Personally, I do about 5 years of strength sports in which I focus mainly on building muscle mass. During that 5 years I gained a lot of experience in this area and I have had many questions about this subject. Based on my personal experiences, I have set 6 points that I believe are essential to achieve maximum results when training on muscle mass is the main goal.
Nutrition plays an important role in building muscle mass. It is important that you adhere to a well-balanced diet with a good distribution of the macronutrients. The moment you want to build muscle mass, it is important that you know what your basic energy needs are. You can easily calculate these using calculators (note: this is only an estimate that may differ from your actual energy requirement). When building muscle mass you try to get an energy surplus, this means that you have to get more calories than you consume. At the moment you want to arrive reasonably clean (clean bulk) I advise you to sit 300-500 kcal above your energy needs. I generally distribute macronutrients as follows: 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 20% fat.
Sufficient rest is a very important aspect when we want to get the most out of our muscles. For this I want to go through the concept of supercompensation with you. The moment that an effort is made by the body, that costs a lot of energy. You can imagine that the ‘damage’ that the muscle incurs during the training ensures that the muscle is just below the starting level just after training. It is important that the muscle then has time to recover. After a period of 48-72 hours the muscle has recovered again. In fact, the muscle even comes just above the starting level to brace itself for a possible new effort. The trick is to give a new training stimulus to make maximum use of this super compensation. You can imagine that if you exercise the same muscles too soon after your training, you will do this before the muscle is restored and you can thus enter a negative cycle, which may eventually lead to overtraining. To fully experience the benefits of supercompensation, it goes without saying that this goes in combination with a healthy diet and sufficient sleep. Generally, a person needs at least 8 hours of sleep.
3. Number of repetitions
To understand why you choose a certain number of repetitions, it is important to know which muscle fibers are important for muscle growth. You have 2 different types of muscle fibers, type 1 (slow twitch) and type 2 (fast twitch). Type 1 muscle fibers are mainly used in long-term efforts because they mainly work on energy from oxygen. Type 2 muscle fibers are mainly used for shorter and more powerful efforts. To develop muscle mass you will have more type 2 muscle fibers, and you will also want to develop further. You do this by making a shorter and more powerful effort. During a training aimed at muscle mass, try to use a repetition range between 6 – 15 per set. It is important that with a set of for example 12 repetitions you use a weight with which you could possibly add 1 repeat with good execution extra. The moment you use a weight that you feel you could have done more, you are not stimulating the muscle but only “warming up”. Between your sets it is important that you use a rest period of up to 60 seconds.
4. Shock the muscle
To realize maximum muscle growth it is important that you continue to stimulate the muscles. That is why it is not wise to continuously use the same sets and repetitions at the same pace for weeks. The muscles will get used to this and thus react less to these training stimuli. Try to vary well in your training to keep surprising these muscles. Here are some examples:
Rest between sets
Order of exercises
Tempo on which exercise is performed
5. Eccentric training
Training eccentrically also called “negative” training is something you unfortunately do not often see happening in the gym. Many athletes only focus on pushing away a certain weight as quickly as possible and then seem to no longer focus on keeping the tension on the muscles at the moment when they return to their starting position. It is a shame because an important part of the exercise is missed. Eccentric muscle strength takes place when the muscle has to deliver strength in order not to reach length too quickly. In this phase you can stimulate the muscle so much that there is more muscle damage that ultimately should result in more muscle strength and muscle mass.