If gaining muscle and getting absolutely shredded is a goal of yours, you’re in the right place. If you’re serious about that goal then you’ve probably done some extensive research on the topic. You may have realized what many guys in your position realize after a short while: there is A LOT of information out in the wild about how to accomplish both gaining muscle and getting ripped. There comes a point where you look up from everything you’re reading and think “who do I listen to?”.
While there are many experts to point to, let’s start right here. In order to accomplish your goal there are three main components:
Here I am going to talk about the training aspect and we’ll leave components 2 and 3 for another time. Just as a note: you won’t see nearly as much information about option 3 as you will Training and Nutrition. That’s because it’s not very sexy to talk about and especially not to live, but living a lifestyle where your daily actions reflect the goals you have is absolutely critical to your success.
Anyways, let’s look at the training aspect and get tactical for a bit. Below are 4 strategies that you should definitely be incorporating into your workouts.
4 Powerful Tactics for More Effective Workouts
1. Mind-Muscle Connection
This concept is much more than theory. While some people debate its effectiveness, you can ask any professional bodybuilder and they will tell you the same thing: Mind-Muscle Connection is imperative to building muscle. While it may not be as important with powerlifting and general fitness, if you’re focused on building muscle you should pay extra attention here. The way muscle is built is by tearing the muscle fibers down during workouts so they can come back bigger and stronger after your body recovers. While you don’t technically “grow” in the gym, the work you put in at the gym directly affects how much repair is needed and how much growth your muscles experience. In order to maximize your efforts in the gym, you should feel the muscle you’re working contract during each rep. If you cannot feel the muscle contracting and squeezing during each rep, you’re either lifting too heavy, have poor form, moving too fast, and/or are not concentrating on using that specific muscle to do the work. I see so many guys who claim to “hit the gym hard” but just throw some weights around while having a side conversation with their buddies. If you’re holding a conversation while you’re lifting, you’re not going to make much progress.
Try This: Before starting your workout, focus on contracting and flexing the muscles you’re about to work before you even touch the weight. You may be laughing, but I seriously suggest you start doing this. You don’t have to throw up a double bicep in the middle of the gym, but spend a good 5-10 minutes flexing the muscles you’re going to be training. This will start to get your mind focused on that muscle group, it will help warm up those muscles, and get the range of motion ready for when you add weight. Once you add weight, your mind will be more focused on using those specific muscles rather than recruiting secondary muscle groups to support the weight. That may still happen, but strengthening the mind-muscle connection will mitigate it as much as possible. Also, always lift with proper form. Cheating has its place on certain lifts, but in general bad form leads to other muscles being involved, and when that happens your mind stops focusing on the muscles you’re supposed to be working. As a result, you don’t break down the muscle fibers as much as you should and therefore won’t experience the growth you potentially could.
2. Slow It Down
Another thing I see in the gym are guys going to town with their reps and blasting them as fast they can. Many times it’s because the weight is too heavy, but not always. The problem with performing reps very fast all the time is that momentum usually starts to get involved and your muscles are not working as hard as they could be. The more time your muscles are put under load, the more the muscles are broken down and the more they will grow. If you’re pumping out reps quickly you’re decreasing the time under tension and therefore losing out on potential gains, not to mention increasing your risk of injury! (Check This Out: Rep Tempos Explained)
Try This: Switch it up on your next workout and use a 1:2 cadence on your main lifts. What I mean by that is spend 1 second on the concentric portion of the movement (pressing the bar up on a bench press) and spend 2 seconds on the eccentric portion of the lift (lowering the bar on a bench press). You are actually stronger during the negative portion of the lift, and by slowing it down, your muscles are under load for longer periods of time. This will further fatigue the muscle and lead to increased growth along with a much better pump.
If you’re really looking to change things up and challenge yourself, try incorporating pause sets into your routine. Be warned, these can be very challenging but also rewarding. The idea here is also about time under tension. By pausing midway through the rep, it elongates the the time your muscles have to support the weight and makes the exercise much more challenging. This is a great technique to use on higher rep days because you will definitely not be able to use heavy weights on this technique. That is perfectly okay though because remember, your body doesn’t know if it’s 100 or 500 pounds, only your ego does. Your body only knows how hard it is to move it.
Try This: Instead of focusing on slowing things down more than usual, pause at the bottom of the rep, for about 3 seconds, then finish the rep. Examples of this would be pausing at the bottom of the bench press or at the bottom of a squat. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t be relaxing during these few seconds. You should keep all the necessary muscles tense and do not compromise your form in anyway. In most cases you won’t be able to use as much weight as you normally would and that’s perfectly fine.
Last but certainly not least, Rest-Pause sets are also a great tool to have in your workout routine. The idea here is similar to the concept of forced reps, and the goal is to get a little bit more out of each set. Rest-pause sets are similar to forced reps in that you are approaching failure, but ideally allows you to perform a bit more work on your own compared to forced-reps where the spotter is supporting part of the weight as well.
Try This: On your big lifts, perform your sets as you normally would. On your last set, do the reps you normally would, but once you finish, rest for 15 seconds and do another set right away for as many reps as possible. With it being your last set, you should already be pretty gassed. This allows you to have just enough rest to pump out a couple more reps to really get as much blood as possible into the muscle. It’s a good idea to have a spotter when doing these because you will be very close to failure and don’t want to get injured.
I don’t recommend doing all of these techniques during every workout. They are designed to put your muscles into overdrive and doing that every single time will burn you out pretty quickly. Incorporating one or two throughout the week is a great way to start. From there, find what works best for you and gauge how often you do them based on how much it takes out of you, how sore you are afterword, and for how long.
As I said at the beginning, training is only a part of the overall puzzle, but it’s a very important part nonetheless and must be given ample attention. If you’re not pushing the boundaries of your current body’s abilities, you will not force it to grow. The goal of training is to give it no other choice but to adapt by building more muscle. Try out these techniques and enjoy the extra gains that follow!
About The Author
Sam Boghigian is a freak when it comes to fitness, especially bodybuilding. His passion is surpassed only by his work ethic and dedication to getting his clients real results--both physically and mentally. Growing up Sam experienced what life was like as someone who was pretty unhealthy and overweight. He made the decision to turn things around over 5 years ago and has never looked back. It's his mission in life to help others achieve the same level of success, happiness, and health that he has experienced.