You've been under the bar for a while, but you're a little disappointed—you haven't built the size or achieved the shape you so desperately want. Your chest could be wider. Your back could be thicker. You could have more defined shoulder caps and a sharper biceps peak. What you need, my friend, are some tweaks.
Strength and size training have many similarities, but there are some particular things you can do to get the most from your hypertrophy workouts. Try these eight tips to build muscle, shape, and density.
To do a superset, pair two exercises and perform them back-to-back with no rest in between. It's best to do supersets with antagonist muscles like the biceps and triceps, or quads and hamstrings. Supersets are great for increasing muscle size because they enhance the release of testosterone, which is key to building muscle.
Supersets also enhance hypertrophy because they represent a higher-intensity workout. Your muscles have to adapt to the extra sets and low rest. Because they're working so hard, your muscles must adapt. Often, that adaptation is increased size.
You can superset compound exercises, but compound movements aren't always best for getting that refined, defined look. They're good for strength and mass, but if you're trying to build a bodybuilder body, use isolation movements.
Finishing your workout with high-rep isolation movements like biceps curls, triceps extensions, lateral raises, leg extensions, or hamstring curls is a great way to increase the overall blood flow to your muscles. This pump will give you a more defined appearance while you lift, but it also helps bring the necessary muscle-building nutrients to your muscles.
Doing high repetitions causes glycogen depletion during the workout. Your body will compensate for this by increasing the amount of glycogen stores in the muscles. This, in turn, will enable you to perform at a higher level next time around. Eventually, you will be able to store more muscle glycogen, which can further increase your size.
Supplements designed to be taken before a workout have transformed over the years. Some of the best ones are all-encompassing cocktails that will help you maximize your muscularity. Most supplements in this category focus on the effects from stimulants that will knock your socks off. If they help you focus and train harder, then these cognitive enhancers can be a huge advantage to your training session.
In addition to helping you get in the zone, most pre-workout products also include ingredients that will directly affect your muscles and reduce fatigue. This usually includes creatine, which supplies the phosphate needed to fuel your anaerobic activities in the gym, not to mention directly increasing muscle volume (making you look fuller).
Anything you do to force your body to do more work over a shorter period of time is going to boost your muscularity. Your body will have to adapt to doing more work in less time. Like supersets, rest reduction pushes a lot of blood through your working muscles.
Decreasing your rest periods during workouts will increase vascularity and spike your metabolic rate. A faster metabolism means that even after the session is over, you'll have an increased capacity to burn fat and calories. One secret to looking bigger is carrying less body fat.
Rest for 30-60 seconds between sets. As you fatigue, pay special attention to using good form.
When you reach failure during a normal set, the recruited muscle fibers are too fatigued to move the load. However, this doesn't mean they're totally zapped. Any technique you use to extend the set by immediately reducing the load will continue to train even tired muscle fibers.
To do dropsets, perform one set using your standard weight. Immediately after you've finished the set, drop the weight by five pounds and do another set. Once both are finished, drop the weight one more time and then perform a third and final set.
Dropsets are great as a finisher. Do them right and you might have to peel yourself off the gym floor.
Generally speaking, endurance athletes and strength/hypertrophy athletes are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Few people can master both, and asking your body to adapt to two stimuli that have opposite needs may be too much. If you are still unsure, compare the physiques of marathon runners to that of their short-distance-sprinting peers.
Intense cardio sessions like HIIT are well-suited for maintaining muscularity. If you'd like to implement cardio into your training routine, intervals are probably your best bet. This type of training will provide the base of your metabolic conditioning without robbing you of your muscularity.
And don't worry, data has demonstrated that training at distances as short as 400 meters can improve mile times. Avoid steady-state cardio—it's not going to help you gain size.
When it comes to hypertrophy, volume is important. Extending your sets for as long as possible causes your body to continuously use fuel and constantly recruit new muscle fibers to help the fatigued ones. Involving more motor units in each set can improve your muscularity.
Furthermore, increasing your time under tension will temporarily increase the fluid surrounding the muscle cells, giving you a full look.
To increase your time under tension, do dropsets, decrease your rest time, try burn-outs, increase the number of sets or reps, or do movements more slowly.
Train hard while you are in the gym, but don't hamstring your progress by overtraining, under-eating, or under-resting. If you can't muster the same strength, energy, and intensity from workout to workout, it might mean you need to take more time between training sessions.
If your muscles don't get proper rest, you can't hope for that muscularity. They need time to recover and grow. Build your body with ample food and adequate sleep. Without enough rest, you simply won't gain size.