Increased muscle mass comes with a ton of benefits — it’s definitely not just about aesthetics. When you gain muscle, you speed up your metabolism, reduce your risk of injury, and even boost your immune system!
No matter what your motivation is for building muscle, these four tips can help you make sure you’re doing it in the most effective way possible.
1. Focus on Compound Lifts
If you’re looking to build muscle and increase strength, don’t waste your time on a bunch of isolation exercises.
These are fine for activation or as a burnout exercise at the end of your workout. However, the bulk of your training session should be focused on compound lifts — exercises that work several muscles at once.
Compound lifts like squats, bench press, deadlifts, rows, and overhead presses are more efficient and more effective than exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, and calf raises.
2. Use Barbells/Dumbbells
Before you head to your favorite machine, pause and consider the benefits of dumbbell and barbell work.
When you use dumbbells and barbells, you recruit more muscles than you do when you rely on machines since you have to balance the weight and stabilize yourself.
Think about it. It’s easy to let your core go when you’re sitting on the leg extension machine. But, when you do a barbell squat, you have to use your core to make sure you don’t tip over or drop the weight.
It’s also easy to zone out when you’re doing machine work. Since there’s more stabilization required for dumbbell and barbell exercises, you’re more likely to stay focused on during each set (assuming you’re lifting a heavy enough weight). That will strengthen your mind-muscle connection and, in turn, increase muscle growth.
3. Work on Your Grip Strength
Lifting heavy (with proper form, of course) is essential for building muscle. In order to lift more weight, it’s important to improve lower arm strength by spending some time training your grip.
The better your grip, the weight you’ll be able to lift. This will contribute to muscle gain throughout the body, not just in your arms.
A forearm strengthening tool is a great option for training your grip. You can also do exercises like forearm carries and bar hangs.
Make sure you’re not relying on wrist straps or hooks to help you lift more weight. These tools aren’t helping your grip, and they won’t allow you to really know how much weight you can handle.
4. Eat More
To build muscle, you need to make sure you’re giving your body a sufficient amount of fuel. This means eating in a caloric surplus. To make sure you’re primarily gaining muscle with as little fat gain as possible, you need to pay attention to what you’re eating, not just the amount.
Start by figuring out how much protein you need. Research shows that .6-.8 grams per pound of bodyweight is sufficient for muscle building — anything more won’t provide any additional benefits. Don’t neglect fat, either. Eating enough healthy fat (at least 30 percent of your daily caloric intake) will keep your hormones balanced for muscle building and consistent energy.
Once you figure out how many calories you need from fat and protein, fill in the rest with healthy carb sources like sweet potatoes, oats, and, of course, plenty of fruits and vegetables.
If you want to maximize muscle gain, make sure you’re keeping these four tips in mind. Remember, too, that consistency is key. If you follow this advice, you will see progress — you just have to be patient.