If your muscle mass is the same now as it was a few months ago, something is amiss — in the gym, out of the gym, or both. More of what didn’t work for you over the last few months isn’t going to work over the next few months. Changes are needed. Put the guidance in this article into practice, and build more muscle mass.
1. If currently you’re lifting about the same weights across your mainstay exercises as you were a year ago, don’t expect to have much more muscle mass. While the biggest muscles aren’t the strongest, and the strongest muscles aren’t the biggest, there’s a substantial link between strength and muscle mass for most bodybuilders.
2. Don’t give mere lip service to the cliche “Use good form.” Permit absolutely no bouncing, heaving, exploding, or excessive range of motion; and never get so greedy for poundage increases that you sacrifice correct exercise technique. Breaking form while training hard is a common and sometimes devastating error. Disciplined bodybuilding training is about effort and correct form.
3. If you weigh the same now as you did a year ago, you can’t expect to have more muscle mass unless you’ve substantially reduced your body fat. Many bodybuilders don’t eat enough in order to grow.
4. Build mass by concentrating primarily on a select number of major, compound exercises. An excessive number of exercises puts an excessive drain on your recovery ability, reduces your effort levels, and slows or even prevents muscle growth.
5. Avoid high-risk exercises such as unsupported rows, Smith machine squats, bench presses to your neck, and behind-the-neck presses and pulldowns.
6. Avoid overtraining — overuse causes injury even if you use good exercises and correct form.
7. Do your utmost to barbell squat well and intensively. The benefits are not limited to just the thighs, glutes and lower back. Properly done, the squat has a knock-on growth effect throughout the body. While some people can’t squat intensively in a safe way, most can if they are sufficiently motivated, and properly taught. Revere the squat, improve your squatting form, pay your dues, and you’ll help your overall bodybuilding gains.
8. If you can’t barbell squat properly, try the safety bar squat. Alternatively, try the parallel grip deadlift. Properly done, the safety bar squat and the parallel grip deadlift are wonderful exercises.
9. Do your utmost to deadlift well and intensively — the conventional, bent-legged deadlift. The benefits are not limited to just the back, thighs, glutes and grip. Properly done, the conventional deadlift has a knock-on growth effect throughout the body. While some people can’t deadlift intensively in a safe way, most can. Revere the deadlift, improve your deadlifting form, pay your dues, and you’ll help your overall bodybuilding gains.
10. If you can’t perform the conventional deadlift well and intensively, perform the partial deadlift instead — in a power rack from a little below knee height. Properly done, the partial deadlift is a good alternative to the conventional deadlift, although not an equivalent exercise.
11. Individualize your exercise selection. If an exercise hurts, and you’ve been performing it using correct technique, and have tried sensible modifications, drop that exercise and substitute a comparable one. The first rule of exercise is “Do no harm.” Discard the foolish “No pain, no gain” maxim.
12. Don’t chop and change your training program. Stick with a given set of exercises long enough to make substantial progress in weight on the bar– for plenty of reps in correct exercise technique, of course.
13. Most bodybuilders overtrain. If your bodybuilding has stagnated, chances are you’re spending too much time in the gym and/or you’re visiting the gym too often. Cut back, and give yourself a chance to grow.
14. Weight train no more than three times a week. Just two workouts per week is best for most drug-free bodybuilders. But the workouts must be properly designed and implemented.
15. Don’t train if you’ve not recovered from your previous workout. If you still feel tired and are due to train today, for example, rest another day. Then modify your training program and lifestyle so that you recover adequately between workouts without having to take unscheduled rest days.
16. Train hard, but smart. Do enough to stimulate growth, and then get out of the gym and give your body the chance to recover and grow.
17. Find a training partner who has a similar recovery ability to yours, so that you can use a similar training program (if not the same one). Then push each other to deliver perfect workouts every time — intensive, progressive, and always with correct form. But an inappropriate training partner can be your undoing. If he can recover quicker than you, and tolerate more sets and exercises, and if he pushes you to abuse forced reps or any other intensity enhancer, cut your ties pronto.
18. Get some small weight plates, or use some alternatives, so that you can add just one pound (or half a kilo) to the bar at a time when you’re using your best current poundages. Adding a minimum of five pounds (or two-and-a-half kilos) to an exercise at a single shot when you’re at your current best weights, as most bodybuilders try to, often leads to a breakdown in form, and injury. Nudge up your weights. Strength is built slowly.
19. You’ve probably heard of the importance of keeping a training log, but do you actually keep one? Accurately record all your work sets’ reps and poundages. As the weeks go by, you should see small but gradual improvements in weight lifted (but in consistently correct exercise technique).
20. Follow a program of about a dozen stretches two times a week. Stretching won’t make you bigger, but it will help keep you resistant to injury provided you do it properly. Never stretch if you’re cold, never do ballistic stretching, and never try to progress quickly.
21. Follow excellent nutritional habits every day. No matter how well you train, rest and sleep, if you cut corners with your nutrition you’ll impair if not kill your muscle growth.
22. Get at least eight hours of quality sleep each night. If you have sleeping problems, find solutions. Short changing yourself in the sleep department can kill bodybuilding gains even if your training and nutrition are in good order. If you rely on an alarm clock most mornings, you’re not getting enough sleep. Get to sleep earlier, and give your bodybuilding recovery increased priority.
23. Never battle through warning signs of overtraining. Symptoms of overtraining include loss of training zeal, stagnant exercise poundages, reduced appetite, and nagging aches and pains. Whenever you feel any of these symptoms, take action to nip overtraining in the bud. Overtraining won’t make your muscles grow.
24. Bodybuilding is about getting each rep right, each set right, each workout right, each meal right, and each night’s sleep right — week after week, and month after month. Make any compromise on this, and you’ll reduce your rate of progress. Compromise heavily, and you’ll kill your gains.
25. Gear your training and entire package of recovery-related factors so that progress in muscular mass is a reality. If progress isn’t happening, make changes until it is.
The buck stops with you. You select the exercises, volume and training frequency you use. You determine whether or not you use correct exercise technique. You decide when to quit on a set. You determine your sleeping hours. You are responsible for your nutrition.
Take charge, and make the most of the tremendous power you have to change your physique!