Have you ever done a program that utilized a certain method that worked really well for you and then switched programs and not seen any progress? The chances are that one of these principles got ignored.
Related: Fast Gains - A Quick Start Muscle Building Program
Don't let it happen again by ensuring your training abides by these five principles.
Follow These 5 Muscle Building Principles
Principle #1 - ClarityBefore you even begin to train you must be clear on what it is that you want to accomplish. What do you want, what is your goal?
Are you willing to spend the time and the energy to accomplish your goal? Why is your goal your goal? Is your goal realistic and reasonable for how much time and effort you have available?
These are all questions you must have clear answers for. That is why competitions can be so useful, they help to define your goals and bring clarity to your training. If it's a physique competition you have X-weeks to get as lean as possible while trying to hold as much mass as possible.
If you want to get stronger have you considered entering into a powerlifting competition with enough time to hit your goal levels of strength? Of course, you don't have to compete but, the point is to train with a purpose and be clear on what that purpose is.
Principle #2 - ProgressionWe have all seen the guy at the gym who does the same workout with the same weights on the same days at the same time. This is amazing consistency but, lacks the principle of progressive overload. He more than likely looks the same as he did when he started training which, may not be a bad thing if he has hit his strength and physique goals. However, if consistent gym guy wants to change his body in any way he will need some form of intelligent progression.
The goal for anyone who lifts weights should be progress in the gym. That means using more weight, doing more reps, decreasing rest in between sets, or switching to a harder variation of an exercise. There are numerous methods for planning your training to ensure progression this is commonly referred to as periodization by trainers and strength coaches.
Some popular periodized training programs include Jim Wendler's 5/3/1, Juggernaut Method, Brandon Lily's Cube Method, Matt Vincent's Strength Lab and many others. Bottom line, find a plan that focuses on long term progression then stick to it long enough to allow for your body to adapt.
Principle #3 - ConsistencyAre you ready for the real secret to achieving your strength and physique goals, the secret that makes all athletes great? The secret is consistency. They didn't quit. One of the biggest lies that is sold in the fitness industry is that you can achieve quick results with this program or that supplement or even worse this piece of mail order equipment.
The truth is that getting results is a grind and that all of the great athletes have dedicated their life to achieving the skills to obtain the physique that they have. It takes years of steady training in order to build a physique that turns heads.
This especially becomes true when an athlete moves from the beginner stage towards becoming advanced. Gains come much slower the more advanced a person gets and the amount of time that is necessary to advance to the next level becomes more significant.
Understand that consistency is the key to reaching your goals. Find a method of training that you enjoy because the more that you stick to a training method that facilitates proper progression the better your results will be. Stay consistent and remember that winners show up day in and day out for years.
Now you know the secret.
Principle #4 - Movements Before MusclesThe principle of training movements over muscles should be a no-brainer, but sometimes it gets overlooked. Prioritizing movements will produce the biggest training effect yielding better gains in size and strength as well as better coordination. This is especially important for those who have a busy schedule that doesn't allow for longer sessions in the gym.
Isolation exercises can be useful as assistance exercises to support strength gains in the larger movements, however they are secondary in importance to the main compound lifts. People do grow differently and need isolation/assistance exercises to stay balanced both from a strength standpoint as well as an aesthetic standpoint.
But prioritizing isolation exercises over compound movements is a mistake that can cause a lifter, especially a natural lifter, serious heartache. Organize your training sessions to start with big movements and end with one or two choice isolation exercises that will bring up lagging muscle groups.
Principle #5 - Specific VarietyIt has been said that, "variety is the spice of life." Variety can be a double-edged sword when it comes to training. Too much variety with your training and your body will never favorably adapt to the stress that you are subjecting it to and, too little variety will cause your body to stagnate and gains to come to a grinding halt.
So, where do you draw the line with variety and what areas of your workout should change to keep progressing?
The answer is probably a lot simpler than you think. It is possible to keep the main exercises in your training program the exact same and only vary the loads, tempo, and rep schemes to keep progressing and if you like having a relatively fixed program than you can effectively progress by changing these areas of your training only.
However, if this seems too boring for you and you need a little variety in the exercises that you are performing from month to month, make sure that you are picking exercises that follow the same movement pattern. An example of this would be switching from a conventional style deadlift to a sumo pull or trap-bar deadlift. These exercise are all a form of deadlift but different enough to maintain progress and keep things fresh mentally as well.
The same rules apply with squatting, pressing, and pulling movements as well. Keep to similar movement patterns and be specific with your variety, don't overhaul your workout program for variety's sake just pick out a couple of exercises to change and keep the structure the same to keep progressing. Remember you need to be consistent too.
Wrap UpThere are many methods of training that work because they follow the same principles. Don't get wrapped up in searching for the perfect method because there is no one method that works best for everyone.
Stick to these principles with your training and you will not go wrong. Be clear on your training goals, stay consistent, ensure that you are constantly progressing, prioritize movements before muscles, and be specific with your variety. Stay motivated and remember, "NOTHING WORKS UNLESS YOU DO!"