What are the best workouts to gain muscle?
That is a great question. When it comes to writing their own workout, most trainees throw their hands in the air and instead of setting up something for their own needs blindly follow the routine of Mr. Instagram or use whatever machine is just open. Needless you say this will not lead you to the promised land. I developed a four point check list that will help you set up your own workout.
How much time do you to have to train?
This is where most people fail. If you can only dedicate two hours a week, you will not succeed with a five-day split.
Here is the break down
1. Two to three hours: perform a whole body workout each time you set foot into the gym
2. Four hours: train an upper lower split, meaning legs one day, the upper body the other day.
3. Five to six hours; you can train push, pull legs and then repeat the cycle.
Choosing exercises, part 1
The first thing that needs to be covered are your four basic movement patterns.
1. The Squat, possible exercises are the barbell squat, leg press, step up, all kinds of lunges, trap bar squats, squat machine and the cable squat.
2. Hip hinge. This would include the Romanian dead lift, cable deads, banded dead lift, good morning barbell and band, glute bridges, still legged dead lift
3. Push movements such as push up, bench press, shoulder press, military press, Arnold press, ahrens press, close grip press, California press, flyes and dips
3. Pull movements which could be the pull up, rows, lat pull down, single arm rows, barbell rows, chin up, shrugs and parallel grip pull ups/ downs.
Choosing exercises, the second
Now that you picked exercises from the pool above we must cover the strength curve. What is the strength curve it, basically tells ups that each muscle has three possible stations of being: contracted, mid range ( which is the strongest phase) and stretched.
Why is that important?
because we usually only train the mid range since that is the strongest part which leaves some potential gains on the table and also creates an unhealthy, muscle bound and prone to injury physique
Exercise ideas ; for stretch: flyes for chest, pull overs for beck, superman presses for the delts, incline curl for biceps, overhead extension for triceps, sissy squats for quads and stiff legged deads with the toes elevated for the hamstrings.
Midrange: those are your power exercises such as the squat and leg press for the squat workout, incline press and overhead press for the push day, rows, lat pull down for the pull day as well as good mornings and dead lifts for your hip[hinge.
Contraction exercises would be along the lines of leg extension for quads, hamstring curls for hamstrings, chest squeeze press for pecs, stiff arm pull downs for lats, ahrens press for shoulders, concentration curls for biceps and kickbacks for the triceps.
Prepare yourself for the workout
By now you have written a great workout but it won’t help if you are not ready to train. The usual ” 10 minutes treadmills and some lame stretches ” will not cut it!
A good warm up will:
- Provide a dynamic stretch for the target muscle
- and optimize the force-couple relationships to set you up
- for a high output workout
- and keep you out of injuries
How to go about it? I prefer a three layered plan of attack,
1. GET RID OF TRIGGER POINTS
Trigger points are tiny nodules in the muscle which can cause referred pain and hamper performances by obstructing blood flow and limiting range of motion. You get rid of those nasty little suckers This is done by foam rolling in order to get an active release and in turn, your body will be able move as it needs to. Yes, it hurts but surgery and rehab will hurt much more. Here are the target muscles you need to roll out:
- Soleus and Gastronomeicus
- Anterior delt
- Glute minors and medium
You only have to live through that pain for five to 10 minutes!
2. CREATE LENGTH IN THE TARGET MUSCLE
Next point on the road map to gains!: in order to maximally engage the target muscle later on, train its antagonist muscle first. This creates length in the target muscle in the ways of dynamic stretching. Why not simply stretch the target muscle?
Glad you asked ! Because this weakens the target muscle by 30 % and makes you more likely to get injured!
Here are some possible pairings of the target muscles and the exercises that would work as a dynamic stretch:
- Chest: seated cable rows
- Back: chest press
- Biceps: triceps press downs at the cable,single arm preferred
- Triceps: incline dumbbell curls
- Hamstrings: leg extensions
- Quadriceps: leg curls
3. MAXIMIZE NEURAL OUTPUT, AKA GET YOUR CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM READY
Before you chase your dream physique., pick one exercise that sets you up with an optimal mind-muscle connection with your target muscle for the upcoming workout. Here are my favorite exercises for this particular task:
- Chest: feel flyes on the cable or kneeling cable presses where you squeeze the handles hard
- Back: flex dead lifts, dead lift performed with dumbbells where you drive the dumbbells next to the body thereby creating tension in the lats An alternate would be the stiff arm pull down with a long rope, squeeze at bottom position
- Shoulders: either a light clean and press or the superman press
- Quadriceps: light leg extensions
- Hamstrings: single leg curls with an outward intention
- Triceps : dumbbell kickbacks, only lean slightly forward
- Biceps: slow cable
In order to create the best workouts to gain muscle you need to check several boxes.
1. Figure out your split by allocating time to train
2. Pick exercises from each movement group
3. Make sure you cover all aspects of the strength curve, here is a sample workout!
4. Apply a smart warm up to be ready to train at the highest possible level.