The more we learn about working out, the more we realize just how complex this activity really is. Processes responsible for building muscle seem basic enough on a piece of paper, but they hide very complex mechanisms that we’re still figuring out.
With that said, we have learned enough to recognize ways and methods to make our workouts more effective. Today we’ll discuss 6 such methods that we feel will allow you to get the most out of your workout!
Warm-Up and Stretching
Warming up and stretching have shown to be two rather important parts of working out. In fact, the way we prepare our bodies for hard physical work can improve our chances of building muscle. Warm-up is essential for a number of reasons.
While warming up, you are slowly but steadily raising your heart rate. As your blood starts reaching different muscle groups, it will warm up the fibers, give them enough blood volume to ensure proper reaction time as well as muscle fiber response.
Without warming up, you’re preventing your muscles from generating optimal power. More importantly, you are risking serious injury this way.
Stretching is a subject of its own, but it is often bundled together with warming up. The point of stretching is to prepare the muscle fibers by elongating them and working them through their entire range of motion.
Both the warm-up and stretching can be done within a few minutes. While such short warm-up sessions aren’t optimal, they will greatly improve your chances of recovery and muscle growth post-workout.
Diet is Everything
It is a common misconception that muscles are built in the gym. That’s not entirely true. The process of lifting heavy things is essential for muscle building, but it’s only one part of the equation. When you lift, you’re doing damage to your muscle fibers. The entire idea of weightlifting is to aggravate different muscle groups, forcing them into regeneration.
As the muscles are being regenerated, they use a fair bit of nutrients to do so. If you were to follow a very demanding workout regimen but fail to eat the necessary amount of calories, your muscle growth potential would be negatively affected.
Devising a healthy, tasty diet that will give you all the fuel you need is essential. So is getting a testosterone test to see how well your body can metabolize nutrients among other things. Anyone who takes their fitness journey seriously should be no stranger to meal planning and cooking.
Your Body Needs Sleep
Just like nutrition is an important part of building muscles, so is sleep. In fact, your body starts the regeneration process when you sleep. Because of this, many experts agree that the worst thing you can do to yourself is to work out hard, and then sleep barely 5 hours a day, or follow an inconsistent sleep schedule.
Will your muscles still grow if you get only 5 hours of sleep every night? They will, but nowhere near as much as they would if you got the 8 hours every time you went to bed. Sleep is a massive factor for muscle growth, and we’re still learning more about its effects on our bodies in general. Remember to sleep and your body will be grateful for it.
Watch Your Form
Most exercises we do today have been around for a while. So much so that we’ve pretty much explored the general limits of their effectiveness. By now, we have an idea of what the ideal form is for most, if not all exercises. There is a reason why form matters.
For one, practicing good form is a safety mechanism that will protect you from injury during heavy lifts. Imagine what kind of damage you could do to yourself if you were doing 1RM on compound exercises such as a deadlift without following proper form?
However, there is another equally convincing reason why you should do your best to watch your form — performance. Bad form is often limiting the effectiveness of your workouts. If you’re doing isolation exercises, such as curls or similar, improper form will easily lead to activation of other muscles, thus preventing you from targeting your biceps.
All this being said, maintaining proper form isn’t as easy as it sounds. In many cases, we’re not even aware that we’re just slightly off in our form. Having an experienced lifter check your form for you is a great way to nip this issue in the bud.
Speaking of form, there is a lot of wasted movement in most exercises. An average lifter cares only about the initial resistance stage lifting. In other words, if you’re benching heavy, most lifters will care about exploding that bar until they reach full lockout. As it turns out, giving the bar some resistance on its way down can greatly improve your chances of growing muscle.
The reason for this can be traced to the fact that different aspects of your muscles are activated when you do a negative. Make sure to give the negatives some thought next time you hit the gym. Your physique will thank you for it later on.
Many lifters in an average gym are there to go through the motion. They’re following a progressive overload plan, adding a bit more weight every time they lift something, and in their mind, they’re 100% efficient.
That’s not entirely true. Just like negatives will give you a better chance at building muscle, so will squeezing your muscles at the peak of the contraction phase. That extra squeeze when you reach full contraction ensures that your muscle is being activated properly and not just pushed through the motions of working out. This is a novel concept for many, but one that can help unlock new gains.
Weightlifting is a science. Getting results requires a deeper understanding of what goes on in your body every time you pick up something heavy off the ground. All of the tips we’ve mentioned above are important pieces of the puzzle. However, there’s plenty more where these came from.