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Building Lean Muscle

Building muscle is all about increasing the amount of work that the muscles do, whether through more repetitions or more weight at the same rep scheme. Building muscle is fantastic for improving long-term body composition, joint health, and healthy aging. Whether gymnastic strength training or weight training, being stronger is never a weakness.

Principles of Effective Muscle-Building

There are a few key principles for building muscle and mastering these basics is key to seeing consistent, rapid progress.

  • Exercise Selection and Specificity: the exercises you choose and the rep scheme you use should be specific to your goals and needs. If you’re looking to build maximum strength, keep repetitions low, whereas maximum muscle is about keeping relatively-high rep sets.
  • Progression and Variation: You need to keep progressing to build muscle and strength. This is about adding more weight or more reps with good technique. Progressing on a single exercise should be tempered against variety, however: too much of the same thing will stop being effective. Progress on key exercises for your goal, but be sure to change things up (in reps, sets, weight, or exercise selection) to avoid plateaus and stagnation.
  • Balance Loading-Types: Concentric loading is the part of the movement working against gravity, while eccentric loading is the ‘lowering’ portion. Isometric loading is focused on staying still under load, such as in a plank. You need a good balance of these types of movements, but always focus on a controlled eccentric, as this will increase muscle-building potential, reduce injury and improve technique.

Long-Term Results: Periodisation

A responsible, effective training plan is structured according to your goal, but uses some key design ideas that have been used by elite coaches for decades. Periodisation refers to the structure of a training plan in the long-term to boost results and keep making progress for years to come.

Intensity is how much effort a single repetition requires, relative to the maximum result in a movement (such as a 1-Repetition maximum). Volume refers to how much work you do, and is usually measured in total repetitions for an exercise. Generally, periodisation is all about controlling volume and intensity over time: volume starts high and reduce over time, as intensity increases.

Classic (or ‘block’) periodisation shifts focus throughout a program. For example, in a 16-week training plan, 4-week blocks have different focuses in sequence to improve results: general fitness, muscle size, strength, and power might all have 4-week focus blocks. This contributes to long-term planning and relies on the fact that being lean and strong is easier when you’re fit and healthy!

Periodisation and clever training planning is all about preparing you for maximum long-term progress. Remember that a pyramid’s maximum height depends on the size of its base: your long-term potential is all about your commitment to effective training and patient progress from high-volume to high-intensity training.This planning is the role of a coach or trainer, but it is important to remember the key principles of progression, overload, specificity, variation, and smart training for maximum muscle, strength, and athleticism!