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How to build muscle properly

Like diets and eating plans, exercising at the gym can be done in many ways to achieve the desired results. It all depends on your preferences, how much time you have and what your end goal is.

Whether you want to lift heavy weights and build muscle or do more cardio exercises to tone your body, there’s no definitive way to do these exercises that works for all body types. However, there are certain boxes that need to be ticked if you want to reach your body goals.

If you ask the guys in the gym what they think is the best way to train, chances are you’ll get a different answer every time. Everyone has their own way of training and these usually come from spending time in the gym and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Most men go to the gym for one of two reasons; to lose weight or to gain weight, simple. Some guys want to reduce body fat while others want to get bigger, but we all want to put on a bit of muscle at the same time. To do this properly, there are three easy principles that need to be followed.

Lift heavy to grow muscle

No matter what your routine consists of, you can rest assured that if you lift heavy weights, you’ll grow more muscle. Lifting light weights are great for toning and sculpting your existing muscles, but if you want to put on weight or grow your muscles, you need to put them under strain.

When you lift heavy weights, your muscles actually tear. When these microtears are repaired by the body, new muscular fibre grows around the tears, which is how your muscles get bigger. This is why you feel sore for a couple of days after training a muscle for the first time.

The longer you’ve been training (and repeatedly tearing and repairing your muscles), the heavier the weights need to be to see growth. You’ll gain weight quickly within the first six months of training, but this gradually slows down over time.

Ideally, you should aim to lift a weight about eight times (called ‘reps’) before you can’t do it anymore – that’s how you know you’re lifting heavy enough. When you gym using three- or four-sets (of eight to twelve reps) per exercise, you should struggle to finish each set.

This is how you know you’re lifting heavy weights for your muscles. Once you start completing each set with ease, you should increase your weights again.

Make sure your form is perfect

All too often you see guys swinging their bodies to flick weights up, or rocking back and forth to pull a cable. It’s easy to lift heavy weights when your form is poor. Even if you have to start lifting lighter weights, make sure your form is perfect for optimal muscle growth.

Trainers will often tell you to lift slowly and concentrate on your form. How quickly you lift a weight is a preferential thing – some guys like lifting fast to get their heart rates up, others prefer to go slowly to concentrate on the movement. How fast you choose to lift is up to you, but make sure your form is good.

This means concentrating on key muscles to lift a weight and not using other muscle groups to help you. For example, when performing bicep curls with a dumbbell or a bar, concentrate on using your biceps only. Often, people use their shoulders too (you can see their shoulders rotating and their elbows swinging backward and forwards).

Guys will also swing their arms to flick a weight up, using momentum to help them lift. This is bad form that won’t help you build real muscle over time. Control the weight and don’t let it destabilise you. Watch yourself in the mirror to see if your body is shifting or swinging too much.

Rather move on than persist when you’re tired

This tip links back to form. When your body is tired, you either slow down or your form changes. You no longer perform the full range of motion and other muscles groups start kicking in to help you complete an exercise.

It’s always better to move on to the next exercise or target a different muscle group when your form starts failing. When your speed or form are compromised, it won’t benefit your muscles so you’ll actually be wasting your time by persisting.

It may seem counterintuitive or disheartening to not achieve your goal reps, but if your body is giving up, rather listen to it than overstrain it and cause potential injury. If you’re aiming for 10 reps and your muscles give in after eight, that’s fine – you’re still working to failure which is good for muscle growth.

These three principles are key to building proper muscle mass and getting stronger. Whether you want to lose weight or gain weight, building muscle will be the end goal for most guys. Beyond these three tips, the way you train and how often you go to the gym is entirely up to you and your preferences.

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Written by Joshua Oates

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