For a select minority, gaining muscle mass comes easy and simply looking at a barbell will induce gains. For others this can often be far more frustrating and after months or even years progress is slow or even non-existent. Without a doubt there is an evident genetic factor in this process and people are born into this world in all different shapes and sizes, classified within the sports/fitness field as mesomorphic; endomorphic and ectomorphic:
The individuals who often struggle to put on muscle mass are ectomorphs: naturally tall and skinny individuals with metabolic rates that exceed other body types. Simply put they are more efficient at expending the energy they take on board, as opposed to being able to utilize these calories to produce new muscle tissue. As someone who has a mesomorph/ectomorph physique I am going to share with you 6 tips to counteract this and achieve your fitness goal:
1. Eat a lot. Every day
I often hear people complaining that they’re consuming thousands of calories for days on end, however after further investigation this calorie surpass isn’t consistent and the individual may hit 4,000 calories one day and 1,500 the next. Building muscle naturally is not an overnight process and in order to build muscle you must ensure you’re in a caloric surpass on a consistent basis. In my recent MIO Fuse product review I explained the importance of understanding your daily calories expenditure: it really should form the foundation for building a nutrition plan to facilitate the goal of gaining size.
2. Protein shakes are NOT the secret
The first thing people ask me when we’re talking about training is ‘what supplements should I take?’. Supplements have their place in achieving the goal of gaining muscle mass, but you need to remember that they are supplements, and as such should only be used to bridge any dietary deficits created by your existing nutrition plan. In particular I’m talking about protein shakes. Protein shakes are a great way to get additional protein intake that you cannot meet via your diet, however aim to get all your caloric and protein needs via your diet and don’t solely rely on getting all your protein intake via shakes, as you will miss other vital nutrients such as fibre. Find out more about recommended protein intake here.
3. Don’t solely focus on protein consumption
When most people think about building muscle, a follow up thought and practice is high protein consumption. Protein intake is important for muscle growth but you must also consider carbohydrate and fat intake. Carbohydrates are what primarily provide the muscle energy to endure grueling workouts, allowing you to perform optimally and create the stimulus to grow. Whilst fats are necessary for hormone synthesis, including testosterone: the vital sex hormone necessary for protein synthesis, muscle recovery and hypertrophy.
4. Lift heavy
Ensure you are dedicating ‘heavy’ sets to each muscle group within each workout. I personally like to utilize ‘pyramid sets’ where you start the exercise with a lighter/warm-up weight and progressively increase the weight until you hit a 6 rep max set. After this take the weight down and focus on chasing the pump. If you spend the entirety of your training session using the 12 reps range you may find your body soon become accustomed to this and it fails to provide the necessary stimulus for the muscle the grow.
5. Monitor your progress
The only way to be sure you’re making gains is by understanding and monitoring the loads you are lifting, this is particularly crucial for natural lifters who rely solely on this progression to grow, as opposed to cell swelling benefits of assisted lifters. If you don’t know how much weight your lifting, how do you know if you’re muscles and motor neural pathways are developing and if you’re getting stronger? Begin to log what you are lifting and ideally what you are eat. I find the ‘myfitnesspal’ app to be incredibly useful for tracking this information.
6. Is you workout routine stale?
By definition, insanity is repeating the same activity and expecting different results. This applies within the remit of the gym. If you’re still operating off the same training routine that you have been for the last few months and noticed your progress has plateaued then change the exercises and rep ranges up. As an example: if your primary compound lift on chest day has been flat dumbell press for 5 sets of 12 reps, maybe look to change this to incline barbell for 6 sets of 8 reps. Your body is very good at adjusting to the stress you put it under, however it is this stress that enables the body to grow and develop,that is why it is imperative to keep monitoring and altering your workout routine. If you’re unsure on how to adapt your routine whilst staying on track, get in touch with a personal trainer or conduct your own research into alternative bodybuilding splits.