3 Ways to Build Lean Muscle | Erin Stern
Posted on February 20, 2019 at 12:00 AM
Utilize these muscle-building techniques to get the most out of your workouts.
Building muscle isn’t as easy as stepping into a gym and throwing some heavy weight around. But focusing on the three primary mechanisms of hypertrophy (metabolic stress, muscle damage, and mechanical tension) during your training splits, can make it easier.
Muscles grow in response to being placed under stress. This stress causes tiny micro-tears in the muscles, which after resting and recovering, are repaired and become stronger and larger than before. It’s important to note that caloric intake must be high enough to allow muscle growth, so be sure to fuel your muscles by eating enough both before and after training. This helps your body stay in protein synthesis, where it builds muscle. If you don’t eat enough, the body will break down proteins for fuel, rather than work towards building muscle.
Utilizing supplements can be a key factor in building muscle too. Taking PEAK ATP 30 minutes before training can improve blood flow and increase muscular power, which directly affects your ability to increase mechanical tension on the muscles!
Let’s take a look at the mechanisms of hypertrophy (muscular growth) and techniques for using these mechanisms to maximize your workout. You can focus on one at a time for a few weeks, or use them all. Keep track of how you use the techniques, so you can continue to increase difficulty over time.
Constant tension on the muscles creates metabolic stress. To do this, think about not allowing the muscle to rest when doing your sets. This could be partial reps, use of cables, or not “locking out” on a rep (not fully extending/opening the hips at the top of a squat for example). When using free weights, consider the point in the exercise where gravity takes over and stop the range of motion beforehand. For example, when doing a dumbbell standing curl, gravity makes the weight less effective both when the arms are extended towards the ground and when the lower arm reaches perpendicular to the ground. Feel the biceps working and shorten the range of motion to keep the tension. This also creates a great pump!
In this case, muscle damage is a good thing when you push your body just past what it’s used to. The best way to create muscle damage is to focus on the negative portion of the rep. Think about your tempo while lifting. If you’re rushing through each rep, the muscles don’t have to work as hard. But, if you’re powering through the concentric portion, pausing slightly mid-rep, and performing the negative in a slow and controlled manner, the muscles have to work much harder. Consider counting a “1-2” during each negative rep. You’ll be surprised how much more difficult it is, and you’ll be pleased with your improved progress. With this technique, try it on a few exercises once or twice a week. This will help you gauge soreness. The goal is to cause muscle damage, but not so much that your soreness keeps you from training.
A big part of gaining muscle comes down to lifting heavy weights. Yes ladies, I said heavy weights. This doesn’t mean that you have to hulk weights around all the time to build muscle, but you should challenge yourself. Choose a weight that’s difficult with proper form for the last 2-3 reps, but doable. Compound movements are great for this, as they train multiple muscles at once and tend to hit larger muscle groups. If you don’t have a spotter, consider using machines. They can be effective for lifting heavy weights safely. Progression is key here, so think about adding 5-10 lbs. to your basic lifts every week or two. Keep in mind that you don’t have to lift heavy all the time – you can use the other two methods, too!
Thank you for reading! Until next time… train hard, y’all!
Erin Stern, 2x Ms. Figure Olympia | TEAM PEAK athlete