The Only Two Ways To Gain Muscle
Gaining muscle is quite simple yet a lot of people tend to overcomplicate the whole process. Let’s be real, there’s a lot of noise out there and it frustrates me because if you’re the type of guy who naturally tends to put faith in people who you’ve built up trust with then they have a duty and responsibility to inform you properly. If you’re more savvy and cautious, then kudos to you. You’re a smart guy and you’ve got the right attitude. I’m speaking to both of you today because this post is all about the fundamentals. The stuff that matters most.
There are only two ways to gain muscle:
- increase volume (sets and reps)
- increase intensity (weight/resistance)
A lot of guys think that ‘training more often’ is another way of gaining muscle and strength. Going to the gym more often is just another way of increasing volume. Nothing else. A lot of guys also think there are special, unique exercises and equipment that will bring them ‘extra gains’. There are no special ways of training that will bring you better results than simply increasing volume and intensity over time. This doesn’t sound sexy, cool or trendy but it’s the truth and if you want to stay looking like a Spartan warrior for the rest of your life then you can’t be getting fooled by ‘experts’ who just want to smoke weed and sit on the beach all day whilst you blow up their bank account. They don’t care about your fitness. They care about the lifestyle they will gain from it. I’m here to tell you the lifestyle that you will gain from following the fundamentals is FAR better than the lifestyle you will gain from stupid exercises and machines; an injury-ridden and crippling life seeing the chiropractor.
Both increasing volume and increasing intensity focus on one thing: overloading your body with an increasingly tougher stimulus over time. Every time you overload your body, with increases in volume or increases in intensity, your body adapts and this is demonstrated physically with increases in muscle mass and/or strength. Lets first focus on increasing volume. When you increase volume over time this means that you are increasing one, or a combination of, the following:
+ the number of sets
+ the number of reps
+ the number of exercises
It doesn’t matter which one you increase because the outcome is still the same (more total volume), however, you know from previous blog posts that I’m all about sustainability and long term consistency so it makes much more sense to focus on increasing sets and reps rather than the number of exercises in your workouts. If you try increasing the number of exercises you’re doing you will run into problems when the gym is busy or a piece of equipment is broken (which inevitably happens from overuse!). So focus on increasing the number of sets you are doing and the number of reps you are doing. If you were doing 3 sets of bench press before then to apply progressive overload with your volume you should increase that to 4 sets of bench press. The same applies to increasing the number of reps too. If you were doing 10 reps for barbell squats last week then this week you should try to do 11 reps. The outcome of both is the same: increased overload for the muscle being trained which leads to more muscle mass and strength. Don’t overcomplicate it.
Secondly, increasing intensity requires you to increase the weight/resistance you are lifting. A lot of guys confuse the term ‘intensity’ with effort and how hard you are training in your workouts. Intensity is the weight/resistance you are lifting whilst effort is how close you are training to failure/muscular fatigue. I completely understand why people use these words interchangeably because in everyday dialogue we use the word ‘intensity’ to describe how we feel. We don’t use it to describe objective data such as how much weight you are lifting during a deadlift.
Increasing intensity requires you to simply keep adding weight over time to as many exercises as you can in your workout program. It’s that simple. Now for compound exercises, you will get stronger and therefore add weight, faster than you will be able to with isolation exercises. That’s not your lack of effort, that’s just purely due to the nature of the exercise you are doing and the fundamental difference between compound and isolation exercises; less muscle mass is being trained in isolation exercises which means you won’t be as strong on them. But don’t let this be an excuse for zero strength gains with isolation exercises. You should always be thinking to yourself in every workout, “Can I add weight in my next set?” whilst still keeping your technique good. This has to be your mindset if you want to get massive success with your workouts and your body.
If you’re adding weight as often as you can whilst keeping your technique on point, you will inevitably gain muscle and start to see results physically. Your shoulders will be rounder, your chest will be thicker, your arms bigger, your back stronger and your legs more powerful. You will be on the gains train and seeing results thick and fast.