50 Ways to Not SUCK at Muscle Building
Consider this article to be my big book of secrets. A Cliff’s Notes version, if you will.
If you approached me in the gym and wanted the best possible advice on how to build muscle, this feature contains the sum of what I would tell you.
I’m not going to go into detail on each point. Any of this advice can easily be researched. Understand that I simply don’t have the space to flesh out each point. This article would turn into a book.
If you are interested in learning more about my training philosophies, please check out more of my articles here at Tiger Fitness. My book Massive Iron also contains detailed information on how to maximize any training system and EVERY workout. Don’t miss it.
I’ve been training for 30 years and coaching others for 10. Over the years I’ve helped an army of men and women build muscle. The following 50 tips sum up the bulk of my muscle building wisdom.
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50 Ways to Build More Muscle
1. Get your butt to the gym and stop making excuses. Quality results require consistency. Stop taking months away from the gym each year.
2. Get a lot stronger than you are now. There are no weak bodybuilders. While they may not “train for strength,” these lifters are still Herculean strong.
3. If you are weak, stop focusing on muscle confusion. Instead, confuse your muscles with heavier weight.
4. Start each workout off with a compound barbell or dumbbell movement. Work heavy when you are fresh. Move on to milder compound exercises, machines and isolation exercises after this point.
5. One of the best ways to build muscle is by maximizing sets. Push each set for as many reps as possible, stopping that set when you feel like you might fail on the next rep, or when your exercise form starts to slip.
8. Bench press.
9. Overhead press.
10. Don’t fear the big lifts. What you fear most in the gym will challenge you – and change you.
11. Remember that there are no magic workout routines. What program should you run? Pick a reputable training system that most motivates you to hit the gym. As long as a program is filled with quality exercise choices and has a reasonable progression scheme, you will grow.
12. The squat, deadlift and bench press are complex lifts that require ongoing form improvement and correction. Don’t just grab a barbell and go to town. Take time to read articles and watch video tutorials on proper form.
13. Don’t worry so much about weak spots. Instead, focus on making every body part from head to toe as big and as strong as possible. After you have spent years doing this, then your weaknesses will make themselves known.
14. Don’t place more emphasis on the chest than you do on your shoulders and back. This is a good way to develop shoulder girdle imbalances that can lead to injuries.
15. Learn to evolve your training based on needs. If 3 sets of an exercise don’t feel like enough, add a fourth. If 10-12 reps feel like too much for a set of a given exercise feel like too much, lower the rep range to 8-10. Evolving your training helps you to develop your own successful system rather than relying on the workouts of the “pros.”
16. Don’t obsess over finding the perfect exercise for each bodypart. Any reasonable exercise will serve you well. For example, I am often asked if barbell rows are a better choice than dumbbell rows. Both are quality options. Perform one or both.
17. Focus on quality sets rather than quantity. Odds are if you’re working hard and making every set count, you won’t want to add much more volume.
18. Stop using wimpy shoulder workouts. You need to do something more challenging that the typical bro shoulder session of Smith machine presses, front laterals and side laterals. Make sure to include one, or even two compound movements into your shoulder workout routine.
19. Most lifters do not need additional front delt work. The bench press and overhead press work the front delts hard. You rarely see small front delts on seasoned lifters. Instead of front delt work, add in rear delt work.
20. Avoid extremes, meaning extremely low or high amounts of sets or exercises.
21. Use straps or Versa Gripps on rows. At some point your back strength should overshadow your ability to hold a barbell or dumbbell. Never let grip strength prevent you from building back strength. If your grip is a weak point, train it after your heavy back work.
22. Listen to enough experts are you’ll likely “learn” that every exercise is dangerous and should be avoided. Try exercises for yourself, seek out form tips, and let personal experience be your primary guide.
23. Make every exercise in your program have a purpose.
24. Guessing at your daily protein and calorie intake is typically a fool’s game. While you do not need to count macros to build muscle, you do need to set some minimum intake levels to assure that you aren’t cutting your gains short.
25. To reduce the chance of injury, never perform reps at the expense of form. Progress using only quality reps. In the long run this will help stave off strains and pains, and keep your training more consistent.
26. Don’t pull the genetics card, or assume what you are capable of achieving. Even a lifter with poor genetics can achieve amazing results. Believe you are a hardgainer, and you will be a hardgainer.
27. You can’t keep your 8-pack abs while building a quality amount of muscle mass. Unless, of course, you are a genetic freak.
28. Don’t bulk too aggressively. Natural lifters can only build about 16 pounds of muscle (on average) during their first year of training. Each year thereafter this rate is cut in half. Gaining 40-50 pounds a year won’t increase this rate of gain, but it will make you fat.
29. A bulk without progressive overload is simply a fat gaining plan. Go hard after strength gains.
Understand that the muscle building process is BOTH an art and a science. You can’t be a slave to research at the expense of what your body is telling you.
30. Don’t underestimate pump training. There is a fair amount of science backing its ability to build muscle. Cap off a good workout with a finisher, or pumping work.
31. Listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry. If you are eating 90% whole, clean foods you will have a difficult time adding fat. Remember that an estimated calorie intake is just that. If you feel hungry, eat.
32. Cardio is performed after resistance training, on off days, or several hours before lifting. Cardio should never be performed right before lifting. Make sure your energy levels and focus are 100% when attacking the iron.
33. Get enough sleep and take naps when possible. Don’t underestimate the impact of sleep on recovery. While you can accomplish a lot on sub-par sleep, it’s always better to rest a little bit more.
34. if you want big arms, focus on your triceps. The triceps make up 2/3rds of your overall arm size. Biceps are cool, but triceps work helps you to really beef up your gun show arsenal.
35. Understand that programs are just starting points. Don’t abandon the program just because one or two small things don’t feel right. No workout routine will feel 100% perfect to 100% of lifters. It’s OK to make small changes based on needs.
36. Supplement with fish oil. Fish oil comes with plenty of research-backed benefits. The saying goes something like this: If it can’t be cured with fish oil and squats, you are probably going to die.
37. Set aside the foolish notion that muscle building is some complex formula that you must solve. Bodybuilding really comes down to consistency, progression, good exercise selection, listening to your body, and eating a proper amount of calories and protein.
38. Strains, aches and pains are part of the game and happen to everyone. Using them as an excuse to miss workout after workout is a cop-out. This doesn’t mean you should train like a fool either. Listen to your body and take what it gives you on any given day.
39. Know that bad workouts happen. There is no need to panic, reset or deload every time you have a bad day. You are on a long road. Look at long term progress rather that short term bad days.
40. Stop deloading every 4th week. It’s not required. In fact, it’s a colossal waste of time. Do you really think 13 light weeks each year each year is required for the trainees during their first several years in the gym? I don’t.
41. The mind-muscle connection isn’t going to help you much if you aren’t focused on progressive overload in some form or fashion.
42. Stop using the programs of advanced bodybuilders. Instead of worrying about how they train now, find out how they trained during their first several years in the gym when they made the majority of their gains.
43. Avoid claims of the lone wolf. If one coach or Youtube celebrity tells you “X is bad for you,” find out what other coaches are saying. stay educated and avoid extreme or fringe opinions.
44. Understand that the muscle building process is BOTH an art and a science. You can’t be a slave to research at the expense of what your body is telling you.
45. Just because someone is ripped doesn’t mean they are an expert bodybuilder. Fat loss is a whole different ball game. In addition, some guys are just genetically predispositioned to remain lean. Just because someone has mastered the art of remaining lean doesn’t mean they understand the muscle building process, or necessarily look big in person.
46. Squat above parallel and somewhere a puppy dies. Half or quarter squats are anterior chain dominant, and place an unwanted bad stress upon the knees. Snap city time.
47. Bodyweight exercises have their place. If they become too easy, add weight in the form of a dipping/chinning belt, weighted vest or back pack. You can also superset compound exercises with bodyweight movements. Next time you bench, immediately superset your presses with pushups. You’ll thank me.
48. The tag team of squats and leg presses are excellent quad builders. Don’t forget it.
49. Train for progress, not punishment. Your goal each day is to stimulate muscle growth, not to puke or beat yourself half to death in the gym. Hard work is not always smart or effective work. There is a difference between burning calories through movement and building muscle.
50. Never forget that that the muscle building process takes years, not weeks.