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Build Muscle

by Jesse Cannone

If you pick up a fitness or bodybuilding magazine, you’ll almost always see a headline like this: “Gain 15 Pounds of Muscle in 6 Weeks.”

If it were so easy, millions of muscle-heads would be running around. Though building muscle tissue can be a challenge, I’m going to outline some specific principles that can pack on the muscle faster than you can throw away that copy of “Muscle and Fiction.” The ridiculous claims made by most fitness and bodybuilding magazines are there only to get you to buy that issue--nothing more!

To gain muscle tissue, you must force the body to add it. Your body won’t add a pound of muscle just because you followed a 3-set workout that you read about in Muscle + Fitness. You need to give the body a reason to make improvements.

You have to provide a stimulus. You can do this in any of several ways. Basically, you must force the body to add muscle by subjecting it to levels of stress it is not used to. Some methods are more obvious than others, but all can work. Here are a few examples of how this can be done effectively.

The basic methods

  1. Increase weight or resistance
  2.  Perform more repetitions
  3. Perform more sets
  4. Move the resistance slower
  5. Rest less between sets and exercises

The advanced methods

  1.  Pre-exhaust. Perform an isolation exercise first, then--without resting--follow with a compound movement. Example: Chest flye and then chest press.
  2. Static holds. Hold the resistance in the hardest position of the range of motion. Example: The top position during a leg extension.
  3. Partial reps in weak range. Perform a portion of the rep where you are weakest. Example: The top half of a rep of leg extensions.
  4. Strip-set. After a warm-up set, perform 3 sets back to back with no rest while starting with the heaviest weight possible. Each time, strip off some weight to allow you to continue. Example: Use small plates on your squat bar. After each set, take a plate (maybe 5 lbs) off each side.
  5. 1 ½ reps. Perform one full rep. On the second rep, perform only half the normal range of motion, then return to the starting position to begin the next rep. Example: One full rep of lat pulldowns, pull second rep all the way down, resist weight back up but only half way and then pull back down.
  6. Strip-set/Low Rep/High Set Combo. Rather than do 3 sets of 10 reps, do 10 sets of 3 reps. But, do those 3 reps with more weight initially, and take weight off as your form begins to suffer. Example: If you normally bench 150 lbs, start off with 180 lbs. This will feel very heavy, but you should be able to do three good repetitions. Rest, then do the next set with 175 lbs. Adjust weight as needed, until you have done ten sets.

These are just a few examples of methods of increasing intensity to ensure progress. The key point to remember is that whatever you do, it must be progressive for it to elicit a physical change. This is even more critical for those looking to add muscle size.

Although this article is geared towards individuals who are interested in gaining muscle size, you can use the same principles to build strength or increase metabolism.


Author information

If you have any questions about the techniques described in this article, please feel free to contact me:

  • jesse
  • 240-731-3724

Jesse Cannone is a certified personal trainer, nutritionist, and best-selling fitness author. Sign up to receive his free email course "Muscle Building Tips," which is full of powerful tips and techniques for maximizing strength and size.



Article Authorship

The articles on this site are authoritative, because:

  • Every contributor is an expert in his or her field.
  • The articles comply with the accepted principles of the bodybuilder literature.
  • The articles comply with the teachings of such luminaries as 8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney.

 Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.

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