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How To Build Muscle, Part II

Last post, we talked about how important sleep and food are in the process of muscle growth, but we know there’s more to it than that. If sleep and food were all it took to grow big muscles, every surfer bum and health nut would look like Superman or Wonder Woman (hey, it’s alright for women to want muscles too). But I’ve never met someone who ACCIDENTALLY became buff — if I ever did, I would definitely want to ask them some questions.


Training for Growth


There is obviously an element of physical training that is crucial to building muscle mass. But what works best? Lifting weights or calisthenics? Squatting or sprinting? High reps or low reps? Compound lifts or isolation movements? What about isometric holds? The truth is that many different methods can be employed to build muscle, but you must follow a few guidelines.


#1: Resistance training is a must. Whether it’s a barbell, dumbbell, or just your own body weight, you need to include resistance training into your routine. Find something to push or pull against so you can FEEL your muscles working. This causes “damage” to your tissues, and when you sleep and fuel your body properly (see above), it recovers and adapts to that stress, making your muscles grow.


#2: Compound movements should constitute the foundation of your training. I’m not saying you should never isolate muscles (curls for the girls, amirite?), but the bulk of your workout needs to consist of functional, multi-joint movements that allow you to lift (relatively) heavy weights. In response to this, your body releases a cascade of hormones that lead to growth. Some of these movements are squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, push-ups, pull-ups, dips, leg/knee raises, rowing, and sled pushes.


#3: Work hard. In order to grow, your muscles need a stimulus that forces them to change. Whether that means heavy weights for a few reps or a high volume of light weights — or maybe a combination of the two — you need to go to failure (or very near it) on at least some of your working sets. I AM NOT SUGGESTING ANYTHING DANGEROUS. Just try to push yourself a little. This will force your muscles to grow.


#4: Another catalyst of muscle growth is called time under tension (TUT). This simply means you want your muscles to be tensed for a short period of time to force growth.  This will help you feel the muscle working, and you can accomplish this with isometric holds (such as planks or wall sits) as well as both compound and isolation movements. For muscle GROWTH, aim for 8-12 reps in a set, or 40-60 seconds at a time for isometric holds.

And there you have it. Your basic guide to building muscle. There are certainly more concepts and methods to learn, but I TRIED to keep it short so I wouldn’t be too boring.


If you have any further questions or want to learn more, you can schedule a FREE No Sweat Intro on our website to sit down with me and chat about your fitness goals. Until next time…


Spencer Smith

Owner & Head Coach

CrossFit Donelson

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