10 Amazing Strength Training Tips to Muscle-Building : Body Building

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As you progressed in school, you likely found that the required reading was becoming more and more cumbersome. More books, more pages, less time. In your search for some relief, you found Cliffs Notes — the almighty timesaving redeemer of many a student’s report card. These condensed reads offered a quicker way to get through the diffuse material of Melville, Hemingway and Shakespeare by highlighting the main points and trimming out the fat.

Think of this list in the same way, as a summation of the volumes of literature that have been written on muscle building over the years. The 20 tips, presented by section but not in any particular order of importance, encompass the broad spectrum of areas that require your attention for gaining mass: training, nutrition, supplements and equipment. No philosophical debate, no hidden meaning, no tidy denouement of narrative — here, you’ll just find the most authoritative, scientific and time-proven methods for packing on pounds of lean muscle, ready for you to put to use and ace your physique-transformation test.

SECTION NO. 1: TRAINING

1. Warm up properly. As you gain experience, your muscles, tendons and ligaments will be subjected to much more stress than when you first started. To reduce the chance of injury, increase your warm-up time proportionally. As you advance from beginner to intermediate status, three to four light and medium warm-up sets of your first weightlifting exercise of the day, after five to 10 minutes of a general warm-up on the bike or treadmill, can help adequately prepare muscles for the heavy lifting ahead.

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2. Save abs for last. “Training abs before your major bodypart work can result in compromises to strength and put you at increased risk for injury,” says clinical exercise physiologist and celebrity fitness adviser Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS (jimmypena.net). Instead, train your abs last or alone in a separate workout. To save time, you can also insert ab exercises between exercises for other bodyparts as you near the midpoint to end of your workout.

3. Try the real stairs. Abandoning the gym for a real set of stairs can change your perspective, refresh your motivation and help spark new fat loss. The variety in the scenery may also help you workout longer, which means more calories burned.

4. Turn on the tunes. Research suggests that listening to your favorite music while lifting will help you complete more reps as compared to not listening to any music or music you don’t enjoy. Plus, your headphones are a good deterrent to workout-killing conversation.

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5. Vary your rep ranges. You may think that lifting heavy all the time is the best way to build muscle, but going through phases of lighter work has its place, as well. Different weight loads and rep ranges emphasize different muscle-fiber types, helping you to achieve better overall muscle quality.

6. Partner up. A reliable training partner can spot you and assist with forced reps and partials to help you gain after you’ve hit failure. Is your partner stronger than you? Good. “You might also get a mental boost from observing your buddy’s lifting ability as your competitive juices kick in,” Peña says.

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7. Switch the exercise order. Gym-goers are creatures of habit. A good way to keep gains coming, however, is to do your normal routine in the reverse order. After a good warm-up, start with what’s normally your last exercise — you’ll be stronger this time through because the muscle won’t be pre-fatigued, thus enabling you to handle slightly heavier weights for more reps. You’ll work the target muscle in a way it’s unaccustomed to, touching off new growth.

8. Focus on compound moves. If you’re looking to build serious muscle, make sure the majority of your moves in the gym are compound in nature. Compound exercises — which incorporate multiple muscle groups into a lift, such as chest, shoulders and triceps for bench presses, or the glutes, quads and hamstrings during a barbell squat — allow you to move more poundage and train more efficiently than isolation moves, which essentially target only one muscle group at a time.

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9. Isolate in moderation. Isolation moves, which require movement at only one joint, are great for helping to shape muscle and have a place in any routine, but they should be used more sparingly than compound exercises. The best way to use them is near the end of a routine.

10. Use both feet. The trend of training bodyparts while standing on one leg has, inconceivably, taken hold in gyms across the country, but if you’re looking to maximize muscle, keep both feet on the ground. Bringing additional body balance into the equation when it’s not necessary detracts from the bodypart you’re focusing on.

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11. Learn your set tolerance. Most mass-gaining guidelines recommend 12 to 16 sets for larger muscle groups like legs, back and chest and nine to 12 sets for smaller groups like arms, calves and shoulders. However, you have to learn how your body responds. Sticking to these guidelines may cause some to overtrain while keeping others under-stimulated in the gym.

12. Stand correctly. Standing exercises such as squats, overhead presses and straight-arm pulldowns require you to adopt an athletic stance. To do this, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward, knees slightly bent, torso erect, maintaining a slight arch in your low back, and your eyes forward.

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13. Change grips. As you gain experience, your body will start to resist growth on familiar exercises. One way to keep things fresh is to experiment with different grips. On exercises such as bench presses, lat pulldowns, barbell rows, barbell curls and pressdowns, you can force your muscles to work in uncomfortable ways by flipping your grip or using close and wide grips, as well as neutral (hands facing each other) or mixed (one hand up, one hand down) grip positions.

14. Create the illusion of size. By accentuating your shoulders, upper chest and upper back through specific training, you can make your waist look smaller. Aesthetically, this V-taper look gives the appearance of greater overall size. And by bringing up your outer quads, you can complete the look with what’s called an X-frame physique.

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15. Train instinctively. It’s good to have your workouts plotted for the next several weeks — that approach breeds accountability. But some days, your quads just may not be up for a heavy squat session or may still be reeling from the last workout. Or maybe your shoulders, still a few days from their next dedicated workout, feel fresh and are ready to train again. Listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to modify your approach according to what it tells you.

16. Select the optimal weight. “Gaining mass isn’t about maxing out every lifting session,” says Shane Domer, MS, CSCS*D, the strength-and-conditioning coach for the U.S. Speedskating team. “Although heavy loading has been reported to be effective for increasing size, research suggests using a six- to 12-rep loading range at 70 percent to 80 percent of your one-rep max (1RM) will provide the optimal combination of load and volume, which will result in an increase in size.”

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17. Vary your workouts. “Research has consistently shown that systematically varying volume [repetitions], intensity [load], exercise selection and other variables is most effective for a continual increase in muscle mass,” Domer says. “The human body is very good at adaptation and must be shocked if continued progression is to be achieved.”

18. Mind your rest. “If you’re looking to build lean muscle mass, rest periods between sets and exercises must be strictly monitored,” Domer says. “Short rest intervals (one to two minutes) stimulate anabolic hormone production, local blood flow and result in significant lactate accumulation. All three of these byproducts contribute to an increase in protein synthesis (i.e., hypertrophy) within the muscle.”

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19. Focus on progression. “Each workout, you must increase the demands placed on the muscles,” says Jim Ryno, CPT and owner of LIFT Studios in New Jersey (insidelift.com). “This is accomplished by either increasing the amount of weight lifted or by increasing the number of reps in the set.” Plot small goals, like adding 2.5-pound plates to each side of the bar each time you bench-press, squat or deadlift.

20. Get enough shut-eye. “Getting enough sleep is probably the most overlooked part of growing big muscles,” says Los Angeles-based trainer Eric Fleishman (ericthetrainer.com). “Sleep is when the body changes and grows, so embracing the time spent under the covers may have an amazing effect on the way you look.”

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