There are many reasons why people go to the gym. For most Americans it is to lose weight. For some it’s to rehab an injury or to stay in shape. Then there’s the meatheads. I’m just kidding. I’m actually one those meatheads. Not the type that hogs the squat rack and brings his own back support belt who’s covered in chalk. Absolutely not. I’m more of the guy who workouts for ~30 minutes a few days a week. However, my main purpose is to build muscle, as it is with a lot of people. But what most people don’t realize is that there is a more effective way to build muscle than the way they have been doing.
I’m not trying to sound cocky whatsoever, but I have the body I want. Maybe not currently because I haven’t had access to the gym in over 2 months, but before the quarantine I did. And after the quarantine I will for sure. Once you know the recipe to getting the body you want, it’s easier and less intimidating to get it back to that position. Actually it’s exciting in some ways. When you feel you’ve reached your body’s natural limits, weight lifting for me can get boring at times because I don’t see improvements. I still see myself and am satisfied and proud, but seeing the improvements in the mirror and feeling them during the lifts is what really excites me about weight lifting. I’m here to tell you that there’s a more effective method for muscle growth than a simple 3 sets of 8 routine.
How you lift matters! Your body adapts to how you train. For hypertrophy, it’s crucial to lift with high intensity. That means heavy weights and lifting until failure. If you don’t know what lifting until failure means, it means you do enough repetitions until you can’t do another one. A lot of people are familiar with this concept but never put it into practice either because it’s too stressful or they don’t have a spotter. You can certainly take the long road to the body you want. But for those who want to get there faster, it’s important to lift until failure. If you don’t have a spotter, ask the guy or girl next to you at the gym. So what if he’s creeped out. You’re just using him for 5 seconds so you don’t drop the weight on yourself.
How much weight should you use? You should use the amount of weight that will get you to 8 repetitions. Ideally, you would want to fail on the 8th rep. This means for each set, you may have to adjust the weight. I suggest 3 sets. Pick out 3 exercises a day for 3-4 days a week. The reason we aren’t going to work out 7 days a week because the larger your muscles get, the more time they need to recover before doing the same exercise again. So, let’s say when you’re starting out, do 4 days a week, and then when you’re a month or so in, change it to 3 days a week. Again, only for 30 minutes per work out. If you are doing the exercises properly until failure, this will be one of the toughest workouts you’ve ever been through. The other important part is when you get to that last failed rep, push hard! This is the essence of muscle growth. Keep pushing for about 7 seconds or for as long as you can. In this single failed rep alone, you are doing more for muscle growth than any other part of your workout combined. In other words, pushing on this last failed rep is everything. Keep pushing for as long as you can.
Hypertrophy is best accomplished by lifting until you can’t lift anymore. The reason behind this is because when your body is faced with a challenge it can’t overcome, it will adapt accordingly so it can. This means muscle growth. The other thing that is important mentioning is eating. If your fitness goal is muscle growth, you need to eat a lot! Don’t try to lose weight and gain weight at the same time. Eat as much as you can. It’s better to overeat and cut the weight later than it is to skimp on the food during training. As for protein shakes, it honestly doesn’t really matter. A protein shake is better for those trying to stay lean than those who are putting on muscle mass. Those who are going for hypertrophy should be eating plenty of calories and protein anyway, but if you want to drink one after a workout then go ahead. It really doesn’t matter and will only improve results marginally. But there’s no harm in drinking one.
I’m sure I’m not the only one excited to get back into the gym after this quarantine is over. Since most of us don’t have access to heavy weights at home, it can be frustrating to see gains fade away. But don’t fear. The gyms will be back open in no time and we’ll have a new project to get excited about. In the meantime, try finding any way possible to add weight to your existing body weight exercises and go until failure. For example, it’s far better to do pushups until failure 5 times with added weight then it is to do 300 pushups without failing once. Try to get creative during these times and remember to lift until failure and eat a lot! Happy lifting.