If you are interested in building muscle you already know that you need to train hard and eat right if you want to be successful. However, there are lots of other things that you could be doing if you want the best results in the shortest possible time. In many cases, these things are closely guarded secrets that only a only a select few know. Use the information in this article to get the most out of your workouts…

Liquid protein and carbs immediately after training

Once your workout is finished, your muscles are like dried out sponges and are crying out for muscle building nutrients. Drinking a protein/carb shake immediately after training has been shown to decrease catabolic hormone production, increase anabolic hormone production and speed up recovery. Liquids are absorbed faster than solids so shakes are the best way to get your post-workout protein and carbs. Aim for a 2:1 ratio of fast acting carbs to protein for best results.

Loaded stretches for bigger muscles

Muscles are surrounded by a fibrous bag called fascia. Tight fascia can limit muscle growth. Weighted stretches will help expand the fascia which may result in increased muscle growth. To perform a weighted stretch, hold the extended position of an exercise for 20 to 30-seconds using a light to moderate weight e.g. at the bottom of calf raise or dumbbell fly or top of a lat pull down. This will be uncomfortable but should never be painful. Perform weighted stretches at the very end of your workout for the muscles you have just trained and preferably after a final high rep pump set.

Use low, medium and high reps for maximum muscle growth Lots to bodybuilders only ever work in the standard 6 to 12 rep range. While this is the accepted rep range for muscle building, there are benefits to working outside of this range of you are serious about packing on mass. Lower reps build thicker, stronger muscle fibres while higher reps provide a muscle-expanding pump. Make your workouts more effective by doing low, medium and high reps e.g.

  1. Bench press – 3 sets of 5 reps
  2. Incline dumbbell press – 3 sets of 10 reps
  3. Dumbbell flyes – 3 sets of 15 reps
  4. Press-ups – 3 sets of 20 reps

Take caffeine and carbs before your workout for maximum energy Consuming caffeine and carbs before a workout is one of the best ways to increase your energy and ensure you don’t run out of gas part way through your training session. A strong coffee and a banana can make the difference between a bad workout and a great one. Many pre-workout drinks are simply caffeine and carbs but rather than buy expensive pre-workout drinks, just mix a couple of teaspoons of coffee granules with half a glass of full-sugar cola – cheap and effective although not especially tasty!

Creatine – old school but still the best supplement for muscle growth Creatine has been around for over 20-years and that’s a long time in terms of sports nutrition supplements. The reason creatine has stood the test of time is because it works and is very safe for the vast majority of users. There is no need to do the whole five days or 30 grams loading phase that used to be so popular – just take five grams per day with your post-workout protein and carb shake.

If you are stuck in a muscle-building rut – do the opposite If you have stopped making progress with your workouts, don’t just keep on doing more of the same – instead do the opposite. If you normally do 3 sets of 10-reps, try doing 10 sets of 3 with heavier weights. If you normally use a split routine, try full body training. If you always use the leg press, do squats instead. If whatever you are doing isn’t working, more of the same will not kick start your progress. Make dramatic changes for dramatic results.

Gain strength to build muscle

The biggest bodybuilders are often the strongest bodybuilders and powerlifters and strongmen are often bigger than even the biggest bodybuilders despite not training for muscle size. Periodically focusing on building strength can add slabs of muscle to your body in double-quick time. Try following a powerlifting routine focusing on building strength in the “big three” of squats, bench press and deadlifts for three months. Not only will you gain strength, your muscles will grow and you’ll be better prepared and primed for muscle growth when you return to your normal bodybuilding routine.

Emphasize the lowering phase of each rep to maximize muscle gains

Muscles grow because workouts traumatize them and they get thicker and stronger as a result. The lowering or eccentric phase of each exercise is when the most trauma occurs. Make the most of this phenomenon by emphasizing the lowering phase of the exercises you perform. Do this by taking twice as long to lower the weight as you do to raise it. The muscle soreness you experience as a result is a good indicator that your workout has been more productive.

Increase workout frequency for rapid muscle building

Most bodybuilders use split routines which means that muscles are only trained once every seven-days. Research suggests that muscle groups actually recover much faster than this and would benefit from more frequent training. Recovery is individual but most people would benefit from training each muscle group twice or even three-times per week. If you have been following a regular split routine for a while, try increasing workout frequency to jumpstart your results. E.g.

Monday – chest, back, shoulders and arms

Tuesday – legs and abs

Wednesday – rest or light cardio

Thursday – chest, back, shoulders and arms (different exercises and different set/rep scheme)

Friday – legs and abs (different exercises and different set/rep scheme)

Saturday – rest or light cardio

Sunday – rest

Train later in the day for best results Testosterone and growth hormone levels tend to peak later in the day – usually around 4pm for most people. Also, body temperature peaks at around this time and joint and spine integrity is optimal too. All of these factors add up to better, more productive workouts later in the day. You will also have eaten more and therefore be better fuelled compared to early morning workouts. Many exercisers feel stronger later in the day compared to early morning training.