So you want to build muscle?
Good! You've come to the right place. The purpose of this blog is demystify how working out actually builds muscle. This way you can make better decisions about how you train. If you do strength training you probably already use these techniques and didn't even know it!
Technique #1: Lift heavy
Cause and effect. It's one of the first lessons you learn about in science class. It also happens in your body.
Your muscle is developed as a response to a stress. There are different types of stress that we can inflict to cause hypertrophy (bigger muscles) but the first one we are going to focus on is mechanical tension.
Mechanical tension is simply how much force is being transmitted through your muscle and soft tissues. When your muscles are engaged tension builds and they respond by increasing anabolic processes through different hormones. With the correct nutrition and recovery this will cause your muscles to grow.
Typically force increases as the load does. This is why it's important to lift heavy. You will create much more mechanical tension squatting 200 pound than you will 100 pounds. To take full advantage of this mechanism use about 90% of your one repetition maximum with small sets.
Front Squat @ 90% of 1 Rep Max
2 Repetitions x 4 Sets
2:00 Minute Rest Period
Technique #2: THE PUMP
The second technique corresponds with a separate mechanism for stimulating growth: metabolic stress. When you exercise at high intensities until fatigue of time you build up metabolic waste in your muscle (think lactic acid). Your muscles can sense this and in response produce anabolic response just like in technique #1. The more waste, the bigger the stress, the larger the muscle building response.
You can take advantage of this technique by performing higher repetitions of a certain exercise or fatiguing certain muscles with multiple continuous exercises. Doing this causes the muscles to swell, which bodybuilders refer to as "the pump." Pair high repetitions with a shorter rest period to create an even more exaggerated response.
Bench Press @ 65% of 1 Rep Max
12 Repetitions x 4 Sets
Paired With Push Ups
15 Repetitions x 4 Sets
60 Second Rest Period
Technique #3: Negatives
The final technique deals with actual physical damage. When muscles are put under tension and stressed they incur mechanical damage. Similar to the response of a cut or bruise the body sends cells to help patch up the area and make it stronger.
The best way to take advantage of this muscle building response is to use eccentric muscle contractions. Eccentric contractions are performed when a muscle is activated while getting longer. Think about slowly bringing down a barbell after a deadlift. This slow tempo coming down causes microtrauma within the tissue which ultimately signals the body to start repairing the muscle.
It should also be noted that even though this is a fantastic method to develop muscle, it can increase soreness. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) typically occurs a day or two after a workout involving slow lengthening of the muscle. Sometimes the soreness is very minor, but other times it can be severe and last for days. Gradually increase the tempo and load to decrease the risk of DOMS.
Deadlift @ 80% of 1 Rep Max
6 Repetitions x 4 Sets
5 Second Lowering Phase During Each Repetition
The Take away
Every strength program and protocol comes back to three basic types of stress: mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and mechanical damage. They are extremely simple, but they work! This is why we use them in almost every workout at CrossFit Petram. We believe in building strong and well rounded athletes.
We continually challenge our members to get stronger through proven methods. Each workout is designed to keep our members working hard while keeping them safe.
Interested in learning more about building muscle? Click here to read the full study we used.