To get bigger, stronger, leaner you must master the basics of training. Adhere to these ten rules from the best in the business and build a better body.
1. PRIORITISE COMPOUND LIFTS
Compound exercises, where there is movement at two joints so you work multiple muscles groups, should be the cornerstone of any workout program whether you’re training for size, strength, or fat loss. “The bench, squat, and deadlift offer the most return on investment for your time and effort, and in order to get bigger, you have to get stronger,” says Ben Esgro, an NCSA-certified strength and conditioning specialist.
2. HAVE A CLEARLY DEFINED GOAL
“Without a dearly defined and challenging physique goal, you’re never going to get the results you want,” says Ultimate Performance founder Nick Mitchell. “The best transformation candidates I have ever worked with are women wanting to get into shape for their wedding. Why? Because they have a laser-focused goal. You need the same to make major changes to your body.”
3. GO LIGHTER WITH ISOLATION LIFTS
To grow a muscle to Its maximum potential, you must hit it with isolation moves – but that doesn’t mean lifting super- heavy. “Take the arms: your triceps and biceps take a pretty solid pounding every time you train your chest and back, so direct arms training requires a smarter approach,” says leading physique coach John Meadows. “Lifting lighter and prioritizing getting a good pump – through a perfect range of motion and controlled time under tension – will work the muscle fibers far more effectively. And the better you can isolate a muscle, the bigger it will get.”
4. KEEP TENSION ON YOUR MUSCLES
Maximizing the tension on your muscles makes a huge difference to the effectiveness of your workouts. “Always be in full control of lowering the weight,” says Eric Helms, coach at 3D Muscle Journey. “If you let gravity lower the weight, you’re doing half reps, because for half of every rep there’s no tension on the muscle. Which means you get only half the results.”
5. SPEND MORE TIME ON MOBILITY
If you neglect mobility you’re limiting your progress. “Good mobility means quality movement patterns, which means getting more out of every lift,” says coach Phil Graham. “You can add more weight and achieve a better range of motion, which is essential for maximizing your muscle gain and fat loss efforts. It also reduces your risk of injury.”
6. GET SMART WITH WEIGHT SELECTION
“Effective weight training is not about heaving as much weight as possible – the weights are just a tool, and your job is to flex your muscles against those weights,” says Mitchell. “Remember that you’re not lifting for your ego. or to impress anyone. You must lift for the most effective way to build new muscle.” A final couple of reps of the first few sets should feel hard, and the final reps of the final sets should be very challenging. If you finish all the reps and feel like you could have done another five, the weight is too light. If you can only perform half the target number of reps before your muscles fail then the weight is too heavy. Adjust accordingly.
7. MASTER THE MOVEMENTS
“Most people fail to add muscle if there’s not enough direct stimulus on the target muscles because there is too much momentum at the expense of tension,” says M10 Fitness owner Mark Coles. “Learning how a move is performed effectively, even though you will have to reduce the weight you lift, can take your progress to the next level.”
8. RECORD YOUR RESULTS
If you don’t keep track of your workouts it’s impossible to make smart tweaks to keep progressing effectively. “I’ve always kept a training diary because it’s so beneficial to my progress,” says Mitchell. “It’s an invaluable resource and the more information you collect, the easier it is to spot emerging patterns of what’s working and what isn’t Record not just sets, reps, and weights, but how the session felt energy levels. DOMS the day after – anything that will inform you about the smart ways to tinker with your plan so you stay on the path to consistent improvement.”
9. STRETCH FOR STRENGTH
Improving your flexibility through stretching is something most men neglect, but doing so not only reduces your risk of muscle injury, it can also increase muscle mass growth. “Stretching can cause massive growth if done at the right time,” says sports scientist Dr. Jacob Wilson. “We’ve tested intra-set stretching, which means stretching the working muscle or muscles during your rest periods between sets, and it can be very effective for bringing up a lagging muscle group, although you may have to reduce the weight you lift.”
10. FOLLOW A PROGRESSIVE PLAN
To keep getting results, whether your goal is to get bigger, stronger, or leaner, a progressive training plan is essential What this doesn’t mean is simply lifting heavier every session. “Progressive overload is the cornerstone of any plan and there are many approaches,” says Helms. “One good approach consists of multiple months where different characteristics are trained, starting with muscular endurance or size, moving to maximal strength, and culminating with power training to encourage progress.”