Building muscle mass is as healthy as it is attractive — but it can also be surprisingly difficult. Even many people who regularly exercise have trouble bulking up! In most cases, this is due to an inefficient approach to muscle-building. Here are a few simple tips that may help:
Set strength-based goals
Gauging muscle gain in terms of weight might seem like the most logical strategy — but the healthier choice probably lies in strength-based measurements. No matter what the scale says, increasing your max lift is a good sign things are going well, whereas weight gains unaccompanied by strength gains are probably unhealthy and/or unsustainable.
Focus on compound exercises
Strength training workouts fall into one of two categories: isolation exercises and compound exercises. As the names imply, isolation exercise targets one muscle in particular, while compound exercise works various muscles all at once. Though isolation workouts are popular among people wishing to “shape” their bodies, compound exercises have been shown to be more effective at building muscle. From a functional standpoint, compound exercises make a lot more sense as well. For example, if you want to punch harder, you can’t just workout your shoulder, you’ve got to build the whole muscle chain from your feet to your fist.
Examples of compound exercises include squats, lunges, bench press, military press, and deadlifts. Examples of isolation exercises include bicep curls, leg extensions, bent over lateral raises, and incline flys.
Keep a food diary
Good nutrition is key to good health — and keeping track of your diet can help you spot bad habits that are holding you back. If your goal is gaining weight, then the most common culprits include insufficient protein intake, imbalanced consumption of macronutrients, and simply eating too little.
Get more sleep
Adequate rest is just as important as adequate physical activity — and some benefits of rest are only gained when we are actually asleep. When sleeping, muscle tissue is repaired, hormone production levels are regulated, and dead cells are replaced. Decreased energy consumption and improved mental clarity are other important benefits of sleep.
Here are a few of the most effective ways of getting a bit more shut eye every night:
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Avoiding sleeping in excessively and/or taking long naps, as inconsistent sleep patterns cause your body to work against you.
- Control exposure to light. Get sunlight during the day, limit screen time and night, and ensure that your sleeping space is adequately dark.
- Exercise daily. This will help tire you out and speed up the falling asleep process.
- Choose foods and drinks wisely. Alcohol and caffeine are bad news for sleep — and overeating right before bed can also lead to sleep-disrupting indigestion.
- Promote relaxation. Even when busy, taking a bit of time before bed to read a book, enjoy a warm bath, stretch, listen to gentle music, etc. can help improve the quality of your sleep tremendously.
Don’t skip leg day
When most people dream of getting ripped, they usually think more of biceps, forearms, and pecs more than hamstrings, calves, and quads. Not surprisingly, many people get tempted to skip leg day when the going gets tough due to lack of motivation.
Keep in mind, however, that being healthy and attractive requires balance — and no one wants disproportionately-skinny legs! Secondly, those leg day workouts help stimulate a more consistent stream of muscle-building hormones that promote growth throughout the body. Because of this, skipping leg day can be detrimental for your upper body, as well.
For more inspiration and muscle building strategies, be sure to check out the Top Fitness Workout Archives!