How to build muscle: avoid these 5 mistakes!
For many of us out there, knowing how to build muscle is one of the main goals when it comes to training. Adding lean mass has tons of benefits including an improved metabolism, greater potential for strength gains, a better look and athletic performance.
However, there are definitely some common mistakes that could hold you or someone you know back from making the most of their time and efforts spent in the gym. Here are my top 5 biggest mistakes people make on how to build muscle.
How to Build Muscle: Mistake #1. Not Enough Time Under Tension (TUT)
The time your muscles spend under tension or engaged is essential for building muscle. The difference in having 18 seconds of tension per set versus 42 seconds is massive, especially with muscle growth being the objective.
Considering that one of the major indicators for muscle growth is muscle damage it makes sense that the longer your muscles are under stress the greater the damage.
A sure-fire way to keep tension on the muscles is by controlling the tempo. A 3-1-1 tempo means a 3 second eccentric or lowering, 1 second isometric or holding and 1 second concentric or lifting. That is 5 seconds per rep so if you’re within the general 6-12 rep range for muscle gains that would be 30-60 seconds under tension. Studies have shown this range of time is optimal for muscle growth.
How to Build Muscle: Mistake #2. Lacking a Mind-Muscle Connection
The mind-muscle connection is the phenomena of feeling and controlling the muscles as they are performing the movement. Some muscles are easier to connect with than others.
For example, the Biceps are easier to connect with than your Lats. Try lifting your arm and squeezing your Biceps right now. Go ahead.
You probably looked at your arm and squeezed as hard as you could and more than likely it felt good. Now do the same thing with your Lats. Go ahead. No?
Not many people know where the Lats are or how to feel and contract them. However, even though you may be unable to connect with your Lats as easily as your Biceps at the moment, that doesn’t mean you can’t with practice.
Feeling the muscle(s) you are training is essential for building a well-rounded physique and preventing injury.
How to Build Muscle: Mistake #3. Not Employing Progressive Overload
Progressive Overload is just as it sounds. To progress in your workouts, you must overload the movements to a challenging enough level that your body has no choice to adapt.
This is mostly achieved through the amount of weight lifted but the tempo and the mind-muscle connection enhance it further.
For instance, you can only lift 45 lbs. for 10-12 reps on the dumbbell chest press so many times before you are no longer making progress. You will eventually need to increase the weight to continue to give your muscles the shock they need to grow.
This is why recording your programs is so important. I know I don’t remember the exact weights I lifted last week on the deadlift for each of the past 3 weeks.
How could I? So how could I expect to know how my weight or strength has improved over the past 3 weeks? I can’t and that is why logging your workouts or having a trainer do it for you is so important.
In order to grow you need to stay on top of your current level of performance and break through them on onto the next level.
How to Build Muscle: Mistake #4. Neglecting Compound Lifts
Compound lifts are the foundation to every strength program. They yield the most ROI and are essential for synchronizing the body to work as a collective unit.
Deadlifts, squats, bench press, power lifts and their variations make up most of the compound movements.
The benefits include full-body strength, the ability to lift the heaviest weights as most include the use of a barbell and improve the synergistic function between muscle groups.
Yes, isolated movements absolutely have a time and place for hitting individual muscles hard. However, if all you do is work one muscle at a time you’re digging yourself into a hole.
That hole is filled with muscle imbalances which lead to injuries and pain.
Make sure your using the compound lifts to your advantage by performing them first and foremost every training session. Follow that with the isolated movements and your well on your way to strength and mass gains.
How to Build Muscle: Mistake #5. Not Eating Enough of the Right Foods
This goes for both not eating enough in general and not eating the right foods. In truth, we are not building muscle in the gym. In truth, we are breaking down and tearing apart our body. Every Deadlift and every Squat you perform is bringing your body closer to its demise.
So how do we build muscle then? We build it outside of the gym with how we eat and how we recover.
To gain muscle we must be a caloric surplus which means how much we eat should be well above our necessary caloric intake. To get the best bang for your buck you need to be eating the right foods in high quantities.
Carbs like brown rice, potatoes, oatmeal, and pasta should become the foundation for most of your meals. Lean meats, chicken, and fish are great sources of protein. Healthy fats include avocados, various oils, and hummus. Lastly, vegetables and fiber are key to ensure everything else you are eating is actually being digested efficiently.
When training for muscle growth you need to consider all factors in play to receive maximal results for your efforts. This includes:
1. Utilizing Time Under Tension (TUT)
2. Practicing your Mind-Muscle Connection
3. Employ Progressive Overload
4. Perform compound lifts
5. Start Eating the Right Amounts of Food