While it is, of course, vitally important to master the basics first, there are some extra little tips that you can apply to boost your muscle building efforts.
If you are having a hard time building muscle or progress is slower than you would like, then by applying these tips, you can potentially fix some key limitations and speed up growth.
This article is going to teach you some unique tips that go beyond the typical and most important aspects such as diet, training, protein and calorie intake, training frequency, intensity, etc.
Here are 7 muscle building tips you never knew existed…
1. Train Twice a Day
Twice daily training is popular in a lot of sports. However, apart from the combo of a cardio session and a weight session, it isn’t really applied in bodybuilding.
By splitting up your weight training twice a day, you can quickly increase training intensity as you are fresher for both sessions. There are numerous other benefits in training twice a day. These include:
- Increased training volume: Training twice a day allows you to not only train harder, performing each set better, but, also allows for more total training volume per session. Most people’s sessions will tend to last an hour but if you were to do two 45-minute sessions, you would be getting an extra 50% volume which alone could totally charge your muscle growth.
- Improved hormones: One of the big issues with once a day training is the limitation of volume within that session. Most people will become fatigued after around an hour and those that do extended 90 or 100-minute sessions may actually negatively impact their testosterone to cortisol ratio. By splitting your training into two sessions a day, you can rest in between, get plenty of nutrients, and not be forced to do extremely long sessions where cortisol may increase and recovery will be impaired.
- Improve nutrient partitioning: It is well known that a heavy weight training session improves carbohydrate tolerance for around four to six hours after the workout. This is due to GLUT 4 mobilization at the muscle cell and allows you to pull more carbs and amino acids into your muscles for growth and recovery. These improvements can last 4 – 6 hours after a workout. Therefore, if you were to train twice a day, with around six hours or more between sessions, you can quickly see how you would improve nutrient partitioning for up to a 12-hour window or the whole day. This allows for more food and better delivery of that food with improved insulin sensitivity and therefore, greater recovery and growth.
- Higher frequency: I’ve discussed the importance of training frequency on numerous occasions. In short, more frequency tends to equal much faster muscle growth. By training twice a day, you can easily increase your training frequency as you simply have more sessions per week. Best of all, this can be performed without impairments to your workouts which may occur from having to superset muscle groups or from doing extended sessions where fatigue may kick in and limit your output on the second muscle group.
As you can see, there are many benefits from training twice a day. The biggest issue is recovery from all the extra work and training so before you dive into this, all aspects of your nutrition, sleep, recovery and hormones must be optimized.
I am not recommending you train twice a day, every day. However simply adding in two or three twice-a-day sessions per week can have amazing results. If you can’t easily access a gym twice daily, you can even perform an arm workout at home or even just use German volume training on exercises such as pull-ups, press ups and other movements at home.
There are lots of ways to make it work if you want and this is probably one of the quickest and most under-used strategies for speeding up muscle growth.
2. Sleep More
While we all know a normal good night’s sleep is vitally important, extra hard training may warrant even more sleep at night or in the day.
If you are currently not getting eight full hours of sleep per night, then this would obviously be the first issue to address. If, however, you are achieving this already, then adding in extra sleep on the weekends or even the odd short nap (such as a 30-minute sleep) during the day can help with recovery and help you boost your muscle growth. These extra naps become even more important if you are up very early for work or are often tired in day-to-day life.
The use of sleep aids and optimizing your sleep environment (i.e. bedroom) is also a great strategy. I’ve discussed ways to improve sleep HERE and specific supplements such as 5-HTP or Melatonin (Check with your doctor first) could improve sleep and even increase growth hormone levels during the night which play a key role in recovery.
3. Amino Spiking
Most bodybuilders heavily rely on branched-chained amino acids (BCAA) incorrectly. Apart from expensive flavored water, most of the time the BCAAs you’re sipping down probably have no effect. In actual fact, if you follow the strategy below, you could have some research proven benefits rather than just wasting your money.
While most people tend to take BCAAs with meals, sipping them throughout the day, or as part of their workout and nutrition routine, most of the time these will have no effect as they are already eating a very high protein diet and therefore, having more than enough BCAAs constantly floating around in their bloodstream.
Remember, even just 30 grams of a high quality protein source such as whey, meat, or fish contains the same amount of BCAAs as in an average supplement scoop. Therefore, adding more has been shown to provide no additional benefit.
Instead, there has been some impressive research on BCAA spiking and I’ve used this successfully. BCAA spiking has been shown to re-stimulate muscle protein synthesis when it starts to decline two to three hours after a large meal.
It is very simple to implement and all you need to do is add in around 5 to 10 grams of BCAA with around 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates in between your main meals. This may provide an extra boost and signal to your cells, re-initiating muscle protein synthesis, the key mechanism behind laying down your muscle tissue.
If, for example, you eat every four hours, you would take the BCAAs and a small amount of carbohydrates such as a piece of fruit in the middle, around the two-hour mark.
4. Decreasing Energy Expenditure
You will rarely ever see me write or recommend decreasing energy expenditure. However, in certain cases for hardgainers, it may help.
The type of energy expenditure I am discussing here is NEAT, [non-exercise activity thermogenesis], which describes all forms of exercise apart from your main workouts.
NEAT has actually been important in helping people maintain weight and the decline in NEAT could even be a main cause of obesity so I’m not recommending this if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain weight. However, if you are a very lean hardgainer that simply struggles to add mass, then by decreasing your NEAT for a short period of time, you can quickly decrease energy expenditure and increase your energy surplus.
There are several ways to do this and most basically it means becoming lazy.
For example, park closer to the shops, take the elevator rather than the stairs, walk less, drive to the gym, and even just maintaining a warm body temperature so you don’t burn calories or muscle glycogen trying to insulate and heat your own body can help.
5. Snack More
One of the other biggest issues for hardgainers is simply getting more energy in to feed growth, recovery
I’ve already discussed above how you can quickly decrease energy output. Then, on the other side of the calorie or energy balance equation, is of course energy in. Comparing the two, you probably can have more of a say and impact on your energy input as ultimately your energy output is set to a certain extent (i.e. must train and burn calories) and your body will also burn 2000 to 3000 calories per day just to survive and for basic metabolic processes.
However, when it comes to energy intake, you can obviously manipulate this by going from the extreme of eating nothing to the extremes of hardcore bulking, eating 5000 or 6000 calories a day. Of course, either of these extremes probably aren’t great, finding a sensible balance that reflects your goals is key.
In the case of bulking up or hardgainers, that balance obviously revolves around being in a big enough surplus to see decent mass gains while not going over the top and just storing lots of excess fat or becoming insulin resistant.
Apart from following a good diet plan and getting lots of nutritious but calorie dense meals in per day, one of the simplest strategies to increase your energy intake is to eat more healthy nutrient- and calorie-dense snacks. Here’s a list of snacks I recommend and by just adding in one of these a day, you could quickly increase your total calorie intake by 400 or 500 and get in that much needed energy surplus.
- Dried fruit and nuts with BCAAs: As discussed above, one great strategy is to take in a good portion of fruit and nuts with your BCAA spike between meals. Dried fruits and nuts are very calorie dense and I often instruct people to limit them when trying to diet or lose weight. However, for gaining weight, they can be exactly what you need. Try taking 2 ounces or around 50 grams of nuts along with around 1 ounce or 30 grams of dried fruit.
- Protein smoothies: You can easily make some highly nutritious yet energy dense protein smoothies that you can sip on between meals or take as a snack at some point in the day. Try combining more energy and nutrient dense foods into that smoothie such as avocado (don’t worry, it tastes good), banana, milk, chocolate milk, protein powder, peanut oil or other nut butters, seeds, other fruits, cottage cheese, or natural yogurt.
- Chocolate milk: Again, I often recommend that people avoid chocolate milk as it is very calorie dense and full of sugar. However, for those trying to gain weight and in desperate need of more calories per day, it’s the perfect answer. Not only does it taste great, it’s cheap to buy and doesn’t fill you up too much (so you can still eat your main meals). It’s also full of highly nutritious milk proteins which have a great combination of both whey and casein. If in the U.S., try to buy Fairlife 2% chocolate milk which is ultra-filtered with extra protein. If outside of the U.S., try to buy high protein, natural chocolate milk.
- Apple and peanut butter: Another great combo is combining sliced apple with protein peanut butter such as “Nuts ‘N More” or “Buff Bake.” These can also work great as a snack in between meals along with some BCAAs or just as a snack at any time of the day. As you know, nut butters contain a good amount of healthy fats and they’re calorie dense. However, the added protein will also help you increase your daily protein intake and add more muscle.
- Weight-gainer shake: Another very simple and cost effective strategy is simply taking two or three scoops (300 to 500 calories worth) of a weight-gainer shake which contains high quality protein, plenty of carbohydrates, and tends to be digested fairly easily so that it doesn’t fill you up or limit your whole food intake.
Try adding in one of these snacks per day at any period when you’ve going a while without food or maybe pre-bed. If you do this and still struggle to add weight, and are confident your training and recovery are on point, adding in a second snack per day may just give you the calorie budget you need to lay down new muscle.
6. Join the Home Workout Crew
Although it sounds strange, performing a couple of home workouts per week can be an extremely effective strategy that I’ve used myself with lots of clients.
It provides many of the benefits discussed at the start like training twice a day but is a little more achievable for most people. It works particularly well for all muscle groups as long as you have the necessary equipment to overload them.
Please note, we are not talking about silly bodyweight or aerobic workouts that really have no benefit or very little benefit for muscle growth. I am discussing adding in high intensity weight training just like you would do at the gym.
It doesn’t need to be anything extremely complex, requiring a ton of expensive equipment, or take up hours of your day. Pick one muscle group per month that you really want to bring up and just add in three 30-minute home sessions per week.
For 90 minutes extra work per week, I can almost guarantee that you’ll see very noticeable and fast results for that muscle group by the end of the month. Here are the exercises I recommend for each muscle that can be performed simply at home:
- Arms: 10×10 – Dumbbell or barbell, bicep curl supersetted with lying dumbbell tricep extensions.
- Back: 10×10 – Flat or neutral grip pull up. You can easily pick up a pull-up bar for your door or perform bent over rows or single arm rows if you have barbells/dumbbells but no pull-up bar.
- Chest: 10×10 – Dumbbell or barbell bench press if you have a bench at home. If not, try incline push-ups with your feet on a chair and if needed, have someone hold a weight-plate on your back to provide sufficient intensity and overload the muscle.
- Quads: 10×10 – Perform front squats, back squats, or walking lunges with either a barbell or dumbbell.
- Hamstrings: 10×10 – Barbell or dumbbell, RDL/stiff leg deadlift.
Remember to add these in, in addition to your normal workout days, either performing them on rest days or away from the main workout.
7. Ensure the Basics Are In Place First
The most important part of all this is that you’re mastering the basics first.
While you may be nodding your head saying you are, after working for nearly a decade with over 500 clients (including many top bodybuilders or advanced bodybuilders), I rarely ever come across someone that couldn’t be improving some aspect of their basic training, diet or recovery.
While it may be hard to admit that you could be optimizing more basic elements first, by taking a step back and putting your ego aside, you could turbo charge your results and see much greater gains.
Hundreds of people are adding large amounts of muscle mass using my 20-week scientific mass builder which helps you master all the fundamental and most important parts of muscle growth while also leading you on to many advanced aspects that you would never even touch or consider.
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