How to Build Massive Muscle: A Master Class
With the plethora of information (and misinformation) available today on the Internet it is easy to get confused, and/or overwhelmed, when seeking to discover the best ways to build massive muscle. And that is precisely why I am writing this article – to help clear up the “fog!” I urge you to read on as I lay out the basic principles of training, diet and supplementation (in a very simple and straightforward manner) that will stop you from “running in place” and instead propel you toward hypertrophy hyper-drive!
Training Tenets: The process of building muscle starts in the gym, so your training must be on point. This includes your technique, exercises, program, and more.
1. Commit to Compounds
While I have absolutely nothing against machines and cables, there is no doubt that the greatest muscle builders are free-weight compound exercises. The balance and coordination is takes to lift free weights activates more muscles (including the target, synergists, and stabilizers), more muscle fibers, and “excites” the nervous system to a greater degree than machines or cables do.
Additionally, compound movements tend to induce a greater release of the muscle building hormones, testosterone and GH. There is nothing wrong with using machines or cables in your workouts, but if you want to maximize your progress, make free-weights the cornerstone of your program.
2. Technique Tactician
Using strict technique on all of your exercises will assure that you are maximally stimulating the muscle that you wish to target. Those that “throw” the weights and rely on momentum are only cheating themselves out of growth. Once you reach failure using strict form, only then is it productive to “cheat” (to a reasonable degree) in order to extend your set a bit further.
3. Propensity for Intensity
After your first year or two of consistent training, your muscles will begin to become more resistant to growth. Once results start to wane many trainees look to fix the problem by adding more sets and exercises to their programs. While this may solve the issue for some, I find that a more reliable solution is to progressively increase “intensity,” so that you are working harder, and not necessarily longer.
Techniques such as drop sets, super sets, rest-pause, partials, and forced reps are excellent ways to take your muscles beyond traditional failure, forcing them to adapt to a greater level of fatigue and fiber damage. The key is to mix things up, and not to overdo it (which leads me to my next tenet).
4. Force Adaptation: Failure = Gains
The human body has a finite amount of recovery ability, as well as limited “energy” to put toward constructing new muscle tissue. In fact, our physiology naturally “prefers” homeostasis (to remain as is) and cares little about looking like Mr./Ms. Universe! The most powerful stimulus for igniting hypertrophy is intense resistance training in which each (work) set is taken to, or even beyond (see the tenet above), absolute “failure,” or the point where you are unable to complete another strict repetition on your own.
The most powerful stimulus for igniting hypertrophy is intense resistance training.
However, while gut-busting workouts are exactly what set in motion the physiological processes necessary for gaining size and strength, they are also precisely what make profound inroads into our body’s systems’ ability to recover. Not only must our body repair the micro trauma (damage) that occurs within muscle fibres during training, but it must also reset hormonal and neurotransmitter balance, restore the immune system, and clear the overload of free radicals from the system. If all of this is not accomplished as necessary between workouts, there will be absolutely no chance for your muscles to increase in size or strength.
In addition, if your body remains chronically over trained/under recovered for extended periods, serious injury and/or illness will eventually occur. While nutrition, supplementation and sleep/rest play a huge role in fostering systemic recovery, I can make the following recommendations regarding your training that will assist you from “outrunning” your recovery abilities:
1. Train more than 3 days in a row before taking a full day off.
2. Train no more than five days per week.
3. Adjust training volume and rest periods between sets, (as well as the time you spend socializing), so that each workout lasts no longer than 90 minutes.
4. Only utilize set-extending intensity techniques for the final set of each exercise (at most).
5. After every 4-6 weeks of “all-out” training either take a few full rest days away from the gym, or complete 1-2 weeks of sub-failure workouts.