7 Simple Muscle Building Tips
Tip #1 – The last thing most lifters think about before a leg workout is warming up the upper body. When, in fact, it should be made a priority. Always warm up your shoulders and upper back prior to your leg day. For squats you need good external rotation and thoracic extension, for deadlifts you need your upper back to aid in torso/core stiffness and to remain neutrally fixed to help lockout the weight and for any unilateral movements, proper tension from the hip to the upper back helps with balance and coordinating the movement.
Tip #2 – Progressive overload isn’t only about trying to increasing the weight for an exercise with each workout. You can change any of the other workout variables including; rest periods, tempo, implement used, exercise selection or volume. Keep pushing the pace and challenging yourself. And, most importantly, always assess the quality of movement, especially as fatigue becomes a factor.
Tip #3 – Front squats are a very challenging exercise, which is probably why nobody does them. The lifter is forced to engage a huge amount of core stability to remain fixed and upright and perform a full range of motion*. To make the movement more comfortable, lifting straps can be adding to the bar to hold while squatting. This will account for limitations and soft-tissue restrictions in the upper back, shoulders, lats and triceps.
* A full range of motion should only be used if the lifter can perform the movement correctly and with neutral posture. If they are unable to do this, have them front squat to a box. The height of the box should keep them in a safe range of motion. As hip and ankle mobility improves and core / upper back stability increases, the box can be slowly lowered over time.
Tip #4 – Presetting neutral posture and bracing for loaded movements sets up the best opportunity to safely and optimally perform quality strength training movement patterns**. The process can be a step-by-step, progressive mental checklist. Diaphragmatically breath => brace torso => create tension (irradiation, co-contraction) => pack neck => press tongue on roof of mouth (or use mouth piece) => GO.
** If the lifter has the adequate mobility and stability to perform the movement.
Tip #5 – Regress to Progress – Pushing ahead at all costs isn’t neccesary for reaching your goals; building strength, building muscle, getting faster, etc. Substituting repetitive effort work (RE, +12 reps per set, 50-75% 1RM) instead of your max effort training (+85% 1RM), performing a recovery session focusing on full body mobility and activation of the glutes, upper back and core instead of the workout, has ramifications into the rest of the week or two-three weeks worth of workouts. There is an ebb and flow to training within the workout itself and within the 3-4 week training cycle (microcycle). Overreaching can be a good thing when you are smart with your recovery.
Tip #6 – When performing push-ups, imagine you have a piece of paper under each arm. Focus on not dropping the paper! This means tracking your arms next to your torso (approximately 45 degrees out from the torso with the hands under the shoulders) and engaging your lats to control the descent. Proper tension in the upper back and engagement of the other torso stabilizers, will work antagonistically with the glutes to control this integrated core movement.
Tip #7 – A good training session is like life. You start out slow, start moving faster and then end up recovering at the end – you should perform your workout this way. More specifically, the workout should start off slow and general, start speeding up with more specific power, speed and primary work and then slow down again to focus on individual weaknesses and needs.
By Smitty on October 12th, 2011
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