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Putting on the pounds: 10 top tips to build muscle

By Alan Waterman

Although training weight loss is a huge part of the fitness industry, there are just as many people who have their sights set on gaining weight by building muscle.

However, there are many different ways to go about it, and it's often just as difficult a process for some as achieving long-term weight loss. It can be every bit as frustrating.

As with weight-loss, there endless amounts of information available to help you work towards your goal, so to save you time, here's 10 of the best, most informed tips you can use to start slapping on a few pounds of solid muscle.

1. Focus on the big movements

Instead of wasting time filling up your sessions with exercises targeting single muscles, focus the majority of your training on bigger, multijoint movements.

'Compound' exercises, such as the squat, bench press, deadlift and chin-up work multiple muscle groups, and are better choices for heavily loading the muscles and creating the best hormonal response for muscle growth.

2. You gotta eat to grow!

We can't build muscle out of nothing- we need a surplus of calories to do so.

Aiming to eat around 15% above our maintenance needs will help minimize bodyfat gain, while giving us room to eat the minimum of 0.8g per lb of bodyweight in protein that we need to kick-start muscle growth. Fill up your plate!

3. Get progressive

The intention behind all weight-training programmes is that they push you to improve over time, by increasing workload (volume) or the weights which you are using.

Making sure you're following a programme which helps you make improvements week by week will help you avoid spinning your wheels.

4. Don't forget to rest

Recovery is a huge and underrated part of muscle growth.

Training too frequently and with high workloads means that over time your fatigue will start to outweigh your recovery, and you will struggle to build muscle or improve training performance.

Aiming to train between 3-5 days a week, with a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night, are two of the best methods to improve recovery and help you keep making progress.

5. Mix it up

Lifting heavy is an important part of building muscle, however, including a mix of rep ranges, which also help both tear down and stress the muscles allow you to cover all bases for what is required for muscle growth.

Low, medium, and high reps can all have their place in a training programme.

PANews BT_P-353c145c-02c3-4723-8f1a-72d2bf9aeda8_I1.jpg
Scientists found that bodybuilders had extraordinarily large muscle fibres

6. Every day shouldn't be upper body day

The lower body holds the body's biggest, strongest muscle, but people often neglect training them in favour of the upper body.

However, although leg training can be nasty, training them creates a big hormonal response which encourages not just muscle growth in the lower half, but in the upper half of the body too.

To optimize muscle growth, don't allow yourself to begin getting too comfortable dodging that squat rack.

7. More isn't always better, but more often might be

Studies suggest that training muscle groups multiple times per week might be more optimal for muscle growth instead of trying to thrash muscle groups in a single training session each week.

Consider a programme which hits muscle groups more frequently, stimulating them to grow multiple times throughout the week. And yes, that includes your legs.

8. When trying to build, watch the cardio

Cardio is a great tool for improving or maintaining fitness, but can be detrimental when trying to build muscle.

Cardio activity burns a lot more energy than lifting weights, so even with an increase in food intake, you may still burn through those extra calories.

Throw high intensity cardio sessions into the mix and your recovery may even suffer. Feel free to include some cardio for fitness purposes, but keep total amount in check, and be aware of how your food intake may need to further change to accommodate it.

9. Forget about the bodybuilders

There are many programmes you can find online or in magazines which show you the training routines and diets followed by professional bodybuilders.

However, it pays to remember that there are a host of reasons they may be able to train the way they do, and their routines are usually completely inappropriate for the majority of other trainees.

Following a programme by a qualified PT or coach is usually a much better, safer option, and more likely to help you get the results you want.

10. Be patient

Muscle growth is a slow process, and it is suggested that a trainee can only aim to grow around 2lbs of actual muscle per month.

Staying consistent across the weeks and months is the only way you will begin to notice results, but your patience will pay off.

Find these tips useful? Make sure to check out the Facebook page for further tips to help you work towards building muscle, losing weight, or improving fitness.

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