When I was a child, I remember watching Saturday cartoons on TV, wanting to be strong, just like the Hulk or Superman. Since I was not born a Kryptonian, and I probably would not survive a gamma-ray exposure, my only choice is to do the next best thing and hit the gym.
Gradually building up muscles was my hard goal but it was not as bad as I had imagined. Along the way, I learned some valuable tips that helped me build strength at the same time as I was getting my dreamed shape. Here are some tips for building strength in the gym and like Superman hopefully, they will make your world feel a little lighter.
1. Start With Your Core
Before diving into intense strength training, you want to make sure you have strong core and foundation muscles, which will allow you to make your training more effective and avoid any injuries when working out. Your hips, midsection, and shoulders help the rest of your body stabilize when lifting massive amounts of weight. Therefore, in order to achieve your goal to increase your strength and grow your muscles, then you have to start by strengthening your core.
2. Don’t Overlook the Basics
Some of the best exercises that promote strength building and muscle growing are very basic exercises. The squat, bench press, shoulder press, and deadlift involve most of your body and promote growth in your core muscles. Do not shy away from the simple exercises just because you think they are ‘too easy’, all exercises if done right, can help you achieve your highest goals.
3. Be Creative
If doing the same thing over and over again, like lifting weights on the same machine twice a day, make you feel bored, remember that there are plenty of paths you can follow to build your strength, you can get creative and use other machines or tools lying around for you, try flipping over tires, jumping on boxes, or walking in a pool. Be creative and think of other actions that support the kinesthetic movement.
4. Don’t Get Stuck in a Rut
Once you start working out for a while, you might fall into a bad routine. Sticking to a mindless routine without following specific goals or just exercising to feel you are doing something will most likely cause you to get stuck.
You will probably start noticing you are not getting any stronger or that your muscles are not growing the way you want them to. Remember that your body is a system that needs to be worked as a whole, so if you feel stuck, for example, because you feel your arms are not achieving the levels you set for yourself, try to start working on your core or your legs.
Just because you feel stuck and do not see immediate results, does not mean that you are not doing things right, or that you should stop. It does mean you need to re-evaluate your goals and maybe set a different training path with the help of a professional so you can keep working towards your strength aspirations.
5. The Right Diet
The right diet will be the success or the failure of your strength-building, muscle-growing plans. It will do no good for you to have an amazing workout routine, hit the gym every day but eat everything that comes your way just because you feel that since you are working out you will burn those calories anyway.
About half of the results of your training will be due to your eating habits so this is something you need to pay close attention to.
Proteins are something you should consume plenty in order to build your muscles. Since you will be working out intensely in order to gain strength and muscle, then your body will be consuming more proteins than usual, you must replace them and even increase your consumption in order for your muscles to grow.
Natural sources of protein include beef, chicken, fish and turkey; dairy products such as cheese, yogurt and low-fat milk, beans and nuts.
Carbs should not be overlooked but it is imperative for you to choose the correct ones in order to have a balanced diet. Carbs will be your fuel; they will be in charge of giving you energy for your workout and everyday activities.
Try to avoid any processed sugar snacks such as energy drinks, sweets, commercial chocolates, etc. even though they will feel like they are boosting your training, you will feel a hard crash, a lot of hunger and low energy levels after you are finished, which is not ideal. Replace them by pears, beans, whole-grain bread, apples or sweet potatoes.
Remember that your aim is higher energy, not higher sugar levels.
The last thing you need are amino acids, they are incredibly important as they are the foundation of proteins, note that there are 20 types of amino acids and 9 of them cannot be produced naturally by your body so you have to help yourself.
Lean (red) meat is one of the foods that has the most protein, but it is not the only thing you can eat, poultry and seafood have huge amounts of both protein and amino acids.
If you do not eat meat that is ok, eggs and dairy products (low fat) have a lot of amino acids and protein. Eggs, yogurt, and cheese should be implemented into your everyday diet.
If you are vegan and don’t consume any of the above, you can get protein and amino acids from plants too but they are a bit trickier, you may want to consider a nutrition professional in order to fully set up a diet in order to achieve your goals.
6. What is Your Focus?
Your workout should vary depending on what your focus is.
If you are aiming for muscle growth, you have to keep several things present. First, remember that even though one of your sides is dominant in strength and fine motor skills, you have to work on both sides equally so you can have a symmetrical grow.
Hypertrophy (muscle growth) is a hard process where the most important thing to do is be consistent. The muscle growth happens as a response to intense stimuli done, among others with intense anaerobic exercises, like lifting weights (a lot of weight and few reps); jumping and sprinting.
The actual growth takes place after the exercise is finished and the muscle is resting. The aim with this type of workout is making your healing rate higher than your damage rate (the one made when you are working out).
If you are aiming for strength then you need to increase the force produced by the muscle. It means less volume but working on your entire capacity, the goal will be adding more weight each time.
Do you want to focus on muscle growing and strength? You can absolutely have both goals in mind when you are preparing and designing your workout, they actually complement each other so you can use your size training to increase your strength and you can use your strength training to help your muscles grow. It will also be useful to avoid any fatigue specificity which is the fatigue produced by focusing on one region of your body or doing one very specific exercise that will lead to a negative effect in your overall training plan. The negative effect will change once you change your activity or the part you are training.
Having clear goals when starting your workout regime will help you not to waste any time or resources.
7. Rest & Recover
The right diet, the right exercise plan, the right intensity and the right exercises are extremely important, but resting correctly and having a good night’s sleep are just as important within the body-building, strength-gaining package.
Resting appropriately will help you avoid overtraining and injuries due to it; having a day off will not affect your training performance, besides, being over-trained will start messing up your sleep cycles increasing your heart rate. Resting in between hard workouts will allow your body (and your heart) to be properly rested.
It is important to remember as well that sleep is the means for our body to heal and recover so in order for your daily workout to be effective you need to allow your body enough quality time to rest and recover so you can start all over again the day after. Not only that, but a good sleep will allow you to be sharper and improve your overall performance (not only working out) daily.
Some of these tips might seem obvious, but they are nonetheless important. By following these tips, you can build up your body’s muscle mass safely and surely. You may not be like Superman–able to fly faster than a speeding bullet—but following these tips and alongside a professional trainer, with the right diet and proper rest, you will be able to achieve that dreamed figure in no time.
Do you have any other tips you want to mention? Please leave a comment below.