These 11 muscle building tips can help beginner athletes get started with their muscle building journey. These muscle growth methods can also enable advanced athletes whose muscle growth has plateaued.
Muscle building is a complex physiological process that takes significant time and commitment. At the same time, there is a lot of wrong information about building muscle best. Cut through the noise with these 11 muscle building tips to start building bigger muscles today!
Muscle building tips from workout structure (like sets and reps) to how much protein to include in a muscle building diet. Clever ways to build muscle and reduce total workout time with muscle building tips on supersets and pushing to failure. Learn how to increase lean muscle mass ratio.
Muscle Building Tip 1: How much weight is best for building muscle?
Numerous studies have shown that a weight you can lift a maximum of 8-12 times produces the most significant gains in muscle size[1, 2]. Depending on the exercise and your fitness level, this is equivalent to 60-80% of your one-rep max (the maximum amount of weight you can lift in a single repetition).
Many people mistakenly think that the only way to trigger muscle growth is by lifting heavy weights in a gym.
You can build bigger butt muscles, a strong core, a massive chest and even a super strong back with bodyweight exercises (or resistance band exercises) you can do at home or wherever you are!
Heavy weights are only necessary if you want to have a bodybuilder’s physique. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean having the type of strength athletes need to compete, which translates to everyday health and fitness.
Muscle growth is mainly due to an increase in the size and not the number of muscle fibers.
Muscle Building Tip 2: How many sets per exercise are right for you? Single vs. multiple set training
A set is the number of times you complete a certain movement (reps) and its recovery period. For example, 3×8 push-ups would be 3 sets of 8 push-ups each. The rest interval is usually 1-3 minutes between sets (more on that below).
The optimal number of sets is a hot topic in the strength training world.
There are big differences here depending on your fitness level.
In the first weeks, novices and beginners show the same gains with single set training as they do with multiple set training.
More advanced athletes achieve significantly better results with multiple set training because the training stimulus with single set training is too low to stress the muscles to adapt. Therefore, multiple set training is recommended in this case.
Beginners should stick to two or three sets, whereas more advanced strength trainers can do 3-5 or more sets.
Good to know
Perform as many reps and sets as you can before your form or technique fails. Continuing to push even though your form has collapsed can lead to injury. Always be in control of your movements and respect the limits of your body and fitness level. One of the biggest challenges is knowing when enough is enough, and this comes with many years (decades) of practice. Skip straight to Muscle Building Tip 7 to learn more about pushing to failure.
Muscle Building Tip 3: Reps Per Set
How many repetitions (reps) per set depends on the specific exercise and fitness goals. For example, it would be reasonable to do 30-60 jumping jacks; however, that would be far too many push-ups for most people.
Stick to a rep range of 6-12 repetitions of the same exercise if the focus is on building muscle. Once that many reps of an exercise is possible with good form, go all the way to 20 reps for exercises like push-ups, rows, squats, etc. Once 20 reps with good technique are doable, add another set and drop the reps back down to 6-8 reps per set. Add more reps again once you can complete all sets with good form.
Muscle Building Tip 4: Rest Between Sets
Rest between 90 seconds and 3 minutes between individual sets.
Add an aerobic component to the workout or if short on time by doing circuit training or supersets. Circuit training means skipping the recovery intervals and going straight into the next exercise. This method of training works the cardiovascular system more than strength training alone.
On the other hand, basic supersets involve doing exercises that oppose the same muscle or muscle group—for example, doing a set of push-ups and then going straight into a set of supermans. The two exercises oppose the same muscle group (think pushing versus pulling movements). This means skipping the recovery interval while still pushing hard in each exercise.
Check out the below videos to see how push-ups and supermans work opposing muscle groups (known as an antagonist superset):
Be careful with supersets because they can leave you with DOMS for days because they work muscles to the limit! Make sure you understand the benefits of super-compensation and the difference between overtraining.
Make sure you perform all the exercises at a steady pace and with proper form.
Muscle Building Tip 5: How many times a week for you do strength training?
Soreness related to strength training is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). It is vital to return or begin strength training very conservatively. Aim for the minimum amount of reps and sets if one hasn’t strength trained in a while (or ever).
DOMS may occur one to two days after the initial strength training session. Even if soreness persists, another strength training session two to three days later can help alleviate DOMS and is a good idea for experienced athletes. Athletes who have never strength trained before should do one day of strength training their first week, then try adding a day the next week and see how their body reacts.
Building muscle is a long-term process. Rushing muscle building will lead to injury eventually, which will cause serious setbacks. Trust in the process, go slow and be patient. Always leave one or two reps “on the table.” When in doubt, leave it out.
For beginners, two strength sessions a week is enough. An all-around program that works all the major muscle groups is best. These are often called “fully-body workouts.”
Some examples of full-body workouts in adidas Training are: Full Body with Weights (use dumbbells or water bottles as weights), 8-Minute Fully Body Workout, 10-Minute Tabata HIIT, and so many more!
More advanced strength trainers can work out three to four times per week.
Split training is a good way to make sure there is enough time for muscle recovery. Each major muscle group will work twice a week if you do a two-body-part split four days a week. The most common types of split training are dividing your workout into upper and lower body or push and pull exercises.
Advanced athletes can consider building their workouts with the adidas Training Workout Creator. This feature enables athletes to choose specific muscle groups, difficulty, workout duration and equipment.
A common way to use this feature to split workouts would be to target legs and lower body one day of the week, then target arms and upper body the next day, then go back to lower body. This type of training is only for advanced athletes because it adds significant training stress, which is needed to promote further muscle growth due to the principle of progressive overload.
Muscle Building Tip 6: How many weeks to see visible results?
When starting strength training, strength increases, but your muscles won’t look any bigger.
This is because the strength gains at the beginning are due to improved intra- and intermuscular coordination (improved activation and interaction between muscles). Training blocks should last between eight and twelve weeks, including a recovery week every third or fourth week depending on experience level and injury propensity.
Muscle growth requires continuous additional training stimulus.
Muscle Building Tip 7: Push Muscles to Failure
Pushing to failure sounds dangerous (and it can be). Pushing muscles to failure is also a great way to induce muscle growth. Pushing to failure means one could not complete another rep with good technique. If one completes that final rep with poor technique, they have pushed past failure, which can quickly lead to injury at worst and is counterproductive at best.
An excellent way to push to failure for bodyweight exercises is simply doing as many reps of an exercise until technique suffers. For example, do as many push-ups as possible and stop when hips and/or shoulders sag towards the ground. Rest for a minute, then do another set and note down how many reps are possible. Try to do more reps and/or sets in the next workout to build muscle.
The key to this tip is to push just until it is almost too much and then stop. It’s never productive to get injured, so be very careful. Beginner athletes should focus on developing perfect technique before attempting this training tip.
For example, here are 9 of the most common mistakes for the most common exercises to watch out for when pushing muscles to failure.
Muscle Building Tip 8: Cut Cardio (If Muscle Building is the Only Goal)
Cardio or aerobic exercise can impact the body’s ability to build muscle. If big muscles are a primary goal, cutting cardio is required.
However, beginner athletes will likely realize significant gains fast if they do strength training and cardio workouts. Being able to climb stairs without getting winded is good for overall health! Plus, muscle growth will happen in a functionally natural way. For example, including running workouts will develop important leg muscles and work the cardiovascular system.
The bottom line
Unless bodybuilding is a goal or muscle growth has plateaued, include cardio workouts in training.
Muscle Building Tip 9: Muscle Building Nutrition
Building muscle requires fueling muscle growth. Cutting calories to lose weight is counterintuitive to building muscle. Additionally, calorie needs will increase as muscle mass increases.
Protein Intake for Muscle Building
Protein is essential for muscle building. Adequate protein intake doesn’t mean cutting out the other macronutrients of carbs and fat. It also doesn’t mean consuming more than 25g of protein an hour (the maximal protein absorption rate for humans). Supplements that have hundreds of grams of protein are a waste of money.
Use this protein calculator to quickly and easily figure out how much protein is needed to build muscle.
Carb Intake for Muscle Building
Many people falsely believe that cutting carbs is an excellent way to promote muscle growth. The body prioritizes carbs as its primary fuel source during very intense exercise (like strength training or sprinting through the physiological process known as glycolysis). If the body doesn’t have enough carbs to fuel the exercise, it breaks down protein in muscles and converts protein into glucose to cover the energy expenditure of the training. This has the negative effect of breaking down the very muscles being built!
Eat enough carbs to cover the energy cost of the exercise. Find that out using this carb intake calculator.
The bottom line
Instead, eat a balanced diet of protein, carbs and fat. Get protein from the diet, not supplements.
Muscle Building Tip 10: Lose Weight and Build Lean Muscle Mass
It is possible to use strength training to increase the ratio of lean muscle mass while losing weight . Muscle mass may not increase (and may even decrease) during weight loss. However, increasing protein intake and maintaining strength training while cutting carbs and fat can help one maintain or increase their ratio of lean muscle mass.
Think of it like this: if total bodyweight drops but muscle mass stays the same, the ratio of muscle to body weight has increased despite muscles not growing. In other words, lean muscle mass has increased.
Muscle Building Tip 11: The Role of Rest
Muscle doesn’t get built during workouts: they break down. Muscle grows during rest because rest allows the body to repair broken muscle tissue stronger than before.
Get eight to nine hours of sleep every night, especially during heavy training. Napping is also critical for serious muscle growth.
The most important thing for effectively building muscle (as well as for every training goal in general) is that you continue to work out regularly.
If you stay consistent, all the hard work will pay off and you are guaranteed to see visible results.
Are you ready to get in shape and build strength? Get the adidas Training app and join a challenge!