Exercise Tutorials, Healthy Lifestyle, Personal Training Tips

The 10 Keys to Building Muscle

Whether you just want to tone up or get huge, muscular development is going to play a role in the lean look you want.

Beyond aesthetics, muscle mass can provide increased strength, enhanced confidence, extend your life, and offers many more benefits that are still being uncovered by science today.

Plus, it’s exciting and fulfilling to transform your body through consistent effort over time.

How long have you been trying to grow muscle?
Some of the people who have come to me for help have spent years spinning their training wheels—
with little to no results to show for it!

If you’re stuck with sub-par results, I can understand your frustration.
The methods for building muscle can seem confusing and overwhelming.
Everywhere you turn, there's a novel technique or supplement that claims to possess the hidden secret that you’re missing out on.

I feel your pain. I’ve been stuck in the same trap too, always looking for the missing link.
The truth is, you just have to focus on the key fundamentals.

Building muscle will happen if you follow these 10 keys:

  1. ​Volume
  2. Intensity
  3. Progression
  4. Nutrition
  5. Recovery
  6. Variety
  7. Range of Motion
  8. Consistency
  9. Prioritization
  10. Patience

1. Volume

The most important piece of the "muscle-building puzzle" is volume.

Let’s define volume as Sets x Reps x Weight placed on a muscle group. With all things held constant, more volume equals more muscular development.

So how much volume? A good rule of thumb is about 60-120 reps per week, per muscle group.

There are countless ways to program your training. If you are putting increased volume on the muscle, you are setting the stage for growth. This is the first variable you should increase if you aren’t seeing development you want.

2. Intensity

While not as critical as volume, intensity is also an important factor.

Intensity is the “heaviness” of a weight. Intensity is measured as a relative to your maximum. You can still build muscle at lower intensities, but you’ll sacrifice strength gains in the process. Who wants to be all show and no go?

If you want strength and performance as well as aesthetics, then intensity is important. Aim for most of your volume to be in the 70% of 1 rep maximum or higher.

Getting stronger while building muscle allows you to lift heavier loads over time, allowing you to progress both your volume and intensity in the long run.

3. Progression

Getting results is a function of adaptation. Your body responds to the stimuli you expose it to. As you repeatedly train, the same stimuli will gradually stop producing results due to the accumulated adaptation. To fix this, you must increase your training volume and intensity over time.

In other words, to keep making progress you must keep adding weight, reps, or sets to your training program.

4. Nutrition

It’s as simple as this: you’ve got to eat to grow.

The question is what to eat and how much? The greater your caloric intake, the easier it will be to grow muscle. But the same also applies to body fat. The more you eat, the more body fat you will put on.

The key is finding the right balance of calories and macro-nutrients.
Here’s my go-to daily minimum macro-nutrient split for optimal muscle building:

· Protein: .8-1g per pound of body weight

· Carbohydrate: greater than 1.4g per pound of body weight

· Fat: greater than .45g per pound of body weight

Regarding daily calories, a good minimum estimation would be about 13 times your body weight. A big factor here is your metabolic rate—If you are highly active you will need to eat more to provide your body the resources it needs to build muscle.

5. Recovery

You don’t grow in the gym. Your gains come after recovering from your training. Nutrition plays a huge role in recovery, and so do sleep and relaxation.

Hormone management is critical for optimal muscle development. If you’re grinding yourself down with a high stress lifestyle, your cortisol levels will be chronically high.

Cortisol is not an anabolic hormone. In fact, it is a catabolic hormone. It can blunt testosterone production, pack on belly fat, break down muscle, negatively affect your mood, and cause water retention which makes you look puffy.

The best way to combat stress and fatigue is resting! 7-8 hours of sleep per night is key. Also, incorporating stress reduction techniques like meditation and lifestyle prioritization will help here.

Additionally, proper programming to allow your muscles to recover between workouts is important.

6. Variety

Hitting muscle groups at different angles with a variety of movements can help trigger muscle growth. Most muscles have multiple heads—meaning that the angle at which you move, will affect how the muscle contracts and adapts.

Incorporate a variety of movements at different angles so you can hit all the heads of your muscles.

7. Range of Motion

The longer the range of motion you take a joint and its muscles through, the more effective the growth and strength stimulus will generally be.

Additionally, the more stretch a muscle receives, the more potent growth response it can create. One technique that may be useful is to stretch out a muscle after getting it stimulated and pumped up.

One caveat: make sure you are staying within the appropriate range for the joint. Going too far can cause injuries—which will prevent you from training and interfere with your consistency.

8. Consistency

After a training bout, your body increases protein synthesis (read: muscle building) for about 24-36 hours. After this period, the gains stop and if not re-stimulated soon, your body will regress back to baseline.

In other words, you must be consistent—on a daily and weekly basis—with your training. I recommend a minimum of 2 sessions per week per muscle group. You can go up to 3 times per week per muscle group.

Higher training frequencies also allow you to increase the volume or intensity per week while facilitating recovery. This is due to less training volume per workout, but more total volume accumulated over more workouts.

9. Prioritization

You can’t maximally grow every part of your body simultaneously. Your body has finite resources and recovery ability.

This means that it’s smart to target 1-3 specific body parts you want to develop at a time. Stick with this priority and track your progress for about 4-6 weeks. Afterward, assess your gains and decide if you want to continue to double down or switch to new body parts.

Try this: place about 50% more reps on the muscle groups you want to prioritize.

10. Patience

Transforming your physique takes time. More time than most people realize. Pro-athletes, cover models, and bodybuilders have put years—even decades—into their training.

If you want lean gains, then the process is even slower. Remember the faster you put on mass, the higher percentage of it will be body fat. There is a lot of merit to taking a slow and steady approach.

Don’t let this discourage you! You can see measurable and visual progress in weeks and months. However, significant change requires significant time and effort. You’ve just got to do the damn work!

Summary

These 10 keys to muscle building are fundamental. Miss one and hinder your progress. Optimize them all and the gains will come over time

Physical training is a lifestyle. Use these keys to put your body on the path to muscular gains and you’ll be glad you did.

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Matt McLaughlin

Matt is the owner of Capital Strength & Conditioning. Utilizing his skill set in strength training, movement, nutrition, and lifestyle design; he helps his clients build the best version of themselves.