What is your goal when it comes to fitness? Are you aiming to be as strong as a roided-up silverback gorilla?
Are you trying to become really good at exercising like a CrossFit princess? Or are you just training for a muscular, aesthetic physique?
Judging by the fact you clicked on this article, it’s pretty safe to assume you are interested in gaining the most muscle mass possible. There are quite a few ways you can go about doing this: you can train heavy for low reps, train light for high reps, or even a combination of the two. But no matter the training, there is one thing most guys generally forget about; squeezing the muscle.
The best way to make your muscles grow is to force them. You must will them to grow — use your mind to make them do what you want. Squeeze at the peak of each lift, making sure to really feel the contraction. It will hurt. It should hurt. And it’s this pain that will ultimately lead to your gains. So, to make things simple, here are the five steps you should take to force your muscles to grow.
1. Ignore the Numbers
This one seems counter-intuitive to what you have always been taught; which is to always keep track of how much weight you are lifting and how many times you are lifting it. Now, you don’t just want to start lifting random weight for random reps like a moronic noob.
2. Slow Negative
Going right along with the idea of slowing down the lift, this is an often-unknown technique among casual lifters. The slow negative is when you focus on the opposite end of the workout: meaning if you are benching, you put just as much effort or more into lowering the bar extremely slowly as you do to push it up.
Lowering the bar very slowly allows your muscles to not only be under constant tension but also causes it to work much harder than when you just focus on the lifting portion of the exercise.
3. Constant Tension
Here’s another thing many guys ignore. Even if you are lifting with a full range of motion, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stressing the muscle enough. There’s a good chance you are skipping a vital step in the lift.
Going back to the bench press, let’s say you are lifting with a full range of motion. You are going all the way down and pushing back up very quickly, locking out your arms at the end. This is fine if you are building explosive strength like a powerlifter, but it isn’t ideal for building aesthetic muscle mass.
What you really want to do to force the muscle into growth is slow down the lift: go down slowly, push back up slightly slower than normal, and don’t lock your arms out at the end of the lift. This will make sure all the weight is putting constant stress on your pecs and tris. You want to always focus on stressing the muscle group you are trying to grow.
4. Full Range of Motion
This one coincides with ego lifting. You need to lift with a full range of motion to properly stretch and squeeze the muscle for optimal stress upon the muscular tissue. This just doesn’t work when you half-ass your reps.
To use bench pressing as an example, you know you don’t reap the full benefits of the exercise if you don’t go all the way down and up; squeezing at the top of the lift. But for some reason, many guys think half-repping extremely heavy weight is going to build quality muscle mass. The only thing it might do is increase strength, but even then, it’s not going to be functional strength since you can’t lift it with a full ROM.
5. Check Your Ego
This is by far the easiest step to take in forcing your muscles to grow. You just drop the damn weight and quit trying to show off. You aren’t doing yourself any favors from lifting heavier than you can properly handle.
If the idea is to stimulate your muscle into new growth through hypertrophy, you won’t accomplish that by trying to lift a load the muscle group you want to add mass to can’t handle. Lower the weight and focus on the muscle contraction. Nobody cares how much you can lift.