Summer is normally shredding season, but if you're stuck at home, maybe it's time to flip the script and pursue your muscle-building goals. If you want to start putting on some serious size, the name of the game is hypertrophy, and the best way to stimulate it is by doing resistance exercises, which may include added weight.
When you've hit a plateau or you want to shift your muscle growth into overdrive, it's time to dig deeper with tools and strategies you may not ordinarily think about. Here are the top three essential tricks for triggering insane muscle gains.
1. Mind to Muscle
First up, you must build a mind-muscle connection. I cannot stress this enough as it is one of the most fundamental principles of muscle building.
Whenever I am training clients, I sound like a broken record, reminding them to visualize the working muscle as it moves through the exercise—and I'm not the only one who is a big proponent of stressing the mind-muscle connection. Bodybuilding legend Dorian Yates, for example, hammers it into the head of anyone who steps into his gym.
Want to make the mind-muscle connection? Try this:
- Using light weight, move through exercises with a lifting tempo of 3/1/4 seconds in the concentric/isometric/eccentric phases.
- Lift in front of a mirror and watch the muscle as it moves.
- Visualize the muscle moving as you exercise.
2. Squeeze Until It Hurts
No matter the exercise you are performing, it isn't enough just to acknowledge that the muscle is moving. If you want to see growth, you need to contract the muscle fully.
When you squeeze the muscle, getting a full contraction, it forces the greatest workload on the muscle. If you do it on every repetition, you ensure that you get the maximum tearing of muscle fibers, which is what you want. The fibers recover and grow, triggering hypertrophy.
On every repetition of every exercise, visualize the muscle working and squeeze it as hard as you can throughout the rep.
For example, when you're performing a biceps curl, squeeze the handle of the dumbbell as hard as possible. Keep squeezing as you slowly move the dumbbell up toward your shoulder. Pump the biceps at the top and then slowly descend. Do this on every repetition. Yes, it's going to burn. Push through it.
3. Try Negatives
Negative training is an excellent lifting methodology that you can do with a partner. Basically, you perform only the negative portion of the lift. Studies show that performing the eccentric portion of the exercise can trigger greater hypertrophy than the lifting, or concentric, phase. Depending on the exercise, you may need two lifting partners, so don't be shy. Call over someone else in the weight room to give you both a hand.
To perform negatives, use a weight that is around 150-200 percent of your one-repetition maximum. For example, if your one-rep max for the bench press is 100 pounds, you would load 150-200 pounds on the barbell. Position yourself on the bench, and your partners will do the work as you lift the barbell safely. Once they confirm that you have control of the barbell, they will let you lower it until it nears your chest, at which point they will lift the bar back up. Repeat this process.
- Roig, M., O'Brien, K., Kirk, G., Murray, R., McKinnon, P., Shadgan, B., & Reid, W. D. (2009). The effects of eccentric versus concentric resistance training on muscle strength and mass in healthy adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(8), 556-68.