In the world of fitness, all too many people will focus solely on the number on the scale or the size of their waistline. While it’s definitely good to stay aware of your body, you also need to keep in mind that the numbers might not reflect reality. For example, if you only looked at the height and weight of the average running back in the NFL(National Football League), you’d conclude that the individual was overweight. Taking into account their muscle mass will quickly show you that every person is unique when it comes to fitness.
While muscle doesn’t weigh more than fat, it is more dense than fat. One of the key properties of muscle, too, is that it aids in the burning of calories. This means that even when you’re at rest, that muscle mass you’ve put on is helping you to stay fit and rid yourself of fat. In this post, we’re going to look at some strength training tips that will both help you put on muscle mass and burn fat.
1. Challenge and stress the muscle.
It goes without saying that there has to be some sort of stimulus on your muscle to get it to grow. Muscle growth essentially comes from muscle damage, and Performance University insists that this damage has to come from tension and metabolic stress.
Studies have shown that muscle memory is a real phenomenon. What this means for you is that repeating the same exercise over and over will do nothing to increase your muscle mass. Instead, you’ll need to increase the weight and repetitions that you use as well as vary the exercises. This might be a good time to dust off that gym membership card if you don’t have plenty of home gym equipment.
2. Focus on big moves.
Studies have shown that when you do exercises that require a lot of movements like bench press, deadlift, and squats, your body uses multiple groups of muscles and responds with more hormones. All of this leads to an increase in lean muscle and visible gains. You might be used to simple exercises like leg extension and things like that, but only exercises with big moves will put on muscle fast.
You should keep in mind that the reps will differ depending on what you want to accomplish. For example, you should keep to under five reps if you’re looking to build strength and between six and 12 reps if you want to put on some size.
3. Keep it natural.
Experts in the field have suggested that the best way to keep yourself moving and motivated is to use free weights. It’s not clear why this is the case, but studies have shown that those who use free weights tend to outperform those who mostly stick with machines.
The added bonus of free weights is that they allow you to have the exact range of movement that you’re comfortable with. It might be best for you to work with a trainer when you’re starting out with free weights so that you can perfect the movements and learn how to target specific muscle groups.
4. Focus on cardio that preserves muscle mass.
Just because you’re looking to put on muscle mass doesn’t mean you should ignore cardio altogether. It is true that if you focus on long distance cardio, you’ll tend to lose muscle mass in time. The best way to combat this is to study how the pros do it. Going back to our running back analogy, these players are trained to operate in short, forceful bursts.
You might want to look into exercises that involve sprints, running uphill, and even dragging behind heavy objects or wearing weighted vests while running for short distances.
5. Eat more, but eat right.
People often don’t want to hear it, but you really do have to consume more calories to burn more calories. The human body is an intelligent machine. When it senses that it might be in danger due to a deficiency in calories, it slows down the metabolism process to combat this weight loss.
In order to tell your body that you’re not starving and that it can go ahead with losing weight, you’ll need to eat more than you normally do. Don’t take this as an opportunity to load up on pizza and chocolate cake, though. It’s best to stick to a normal, healthy diet that just contains more calories than the average diet.
6. Give yourself a break.
When you’re just starting to go on a diet or count calories, it’s important to give yourself a cheat day. If you don’t, you’ll be less likely to stick to the diet and more likely to go overboard with unhealthy foods when they’re available.
The same principle is true with exercise, with the added element of muscle fatigue. It won’t do you any good to work past your body’s natural limits. Not only will you not be putting on any more muscle mass, you’ll be doing damage to your body that can put you out of commission for longer than you’d be if you just took a day or two off every week.
Instead of sticking to a set routine that simply increases in intensity over time, it’s been shown that it’s actually better if you alternate weight and intensity.
The International Journal of Sports Medicine conducted a study where one group had a consistent workout while the other group alternated their routine. The group that alternated has an increase in the size of their biceps and triceps, and they had more gains when it came to benching.
The reason for this is the same reason why you should incorporate big moves into your workout routine. Light weightlifting and heavy weightlifting targets different muscle groups. When you activate all of these types of groups, you’ll put on muscle mass and keep your muscles on their toes as to what they might have to do next.
8. Vary your routine between reps and weights.
Just as you should alternate with different weights in your routine, you should also experiment with the number of reps that you do. One helpful thing to do is to do a minimal amount of reps with a high level of weight. Later on in your week, you can switch this up with a lighter weight that incorporates more overall reps.
As with everything else in weight training and life, you shouldn’t expect results overnight. You will most likely be surprised, though, by how quickly you start to see the results from your efforts. This is a situation where you’re working smart instead of hard.
9. Keep track of your workouts.
This tip doesn’t have anything to do with actually lifting, but it’s just as important as all of the other tips. By logging exactly what exercises you did, the reps involved, and the weight, you’ll have a clear way of tracking your progress and seeing what you can improve on.
This can keep you on track to increase the amount of weight and reps that you do while reminding you of how far you’ve come since you first started.
Making substantial gains in your workout routine isn’t as simple as lifting more weights or increasing your reps. Think of it more as a science that can be studied and perfected. It’s a comprehensive effort that will involve a healthy diet, varied routine, and a steady effort.
It will take some time until you see the fruits of your labor, but you shouldn’t fret over how long it takes. After all, Arnold didn’t become who he is only after pumping iron a couple times. Put these tips into action, and be sure to experiment and see what works best for you.