Want to Build Muscle? Check Your Ego at the Door
A lot of us who want to build muscle think that we have to lift as much as possible - slapping plate after plate on for a squat or benching until your arms explode.
We've all seen someone who cheats their form just a bit too much. Whether they are using momentum or half reps, the weight is too heavy to make a real difference. It's why you haven't grown as much as you could.
So in order for us to get the most out of our gains, we have to check our ego at the door... but what does that really mean?
Maybe you don't like properly warming up because benching the bar looks like a wuss. Do you get upset when you think someone is trying to "one-up" you? Do you throw an extra plate on as that cute chick walks by?
Your ego is going to push you into a plateau, sub-optimal training, and eventually injury. So if you aren't able to complete the exercise with great form, lower the weight.
The saying "quality over quantity" holds very true. It doesn't matter how much weight you are lifting — it matters how you are lifting it. If you aren't using muscles correctly or using momentum for a lift, you are short-changing your gains.
So in order to make some progress building muscle, you need to learn and use the proper form. Concentrating on every rep of every set teaches you the proper movement patterns and allows you to properly train the muscle.
I know it really sucks, but if you drop the weight down and perform the exercise correctly, you'll be lifting that weight properly in no time.
So here are five tips to build muscle.
Build Muscle With No Ego
1.) Use the Most Range of Motion
Cheat reps have their part in building muscle, but if you don't perform the exercise correctly at all, you are wasting your time. If you want maximum benefit from lifting, use the longest range of motion possible.
Making sure to stay in a safe range of motion, every lift should be completed so that your muscles get the best contraction and stretch. If you are doing curls, each rep should start at your quad and you should touch your front delt on the contraction. You don't have to actually touch it, but you get the point.
2.) Slow Your Tempo Down
Instead of unracking the bar and bouncing it off of your chest to get that rep in, slowing down your tempo puts more time under tension on your muscles.
Muscle building exercises need to be done in a controlled and well-planned manner. I'm all for banging some heavy weights around, but effectively building muscle takes a bit more attention.
Instead of completing the rep as fast as you can, count for a three-second eccentric phase, pause for 1 second, and then a count for three seconds on the concentric phase.
Lowering the weights and adding a tempo change will make a huge difference.
3.) Focus on the Peak Contraction of the Exercise
Every exercise targets a specific muscle or group of muscles. Focusing on the maximum contraction of the targeted muscle for an exercise is the key to getting the most out of your workout.
You want to keep as much blood as you can in the muscle so the harder you contract, the more blood your muscles will draw in. This is why bodybuilders like to "chase the pump."
Isolate those targeted muscles and make sure they are doing 100% of the work required for that exercise.
4.) Record Yourself or Get a Workout Partner
We all develop bad lifting habits over time — if we don't record ourselves or have a workout partner, we may never see what we may be doing wrong.
The best way to find out if you're performing an exercise correctly is to get a workout partner or find someone in the gym who is experienced. Not the guy who creeps on the girls, that dude in the corner that you never want to look at funny.
The other way is to record yourself — ideally from multiple angles. You can change the camera in between sets pretty easily.
5.) Eat Healthy and Eat Often
If you're going to follow through and start leaving your ego at the door, here are a couple tips on nutrition. You could train 5 days per week and kill every workout, but if you don't have the proper amount of calories and protein in your diet, you are spinning your wheels.
Instead of the "three meals per day," try to make five smaller meals you can eat throughout the day. If you start planning to eat what your body needs versus filling your belly, you'll start to notice increased energy and a better body composition.
Eating more meals keeps our metabolism stoked and keeps our body fully stocked with nutrients throughout the day.
Many professionals all have different amounts of protein someone should eat if they are building muscle, but everybody is different. Most will tell you to eat one to two grams of protein per every pound of bodyweight... but if you are overweight, you don't need that much.
Start eating more quality foods, aim to eat a few more calories per day than you burn, and keep your form on point. Log your food, record your progress, and learn your body — it's the only way you'll achieve the body you want to achieve.