To increase muscle mass you must train the muscle to be able to generate more force – which in turn means the muscle must grow. Increasing muscle size will help increase performance strength – but increasing performance strength does not necessarily mean that you will increase muscle size.
Muscle strength in the adult human is relative to cross section area (size). An equal cross-sectional area of muscle from any average trained women or man has about the same ‘strength’ (i.e.: can generate the same amount of force, 6 kg – cm2), there is very little variation. To increase muscle size, you must increase the cross sectional area. Because there is a limit to the amount of force (strength) a set cross-sectional area of muscle can generate – muscle tissue must increase in size (cross-sectional area) to be able to handle a greater force (to become ‘stronger’) – the result: bigger muscles. So the best way to make your muscle bigger – train in such a way as to increase the amount of force you can generate – and, of course, to make the muscle grow as fast as possible.
Two sets (of maximum effort), are far more effective that one (fastest increases in growth and strength), and it appears that three sets are slightly more beneficial than doing two. There is no evidence that doing more that three sets will help – or hurt. Rest between sets should be at least 1 min. and no more than 5 min. – no difference has been shown between taking a 1 min. or 5 min. rest – in terms of growth and strength increases – the choice is yours. All sets should be done to the point where another rep is not possible. (Warm up sets should be done first).
Reps ranging from 3 to 12 are all considered good variations – this is not news to anyone – however this may be – it appears to be important to do at least one set of 10 RM each session. (I’m not going to go into details on this – this is what studies have concluded – take it or leave it). For those who do not understand – this means that you should do one set with enough weight so that you are only capable of doing 10 reps. You may mix up the sequence any way you like, examples: 3-6-10; 12-11-10; 3-10-12; 10-10-10. Any combination is acceptable – just do 1 set of 10 RM each time.
The progressive part of PRE means that it is very important to increase your ‘load’ on a weekly basis. Your 10 RM is the control. You must increase the amount of weight you use for your 10 RM each week by at least a small amount.
Shocker number two – it has been shown that fast movements (contractions), produce the greatest increases in strength and growth. This really should not come as a surprise. The speed of movement when lifting a weight that you are only capable of doing 10 reps with, even performing the reps as fast as possible with good form, is still very slow compared to many sports movements – such as swinging a bat, throwing a ball, running – etc. The concentric part of the movement should be done as fast as possible – however this does not mean to ‘jerk’ the weight – it is also very important that the movement be done in a ‘smooth’ manner. This is important – ‘jerking’ the weight may cause an increase in strength due to neural factors – but it is not the best way to increase muscle size.
Benefits from PRE (Progressive Resistance training) can be achieved by training a muscle(s) as little as once a week. The best results for the trained individual appear to be training a muscle no more than 3 times a week. It is also possible that training more or less may have a small advantage – the new trainer can get best results training a muscle up to 5 times a week.. Another possible shocker – training when muscles are ‘sore’ may help speed recovery and is recommended – however you should not train to the point of causing ‘pain‘ (or if you are already in ‘pain’). Working a muscle that is sore – even one that has been injured – will cause the muscle to recover much more rapidly that resting the muscle – you must know the difference between pain and soreness however – and should not do anything that will cause pain. (If you are recovering from an injury please be sure to follow your Doctors instructions.)
Nutrition and supplements
Nutrition is a very important part of getting ‘big’. This should be very simple to understand but still many people don’t. If you want to build muscle you have to feed them – plain and simple. To gain mass you have to eat more calories than your body needs – or at least the exact amount that it needs for energy, repair, etc. (because there is no way of knowing your exact needs it is wise to eat a bit more than you feel you need). If you don’t YOUR MUSCLES WILL NOT GROW.
Research has shown that only drugs will make your muscles grow beyond ‘normal’. Other supplements do have their place. It is important that your body has all the nutrients it needs – any less will slow your progress. There may be a very slight advantage to getting a little more of some things than your body needs – but there is little doubt that if your body is not getting enough of something it will hurt your progress. For example, most people are known to be deficient in Zinc (there is not enough of it in our diets), in which case it has been proven that supplemental Zinc will increase the testosterone levels (in men). It has also been shown that taking twice as much as you need will not be of benefit – and may even have adverse effects on your health.
If you train correctly you will ‘level off’. If your train correctly for maximum growth you will make very fast gains for the first 3 to 6 months. At this point you will gradually start to taper off – after two years of training you can expect the gains to come very slowly – at some point, to be totally honest, further ‘overall’ gains will be almost impossible unless you take anabolic steroids or other types of anabolic drugs. (Which I do not recommend). This does not mean that you can’t continue to improve your appearance. It is at this time that you should start paying more attention to your weak areas, your diet, etc. – you can always improve – and hope – that more can be learned on how to increase muscle size through natural methods – without the use of steroids.
The untrained muscle responds much better than the trained muscle. This simply means that the untrained person will experience much faster gains in strength and growth than the person who has several months of GOOD training under there belt. This is a well known fact – not someone’s opinion.