What is the first rule of muscle building?
Genetics. It plays a significant role in how easy it is for some people to gain weight.
But if you don't want to bet everything on winning the gene pool (which is neither my approach nor recommended), there's good news: Your body can pack on muscle. Actually, quite a bit, and there's a lot you can do to maximize how much you can build your body. That is if you are willing to accept a few undeniable facts about growth laws.
Rule #1: Muscle building is a science. To increase your chances of seeing results, stick to the basic principles of hypertrophy (more on that later).
Rule #2: Every body is unique. Two people on the same program can have very different outcomes. Some people can get jacked from bodyweight exercises, while others can get long, lean, defined muscles from dumbbells. This is an important reminder for people who imitate others' actions. You can choose to emulate the practices of the biggest guy or the fittest woman in the gym, but what works for them may not be the best for your body or may even violate rule number one. This leads to…
Rule #3: Knowledge is power. Science is an ongoing process, and new studies will always provide us with new questions to ponder. Use rules one and two to help you build the best program for your body, but keep in mind that we're constantly learning and improving our understanding of what works best.
What are the 3 laws of muscle gain?
Muscle tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage are the three primary mechanisms of muscle growth, according to exercise physiologist Brad Schoenfeld. All of these factors are frequently related to the amount of weight you lift. However, comparing powerlifters and bodybuilders demonstrates that this is not the case. Powerlifters are typically much stronger and can lift more weight, but bodybuilders, despite being weaker, appear significantly more muscular. That is one of the most important reasons why you should pay attention to how you lift weights.
Learning how to create muscle tension appears to drive all three factors, and it's probably the area where most people struggle to understand and execute in the gym. That is, simply lifting a weight and pushing for a specific number (say, bench pressing 225 pounds for one rep) isn't always the best way to build muscle. When you try to move a weight by any means possible, your form may fail, ligaments and joints may take on a greater load, and while you may get the job done, your muscles may not be carrying as much of the load as you want for growth.
So, how should you approach the situation differently? Rather than thinking about pushing or pulling a weight, try to imagine a full range of motion that creates constant tension on the working muscle. It is your responsibility to ensure that your muscles do not rest while performing reps. It's a constant process of stretching and squeezing the muscle.
While there is no hard and fast rule, stopping your lifts just short of lockout on the concentric portion (think of flexing your bicep) and then a little short of the “bottom” of the lift to maximize the stretch is a good place to start (when lowering the dumbbell or barbell to the point that you feel a stretch in your bicep, but not to where you lock out your elbow.). In other words, it is typically 90 percent of the range of motion on both ends, ensuring constant tension and a favorable environment for muscle growth.
Understanding tension makes it easier to apply the other muscle growth mechanisms. Metabolic stress is that “feeling” that you get when your muscles are exhausted. This process (which includes a lack of oxygen going to your muscles and metabolic byproducts like lactate building up along with blood) not only reminds you that you're working hard, but it also plays a role in hypertrophy. This is where the pump comes into play. Metabolic stress initiates a process that leads to your muscle cells being “turned on” for growth, potentially increased cellular swelling, and more water being drawn into the muscle cell.
Muscular damage can occur in a variety of ways. Lifting weights, in the most basic sense, causes damage (the good kind) that forces muscle to repair itself and grow back bigger and denser. However, once you've been weightlifting for a while, you'll need to find new ways to challenge your muscles if you want them to grow. The only way to keep causing that damage is to:
- Attempting to lift heavier weights.
- Trying something new and unusual (such as training a muscle from a different angle).
- Concentrating on the eccentric part of the lift.
- Stretching your muscles while they are active.
Lifters will have to become stronger by utilizing a variety of techniques, such as changing tempo (how fast you move the weight) or simply substituting in new exercises.
But, perhaps most importantly, all three aspects of muscle growth are interconnected. With heavier weights, muscle tension can cause fiber damage, allowing swelling and metabolic stress to occur. Muscle tension from lighter weights and more time under tension causes metabolic stress, in which blood cannot escape your muscles quickly enough, and promotes growth. Then, tension with a moderate weight for more reps or a variety of exercises sparks both metabolic reactions and damage. In other words, if you want to grow, you must consider the big picture and employ multiple strategies, rather than simply hoping that showing up to the gym will result in bigger biceps.
What do we get from this?
Remember rule number two, which states that everyone builds muscle in their own unique way? This is where customization comes into play. Some people may see incredible results by only lifting heavy weights, while others may see results by lifting moderate weight for more reps; however, if you want to really focus on muscle building — rather than just becoming stronger or being able to train harder — variety is your best friend.
The key is to focus on low (1-5), medium (6-12), and high (15+) rep ranges to ensure that you are activating all of the muscle growth processes. Because some exercises are better for building strength while others are better for creating tension or the pump, you'll want to include variety in your training plans. This does not imply changing up your workouts every day, but it does imply going through cycles in which you rotate your reps and movements.