There is no doubt that there is a direct connection between muscle mass and strength. The stronger you get, the muscular you will become. Therefore there is only one way towards getting more muscular: to get stronger in the gym. And that is what we are talking about in today’s post. Making more gains is one of the 3 goals that I have for this year, so let’s get to it.
Tweaking the 3 knobs
Let’s keep things simple as always, and get this started. So, when you are in the gym doing on an exercise, any exercise for that matter, you are working with sets, repetitions and a certain weight. These are the 3 variables that you want your focus on when you are trying to grow bigger muscles: sets, reps and weight.
If somebody would ask me to say which of the 3 is the most important I would say something like this:
- Weight – Extremely important
- Reps – Very Important
- Sets – Important
As you can see they are all important, but probably you want your main focus to be on getting to lift bigger and bigger weights while staying within the “bodybuilding rep range” (6 to 15 or even 20 reps), and while doing a decent amount of volume per each exercise – minimum 3 sets and usually no more than 5 or 6 sets per exercise.
So you have your three knobs to tweak, two of them with a minimum and a maximum – the reps and the sets – and one without theoretically any limits – the weight. The ‘rule’ of the 3 variables and of making strength progress which will then results in bigger muscles would go something like this: “increase the weight when you are on the upper level of your repetitions per set and sets”.
You should never “upgrade” to heavier weights if you are able to do only 5-6 reps per set with the current weight. When you are able to do 8, 10 or 12 reps you can move to bigger weights.
Let’s start off with a practical examples. Let’s say you are doing squats and currently your strength level is allowing you to do 6 reps x 135 lbs. for 5 sets. Since you are already on the lower level of rep range you want to work on increasing the reps while maintaining the weight. So you short term goal is to get to doing 7 reps, then 8, then 10 reps with the 135 lbs. After that you can move on the 145 lbs. and start on working your way up to 8 or 10 reps again.
This is just an example, there are literally tens of variations you can apply in real life. You can lower the number of sets and increase the reps, you can do reverse pyramid sets and increase the weight on the first set and so on.
By the way, your focus on getting stronger should be only on handful of key exercises and the rest will follow. You don’t need to give yourself a headache tracking 30 different exercises.
Fuel your body
One key thing you need to do for getting stronger and bigger is to be in a caloric surplus. Unless you are a beginner, this is a prerequisite to growing. You won’t believe how many people get this very basic thing wrong.
Make sure you are getting at least 200 kcal more in every day (aka lean bulking) and you should be seeing steady progress soon. This leads us to the next question: how soon?
The time factor
The amount of time needed for an individual to see progress will depend mostly on the level of experience. If you’ve been in the gym for a couple of month or even a year, chances are that you will improve your performance and grow relatively fast. The longer you lift the harder it will be to more on to bigger weights.
Getting back to our squat example above, jumping from 135 lbs. to 185 lbs. might be quick and easy, but getting from 405 lbs. to 415 lbs. will be a struggle which can take months or even a year of hard work. Patience and consistency are the keywords here.
Track your progress
Another super important and easy to implement thing is to start tracking your progress, because of the simple fact that you can’t always remember how many reps and sets you did on your last chest workout, for example.
Writing down these things will allow you to go back 2-3 months and see if you are making progress or not. It will help you analyze your evolution and decide on what needs to be changed, what goals should you set, how should you train in order to achieve them?
You don’t need to track all exercises, just write down your performance on the most important ones and focus on those. It shouldn’t be more that 5-6 exercises – preferably the first exercise that you do for each muscle group.
If you are not seeing any progress on a certain exercise for a long period of time replace it with another exercise and start tracking your strength on that one. It should go up. Afterwards you can return to the old exercise and you will probably make progress again. This is one of the best ways you can overcome strength plateaus.
Don’t forget to leave your comments and feedback below. Let me know if you are liking this and what’s your opinion on it. For questions or suggestions reach me out at firstname.lastname@example.org and stay tuned for more.