I turned 28 this past week and honestly, this is the first time I sat back and thought….
Holy shit. I’m creepin’ in on 30. And while I don’t feel older, a few interesting things happen when you enter your late(r) 20’s.
The real world smacks you up a few times. For me, training is iron therapy. Whether it’s a daily stressor or something major, the gym has always been a place where nothing else mattered. Conquer the weight, and you can conquer anything you put your mind too.
On a more serious note, hangovers are much worse. Seriously. WTF?
You reflect on what you’ve done and what you where you want your career to take you.
Time doesn’t seem like a luxury; rather, a rapidly depleting asset. Whether you’re 18, 28, or 48, there is no time like the present to take massive action.
Natural testosterone and growth hormone levels taper off. Training correctly, eating healthy, and focusing on a healthy lifestyle can prevent much of this, but it’s still a humbling realization.
So, in the spirit of 28 years, here are 28 tips to build muscle and strength help you build lean muscle and strength to look, feel, and perform your best.
Pick a few of these tips and starting taking massive action. Soon, you’ll be making the best gains of your life.
1.Consistency is King
Find the program you’ll do consistently. 3x per week for months and years is better than 5x/week with missed workouts and long layoffs.
2.Train around pain, not through it.
If it hurts, don’t do it. Then, find the cause.
3.When in doubt, follow this training split
This is simple, straightforward, and will build strength and muscle without living in the gym.
Monday: Upper (heavy)
Wednesday: Lower (heavy)
Friday: Upper (volume)
Saturday: Total Body (volume)+ isolation work
4.Get Strong First
Building muscle depends on first having a base level of strength. This means strength allows you to lift heavier weights for more reps, progressive overload, the driving force for all progress in the gym. Get strong first. Trust me, everything else will be much easier.
Take 5-10 minutes to warm-up. No more, no less. This warm-up will change your training, I promise.
6.Do Three Ramp Sets before your heavy work set
Don’t jump right into your work set. If you squat 225×10 in today’s workout, do one at 135×10, a second with 185×5, then a third at 205 x3 reps. This primes your nervous system for more strength gains and over time adds volume to help you build muscle.
Jumps, medicine ball throws, and explosive push-ups fire up your CNS, which helps you activate more muscle fibers. The muscle fibers you activate, the more muscle you can build. Plus, you’ll boost athleticism.
8.Lift Heavy and build Strength
Using heavy weights for 1-6 rep sets activate more muscle, create hormonal changes for growth, and supply the necessary tension to build lean muscle.
9.Chase the Pump
To maximize muscle growth you need metabolic stress to trigger growth. Add in higher rep sets from 8-15+ reps with incomplete rest. YES, this should be difficult.
10. Finish Workouts with a Carry
Farmers walks build a strong, resilient, and muscular body from head to toe. Pick up something heavy, squeeze it to death, and walk tall like your head/spine are on a string. Try grabbing plates or dumbbells and go for 60-second walks.
11. Train Muscle Groups More Often
Frequent training yields quicker skill development, meaning you’ll get better at your most important lifts, faster. Combine this with the fact that the more often you stimulate a muscle, the more protein stimulus you’ll create, and you have the perfect recipe to build lean muscle and strength.
Pick one goal. Only one. If you chase two rabbits you’ll catch none. You can’t lose 20 pounds, get 17-inch arms, and dunk all at once. Go all in, then change.
15.Get Lean first
Men, if you’re over 17% body fat then you need to diet down first. Ladies, the same rule applies if you’re over 25% body fat. Trust me, it’s much easier to gain lean muscle with better insulin sensitivity and health. If you’ve got a beer gut and go into bulk mode, you’ll be gaining more fat around your waist than muscle on your chest and arms.
A crummy proposition, right?
Lose fat, aiming to be 12-14% or less for men, and 20% or less for women, then try to add muscle.
16.Lower Slower, Grow Faster
The eccentric or negative action creates a ton of muscle-building stimulus. Lower under control, add in a pause, and press back up. Take 2-4 seconds on the way down.
17.Create the Mind Muscle Connection
Flex your target muscle for 5-10 seconds before you lift. Or, add a 15 rep pause at your stick point on isolation work, such as the half-way point on a biceps curl. If you can’t feel a muscle, it won’t grow.
18.Hard Conditioning Once or Twice Per Week
Do you want to become an unathletic, fat blob? No. Get off the couch and sprint, run stairs, play a sport, or do intervals each week.
19.Take Less Rest On Isolation Work
Seriously, these little muscles don’t need three minutes to recover. The goal of isolation work is to pump the shit out of your muscles. Reduce rest, create the pump needed for growth, and get out of the gym faster.
2o. Get Stronger Over Time
You don’t need to PR every single day. BUT, you should get a few pounds stronger each month. This takes time. Stay patient and add weight to the bar.
21.Perform a Horizontal Row Each Day
Dumbbell row, barbell row, inverted row in a rack, row with a TRX, or do a cable row. Do some horizontal pulling motion to build thicker arms, a strong back, and prevent shoulder injuries. Every. Single. Day.
To fully benefit from your training you need a periodic deload. If your body can’t super compensate and come back stronger, you’re wasting your time. I prefer a deload (use lighter weights and less volume) for one week every 12 weeks.
Bodyweight in pounds x14+300 calories per day. Aim for this number of calories first. Is the scale moving? Good. Stay with it.
Not budging? Add 300 calories.
24.Eat Protein and Veggie With Each Meal
Eat a serving of protein the size of your palm with each meal. Have a veggie too. Don’t neglect health. Without a healthy body and a healthy gut, you’ll struggle to build muscle.
25.Sleep 6-8 hours
Sleep is the best thing you’re not doing for your body. Get 6-8 hours of sleep per night. This optimizes mental function and anabolic hormone levels to keeping you in a good mood. If it came down to training one less day per week and getting more sleep, more sleep would be better.
26.Avoid Blue Light
Get blue light filters. I have them. They’re hideous. But…I can watch Breaking Bad reruns and still sleep like a baby. If you work late, put the “flux” blue light filter on your computer.
Supplements are to supplement a healthy diet. If you take anything, consider a quality protein powder, creatine monohydrate, magnesium, greens powder, Vitamin D, and a high-quality fish oil. Honestly, this is all I’d consider.
28.Limit the Booze, Buddy
Hey, it’s my birthday and I’ll kick back a bourbon or three. But overall, limit yourself to 6 or fewer drinks per week if you’re serious about gaining size and strength. This should be enough for you to enjoy time with your buddies or have a drink to unwind. But keep in mind, excess alcohol crushes your testosterone, growth hormone, sleep quality, and motivation. Fitness should improve your life, not consume it. Have a few drinks, but stay within reason.