So you want to build muscle? It’s not as straightforward as just downing protein and lifting heavy.
To uncover the secret of how to get muscles, we need to release the right hormones for cell proliferation and muscle development – and to make this behind-the-scenes sequence happen, we need quality nutrition as well as progressive muscle overload through resistance work.
The best exercises to include in our workout regimen are explosive large muscle group exercises. Effective work of the glutes and quads, being the biggest muscle groups in the body, releasing the most testosterone, insulin type factor 1 and growth hormone, the three hormonal building blocks of muscle development.
The following three exercise supersets can be endlessly adapted to help build muscle faster. It should be noted that each of these exercises should be modified to suit any muscle weakness, asymmetries and competency level, and varied to ensure effective shocking of the body and ongoing muscle soreness.
You will not develop muscle if you are injured, so ensure you have the right technique and do not sacrifice technique for intensity.
Explosive Deadlifts (Or Cleans) With Box Jumps
Varying speed and time under tension to ensure fast twitch muscle fibre development is key in ensuring the muscle you develop is effective muscle. Adding plyometric exercises such as box jumps or hops is a great example of this.
Warm up your hips by undergoing some dead lifts at a light weight (30-50% of bodyweight). Following, begin your working set of deadlifts or cleans at 75% of your heaviest lift for 6 sets of 12 repetitions. Adjust the speed at which you eccentrically (the “down” phase) and concentrically (the “up” stage) contract your muscles. Slow on the down phase and explode up. This is a great way to ensure muscle development as well as mobility through your hamstrings.
Once you have finished your deadlift set, move into bodyweight box jumps (once you can move your legs again). This is a great conditioning exercise that builds fast twitch muscle fibres.
Weighted Chin Ups & Barbell Bent Over Rows
Whilst your lats, delts and arms are being fried from the chins, throwing a weight between the feet is a great way to maximise the work your abs and core is doing at the same time. If you can do chin ups before moving into a bent over row (with barbell), which effectively works the entirety of your posterior chain, you can effectively work all your back muscles and be sure to stress the body.
The chin ups should be from a dead hang (straight arms at the bottom) pulling until your shoulders or chest touch your thumbs and your entire head is above your hands. A good target to be able to hit is with a 5-10kg dumbbell held between the feet slightly in front of the body – 8-12 reps for 4 sets.
Military Press & Weighted Dips
Increasing your shoulder width is an effective way to look bigger, quicker, and it also helps with your other pressing lifts by having the triceps and chest as secondary movers.
The right technique however is often overlooked and leads to decreased range of movement and scapular instability, inhibiting strength and thus also size gains. Regressing this movement by reducing weight and ensuring full mobility of the shoulders by doing some repetitions with the bar coming down behind the head is key before loading this movement. We want a painless, manageable and smooth lifting motion, rather than a leg shaking, body compensating struggle.
Super-setting this shoulder press (military press) with a bodyweight dip is a great way to exhaust the triceps, shoulders and chest, and to do it safely.
BUT…It is not enough to simply do your resistance work and eat well. Both areas should be constantly monitored to ensure the body is being shocked enough to change, and constantly in the right environment to add muscle. In addition to nutrition and training quality, other factors that will affect your results are rest, consistency in matching your macros, stress levels and hydration.
Jordan Ponder is the founder of Transform Health in Sydney, Australia.