How to Fix Your Muscle-Building Workouts

Need a better muscle-building workout? Check out four things you can do to build muscle faster, courtesy of STACK Expert Joe Giandonato.

A number of people seem obsessed in their pursuit of bigger muscles. Yet, often, muscle gains elude them. If you fall into this category, you are probably doing something wrong. Fix your muscle-building workouts with these four tips. (Learn how to build muscle and burn fat in the same workout.)

Be Wise and Periodize

Periodization is the arrangement of training sessions into phases to achieve a specific goal. A phase may range from one week to over three months to optimize physical development. (See an example of a periodized workout.)

Although any exercise program is better than none, it's important to design a plan that continually challenges your muscles. If you fail to change, your body will adapt to your training and you won't make gains.

To encourage muscle growth, you must vary your set and rep schemes. Start with sets 10 to 15 reps with light weight, and, in four phases, gradually work down to five reps with heavy weight.

Train for Strength

Building muscle typically calls for eight to 12 reps performed with moderate weight. However, I encourage you to also train for strength. Lifting heavy weight enhances the function of the central nervous system. You will recruit large muscle groups, increase the rate of force development and improve your max strength. As you gain strength, you will be able to lift more weight during your mass-building workouts.

Tip: Dedicate a few phases to training for sheer strength. Try a powerlifting routine to bust through plateaus and add more horsepower to your central nervous system.

Warm Up Properly

Preventing injuries requires an investment of time. It may seem boring, but taking time to warm up properly beats spending time in rehab. If you sustain an injury, your muscle-building goals will be on hold. (Try this dynamic warm-up.)

Beyond injury prevention, pre-workout warm-ups have several other performance benefits. They:

  • Elevate your core temperature, which increases muscle length and range of motion
  • Align your joints and address posture issues through movement pattern drills
  • Lubricate your joints by reducing the viscosity of the synovial fluid
  • Activate your central nervous system

Tip: To expedite the warm-up process, layer your clothing to help retain body heat.

Recover Sufficiently

Contrary to the impression many novice athletes and lifters get early in their training careers, muscle is not built in the gym. It's built outside the gym, facilitated by rest and nutrition.

  • Intensive strength training, which entails lifting close to your one rep max (85% of your max), requires 48 to 72 hours of recovery before reworking
  • Highly active individuals require eight to nine hours of sleep per night. Adolescents require a minimum of eight hours of sleep per night.
  • Take in 17 to 20 calories per pound of body weight, and consume at least two liters of water daily. On average, 1.5 liters of fluid are excreted from the body in urine each day. Additional fluid losses occur during exercise.

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