How to Build Muscle and Strength Naturally (7 Tips)
Everywhere you turn, men are looking for the best tactics, techniques, and shortcuts that help to answer the age old question relating to “how to build muscle?”
Traditionally, when it comes to…
- Bulking up
- Building Muscle
- Building Strength; and
- Building Size
…men have followed a handful of old school methods touted in fitness and bodybuilding magazines for decades that have promised only the best of results.
More often than not, you’ll see these recommendations:
- Eat large amounts of food
- Bulk and cut
- Count calories
- Train hard
- Lift heavy weight
- Don’t skip leg day; and
- Train everyday
At the end of the day, all of the existing broscience currently available for the “how to build muscle” crowd will, in short…
Send you off in all different directions.
Many men and women, when it comes to building muscle, spend far too much time, effort, and money chasing “shortcuts”, “hacks”, “secrets”, and “magic bullets”.
With all resources wasted on the above, there’s far less emphasis spent on taking the time to learn and understand the fundamentals.
Ever heard of the Pareto Principle?
Also, known as the 80/20 rule, the Pareto Principle specifies an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs.
It states that:
20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.
Applied to fitness and bodybuilding, the 80/20 principle allows you to get stronger and faster, in less time.
If that doesn’t quite sink in, here are a few examples of 80/20 rule in effect:
- 80% of business profits come from 20% of its customers
- 80% Supplement Demand’s visitors come from 20% of its articles; and
- 80% of your fitness results come from 20% of your training time, exercises, and efforts
As it relates to solving the question of “how to build muscle and strength”, this guide will provide you with ten of the best techniques to serve as your 20% input…
…in order to yield 80% of your results.
Let’s get started.
How to Build Muscle and Strength: 7 Tips, Tricks, and Techniques to Apply with Every Workout
Before jumping directly into the top ten muscle building tips, it’s important to note specifically what you won’t find within this list.
For one, you won’t find brotastic pseudoscience, such as:
- “Eat 5,000 calories per day”
- “10-15 reps per set, every set”
- “As many sets as possible”
- “As much weight as possible”
- “Drop sets, supersets, giant sets, triple super drop sets, etc”
You get the point.
Instead, what you’ll learn, is more in line with general elements (the 20% input), which, when applied consistently and with direct intent, will provide tremendous results (the 80% output).
#7: Train with Real Intensity
Not just the typical grunting prior to a big lift.
Not having your spotter slap your back.
Not dry scooping your pre-workout as you walk into the gym.
We’re talking about training with the kind of intensity that actually stimulates muscle growth.
And while each and every person in the gym believes that they’re training hard…
…most don’t realize what true training intensity is.
We’re talking about training until failure.
And by failure, we’re referring to your sets.
Training to failure, aside from those that are relatively new to training and bodybuilding, is one of the only true ways to stimulate the growth of muscle tissue.
One way to think about “training to failure” is as so:
“Muscle growth is an adaptation to stress”.
By failing to apply more stress than previously applied, there’s no need for the muscles to adapt.
To that note, the only way to be sure that your muscles are being adequately stressed, trained, and worked…
…is to integrate sets to failure.
Essentially, this is where you perform a set of a particular exercise until you simply can’t perform another one.
Or, you “fail” to perform another repetition, with proper form.
The objective here is to avoid fooling yourself that anything less than 100%, full, and focused intensity will yield the results you’re working towards.
Building muscle and strength naturally is damn hard work.
#6: Lift Heavy Ass Weight (With Good Form)
With an emphasis on weight, comes a direct correlation to rep ranges.
Due to ample research in the stimulation of myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, the most effective rep range is:
4 to 6 reps.
With 4 to 6 reps, this should have you lifting in the range of 80 to 85% of your one-rep max.
If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase “muscle hypertrophy”, we recommend looking into it.
Muscle hypertrophy involves an increase in size of skeletal muscle through a growth in size of its component cells. Two factors contribue to hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which focuses more in increased muscle glycogen storage; and myofibrillar hypertrophy, which focuses more on increase myofibril size.
Here are some of our favorite studies on the topic:
- Effects of Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men
- Effects of Resistance Training Frequency of Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis
- Effect of repetition duration during resistance training on muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review and meta-analysis
- The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training
Keep in mind that the 4 to 6 rep range is equally effective for both men and women.
Although, seeing as how women generally can’t push and pull as much weight as men can (seeing as how their bodies produce far less testosterone and don’t repair and re-grow muscle as quickly).
To this note, it’s recommended that women actually start in the 8 to 10 rep range for a majority of their workouts, with an emphasis on the 4 to 6 rep range in the larger lifts, such as:
- Bench Press
- Deadlift; and
- Military Press
If building muscle is your core focus, try re-arranging your working sets around the 4 to 6 rep range.
#5: Plan for Proper Muscle Recovery
Have you ever felt that you’ve reached a plateau?
How about an unusually quick halt in progress?
One common explanation:
It occurs frequently as the intensity of your training exceeds your body’s ability to rest, repair and recover.
Once your body reaches a state of overtraining, it’s not uncommon to experience a slew of negative symptoms, ranging from:
- Muscle soreness
- Muscle atrophy
- Loss of motivation; and
- Decreased immune system function
To prevent a state of being overtrained, it’s crucial to make necessary adjustments in your training routine that allows for the proper amount of rest and recovery.
Something that most bodybuilders and weightlifters don’t fully understand is that growth isn’t accomplished in the gym (and the gym alone), but rather…
Despite training separate muscle groups on separate days, training still stimulates the body’s central nervous system.
It’s simple really… take the time to allow yourself to recover.
#4: Never Underestimate the Importance of Nutrition
You’ve seen the pictures:
Of a week’s worth of meal prep…
Of a 3,000 calorie mass gainer protein shake…
Regardless which type of fad diet you may be interested in, or whether or not you partake in calorie counting, nutrition is important.
In fact, important is gross misrepresentation and understatement.
When it comes to conquering the seemingly daunting task of re-arranging your nutritional lifestyle, we recommend partaking in the act of meal prep.
For multiple reasons, meal prep provides an incredible opportunity to help you build muscle and strength, quickly and effectively.
To name a few, meal prepping helps by:
- Controlling your calorie and macronutrient intake
- Allowing you to eat foods that you enjoy (and avoid foods you don’t)
- Providing a daily meal schedule
It’s often said that having success in the gym is over 80% due to proper nutrition, as opposed to strictly what you do in the gym.
#3: Avoid “Shiny Object” and “Magic Bullet” Syndrome
Ah… perhaps, the most important of all of our “how to build muscle and strength” tactics.
This, of all of our tip, tactics, and techniques, is one to avoid.
It’s common practice to be on the lookout for the next magic bullet, in terms of shortcuts to take for building muscle or losing weight.
When in fact, what’s known to work is already of public knowledge.
In it’s simplest form, the best results can be found from a routine that includes:
- Proper Nutrition Regimen
- Proper Workout Regimen; and
- Proper Supplement Regimen
If you’re on the lookout for the next “magic bullet”, there’s no doubt that you’ll find one.
As is common in the world of fitness, there’s often a new shiny object, in the form of workout equipment, training routines, and supplements.
Avoid looking for shortcuts, and stick to the basics.
#2: Get More Sleep
Sleep, alongside recovery, is one of the most crucial elements of allowing your body to build more muscle.
Although, it’s often tough to get a good night’s sleep in this day and age, we’ve provided a handful of tips below that may help you to reach that deep REM sleep we all crave after a long day:
- Take a warm bath before bed
- Don’t oversleep in the morning
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid sleeping pills/syrups
- Avoid stimulation 60 minutes prior to bed
- Avoid TV, phone, and tablet activity prior to bed
More and more research shows the importance of sleep as a part of one’s daily routine.
For bodybuilders, in particular, sleep helps to restore brain function, alertness, and preparation for the day’s upcoming training sessions.
#1: Proper Supplementation
If you’re a veteran to the world of fitness and bodybuilding, there’s a great likelihood that you’ve either:
- User supplements
- Have training partners who use supplements
- Have been recommended to use supplements; or
- Have wanted to try taking supplements
Regardless of your current usage or position on supplements, we encourage you to read on.
For decades, certain supplements have been scientifically proven to be highly efficient at a number of things related to bodybuilding and physique-building:
- Increasing muscle mass
- Increasing strength
- Increasing performance
- Increasing endurance
- Improving recovery
- Decreasing body fat
- Decreasing blood pressure; and
- So on and so on…
If you’ve looked around some of the other popular articles on Supplement Demand, you’ll find that we’ve supplied you with articles, ranking lists, and educational guides on virtually every common sports nutrition supplement.
As with anything, supplements are only effective, when combined with a proper workout routine and a proper (and consistent) nutrition regimen.