‘You should do muscular training only if you want to bulk up.’
‘Muscular training is meant more for men than women.’
These are two of the biggest misconceptions about muscular training. While it’s true that muscular training promotes hypertrophy in muscles leading to an increase in size, the idea that it is meant only for bulking up is not true.
A good physique requires a fairly low body fat percentage, and muscular training can help achieve this. So remember:
Building more muscle is always helpful for both men & women for various purposes including increased fat loss
Hence, there’s no reason for you to not try it!
Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or just look and feel better, muscular training will help you achieve all that and much more.
In this blog, I will be talking about the basic principles of muscular training. And, if you wish to pack some good amount of muscle mass this is exactly what you need to keep in mind. This one’s probably my favourite topic and all the training that I do for myself has evolved from this approach.
First thing’s first, here’s the foundation of muscular training:
- When muscles are stressed beyond normal demands, they respond
- If the stress placed on the muscle is significantly greater than normal demands, they respond negatively. The large scale damage in muscle leads to several days of weakness & discomfort commonly known as soreness. So don’t go out and overdo it because, contrary to popular belief excessive soreness may not lead to larger muscle gains & strength
- What we need however, is to systematically stress the muscle in a progressive manner – this is known as progressive overload
- This means that the muscles respond positively when the training stress is just slightly greater than normal. The small scale trauma leads to muscle and strength gains over a period of time
Too much soreness is not a good thing. Just a little bit of push on the intensity week over week is all you need for stronger muscle remodelling
But how do you put more structure in your training to ensure just the right amount of muscle/strength gains?
Here is how:
- Progression: To maximize strength & muscle after a certain point, you need to add external resistance (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, etc.) The resistance should be heavy enough to fatigue the muscle within 90 seconds – that’s the limit of the anaerobic energy system. Since it’s impractical to time every set, 15 reps would be a good target assuming 6 seconds per repetition. Now, let’s put this into practice with an example
- Exercise: Shoulder Press
- Target reps: 15
- Weight lifted: 30 Kgs
Let’s say, at 30 Kgs, you were able to perform 10 reps in week 1. In the subsequent weeks, you should aim to achieve 12 reps, followed by 13 and so on until you are able to get 15 reps at this load.
Once you are able to perform 15 reps, you should increase the weight by 5% (a general guideline) and start chasing the 15 reps target again at the new load (31.5 Kgs in this case)
Please note that the strength gains at some point will stop – known as strength plateau and that’s when you will need to variate the exercise and follow the similar process of progression explained above.
- Specificity: The idea here is to achieve the desired objective of training through working the right set of muscles. For example: If your aim is to Squat a heavier load, you need to strengthen your quadriceps, glutes and core specifically. But that being said, these muscles should not be trained to the exclusion of opposing muscles. In simple words, there are hamstrings and core muscles also involved in squatting. So it’s important to strengthen them as well and not just keep focusing on prime movers. Whether it’s a sport or the idea is to improve the activities of daily living, it’s equally important to train all the major muscle groups on a weekly split.
- Overload: I briefly touched upon this in the point on progression, but this is important. As per the American College of Sports Medicine, if you are exerting yourself at a certain load between 8 to 12 repetitions, you can assume that’s about 70 to 80% of your maximal strength (1 Rep Max). A general guideline is to increase the load by 5% every time you achieve the target reps, assuming the exercise was performed until failure to achieve that number of reps. This gradual increase in resistance is known as overload and if followed religiously for 12-16 weeks this will facilitate a good amount of muscle & strength gains.
Putting it all together
When it comes to building muscle, one thing you really need is patience, because it ain’t easy to build muscle and it takes months and years of dedication to put up some lean tissue. What I am trying to say is that go ahead and include muscular training in your daily life, it has many health benefits and if you have ever heard someone say “I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to become bulky like a bodybuilder” you could either ignore or maybe educate them because like I said, it is not easy to build muscle.