How to Build Muscle : Exercise Guidelines

  1. A good diet is required for your body to be able to maximize your potential, but there's no potential at all until you start the process of tearing down your old muscles and rebuilding them bigger, bulkier, and stronger. The best way to do that is to start at the beginning.

  2. Warm Up. Before you begin any exercise routine, whether it is a simple jog, or a 300 pound dead-lift, start with a low intensity routine designed to warm up all the muscles you're about to work on. Not only will it help you get into the right frame of mind, it can help prevent injuries.
    • You should never stretch a cold muscle. Research has shown that pre-workout stretching, contrary to deeply-ingrained public opinion, does not prevent injury and may in fact result in poorer performance. Stretching is best done following a workout.

  3. Work harder but shorter. Training with high reps is good for building endurance, but it won't help you build up either size or strength. Instead, aim for about 3-8 per muscle group, and 6-12 reps per set for your normal routine. Your final rep should be very hard to complete! If it's not, increase the weight you're lifting.
    • Limit your overall training to about 45 minutes a day.
    • Every four to six weeks, vary your routine. As your body adapts to stress, you'll hit a plateau where the benefits of weight training will begin to diminish. The only way to prevent this from happening is to change things up, such as by increasing weight and changing exercises. Try a week of really piling the weights on, and do two to four reps at the maximum weight you can manage with proper form.

  4. Work your whole body. You'll see maximum benefit when your entire body is part of the routine. The more muscles you use when training, the more hormones you will produce (including epinephrine and norepinephrine), which in turn stimulates muscle growth both while you exercise and for the entire day.
    • Give all muscle groups equal attention, such as five sets of rows after five sets of bench presses. This will encourage balanced training, growth, and flexibility.
    • Compound exercises such as squats, dead-lifts, presses, rows, and pull-ups use a lot of different muscles.
    • You can work the entire body in each session, or divide your sessions between, for example, the upper body one day, and the lower body the next.
    • Don't rush. Advanced lifters often base their routines around a technique called explosive repetition. In other words, they lift a tremendous amount of weight in a short (explosive) amount of time. There are significant benefits to this method, but the risk of injury in novice athletes is high. It is recommended solely for more advanced athletes.
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  5. Limit your cardio training. While doing cardio is great for fat burning, it can limit muscle growth by burning up glycogen and amino acids. If you must keep cardio as part of your fitness plan, try sprint intervals: one minute at an all-out sprint, followed by two minutes of light jogging. Do this for no more than a half an hour, three times a week.
  6. Get your rest. Your body needs time to recover, and to repair (build) your muscles, and to do that you will need at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night. Avoid caffeine and alcohol for deeper sleep.

    • In addition to the proper amount of sleep, do not overdo your training regimen. While you might be tempted to think that "more is better," in fact the opposite is true. You can reach a point known as "over-training," in which you'll lose the ability to "pump," (engorge the muscles with oxygen-rich blood), and can even lead to muscle wasting—exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. Here are some symptoms to be aware of if you think you may be falling into the over-training zone:
      • Chronic fatigue
      • Strength loss
      • Loss of appetite
      • Insomnia
      • Depression
      • Lowered sex drive
      • Chronic soreness
      • Prone to injury
    • To avoid over-training, set up a schedule that works for you and your goals. Here is an example for a split routine that gives you plenty of time on to break down your muscles, and plenty of time off to let them recover, even larger than before:
      • Day 1: Chest and biceps, followed by 30 minutes of high-intensity cardio.
      • Day 2: Legs, triceps, and abs, followed by 30 minutes of high-intensity cardio.
      • Day 3: Shoulders and back, followed by 30 minutes of high-intensity cardio.
      • Day 4: Chest, biceps, and abs.
      • Day 5 - Day 7, rest.
  7. Lower your stress levels. Whether your stress comes from job, home, or just the way you're wired, do what you can to reduce or eliminate it. It's not just good for you in general, but stress increases the production of the hormone cortisol, a hormone that encourages your body to store fat and burn muscle tissue.

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