Not all muscle building workouts are created equal. Most people either grab some random workout out of a muscle magazine or what’s currently popular online on NutriMuscleAustralia.com or they go to the gym without any plan at all. They do what they feel like doing when they get there. Sure, if you’re completely new to weight training, almost any bodybuilding workout will produce some results. At least, initially. Bit if you want to get big and ripped and do so as quickly as possible, you need to put as much effort into planning your workouts as you do into actually doing the workouts.
There are certain muscle building principles that need to be followed if you want gains from all that effort in the gym.
Time Under Tension
One of the most important muscle gain triggers is time under tension. Time under tension is simply the amount of time the muscle is working during an exercise.
Most weight lifters don’t get nearly enough time under tension to trigger quick gains in muscle mass. They train in a way that is more conducive to strength gains than muscle gains. While it’s true that, all else being equal, more strength equals more muscle mass, it’s not exact. You can make gains in strength without making gains in muscle.
Don’t believe it? Check out the powerlifting contests, which have weight classes. You can also gain muscle without gaining a whole lot of strength. Strength gains are important for more muscle over the long term, but they aren’t everything.
Most people lift weights in a ‘normal’ up and down cadence, which means each rep takes about 2 seconds and they go for lower repetitions in the five to eight range. This isn’t nearly enough time under tension to trigger optimal muscle gains. You’ll want to have each set last around 30 seconds when training for more muscle.
This means, using a ‘normal’ rep cadence without counting seconds, doing 10-15 repetitions per set.
Include Density Training
Density training is simply doing more work in less time. Again, most trainees take rest periods of roughly two minutes or more between sets. This is because they want to be able to lift as much weight as possible, which is more about strength training than muscle building.
Studies have shown that muscle building workouts are more effective with shorter rest periods, or doing more work in less time. This means the weights used on an exercise will have to be greatly reduced. At least initially. Over time, as you adapt to this type of training, the weight you use will go back up.
So instead of performing sets of six to eight reps on the bench press with rests of two to three minutes between sets, you’ll increase the reps and decrease the rest periods.
A great example of this type of muscle building workout is performing four sets of 10 reps per set, with only 30 seconds of rest between sets. It may take a few workouts to get the proper weight selected. Start by using a weight you can normally get about 15 reps before failing.
Don’t go to failure, except on the fourth and final set. The first set or two might seem easy, but the short rests have a big impact!
Another version was made famous by the legendary trainer, Vince Gironda. Vince used an 8 x 8 system to trigger impressive muscle gains in a short period of time. You’d perform 8 sets of one exercise for 8 reps per set and only rest for 15 to 20 seconds between sets.
Use the same weight on all 8 sets. Just like the 4 x 10 workout, it will seem very easy at first. It’s not! With a properly selected weight, you’ll most likely start hitting failure around set 5 or 6. Get as many reps as you can. It might end up like 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 6, 5, 4. Keep the weight the same until you can get 8 reps on all 8 sets.
You’ll probably need to use a weight that is less than half of what you normally use!
Muscle building workouts that combine proper time under tension and density training are extremely effective for rapid muscle gains. Perform this type of workout for 4 to 6 weeks and then switch to a more strength oriented workout for a few weeks, where you perform fewer reps and rest longer between sets. This will help make your next muscle building phase even more effective.