Have you ever wondered what makes a training plan effective? Perhaps it is the exercise selection? Or maybe the overall structure of each workout? Or what if it is the training frequency and volume you are doing?
These are essential factors, and you should pay some attention to them. But there are five things you need to be mindful of each time you are at the gym. Let’s see what these are.
The five crucial Factors in optimal Muscle Gain
1. Quality Repetitions
The repetitions you do are what make up each workout. One by one, they add up and determine how good or bad your workouts are. You can think of them as the individual steps you need to take to go from the start of a workout to its end.
One of the best ways to grow better is to take care of your repetition quality. More specifically:
- Do each repetition with a full range of motion
- Do each repetition smoothly and with complete control of the weight
- Feel the right muscles working at all times
These might seem simple, but you would be surprised how many people never think twice about them. Why? Because they are simple but take consistent effort to pull off.
2. Proper Breathing
Be honest: How often do you pay attention to your breathing while training? Unfortunately, if you are like most people, that does not happen often. But here is the thing: While seemingly trivial, your breathing can make a huge difference in your performance and ability to make good progress.
So, with each repetition, be mindful of your breathing. Breathe in as you initiate the repetition and out once you are past the halfway point and going back to the starting position. In and out. In and out. It is straightforward but not easy. Why? Because it takes effort and forces you to be mindful of the work you are doing.
3. Load Control
Have you ever found yourself halfway through a set and realizing that you are not in complete control of the weight you are using? Sure, you control it to a degree, but you feel unsure. This can be especially scary on exercises like the bench press.
Besides the apparent risk of injuries, not controlling the weights prevents you from making the most of your training. At some point, you will have to sacrifice something to keep doing repetitions, be it the range of motion, the smoothness of each repetition, or something else.
So, do yourself a favor and decrease the amount of weight you are using by five to ten percent for one workout. Chances are, you will find that you are much better able to control the weight, you will feel a lot safer, and you will be able to engage your muscles much more.
4. Muscle Contractions
Contrary to popular belief, there are three types of muscle contraction:
- Concentric - as the muscle shortens
- Eccentric - as the muscle lengthens
- Isometric - as the muscle maintains a static position
To make the most out of your training, you need to take advantage of all three contractions. This allows you to make each repetition as effective as possible. Think about it this way: If you only cared about lifting the weight but then let it drop to the starting position, you would be missing half the stimulus of each repetition.
So, lift weights mindfully. Lift them with care, maintain the top position for a moment, and lower them gradually each time. Make sure your muscles do the entire work all the time.
5. Plan, but learn to adjust
Have you ever found yourself putting together a training program, outlining it inside a phone app or workout journal, and going to the gym to execute it? Of course, you have. Who has not? Most people know what they want to do when they get to the gym, so getting a training program is a no-brainer. But let me ask you this:
Have you ever found yourself feeling bound by the training program? Not that the program is bad, but it cannot fully capture how you feel each day? This is because most training programs are rigid. Do this, do that, then do the other thing. Do this many reps here, that many sets, and these particular exercises. Then, once finished, go home to recover.
And sure, this is a good enough approach sometimes. But we all find ourselves feeling particularly good or bad on some days. For instance, you might feel particularly energized sometimes, and the workout might feel much easier to handle. Or you might feel particularly drained one day and feel like you can not do your workout as outlined.
In such cases, it would be better to adjust and learn how to listen to your body. Feel better than usual? Push yourself a bit harder. Feel particularly tired? There is no shame in doing a bit less.
Muscle Gain vs. Fat Loss: How each happens and when to pick one over the other
How Muscle Grows
Muscle growth is nothing more than a stress response from your body because working out shocks the body and disrupts homeostasis. As a result, your body responds by adapting to the stimulus to handle the same stress more effectively in the future. If you do a lot of running, you become more resilient; lift a lot of weight, and get stronger and more muscular.
Weight training is one of the best ways to train for muscle growth because the modality allows you to do a range of exercises, train each muscle group, and produce overload. In contrast, cardio activities are not that great for muscle gain because they mostly emphasize one or two muscle groups and do not provide the same growth stimulus.
Aside from training, you must recover well if you want to grow. Your muscles get larger and stronger during the recovery period, which occurs between workouts. You must give each muscle group at least 48 hours to recover before training it again.
Adequate sleep will also make a huge difference because that is when muscle protein synthesis occurs at the highest level. Most guidelines recommend sleeping for seven to nine hours per night.
Maintaining a slight calorie surplus and eating around 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight will make training adaptations possible. You can build muscle without gaining weight, but the process occurs more slowly, often making you feel like you are spinning your wheels.
How we lose Fat
Fat loss is similar to muscle gain because both take time, good tactics, and consistency. Both also share similarities like the necessity of consuming enough protein and practicing weight training. Optimal fat loss depends on several things:
- Protein - consuming around 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight
- Resistance training - two to four weekly sessions with an emphasis on heavy weights and progressive overload
- Calorie deficit - losing anywhere from 0.5 to 1 percent of your body weight each week
- Sleep - getting at least seven hours of sleep per night
Meal frequency, cardio, supplements, and other popular ideas can help, but it mostly comes down to improving your process and being consistent with the fundamentals.
What leads to Muscle Loss
Before wrapping up this post, it is important to share a few words on muscle loss and why it occurs. A significant cause of muscle loss is not practicing strength training or not doing it frequently and intensely enough. Lack of strength training prevents you from causing the adequate stimulus your muscles need to grow and develop.
The great thing about strength training is that you can pick from various methods and organize your training. Good options include the push/pull/legs, upper/lower, and body part splits. You can read more about these different fitness methods in our overview article.
Another reason for losing muscle is being active but focusing exclusively on cardio. For instance, when you look at the typical long-distance runner, the person is fit but typically has little to no muscle on their frame. The reason is that running does not cause an adequate growth stimulus and mostly targets your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Plus, cardio burns energy, making it more challenging to gain weight, which is necessary for optimal muscle gain.
The third common cause of muscle loss is inadequate protein intake. Consuming enough protein is crucial because the nutrient supplies your body with amino acids, promoting muscle recovery and developing individual muscle fibers. As a result, your muscles grow, provided you stimulate them with good training.
Growing muscle optimal can be a balancing act by consistent training, getting good and healthy food, and, what is often underestimated, getting enough sleep. While following these recommendations is easy when you are back home, it can be challenging when you are on the road. However, we got you covered. With our GymFactor tool, you can easily find hotels that take fitness seriously. These hotel gyms have the right equipment to help you maintain your fitness routine.