Big Compound Lifts
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To encourage muscle growth quickly, you need to be working the largest muscle groups with the heaviest amount of weight. This means primarily focusing on the larger muscle groups within your training, and using free weights over machines or cables as they require greater muscle involvement (stabilizer and ancillary muscles) to help support the movement. This includes movements like the barbell squat, deadlift, barbell rows, overhead shoulder presses, and barbell curls to name a few.
Get these done early on in the workout when your energy and muscles are fresh (after an adequate warm-up for the muscles being worked). Include 2-3 big free weight movements within each workout, aiming for a 3-4 sets (depending on the muscle being trained), and aim for between 8-12 reps for each set, trying to increase the weights for the next set, even if it’s only by a few kg more. You can still include a few cable or machines within your routine, so long as they are performed after all the big free weight movements.
Forcing Muscular Contractions
Now that you’re aware of what stimuli the muscles need to grow, and that your workouts should primarily revolve around free weights, you’re on the right track to being able to gain muscle. But, it’s not as simple as just lifting heavy weight. You need to really force the muscular contraction whereby every fiber in the muscles are being consciously contracted and engaged for each rep.
To give an example, think about performing a barbell curl. It’s one thing to move the barbell up and down, but by really thinking about squeezing the biceps as hard as you can during each rep, and especially when the bar is at the top of the rep where the biceps are fully contracted. It’s this approach towards lifting that will optimize the muscles involvement and work done, meaning it will respond quicker than if you were to just focus solely on how many times you move the weight up and down.
The way muscles grow is through a process of repair and rebuilding of muscle tissue after stresses placed upon it (resistance training), which can lead to tiny micro tears within the many bands of fibers made up within each muscle. Through adequate rest and nutrition the body will gradually repair these micro tears (don’t be alarmed, it is a natural process within the body), and the muscle will begin to get larger to be able to perform the same task with more efficiency.