levels of glycogen in the muscles it will reduce your performance, so make sure you get an adequate supply of carbohydrates on a daily basis.
To give you an idea of daily carbohydrate intake you should aim to consume between 2.2g – 3g of protein per pound of bodyweight. So for a 200lb weight trainer would consume between 440g – 600g of carbohydrate on a daily basis.
Here is a quick list of some healthy carbohydrate sources: Sweet potato, wholegrain rice, porridge, wheat germ, broccoli, cauliflower, cashew nuts etc.
Some fats are essential, they make up part of the structure of all cell membranes, your brain tissue, nerve sheaths, bone marrow etc, and fat protects your organs.
Fat in foods provides essential fatty acids, such as Vitamin A, D and E and is an important energy source for exercise. Unsaturated fats are the fats you should be consuming and should account for 20-25% of you your daily caloric intake.
Here is a quick list of some healthy fat sources: salmon, cashews, olive oil, low fat butter, pumpkin seeds etc,
So as you can see it is essential to consume a balanced diet of all three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrate and fat.
So, you’ve been lifting weights and eating the right foods to build muscle, now it’s time for the final crucial step: recovery.
Your muscles do not grow when you lift weights, they grow when you rest. This is why you should never workout the same muscle within a 24 hour period, doing so can actually have a negative effect, unless of course you are at such an advanced training level, which I highly doubt.
So make sure you get plenty of rest between workouts, sure you can do light cardio on your days weights. Remember it’s not just your muscle that needs rest it’s your central nervous system too.
So remember, the next time you go to the gym ask yourself: Am I training using progressive overload, is my diet adequate to support my training and am I getting enough rest? Hopefully the answer will be a resounding yes to all three.
Good luck with your training!
About the Author:
John Cammidge is the owner and operator of Great Weight Lifting which contains free diet plans, workout routines, supplement overviews and more.