5 Elite Muscle Building Secrets
Want to know the best ways to make sure the work you're doing in the gym is getting you the best results? Top trainer Christian Thibaudeau, strength coach of everyone from fitness cover models to elite bodybuilders, offers up his best tips; guaranteed to build muscle!
Thibaudeau has been creating fantastic articles for the fitness website T-Nation for quite some time, mainly aimed for the highly-trained fitness athlete seeking that extra edge in their workouts. Here's a photo of Christian doing some work at the T-Nation gym.
He's made a long career out of providing top-notch information, and his latest is no exception. In just five simple steps, Thibaudeau outlines the most efficient, optimal strategies to build muscle; those little key bits of information that you won't find by just looking at a written workout.
Here at Wellki, we like to provide our readers with the best information on health and fitness from around the web. We present to you a summary of those five strategies, developed by Christian Thibaudeau, below.
Muscle and strength will never be built in the gym without the process of progression and overload; going above and beyond what you've done before in a workout. And that is the first key to building optimal muscle, only with a slight (and advanced) twist. Thibaudeau advises a double progression to get your best results, in which the first step is to progress up to a set rep range (within 2-3 reps, such as 3-5, 6-8, 9-12). Once you choose a specific 'working weight,' that first progression involves getting to the point that your work sets can all match that weight with the given rep range. For example, if you're looking to complete three sets of bench presses at 10 reps (for each set) at 225 pounds, your first progression goal is to make sure you can complete all reps in every set. Once that is accomplished, the second progression involves moving up to a new weight.
All too often, folks become comfortable at a given rep range, or weight, and don't continue to push themselves to the next level. As Thibaudeau states, "The key to becoming more muscular and stronger is to keep on progressing. The double progression system is the easiest and most adaptable form of planned progression you can use."
Grab A Weight Belt For (At Least Some) Heavy Lifts
The weight belt you see some people wearing at the gym isn't to simply capture the look of 'someone who lifts weights.' It actually has a very important function; to help you complete heavy lifts safely and with proper technique. However, there are some out there that dismiss the concept of using weight belts. Allow Thibaudeau to explain his point:
"When it comes to belts, there's no doubt that they can add a few pounds to some big lifts – squats, deadlifts, and cleans, for example – by increasing intra-abdominal pressure more than you can by using only muscle contraction (transversus abdominis and obliques). The trouble is, you have "functional training Nazis" that label all belt use as a crutch. That is a bit extreme."
The reason being, when completing lifts with heavy weights, it's important not just to keep your back straight (and safe), but also to aid in the technique of lifts such as the back squat or the dead lift. It's important to not have any lapses in your form when using a lot of weight, as any incorrect movement, no matter how small, can quickly lead to injury. As Thibaudeau says, it also helps out by building a stronger core "I'm willing to bet that my "core" is just as strong – if not stronger – than most of the functional Nazis who do everything without a belt and do tons of specific core work."
Who can argue with getting extra benefits, right?
Find Exercises That Give You The Best Results
Not everyone enjoys wasting time in the gym, so many folks would have you believe that the core lifts (dead lift, pressing, squatting) are the keys to becoming stronger, and building the most muscle. This is true...for the most part. However, just as we are all built differently, we all have different responses to training and exercises. While most people do, in fact, have great muscle responses to core lifts, there are some out there who may have to look elsewhere. As Thibadeau says, "There's no such thing as a king of the exercises."
It really all comes down to how you're training, and how your own body is responding to that training (while also utilizing the rest of these rules, of course). If you feel as though you're getting great muscles built from alternative exercises than those core lifts, obviously you're doing something right, so keep it up! But if this isn't the case, even when utilizing the so-called 'kings of exercises', Thibaudeau advises "after training really hard on a big movement, it's not giving you what you want, it's perfectly fine to look for alternatives to develop the body you want."
Make Sure The Work You're Doing Is Going To The Right Place
Or, in Christian's words "If you don't feel the muscle, you're wasting your time." Once again, this hearkens back to the age-old dilemna of wasting time at the gym. Sometimes the problem with gaining muscle and strength in certain areas has to do with your mind to muscle activation, or motor skill. It's possible, in these scenarios of not feeling the muscle working, you should begin including some isolation work in your routines. As Thibaudeau says "When you're good at recruiting that muscle, it'll become more involved in the big lifts. So in that regard, doing isolation work for a muscle you don't otherwise feel properly is an investment in future gains."
This will hopefully yield a much greater return on that investment -- so don't think of it simply as a total loss is you have to stray away from a few bigger lifts for a bit. Thibaudeau outlines a four step plan to cure your mind-to-muscle woes, as stated below:
Step 1: Learn to isolate the stubborn muscle using isolation work and constant tension, focusing on the quality of contraction.
Step 2: Pre-fatigue the stubborn muscle with an isolation movement and then do the big lift.
Step 3: Do the big lift first by focusing on feeling the once-stubborn muscle. This requires the use of a lighter weight while focusing on proper muscle contraction – not just on moving the weight.
Step 4: Move on to heavier lifting on the basic lift.
And, hopefully, moving on to greater gains and progress in the gym!
Hit The Main Muscles At Least Twice Per Week
Recent trends in muscle building workouts have been leaning more towards completely exhausting every muscle group, but only once in a week. Based on the increased volume of a workout, where far too many sets are completed in the attempt to 'feel the pump' or really 'hit the muscles hard.' As was stated in the last tip, it's important to feel some effort being put forth by your muscles, but there's a gap between that and completely going all out for just one workout per muscle group, per week.
What's necessary for optimal strength and muscle building is to find the balance of pushing yourself for all of your workouts, but making sure to get in 2-3 in a week; ideally with each muscle being targeted at least twice. There needs to be a certain amount of endurance training to coincide with the raw strength training to get the most out of your total work output. The 'once a week' technique, as Thibaudeau mentions "might work if you're taking anabolic drugs that increase protein synthesis (making each workout stimulate more growth, for longer), but others need more frequent stimulation with less volume per session to get maximal growth."
Naturally, putting forth the proper amount of effort is always key to making the best muscle gains. As you can see, though, there's a lot more to the mental game -- being smart about your workouts -- that plays an important role, as well. Master these five muscle-building secrets to get moving towards your best body that much faster!