Muscle Building Training - How to Start?

Because of the effort and dedication required to build muscle, it makes sense to try and get the best possible results from your investment of sweat and time. Your results will be even better if you start your muscle building journal on the right foot.

Here are eight golden guidelines that every novice exerciser who wants to build muscle should follow.

Choose Full Body Workouts Or An Upper Body/Lower Body Split

A lot of exercisers looking to build muscle automatically gravitate toward body part splits where different muscles are trained on different days, e.g. chest on Monday, legs on Tuesday, Back on Wednesday etc. This approach is not ideal for those just starting out.

This sort of training, also called a bro split, only allows you to train each major muscle group once per week. This is not enough. Ideally, you should train each muscle group 2-3 times per week.

Full body and upper body/lower body splits ensure you train each muscle at least twice a week while still allowing enough time for rest and recovery.

For example:

Full Body 

Monday - Full Body 

Tuesday - Rest 

Wednesday - Full Body 

Thursday - Rest 

Friday - Full Body 

Saturday - Rest 

Sunday - Rest 

Upper Body/Lower Body 

Monday - Lower Body 

Tuesday - Upper Body

Wednesday - Rest

Thursday - Lower Body

Friday - Rest

Saturday - Upper Body

Sunday - Rest 

There is nothing inherently wrong with body part splits but they are best left to advanced exercisers who often need longer recovery times between workouts.  

Prioritize Compound Exercises

Compound exercises are the most effective way to build muscle. They involve movement at two or more joints at the same time, allowing you to lift the greatest amount of weight, and stimulating the greatest possible amount of muscle. Examples include squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups, and bent over rows.

In contrast, isolation exercises such as leg curls, triceps pushdowns, and lateral raises involve just one joint at a time. They involve fewer/smaller muscle groups, and do not allow you to use as much weight.

Isolation exercises are not entirely useless, they just need to be used in the correct way; you can use them to add variety to your workouts or finish off a tired muscle after you have trained it using compound exercises. However, prioritizing compound exercises will make the most of your training time and energy, producing better results in the process.

Don’t Neglect Your Legs

A lot of gym goers are guilty of spending too much (or even all) of their time training their upper bodies – don’t become one of them! Lower body training can help boost upper body development, and nothing looks as silly as a big upper body supported on skinny legs.

Start your muscle building journey the right way by spending as much time and effort on your legs as you do your upper body. If you are serious about making the best possible training progress, doing more lower body than upper body training could be very beneficial.

Train For Muscular Balance

Don’t fall into the trap of training only the muscles you can see in the mirror. As important as your quadriceps, abs, pecs, and biceps undoubtedly are, so too are the muscles on the back of your body. Front to back muscle imbalances will limit your progress, affect your posture, and could even lead to joint pain and injury.

Avoid this problem from the outset by always training for muscular balance. That means for every “pushing” exercise, make sure you include a pulling exercise for the same joint action/plane of movement.

Use a Variety of Repetition Ranges

You can use a number of repetition ranges to build muscle, yet a lot of exercisers never really stray far from doing three sets of ten. Three sets of ten can work, but your body will soon get used to this type of training.

Keep things fresh, productive, and interesting by using other set and rep schemes. For example:

  • • 5 sets of 5 reps

  • • 4 sets of 6-8 reps

  • • 3 sets of 12

  • • 2 sets of 15

You don’t have to stick to just one set and rep scheme for your whole training session. You can mix several different ones into the same workout, for example:

  1. • Barbell bench press – 4 sets of 5

  2. • Dumbbell incline bench press – 3 sets of 8

  3. • Cable crossovers – 3 sets of 12

  4. • Push-ups – 2 sets 15

Such a varied approach to sets and reps will ensure that you train all available muscle fibers for faster muscle growth.

Make Small Weekly Changes

You are only as strong as your last workout. If you want to get stronger, and therefore develop bigger muscles, you need to gradually increase the difficulty of your workouts, preferably from one week to the next.

You can do this by:

  • • Increasing your weights

  • • Increasing your reps

  • • Resting less between sets

  • • Doing more sets per exercise

If you do exactly the same workout for more than a couple of weeks in a row, your progress will soon stall. However, if you make even very small changes from one week to the next, you are much more likely to get the results you want.

Make Big Changes Every 6-8 Weeks

While small changes over several weeks can add up to big changes, after 6-8 weeks you will still probably hit a progress plateau. Your weights will peak, and you will have run out of ways to nudge your progress onwards. When this happens, it’s time to adopt an entirely new training program. Change your weekly schedule, use different exercises, and change your set and rep scheme to create an entirely new workout plan.

There is no need to discard your current workout; you can come back to it in a few months time when it will feel new again.

Don’t Forget to Deload Now & Then

Training hard is an unavoidable part of the muscle building process, but you cannot train hard indefinitely. If you try to, you run the risk of getting injured or suffering from physical and/or mental burnout, all of which could necessitate a long break from training.

Avoid these problems by deloading from time to time. A deload involves breaking up periods of intense training with a week or two of much easier exercise. This will allow for more complete recovery and also help reignite your enthusiasm for training, something that might be waning if you’ve been hammering yourself without mercy for the last few months.

Deload every 10-12 weeks by simply having an easy week of training. Don’t worry, you won’t lose muscle or strength. In fact, after a week of less intense exercise, you’ll probably come back even stronger than before.

Your first few months of training is a golden period during which you should make some very noticeable progress. After all, whatever training you do will be an entirely new experience. Make the most of this period by doing things right from the outset. While you might still make progress even if you make mistakes, you’ll get better results of you put these eight tips into practice.  


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