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5 Ways to Force More Muscle Growth from your Workouts

Use these methods to optimise your training and make your time in the gym more productive.

Use these methods to optimise your training and make your time in the gym more productive.

What are the Benefits of Having more Muscle Mass?

Having more muscle mass can provide several benefits to your overall health and well-being. Here are some key advantages of having increased muscle mass:

Enhanced Metabolism: Muscles are metabolically active tissues, meaning they require more energy to maintain. Having more muscle mass can increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR), leading to a higher calorie burn even at rest. This can facilitate weight management and make it easier to maintain a healthy body weight.

Increased Strength and Physical Performance: Building muscle mass improves overall strength and physical performance. It allows you to perform everyday tasks more efficiently and with less effort. Whether you’re lifting heavy objects, participating in sports, or engaging in recreational activities, having more muscle mass can enhance your performance and reduce the risk of injuries.

Josh Bridges in Boxing Match

Improved Body Composition: Increasing muscle mass while reducing body fat levels can lead to a more favourable body composition. This can result in a toned and sculpted appearance, with a higher muscle-to-fat ratio. Improving body composition not only enhances aesthetics but also contributes to better overall health.

Bone Health: Regular resistance training and building muscle mass have been linked to improved bone density and reduced risk of osteoporosis. Resistance exercises stimulate bone remodelling, which helps maintain bone strength and prevents age-related bone loss.

Metabolic Health: Increased muscle mass can have positive effects on metabolic health markers. It is associated with improved insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism, and lipid profile. Having more muscle mass can help reduce the risk of developing metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Joint Stability and Injury Prevention: Strengthening muscles around joints can provide added support and stability, reducing the risk of joint injuries. Well-developed muscles act as protective buffers, absorbing impact forces and protecting the joints from excessive strain during physical activities.

Longevity and Aging: Maintaining or increasing muscle mass as you age is crucial for maintaining independence and functional ability. Sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, is associated with an increased risk of falls, fractures, and functional limitations. Having more muscle mass can help counteract the effects of sarcopenia and promote healthy aging.

It’s important to note that building muscle mass requires regular resistance training, a well-balanced diet with adequate protein, and sufficient rest and recovery.

Muscle Hypertrophy

Muscle hypertrophy refers to the process of increasing the size and volume of skeletal muscle fibres. It occurs in response to a combination of resistance training, adequate nutrition, and sufficient recovery.

When you engage in resistance exercises, such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, it creates mechanical stress on your muscles. This stress triggers a series of physiological responses that ultimately lead to muscle growth and hypertrophy.

During resistance training, microscopic damage occurs to muscle fibres, particularly the myofibrils within them. This damage signals the body to initiate a repair and adaptation process. The damaged muscle fibres recruit satellite cells, which are dormant cells located on the surface of muscle fibres. These satellite cells then fuse with the damaged muscle fibres and donate their nuclei to aid in repair and protein synthesis.

kettlebell workoutsSource: CrossFit Inc

The repair process involves the activation of various growth factors, hormones, and signaling pathways, such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), and myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs). These factors stimulate the synthesis of new proteins, primarily actin and myosin, which are the contractile proteins responsible for muscle contraction. As a result, the muscle fibres increase in size and volume, leading to muscle hypertrophy.

Muscle hypertrophy can occur through two main mechanisms:

Sarcomere Hypertrophy: This involves an increase in the number of contractile units, called sarcomeres, within the muscle fibres. Sarcomere hypertrophy leads to an increase in the thickness and diameter of the individual muscle fibres, resulting in visible muscle growth.

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy: This refers to an increase in the non-contractile components of the muscle fibres, such as glycogen, water content, and other cellular structures. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy contributes to muscle size and volume but may not necessarily enhance muscle strength to the same extent as sarcomere hypertrophy.

It’s important to note that muscle hypertrophy is influenced by various factors, including genetics, hormone levels, nutrition, training volume and intensity, and recovery.

To maximize muscle hypertrophy, it is crucial to engage in regular resistance training that targets different muscle groups, consume a balanced diet with sufficient protein to support muscle growth, and allow for proper rest and recovery between workouts. Additionally, progressively increasing the intensity and difficulty of your workouts over time can further stimulate muscle hypertrophy.

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is a fundamental principle in strength training and exercise physiology. It involves gradually increasing the demands placed on your muscles and body over time to stimulate continuous improvements in strength, muscle mass, and overall fitness. The concept of progressive overload can be applied to various aspects of your training, including resistance, volume, intensity, and frequency.

To achieve progressive overload, you need to consistently challenge your muscles by incrementally increasing the difficulty of your workouts. This can be done in several ways:

Resistance: Increase the amount of weight or resistance you lift during exercises. For example, if you’re performing a barbell squat with 100 pounds, gradually increase the weight to 105 pounds or more over time.

  • Volume: Increase the total number of sets, repetitions, or exercises you perform in a given workout. For instance, if you typically perform three sets of 10 reps for an exercise, you can increase the volume by adding an extra set or performing additional repetitions.
  • Intensity: Focus on lifting with greater effort or intensity. This can involve lifting heavier weights, performing exercises more explosively, or reducing rest periods between sets. Intensity can also be increased through techniques like drop sets, supersets, or incorporating advanced training methods.
  • Frequency: Gradually increase the frequency of your training sessions. Instead of working out a muscle group once a week, you can train it twice or thrice a week to provide more stimulus for growth and adaptation.

By consistently applying progressive overload, your muscles are continually exposed to new challenges, forcing them to adapt and grow stronger. This adaptation occurs as your body strives to meet the increased demands placed upon it, leading to improvements in muscle strength, size, and overall fitness.

Deadlift

However, it’s important to note that progressive overload should be implemented gradually and progressively to prevent overtraining and minimize the risk of injury. Proper technique, adequate rest and recovery, and listening to your body are essential for sustainable progress and long-term success.

Additionally, progressive overload is not limited to just strength training. It can also be applied to cardiovascular exercises, flexibility training, and other forms of physical activity to promote continuous improvements in various aspects of fitness.

Progressively Lift Heavier Weights

Increasing the amount of weight that you lift over time is a key component of progressive overload, and it stimulates muscle growth through several physiological mechanisms:

  • Mechanical Tension: When you lift heavier weights, it creates greater mechanical tension on your muscles. This increased tension leads to a higher recruitment of muscle fibres, including both fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibres. By engaging a larger number of muscle fibres, you are subjecting them to more stress and microtrauma, which triggers the muscle repair and growth process.
  • Muscle Fibre Recruitment: Lifting heavier weights requires the activation of more motor units, which consist of a motor neuron and the muscle fibres it controls. Initially, your body recruits the smaller, low-threshold motor units. However, as you increase the weight, the larger, high-threshold motor units are recruited to provide the necessary force for lifting. This recruitment of a greater number of motor units stimulates muscle fibre growth and strength gains.
  • Increased Protein Synthesis: Lifting heavier weights stimulates protein synthesis, the process by which new proteins are built within your muscles. Protein synthesis is crucial for muscle repair, growth, and adaptation. When you lift heavier weights, it activates signaling pathways in your muscles that lead to an upregulation of protein synthesis. This increase in protein synthesis helps repair the muscle damage caused during exercise and leads to the synthesis of new contractile proteins, resulting in muscle growth.
  • Hormonal Response: Lifting heavier weights can also trigger anabolic hormone release, such as testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). These hormones play a critical role in muscle protein synthesis, muscle fibre hypertrophy, and overall muscle growth. The release of these hormones in response to heavy resistance training contributes to the muscle-building process.
  • Bone Adaptation: Increasing the weight you lift not only stimulates muscle growth but also places greater stress on your bones. This mechanical stress signals your body to strengthen and adapt your bones to handle the increased loads. The bone remodeling process leads to increased bone density and improved bone strength, reducing the risk of fractures and promoting overall skeletal health.

It’s important to note that simply increasing the weight you lift is not the sole factor for muscle growth. Proper form, technique, and range of motion are crucial for targeting the intended muscles effectively and minimizing the risk of injury.

Add More Reps

Adding more repetitions (reps) over time can also contribute to muscle growth and stimulate muscle hypertrophy.

Here’s why:

  • Metabolic Stress: Performing higher reps creates metabolic stress within the muscles. This occurs due to an accumulation of metabolic byproducts, such as lactic acid, hydrogen ions, and other metabolites. The metabolic stress triggers various physiological responses that contribute to muscle growth. It stimulates the release of anabolic hormones, increases blood flow to the muscles, and promotes the production of growth factors, all of which support muscle hypertrophy.
  • Muscle Fibre Fatigue: As you increase the number of reps, your muscles are subjected to more prolonged and sustained contractions. This leads to muscle fibre fatigue, particularly within the type I slow-twitch muscle fibres. Fatiguing the muscle fibres recruits additional motor units and activates higher-threshold muscle fibres, contributing to muscle growth.
  • Time Under Tension: Increasing the number of reps extends the overall time under tension for the muscles. Time under tension refers to the duration that the muscle is actively engaged during an exercise set. By prolonging the time under tension, you provide a continuous stimulus to the muscle, maximizing muscle fibre recruitment, and promoting muscle growth.
  • Hypertrophic Signaling Pathways: Performing more reps can activate hypertrophic signaling pathways within the muscles. These signaling pathways involve various growth factors and molecular mechanisms that contribute to muscle protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy. The increased metabolic stress and muscle fibre fatigue associated with higher reps can trigger these pathways, leading to muscle growth.
  • Muscular Endurance: Higher-rep training helps improve muscular endurance, which is the ability of the muscles to perform repetitive contractions over an extended period. Enhanced muscular endurance can benefit overall muscle growth by allowing you to perform more work and volume during a workout, leading to greater muscle stimulation.

Increase the Number of Sets

Increasing the number of sets that you perform during your workouts can contribute to muscle hypertrophy and stimulate muscle growth through the following mechanisms:

Increased Volume and Total Work: Performing more sets means you are increasing the total volume of work you’re doing for a specific muscle or muscle group. Volume is a key driver of muscle growth and hypertrophy. By increasing the number of sets, you are exposing your muscles to a greater overall workload, which provides a stronger stimulus for muscle adaptation and growth.

Cumulative Fatigue: As you add more sets, your muscles experience cumulative fatigue throughout the workout. This cumulative fatigue further challenges your muscles and forces them to adapt by growing stronger and larger. It increases the overall stress and demand placed on the muscles, leading to greater muscle fibre recruitment and activation.

female crossfit athletes brooke enceSource: Photo Courtesy of CrossFit Inc

Extended Time Under Tension: Performing additional sets prolongs the time under tension for the muscles. Time under tension refers to the duration that the muscle is actively engaged and contracting during a set. By increasing the number of sets, you extend the total time the muscle fibres are under tension, which can enhance muscle fibre recruitment and stimulate muscle hypertrophy.

Increased Metabolic Stress: Performing multiple sets creates metabolic stress within the muscles. Metabolic stress occurs due to the accumulation of metabolic byproducts, such as lactic acid and other metabolites, during prolonged exercise. This metabolic stress triggers various physiological responses that contribute to muscle growth, including the release of anabolic hormones, improved blood flow to the muscles, and the production of growth factors.

Enhanced Protein Synthesis: Additional sets provide an extended period of stimulation for muscle protein synthesis, the process by which new proteins are synthesized within the muscles. Protein synthesis is a crucial factor in muscle repair, recovery, and growth. By increasing the number of sets, you prolong the anabolic stimulus on the muscles, promoting protein synthesis and facilitating muscle hypertrophy.

Slowing Down the Movements

Slowing down the movement when lifting weights, often referred to as eccentric or negative training, can be an effective technique for stimulating muscle growth and hypertrophy. Here’s how it works:

  • Increased Time Under Tension: Slowing down the movement increases the time under tension (TUT) for your muscles during the eccentric phase of the exercise. TUT refers to the duration that the muscle is actively engaged and under load during a set. By prolonging the eccentric phase, you provide a longer stimulus for the muscle fibres, leading to increased muscle fibre recruitment and activation. The extended TUT enhances the overall mechanical stress on the muscle, which can contribute to muscle growth and adaptation.
  • Muscle Fibre Recruitment: Eccentric training recruits a larger number of muscle fibres compared to concentric (lifting) training alone. The eccentric phase involves the lengthening of the muscle under tension, and research suggests that eccentric contractions can activate a greater number of motor units and muscle fibres. By engaging a larger pool of muscle fibres, you subject them to a higher degree of stress and microtrauma, which triggers the muscle repair and growth process.
  • Greater Muscle Damage: Slowing down the movement increases the amount of muscle damage incurred during exercise. This muscle damage stimulates the body’s repair and adaptation mechanisms, leading to muscle growth. The increased muscle damage prompts satellite cells, which are dormant cells located on the surface of muscle fibres, to fuse with the damaged fibres and aid in repair and protein synthesis. This process contributes to muscle hypertrophy.
  • Metabolic Stress: Slower eccentric training creates additional metabolic stress within the muscles. The increased metabolic stress leads to the accumulation of metabolic byproducts, such as lactic acid and other metabolites. This metabolic stress triggers various physiological responses, including the release of anabolic hormones and the production of growth factors, which promote muscle growth and hypertrophy.

Video – 5 Ways to Force More Muscle Growth

Jeremy Ethier is a certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning specialist who provides evidence-based fitness information, workout routines, and nutrition advice. Jeremy’s channel gained popularity for its science-based approach to fitness, where he breaks down complex concepts into easily understandable videos.

On his YouTube channel, Jeremy covers a wide range of topics related to fitness, including muscle building, fat loss, workout programming, nutrition strategies, and exercise technique. He often references scientific studies and research to support his claims and aims to debunk common fitness myths.

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