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Build Muscle FAST! (Part 1 of 2)

Here's another blog series that aligns with one of my five core values of this blog - living well.


First and foremost, let me start by saying that the key is mindset! It is imperative to shift your thinking away from "ways to burn fat," "lose fat," and "trim fat" and start the mind shift that takes you into a consistent thought process around "gaining strength," "building muscle," and "adding lean muscle mass" to your body.


Why? Well, if you gain strength which in turn helps you build muscle, you WILL burn fat because muscle burns fat. In addition, improving strength improves longevity. This is why most elderly become frail. They didn't listen to fitness pioneer Jack Lalanne when he encouraged people to focus on getting stronger.


Everyone seems to want to trim down fat, lose fat, drop the fat, tone the fat and so their focus tends to be on cardio, cardio, cardio, but that is not sustainable and eventually people just stop doing cardio. What really would make a huge difference in body composition is if there was a mind shift away from the intense focus on fat loss and more toward building muscle.


Building muscle is not an easy process. Lalanne taught the world that although it takes time, and it can be very challenging, building strength is directly correlated to longevity. He died of age 96 in 2011 in impeccable shape. There's no wonder he is forever known as the Godfather of Fitness.


Jack LaLanne, 1986, Beverly Hills, CA

Jack LaLanne certainly knew his stuff and when you add in genetics, and all the other variables, there are still no cookie cutter approaches to fitness or nutrition, but one thing has been true year over year - focus on improving your strength.


In this two-part blog-series, I'll share my top ten tips that have helped me build muscle FAST! In this post, we will review the first five tips so please check back soon for the next five tips.


Treat these ten tips like your fitness checklist. If you are hitting these big ten on a consistent basis, you WILL build muscle and strength and in turn, your body will start to adapt and, guess what, low and behold that new metabolism you kickstarted will burn away that stubborn body fat and your body composition WILL change.



One – Focus on strength

The first thing, which I think is the most important and the most basic is to focus on building up your strength. This approach is what builds longevity. If you continue to focus only on fat loss that yo-yo will consume your life and when you move into your late 60s and early 70s you run the risk of bones becoming weaker.


Getting stronger consistently over time adds years to your life.


Now, you can get stronger and not see muscle for a little while but if you keep working at it and getting stronger over time, eventually you'll see more muscle because you're likely getting better at your training and more importantly, you are sending a strong signal to the body that you need to get stronger fast. Adding more muscle is the loudest signal that you can send to the body to adapt in a new direction.


So, get off the treadmill and start easy by lifting something moderately heavy for 15 minutes a day. You'll be amazed at how your body reacts and how things start to shift metabolically.



Two – Manipulate training frequency

This is also very important, but this one took me a long time to figure out. When I first started strength training in the early 1990s, we were all told to train each body part once a week. This was the law in the gym and for many people Monday was arm day, Tuesday was leg day and so on . . . this was fitness law back then.


One time, I had this very fit gent tell me when I was first starting out: "if you want to build your shoulders, do not work your shoulders more than once a week. You have to rest them for a full seven days."


What a mistake!


What's important to note about what he was trying to convey is the resting period. We know that rest is a vital component in building muscle but his antiquated definition of resting was way off.


Current research shows that hitting your chest on Monday for 21 sets of exercises is not the same as doing seven sets three days a week. Sure, you're still doing 21 sets for the whole week but the difference is this - rather than doing all sets in one workout, you've just tripled the frequency with the same volume and this will give most people much better results.


One two-hour workout doesn't yield the same results as two one-hour workouts on different days.



Three – Perform the most effective exercises

I cannot stress how important this tip is.


Most fitness pros are sought after pros because they have learned to master this. There are a lot of exercises to choose from and all of them have some value but not all of them are equal when it comes to building muscle.


The most effective exercise for building muscle are compound exercises or compound lifts.

The term compound means you're using more than one joint when doing the lift. So, that means that a non-compound movement (also known as an isolation movement or a single joint exercise) would be a bicep curl with a dumbbell.


I work the biceps with a compound movement that works the biceps in a more effective manner by performing a series of chin ups with my palms facing back toward me in what is called a supinated grip. It's a very effective compound lift for biceps and it also works my upper back and shoulders, too.


Other compound lifts that I perform consistently include squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, rows, and horizontal presses - all of these are known by fitness pros as the core muscle builders.


If you get good at the core muscle builders, you'll build much more strength than if you get good at single joint exercises.


There are massive benefits that go into compound lifting and one of the biggest benefits is what it does to prime the central nervous system (CNS.)


OK, so the CNS is the controller. It's what tells your muscles to contract or relax.


Let's use this stereo system analogy:


  • Your brain is the amplifier

  • Your muscles are the speakers


Your brain, which is an integral part of the central nervous system, sends the juice to the speakers. Using compound lifts, trains your CNS which leads to better muscle fiber recruitment and a louder muscle building signal to your body overall.


  • Compound lifts are a loud signal.

  • Isolation lifts are not as loud.


To prove this point, consider this test:

Go do a set of leg extensions to failure and then go do a set of barbell squats to failure.

Doing barbell squats is a very loud, very big signal and it calls upon your entire body to elicit the strongest adaptation response.


Adaptation is exactly what we're looking for when we're working out our bodies and trying to get better at what we're telling it to do. Compound lifts are just much more effective partially because they activate so much muscle in the body and they tell everything to turn on your CNS loud!


For a lot of people who are training, when this top tip "clicks" they review their overall routine and thinking "why am I not building muscle?"


More often than not, 2/3 of their workout routine contains single joint exercises and compound is only 1/3. Change it up to gain strength and muscle fast and make 2/3 of the routine compound exercises and 1/3 isolation exercises.


... and, you're welcome!



Four– Don’t skip body parts

This 19-year-old kid came into the gym where I train and asked my trainer to help him get bigger.


My trainer, Derek, started talking about his current routine. No surprise nowadays, with YouTube, Tik Tok, Insta, etc. this kid knew what he was talking about, and he'd done his research. He was eating the right diet and taking the right supplements. Derek said, "well let me look at your current workout routine." This is where it got interesting.


After reviewing his current workout routine, Derek quickly realized that he didn't spend much time training his legs and so he asked him, "Why no leg days?"


The kid replied, "I don't really care about having super muscular legs but what I really want to do is add more size to my arms."


This is so common! People choose not to focus on a body part because it may not be flashy for them or it's hard to do the work. This kid even said, "I don't really like wearing shorts, so I don't really need to have solid legs."


But legs are a huge muscle group and working them will send LOUD, LOUD signals to your CNS.


Derek didn't skip a beat, he said to the kid, "OK, here's what we're going to do. If you want bigger arms, I'm going to get you really strong at squats and build your legs first."


The kid's face was priceless and he says, "well, that doesn't make any sense at all."


Derek said, "ohh, it will make sense once we do it, but here's the deal, you let me work the things that will make you grow overall and then I'll let you choose the body parts you want to choose to isolate and we can work those, too."


The kid agreed and in no time, the kid's guns were loaded.


Whole Body Systemic Effect

Derek was tunnel-focused on something known as the whole-body systemic effect.


I remember when I was a 19-year-old kid myself reading articles saying if you wanted to get bigger arms you got to get better at squats and I thought it was silly but I tested it myself and it totally worked.


Training your legs sends a local signal that goes the legs directly but there's also a very loud systemic signal that goes to rest your body.


This is why I love the speaker and amplifier analogy. It makes sense when you think of it like that. If you are training those compound lifts and you're doing it consistently and regularly, you're going to get some serious benefits to the amplifier and your overall muscle growth will experience the benefits of your compound training.


Training your legs sends signals to other areas of the body which stretches your capacity to grow.


So, don't skip body parts! Skipping body parts means that even though you have a body part that you don't really care about training, you're still not going to develop the other body parts to their full potential if you limit the muscle building signal that you are sending via your CNS.



Five – eat carbs & don’t miss your "ideal" protein intake

Hear me out on this one. Most people are so concerned about gaining body fat that they tend to shy away from carbohydrates. Ugh. Don't do this.


This is coming from someone who often eats very, very low carbohydrates and sometimes even eats clean ketogenic. I do those things not because I'm trying to build muscle and not because I'm trying to get lean but rather it works on an individual basis for my gut health.


You build strength and muscle so much easier when you eat carbs.

There, I said it.


Also, when you are trying to change your body composition and lose that stubborn body fat, it's seems counterintuitive to eat more calories (and eat more carbs, too.) But that is the crazy secret to it all, friends. Eating the calories that will support strength and muscle gains is the way to do it.


You can lift weights all day long but if you're not giving your body enough calories to support that muscle building signal, you're going to have a really hard time putting on any muscle and getting stronger.


PROTEIN

Don't miss your ideal daily protein intake. Most successful fitness professionals like to target that by eating it first.


For me, I really focus on making sure I hit my protein intake every day. 1 gram of protein per pound of ideal body weight. This means if I want to be 175lbs, I eat 175grams of protein each day while actively strength training 4 or 5 times a week.


I simply make sure I hit my ideal protein number first and foremost each day, and then I'll just pile on the carbohydrates and fat calories if I am still hungry. I have found that if I hit my protein first, which is most satiating, I can then incorporate other calories from carbs and fat much easier to even out my daily nutritional needs.


Check back soon for part two where I will share the next five important tips to Build Muscle Fast!❤️


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