6 Goal Setting Strategies to Help Build Muscle

By Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN on December 13, 2016 , categorized in Health, Plant-based Nutrition

Building muscle

It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, young or old: More and more people are adding the goal of building muscle as part of their overall fitness program. Whether it’s for aesthetic reasons, sports performance, weight management, to improve your active lifestyle or a combination of the aforementioned – more people than ever before are engaging in resistance training as a means of adding lean muscle to their physiques. If you’re one of them, here are a few tips that can help you maximize your results:

1. HAVE A PLAN:

Sure, it sounds simple, yet the gyms are filled with people just “winging it,” wandering aimlessly from machine to machine and making up their workouts as they go. A few crunches here, a biceps curl there, a quick stretch, with no method to their madness. Lack of structure is one of the primary reasons so few manage to achieve their workout goals. Yes, there is a science to building muscle, and it starts by following a well-designed exercise plan. It can be a workout found in a book, a magazine, an exercise DVD, one in an exercise app. Just make sure you are following an intelligently-designed strength training plan. (Ideally one created by someone with an exercise-science related degree and/or possessing one of the top fitness certifications, such as those from the ACSM, NSCA or NASM.)

2. CHOOSE YOUR PLAN CAREFULLY:

Unfortunately it’s not enough to simply follow a plan – You also have to ensure that the one you do select is based on sound exercise science. Thanks in large part to the internet and social media there’s a plethora of bad fitness advice, questionable workout plans and self-proclaimed “fitness experts” out there. Choosing an improper strength training plan can not only keep you from achieving your goals, it may also potentially lead to injury. Be sure you seek out information from a reputable source.

3. USE APPROPRIATE RESISTANCE:

There is a line often used in fitness: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” When it comes to resistance training and building muscle, the concept is known as the “Overload Principle.” Simply put, it means you should lift weights that are challenging, without losing your ability to maintain safe, proper form. The human body is an extremely intelligent machine, and can adapt to the stressors imposed upon it. Lifting the appropriate weight breaks down your muscle tissue and your body “adapts” by rebuilding and repairing itself, including increasing the size of your muscle fibers.6

4. EAT YOUR PROTEIN:

Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, and protein is made up of amino acids. Failure to eat adequate daily protein can prevent you from building lean muscle. A good strategy is to try to consume high-quality sources of protein with each meal.

5. BE CONSISTENT:

Lifting weights a few times a month will simply not get you the muscle building results you are looking for. You need to overload the muscles at least a few times per week to adequately overload and stimulate your muscular system.[annotation]Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. (2016). Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine. 46(11):1689-1697. A good plan is to engage in a full-body strength training workout three times per week on non-consecutive days.7NSCA. (2012). Essentials of Personal Training. Human Kinetics. 2nd edition.  https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/determination_of_resistance_training_frequency/ It doesn’t matter if you do it at home or the gym, with free weights, machines, or your body weight. You just need to do it, and do it consistently.

6. GIVE IT TIME:

Building muscle, like just about everything related to exercise, takes time. No, it won’t happen overnight, or even in a few weeks for that matter. But it can happen, as long as you don’t expect immediate results and you follow the advice listed above.

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tom holland

Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN

Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN is an internationally-recognized exercise physiologist, certified sports nutritionist, freelance writer, and regular contributor to Vega’s Expert Panel. He is the author of “Beat the Gym”, “The Marathon Method”, “The 12-Week Triathlete” and “Swim, Bike Run, Eat! The Complete Guide to Fueling Your Triathlon”. He has hosted numerous best-selling fitness DVDs including “Supreme 90 Day”, “The Abs Diet Workout” and “Herbalife 24 Fit”. Tom’s workouts and fitness articles have been published in Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, SELF, Women’s Health, Oxygen, Men’s Journal, Fitness, Time, The New York Times, Runner’s World, Triathlete, Inside Triathlon and more. Holland is an elite endurance athlete with 23 Ironman triathlon and over 60 marathon and ultramarathon finishes around the world, including races in Malaysia, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, China, Brazil. South Africa, Germany, Italy, France and Ireland. Tom is a frequent fitness expert on television with appearances on The TODAY Show, Good Morning America, CNN, FOX, QVC & HSN.

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