Everyone wants to maximize their muscle gains, you put in the work now you want to see those results!
In this post, we are going to go through our thoughts on the best routine for muscle gains and it may not be what you think.
The best routine for muscle and strength gains is the one you can sustain long term.
To sustain your workouts long term, make them enjoyable! You can do this in a variety of ways. Set goals, listen to your favorite music or podcast, workout alone, in a group, or with your partner, and perform exercises you enjoy. Fitness will mean something different for everyone, some people want to gain as much muscle as possible, some want to have better mobility, health or become faster and more agile. In this post, we are going to assume you are interested in muscle gains.
Now we know we want to build muscle and it takes time, and the best way to stick to it long term is to enjoy it!
Consistency is the key to building muscle over time. A great way to stay consistent with your routine is to include exercises that you enjoy performing. This is very important, most people stop their routines after a few days or weeks and it is not their fault. They are most likely performing exercises they don't enjoy.
If you are not enjoying your workouts how long do you think you will stick to your routine?
Include exercises you enjoy performing
There are no mandatory exercises you have to perform to build muscle
Instead of thinking of exercises, start to think of movement patterns and figure out which exercises you enjoy doing with each movement pattern
Have a big end goal in mind and create small attainable goals with your training plan that move you towards your big goal
Create habits that make you look forward to your workout, for example putting out your training gear, setting a goal for that workout, drinking a pre-workout or coffee before, etc...
I’ve been training consistently for 15 years, I’m not nearly as big as most people out there but it’s important not to compare yourself to others, the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself from yesterday, last week, last year… Are you moving forward with your training program or not? If not, it’s time to change it up. If I start to feel unmotivated and don't look forward to the next workout I know something has to change. Remember, if your workouts aren't enjoyable you won't stick to it long term.
So how do we make changes to our training routine for maximal muscle gains?
Let’s take a look at hypertrophy (building muscle) and how you can maximize it throughout your routine.
First off, let’s look at the 3 main Mechanisms of Hypertrophy.
1. Mechanical Tension
Think of this as lifting a heavyweight in a controlled manner through a full range of motion with a progressive overload. Lifting heavier over time.
2. Muscle Damage
Have you ever felt sore after a workout? Maybe even a day or two later? This is the result of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and is a crucial part of the muscle-building process. During your workout, you have created micro-tears in your muscle that will need to be repaired. Also, the concentric movement (lifting a weight) and eccentric movement (lowering the weight also called the negative portion) play a huge role in creating muscle damage. We can target this form of hypertrophy using our bodyweight only. If someone tells you bodyweight training is too easy and you won't be able to train hard enough ask them to do this simple exercise, just 10 bodyweight squats. Yep, that's it! Just 10. But... they have to take 10 seconds on the way down (negative portion) and hold at the bottom for another 10 seconds (iso hold), a simple 10 reps of bodyweight squats just turned into a killer 3 minute plus set that will elicit some great muscle damage.
3. Metabolic Stress
You know that feeling you get when you are working out and your muscles are PUMPED and feel fuller. This is usually caused by lifting a moderate to high amount of reps per exercise with a lower amount of weight and creating a blood pooling effect in the muscles (cell-swelling - PUMP).
Keep these 3 Mechanisms of hypertrophy in mind when designing/making changes to your routine.
Progressive overloads with compound movements, it’s a good idea to start your workouts with your heavier compound movements that recruit more muscle fibres and are generally more taxing on your nervous system
Progressive overloads with isolation movements
Supersets, drop sets, burnouts
Accentuated eccentrics, you can create greater muscle damage throughout the eccentric portion of the lift so make sure to really focus on your eccentrics (negatives)
For muscle gains and strength, you would also want to look into other training variables such as,
Tempo - What tempo are you using, are you focusing enough on the eccentric portion of the lift
Rest periods - How long are you resting in between sets
Volume - If intensity goes way up, volume should go down
Intensity - If volume goes way up, intensity should go down
Exercises selection - Variety is key, Are you hitting all your muscles
Duration - How long are your workouts
Frequency - Are you hitting each muscle group enough to promote hypertrophy
You would also want to look into different training splits, here are a few examples,
Full Body Split - Great if you are short on time, hit the whole body as one unit each workout
For Females, 2 Upper body with core work and 3 Lower body workouts a week has worked well with many clients
Push-Pull, Legs - Each group is trained separately, push day would comprise of chest, shoulders, triceps. On pull day you would train back, biceps, rear delts, leg day you could a quad focused one day and a glute, hamstring focused the next leg workout, or just hit legs as a whole unit.
Upper Lower Split - A great progression from a full body split, they allow for a greater training frequency
Agonist/Antagonist Splits - I’ve had some decent gains from performing this split, this is an Arnold style split. Here’s how a 4 day training week would look like,
Day 1: Horizontal push/pull day
Day 2: Leg day
Day 3: Vertical Push/pull day
Day 4: Arm day (ridiculously fun day haha)
My current routine is similar to the one above, the only difference is it's a 5-day split because I threw in an extra leg day.
Here are some more tips for optimal muscle gains:
Prioritize Protein - Protein is the most important macro when it comes to building muscle tissue or maintaining your muscle mass while in a caloric deficit if fat loss is your goal
Get enough sleep - Your body repairs and rebuilds when you sleep
Eat enough calories - Make sure you are eating enough to grow, however, don’t go overboard, unless you are a very hard gainer it is not necessary to eat in a huge caloric surplus to gain muscle. Try 300–500 calories over your maintenance, see how that goes. If you are gaining too much fat then scale it back. If you overdo the calories, you will store a lot of fat and end up losing your hard-earned muscle when you are trying to diet down and lose the fat.
Train hard enough - Give your muscles a reason to grow. Caffeine in the form of a pre-workout or coffee will give you a nice boost during your workout, there are many studies on the positive effects of caffeine during training, it is one of the best ergogenic aids out there. See if it works for you.
Fitness is extremely subjective, and it will mean something different for everyone and everyone will have their own fitness journey. Some of the best days of my life have been in the gym training clients and seeing them progress in their journey. It’s a beautiful thing to see someone progressing in their fitness journey and enjoying the process at the same time! And that is exactly what we believe the best training routine is, looking forward to your workouts, pushing yourself each workout, and enjoying the whole process.
Wish you all the best with your muscle building and strength goals in 2021!
If you need help with designing your own personal workout routine reach out to us anytime. We work with clients from around the world. We offer 1:1 Online Coaching through our coaching app which includes, workout videos for every exercise of your program, delicious recipes through our flexible nutrition programs, and coaching throughout your program to help you reach your goal.
Edi & Chris