If you take out questions about Grip Training, one of the most common questions I get is how to set up a program in order to put on muscle.
With this post, I want to list a few principles I follow in my training. Next week, I will cover some how to select the right movements and how to program them.
3 Keys to Building Muscle
These are the three main keys I follow in my training when it comes to exercise selection. Now, of course there are other things that go into it, but these are the main three things.
1. Multi-Joint Movements
If you want to put on muscle and develop strength, then you have got to get lots of muscle involved in order to do so. The best way to get lots of muscle involved is to select exercises that involve movement over more than one joint. Examples are Bench Press, Overhead Press, Squat, Deadlift, Bent Over Rows, Clean, Snatch, and other movements that are similar in movements to these.
Now, if you take a look at the exercises I listed, you will see that there is often movement taking place at two or more joints. For instance, with the Bench, there is movement at the shoulder and at the elbow, plus if you approach the movement like a Powerlifter does, you are using even more muscle across other joints as well.
Movements such as the Squat, Deadlift, Cleans, and many Olympic lift breakdown drills involve even more joints. With these we are working over the knee, hip, back and possibly the ankle, shoulder and elbow, meaning even more muscle is being involved.
In other words, select movements that are working larger portions of your body and keep isolation movements to a minimum.
2. Train for Power and Speed
I like to incorporate exercises of increased speed in my training. What I am referring to is explosive movements that produce an increased power output, such as Cleans, Jerks, Snatches, Stone Lifting, and other movements where virtually the entire body is working together in order to move large loads very quickly.
Another way I like to accomplish this is with Accommodating Resistance using exercise bands. I have bands of many different strength levels in order to be able to use this concept on different movements.
The Bench Press is a good example of how to employ bands in your training. Remember when using bands that the purpose is to move the bar quickly against the resistance in order to train the fast-twitch muscle fibers to fire quickly. These muscle fibers need to be stimulated like this, but most guys are missing this aspect. I say this, because when I ask people who email me about this they say they have either never heard of this type of training or haven’t bought into it. I am a firm believer in it and have been experimenting with how to incorporate it in different ways aside from just with barbells in my training and with my clients (these guys kick ass).
3. Work in Balance
One of the recent times someone wrote in, they wanted to know how to put muscle on their chest and shoulders and I asked them what they were currently doing. Their answer? Bench Pressing two days a week and Shoulder work on another day. Essentially three Upper Body Pushing days and each one was balls to the walls intensity.
One of the things I always tell people is that if you are trying to fill out your shirt, you’ve got to remember there are two sides of it to fill. You don’t want to be like Tom Cruise in the movie Knight and Day and look like your back muscles are non-existent.
There needs to be a balance between your pushing and pulling exercises in order to pack on muscle on the upper body, and do it safely. Remember, we are doing something that is supposed to be good for us, not something in order to set ourselves up for imbalances, poor posture and pain down the road.
What I suggest people do is for every movement where you are pushing something, try to also incorporate a movement where you are pulling. If you can pick out complementary or contra-specific movement patterns, that is a bonus as well. For instance, a complimentary movement pattern for the Bench Press would be Bent Over Rows or Seated Cable Rows (although, I’d suggest the Bent-Over variety in order to have a Ground Based Movement – another post for another day).
One other thing to think about with Balanced Training, keep in mind that if you are going all out for maxes on the Bench every time you do it and then you do Bent Over Rows with a fraction of the weight, that doesn’t count as balanced. The loading and effort need to be similar in order to realize benefits.
One good way to do this is to perform your Upper Body Push and Upper Body Pulling movements on the same day and match up the loading and effort that way. If you do it like this, it is easier to monitor than if you do it on different days.
Do You Have Muscle Imbalances, Currently?
If you have been following traditional programs and have not taken things such as antagonistic balance into account with your program, you could be headed for some issues. Unfortunately, imbalances can develop from more than just the way you program you workouts and your exercise selection.
Time seated in a car, time at your desk, time at home in chairs, and other considerations that affect posture can really do a number on you.
If you think you run the risk of having imbalances because you slouched in your seat in high school for years (like me), spend a lot of time at a desk at your work (like me), or have muscular imbalances due to an injury or something else, you should consider checking out Rick Kaselj’s Muscle Imbalances Revealed – Upper Body Edition.
I recently made Rick’s acquaintance on-line and began following some of his work and he has an impressive background. A few months ago he came out with a 2.0 Program for lower body and now he has updated his Upper Body Edition as well.
The sizable clientele he has worked with and the expert backing he has gotten is unbelievable. I strongly suggest you give his program a look if you are a candidate for imbalances. Here is my link: Muscle Imbalances Revealed by Rick Kaselj.
All the best in your training and look for Part II coming next week.