Do a quick Google search for “how to build muscle” and you’ll be inundated by opinions of all kinds.
Some individuals favor whole body workouts three times per week, while others prefer the typical “bro split” where you hammer the snot out of a body part and then give it a whole week to recover.
If you’ve spent any reasonable amount of time researching muscle growth, you’ll quickly realize that it can be accomplished a multitude of ways.
That being said, there are some core principles you have to adhere to if you want to optimize your gains and maximize your results during your transformation challenge.
Today, we give you our top 5 tips for optimizing muscle growth, regardless of which training program you choose to follow.
Let’s get started.
5 Ways to Train for Growth & Optimize Your Gains
#1 Progressive Overload
There’s a never ending debate in the muscle building world between low reps and heavy weight and higher reps/lighter weight.
Truth be told, both rep & loading schemes can work.
Many successful physique athletes have built slabs of muscle using heavy weights and lower rep schemes, just as so many others have build impressive bodies using lighter weights and higher reps.
Research also shows gains can be made using either rep scheme, and there’s even some data to indicate that the best results are obtained by using a mix of rep ranges -- not just being married to one lifting dogma.
Regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, one thing is certain -- your resistance training program must adhere to the principle of progressive overload.
That is, you must continually strive to force your muscles to do more work than they have before. This can be in the form of:
- Adding weight to bar
- Increasing reps
- Adding sets
- Increasing frequency
- Increasing range of motion
- Increasing time under tension
- Decreasing rest between sets
All (successful) resistance training programs abide by the principle of progressive overload, and if you want to start making some serious gains, then you must ensure that you apply this concept each and every workout.
#2 Consume Enough Calories & Protein
It’s typically thought that muscle is built in the gym, but the reality is that your body does its repairing and growing outside of the gym, when you are resting.
Resistance training provides the stimulus for your muscles to adapt, change, and grow. However, they will only grow bigger and stronger if your training is supported by a healthy diet.
In order to grow most efficiently, you need to consume more calories than your body requires to maintain its weight. Make sure your diet consist of high protein macronutrients at 1 1- 1.5 grams of protein per 1 lb body weight. It’s simple thermodynamics.
We recommend use of high quality Protein Powders to help you meet your protein needs.
Yes, “maingaining” or “gaintaining” is possible where you essentially lose fat and build muscle at the same time, but this is most often successful in individuals who are new to training and/or very overweight.
For individuals who are more experienced, the most efficient way to build muscle is to be in a modest calorie surplus (250-500 calories above maintenance).
The only way to know that you are in a surplus is to estimate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and then track your nutrition intake each day.
Two other important benefits of the increased calorie intake are the ability to train hard (i.e. progressive overload) and better recovery.
Make sure to eat enough to support training, recovery, and growth and watch your results skyrocket!
#3 Use a Smart Training Plan
Progressive overload is the foundation of building muscle, but in order to properly apply progressive overload, you first need to have a training program.
Now, there are a lot of training programs readily available on the internet, so are better than others.
But, for the novice or early-intermediate, it can be hard to decipher quality programs from ones that are less than optimal. This is why we provide a customized training program for everyone who enters our transformation challenges.
Hypertrophy programming can get pretty intricate, but there are some basic tenants that most programs follow.
They are built around a stable of compound exercises, like squats, deadlifts, and presses, that target the six major movement patterns of the body:
- Horizontal push
- Horizontal pull
- Vertical push
- Vertical pull
- Hip hinge
Isolation moves are then added on top to further increase training volume as well as target smaller muscle groups (biceps, triceps, and calves).
Training doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to make sense. Using quality exercises that fit your anatomy and biomechanics and allow for progressive overload are essential. Then it’s a matter of figuring out the right mix of volume and intensity, and you’re all set!
#4 Get Enough Sleep
When it comes to building muscle and getting results, we so frequently focus solely on training and nutrition. While those are important, so too is your sleep.
Sleep is when the body does the brunt of its recovery and growth, which means if you’re not getting enough quality sleep each night, you are severely hindering your growth potential.
Sleep deprivation also impairs your ability to perform to the best of your abilities in your workouts, which reduces the likelihood you’ll be able to progressively overload (see point #1 again).
Not getting enough sleep also disrupts energy metabolism and hunger/satiety cues all the while increasing cortisol and protein breakdown and decreasing protein synthesis and insulin sensitivity.
Essentially, everything that runs counter to muscle growth amplifies when you’re sleep deprived.
So, the bottom line here is that if you really want to see results from your training program, then start taking sleep as seriously as you do your diet and training. If you need help getting quality sleep each night, you can try:
- Establishing a bedtime ritual
- Avoid blue light (TV, laptop, smartphone, tablet, LED lights, etc.) 2 hours before bed
- Limit alcohol and caffeine intake 2-4 hours before bed
- Limit exposure to stressors before bed (social media, news, work emails, etc.)
- Drink herbal tea like chamomile
- Listen to calming music
- Breathing drills
#5 Use the Right Supplements
The impact that supplements can have on the muscle building process are very much overblown by most supplement companies you’ll encounter.
The truth is that supplements can help and accelerate your results, but only if you’re putting in the work with your diet, training, and sleep.
No amount of supplements can make up for poor work ethic, crappy nutrition, or lack of sleep.
But, if you have those things in order, supplements definitely can make a difference.
Two of our favorite supplements for enhancing recovery and muscle growth are protein powder and creatine.
Protein is essential to muscle recovery and growth, and many individuals have trouble consuming enough protein and/or calories each day.
Having a delicious tasting protein shake, like 1UP Whey Protein, helps satisfy daily protein requirements while also supplying the body with essential amino acids it needs to repair and build muscle tissue. What’s more, research shows that whey protein supplementation can actually enhance the muscle protein synthetic response to resistance training, which basically means it helps build more muscle![4,5]
When it comes to creatine, what more can be said other than that it is the single most effective, well-researched nutrient in the history of sports nutrition. Simply put, creatine works.
It enhances energy production, cell volumization, athletic performance, and (most importantly) lean mass gains (i.e. muscle growth).[6,7,8]
In other words, if you’re serious about building muscle, then you want to supplement with creatine.
We’ve included a full 5 grams of creatine (the research-backed dose) in every serving of Pure Rebuild. Each serving of Pure Rebuild also includes essential electrolytes and amino acids to support training, muscle recovery, and hydration.
- Schoenfeld BJ, Peterson MD, Ogborn D, Contreras B, Sonmez GT. Effects of Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Oct;29(10):2954-63. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000958. PMID: 25853914.
- Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Krieger J, et al. Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy but Not Strength in Trained Men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019;51(1):94-103. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001764
- Krzysztofik M, Wilk M, Wojdała G, Gołaś A. Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Dec 4;16(24):4897. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16244897. PMID: 31817252; PMCID: PMC6950543.
- Nabuco HCG, Tomeleri CM, Sugihara Junior P, et al. Effects of Whey Protein Supplementation Pre- or Post-Resistance Training on Muscle Mass, Muscular Strength, and Functional Capacity in Pre-Conditioned Older Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Nutrients. 2018;10(5):563. Published 2018 May 3. doi:10.3390/nu10050563
- Volek JS, Volk BM, Gómez AL, Kunces LJ, Kupchak BR, Freidenreich DJ, Aristizabal JC, Saenz C, Dunn-Lewis C, Ballard KD, Quann EE, Kawiecki DL, Flanagan SD, Comstock BA, Fragala MS, Earp JE, Fernandez ML, Bruno RS, Ptolemy AS, Kellogg MD, Maresh CM, Kraemer WJ. Whey protein supplementation during resistance training augments lean body mass. J Am Coll Nutr. 2013;32(2):122-35. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.793580. PMID: 24015719.
- Chilibeck PD, Kaviani M, Candow DG, Zello GA. Effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscular strength in older adults: a meta-analysis. Open Access J Sports Med. 2017;8:213-226. Published 2017 Nov 2. doi:10.2147/OAJSM.S123529
- Wang CC, Fang CC, Lee YH, Yang MT, Chan KH. Effects of 4-Week Creatine Supplementation Combined with Complex Training on Muscle Damage and Sport Performance. Nutrients. 2018;10(11):1640. Published 2018 Nov 2. doi:10.3390/nu10111640
- Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 18 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z