Training to build lean muscle is a battle I’ve seen a lot of clients struggle with and a challenge I’ve personally experienced.
My first negative experience was in college, where I did what most new to fitness people who want to build muscle do.
I turned to magazines, spent a ridiculous amount of money on supplements, and started training like a bodybuilder.
I wasted a lot of money and time, ended up injuring myself while following a bodybuilder program, and never got to see the results I wanted.
The entire experience sucked.
It wasn’t until I learned some basic muscle building principles and strategies, which I will share in this post, was I able to stack on 15 pounds of lean muscle.
The truth is that most people have great fitness habits but apply them incorrectly when it comes to building muscle. It’s like studying and working your ass off for a geometry test only to find out that your our test is on algebra.You are doing all the right things, it’s just for the wrong goal.
Once you can get your goals, strategies, and principles all on the same page, for building muscle in this case, you can apply all of the great fitness habits you have and start seeing the results you want.
Training on a program can help you focus your workouts for the specific fitness goals you seek. I see it way too often, clients who stared working out for fat loss goals continue to train the same way when their goals change to building muscle. You can’t expect to see results for a new goal training the same way you did for a different goal.
Also, give your body the credit it deserves because it’s amazing at what it does. Adapting. Your body can get used to any workout program in 4-6 weeks, which is why I change the programs for clients every 6 weeks.
2. Worry About Recovery
When it comes to building muscle, most people get it right with the training and nutrition. They kick ass in the gym and get the right nutrition in. (and enough of it) But where I find a lot of my clients struggling is the recovery aspect of training.
If you think about when your body is actually building muscle or even burning fat (for weight loss goals) it’s not during your workout. It’s when your recovering. Without proper rest and recovery, your limiting the time your body has to actually put on the muscle your working hard for.
Not only is your body failing to build muscle, it’s not restoring the energy you used in your workout. This can prevent you from training at your full potential the next time you workout.
Tip: Monitor your progress for insight into how well your recovering. Are you losing strength? Are your workouts losing intensity towards the end of the week?
All of these can be signs of a lack of recovery and rest.
Tip #2: Plan a rest day in the middle of your training week or after a big strength training workout. Focus on nutrition and sleep on these recovery days.
Tip #3: If you’ve been training your ass off and haven’t seen any significant results. You could be overtraining. Take a week off from training or incorporate a deload week where you train with lighter weight. This will give your body an opportunity to fully recover and get back to it’s full potential.
3. Get Focused
Just like any other goal you set out to achieve, you need to be focused.
This means, getting rid of the distractions and really committing to your goal. Don’t make excuses and work your ass off until the deadline you give yourself. I can’t stress how important the deadline for your goal is. The deadline will become the driving force and the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’ve seen so many clients try to reach a goal not focused. 100% they have to restart with a different mindset.”
4. Complex Lifts
Complexes, performing exercises back to back with no break and without dropping the weights (dumbbells or barbells) are a great workout method to use when you want to build muscle.
Because it’s ridiculously hard and it challenges your body.
Not only are you recruiting big muscle groups for the exercises in your complex, your making those muscles work throughout the entire complex set.
Perform all exercises for 8 reps without putting down your weight. Break for 1-2 minutes after you complete all the exercises. Repeat for 2-3 sets.
Tip: Start off with a lighter weight, one you can perform the most challenging exercise with for the set number of reps.
5. Lift Heavy
When your looking to increase size and strength, it’s important to continually stimulate your muscles. Most of us get stuck, training the same movements at the same level of resistance. In order to build muscle, we need to continually challenge our body. If your goal is to build lean muscle – it’s time to challenge ourselves.
Tip: Evaluate all of your main exercises (bench, squat, deadlift, lunge). Have you been training with the same weight/level of resistance? If you have it’s time to step it up.
Tip #2: Lifting heavy at the same rep scheme is recipe for failure. Lower your reps (4-6) and add a set.
6. Get Ready To Eat
If you want to put on lean muscle and size you have to be ready to eat. You can train your ass off but without the proper fuel and nutrition to build the lean muscles you want – you can quickly find yourself running in circles.
The first tip would be to start a journal – so that you can keep track of how much and what your eating.
Secondly track your protein intake.
– Women should be taking in anywhere from .8g-1g of protein per pound of body weight to put on lean muscle.
– Men should be consuming 1g-2.5g per pound of body weight.
Carbs or better yet healthy carbs like whole grain should be consumed in a post workout meal.
7. Be Explosive
Explosive movements can help you recruit bigger fast twitch muscles. These movements will also boost your bodies natural growth hormones and help you build lean muscle.
Utilizing explosive movements in your training is also a great way to build strength.
Bonus Tip: If you’re looking to improve your strength for a particular exercise – train that movement with an explosive progression.
Example 1: If you want to increase your bench press numbers, incorporate explosive pushups or explosive horizontal pressing into your workout.
Example 2: If you want to increase your squat numbers, incorporate squat jumps or olympic lifts into your training.
Tip: Incorporate explosive movements into the beginning of your workout, when you have the most energy and can put out the greatest effort.
Branch Chained Amino Acids are a great supplement to help build muscle, keep the muscle you bust your ass for, and also help with protein synthesis. They can be an essential tool to build lean muscle when your removing carbs from your diet.
Tip: Take a serving of BCAA’s before or during your training session and immediately after with your post workout shake.
When it comes to building muscle, sprints can help boost the hormones that play a role in muscle growth. Testosterone and natural growth hormones are essential in everyone’s ability to build lean muscle – long steady running isn’t going to cut it here.
Tip: Incorporate sprints into your training to stimulate muscle growth + they are a great way to effectively burn fat.
10. Stay Healthy: Foam Roll, Warmup, Stretch
Building muscle often means training harder, heavier, and causing more trauma to the body. It’s important to make sure that you stay injury free. When your injured – it’s a cannonball chained to your ankle – you can still move forward but it’s going to be real slow.
If you don’t have a foam roller yet, get one. The grid foam roller is a great product that’s small enough to transport with you wherever you train.
Tip: In order to prevent injury and stay healthy, make sure you pay extra attention to foam rolling, warming up, stretching, and cooling down.
***Note: Your warm up should prepare you for the movements that you will be doing in your workout. Check out XXXXX for a proper warmup.