If you really want to know how to build muscles you must understand that your target rep range needs to be on the lower side and you need to lift heavy weights. The results you will get is depending on it, particularly if you are a ectomorph. Besides receiving dense muscles, pumping heavy iron correctly will also establish a foundation of strength, adding to the hardness of your bones, tendon and ligament strength, and explosive muscular power.
Since you now have an understanding of that, it’s crucial to understand that there are 2 different types of muscle hypertrophy. That is to say two different ways to cause your muscles to get bigger: Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy and Myofibrillar Hypertrophy.
Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy is used all the time by body builders and it’s accomplished by moving iron in the higher rep range and lifting fairly heavy weights. Eight to twelve (8-12) repetitions, typically. Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy demands the increase of sarcoplasm, which is a fluid like substance within the cell. This form of growth causes the muscle to appear larger. Although, this higher volume training does little for maximum strength, it does aid with ATP (energy) production and strength endurance. Many consider this non-functional muscle growth, but sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is still important when you are wanting to gain mass and change how a muscle looks.
Hard, solid muscles (a.k.a Muscle Density) are the result of the second form of muscle growth- Myofibrillar Hypertrophy. This density comes solely from lifting heavy weights in the lower rep ranges. Typically one to five (1-5) reps. Myofibrillar Hypertrophy is common among powerlifters and those who lift with 80-90% of their 1 rep max. This form of growth brings about increases in maximal strength, explosiveness, as well as, causing growth size in the muscle. Fully functional muscle development is achieved by increasingthe number of myosin/actin filaments (sarcomeres) within the cell.
If you want to have your cake and eat it too then, you should focus on building a foundation of strength by setting your attentionmyofibrillar development and becomingstronger in the squat, deadlift, bench press, rows, overhead press and pull-ups. You’ll want to work the middle ground by working in the 5-8 reps range. Then periodically throw in some singles, doubles and triples from time to time as you become more skilled at these exercises.
Compound, multi-joint exercises like these can be highly technical lifts. All of them require some skill and practice to perform correctly, but I would pay special attention to the squats and deadlifts especially. I recommend starting off slow until you learn the corrects forms. Once you have the form down, then you can start to increase reps or increase the weight. This is very important to understand, you can get really hurt if you do not follow proper form and safety for these exercises.
For assistance exercises you can use exercises with higher rep ranges like lunges, step-ups, split-squats, push-ups, dumbbell presses, chin-ups, dips, ab wheel, hanging knee raises, glute bridges, curls etc. Doing this will help build mass in the muscles, thus improving your appearance and sarcoplasmic growth.
In this way you can work through a variety of rep ranges to create growth from both sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy. Yet always keeping the heavy power exercises as the central core of your training philosophy for building real, functional muscle.
Two to three (2-3) heavy work sets ought to be more than enough. Still, when doing an exercise like squats, deadlifts, bench press or any other MAIN exercise, make sure to do several warm-up sets. Particularly if you are working up to a max or lifting heavy weight in the 5-8 rep range.
For example say that you are going to go up to a 5 rep max in squats with 315lbs. Most likely to be safe you will want to do anywhere from 5 to 10 escalating warm-up sets. The heavier the weight you are lifting, the more you may want to throw in a few extra warm up sets.
Use the following as a template and adjust the total sets and weight increments according to your own strength level:
Set 1: the bar for 10 reps
Set 2: 95lbs for 5 reps
Set 3: 135lbs for 5 reps
Set 4: 185lbs for 5 reps
Set 5: 225lbs for 3 reps
Set 6: 255lbs for 2 reps
Set 7: 275lbs for 1 rep
Set 8: 295lbs for 1 rep
Set 9: 315lbs for 5 reps – WORK Set #1.
Set 10: 315lbs for 5 reps – WORK Set #2
Set 11: 275lbs for 10 reps – WORK Set #3 (Back off set)
This might appear to be tiresome but by doing this it will ramp up your nervous system and properly warm-up your muscles for the heavy lift while reducing the chance of injury. If you jump straight into lifting heavy weights before warming the muscles up correctly, you will have a greater chance of seriously injuring yourself. This will put you out of the game so never take the chance.
Now say you were going to do another lower body exercise after that. You can skip the warm-up sets entirely then because you should already be warmed up from the squats. Just go into the next exercise after your rest period. If you are doing an upper body exercise you may want to do a few warm-up sets before increasing the weight.
If you would like to achieve maximal strength and size you should focus on lifting heavy weights bellow the 8 rep range to create Myofibrillar Hypertrophy and increase your muscle density. Compound multi-joint exercises should be the core of your training. To round out and improve your muscles size and appearance you should also incorporate higher volume training from time to time. By using the 8-12 rep range on your assistance and isolation exercises you will cause Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy inside the muscle. This allows you to achieve both types of hypertrophy and reap the best of both.
Until next time!
About the Author:
Brandon Cook is creator of The Awakened Warrior Blog, and co-creator of HardgainerMuscleBuilding.com, a website specifically designed to teach the ectomorph the laws and scientific principles for building a classic, muscular and functional body.
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