It’s been over eight years since I started my fitness journey and I have learnt so many lessons along the way. I have been conscious throughout the years to reflect on my choices and also accept that I have made mistakes, which either led me down the wrong path to make some more poor decisions, or led me down an avenue that I never had anticipated. Despite all this and wishing that I made good choices throughout my journey, I wouldn’t be where I was if I hadn’t made those decisions. A fitness journey is not supposed to be complicated. There are so many myths and false information out there I can only imagine how overwhelming it can be for those who are just starting out or those who are stuck in a plateau trying to figure out their next steps. So check out my post for reasons why you should work out if you need some extra encouragement. Today’s post is about is about the five things you should focus on to build muscle. These five things have helped me make significant progress to this day. Please feel free to leave other approaches that have helped you in your journey so we can all learn from each other.
Functional Movements Patterns
One of my favourite sayings this season is ‘Any movement is good movement right now’. To perform better and have a balanced body, whether it is fitness related or not, mastering the seven functional movement patterns helps the major muscle groups in your body become more efficient. These movements are building blocks to strength training and more complicated approaches to fitness such as Olympic lifting, dynamic plyometrics, HIIT etc. These include: hip hinge (deadlifts, kettlebell swings, glutes bridges), squat (variations of the squat such as goblet squats, sumo squats, front squats etc.), push (bench press, shoulder presses, tricep pushdown), pull (inverted rows, pull ups, barbell row), lunge (exercises that have a split stance are considered as a lunge movement and these include side lunges, step ups, Bulgarian split squats), carry (exercises that include the motion of walking such as walking lunge, farmer’s walk, jogging, jumping) ,and lastly rotational and (exercises that include the motion of twisting your core such as pallof press, Russian twists, side crunches).
These exercises are considered as functional movement patterns as they include movements that the body can perform for daily activities outside of the gym. I only learnt about the importance of these movements through my powerlifting coach when I decided to learn about the science of my training in the gym. It has given me a greater understanding of the my body and how to chisel away at the technique to be better each day.
It doesn’t matter if you train as a powerlifter, bodybuilder, olympic weightlifter or want to get fit. By adding compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, barbell row, and hip thrusts into your training plan is setting you up to build a stronger foundation. These movements work multiple joints and muscles at a time and are considered the bread and butter to your workouts. To build overall muscle and strength, keep working on these exercises and variations of them over and over again. I wouldn’t be where I am today, in terms of my physique and strength, if I didn’t include compound movements. I know that with social media you may not see many fitness influencers that do these movements but these are the exercises that most of them started out with before moving into their respective lanes. Unfortunately, movements like these don’t sell as well as the complicated things you see online but this is where true strength and power is birthed.
One of the most asked questions I get is: ‘Why am I not building muscle in the gym?’. If you want to build muscle over time, you can’t use the same weight, do the same amount of sets and reps continuously for years. You won’t see the results you are looking and remain the same. Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress on your body during exercise. You have to continuously challenge your body by working harder than it is used to in order to grow. The best way to track your progress over time is to hop on a programmes that makes these adjustments for you and the best part of all of this is that there are so many free training programmes out there for your needs. Before I signed up with my coach in 2018, I used free programmes from Bodybuilding.com (which are no longer free) but the programme that introduced me to strength training was Layne Norton’s P.H.A.T. It’s a programme for intermediates and novices but I used it after a year of lifting. Here is a programme for pure beginners.
Eat Enough Protein
When I first started lifting, I thought 50g of protein was enough to fuel my body but I learnt quickly that my body need less than double of that amount each day to repair my muscles and grow. Our bodies need protein not only to support our training but also to maintain cell regrowth, the health of our hair, skins and nails. It’s recommended to eat 1g of protein per 1lbs of bodyweight. I know that it may seem like a lot and the constant worry of having to stuff your face with meat or other high-protein sources may come to mind but a lot of foods have traces of protein that can count to your daily amount. There are two kinds of proteins that you need to be aware of to get all 9 essential amino acids into your diet: complete and incomplete proteins. The incomplete ones can be easily combined with complete proteins, check out my post with tips to increase you protein intake efficiently.
I didn’t take mobility exercises seriously until five years into my training, I didn’t see the importance in them and thought they were a waste of time like cooling down after a training session. When I injured my wrist and had issues squatting to parallel, I humbled myself and started taking mobility seriously. Mobility exercises strengthen the muscles around our joints, prevents risk of injuries, improves our techniques and increases of range of motion for both functional movements and compound movements. I recommend doing some of these exercises every day for 15 to 30 minutes, trust me, your future self will thank you later.
So there you have it ladies (and gents), five things you should focus on to build muscle of my choosing, and I’m sure that there are other approaches that may be more significant to you. These are the five approaches that continue to help me today to perform better, have a balanced body and improve my body awareness. Let me know in the comments which approach is your favourite on this list and why or others that you prefer! Oh, if you are looking for more fitness posts, check out my fitness section on the blog. I focus on powerlifting as well as. general fitness information that can help you be the best version of you.
Until next time,