Trying to build muscle without injuring yourself? If you struggle with resistance training and haven’t seen the muscle gains you would like to, you’re not alone. With all of the routines and resources out there, what’s stopping you from making the gains you’re looking for? Here are some guidelines to follow that will help you build muscle safely and effectively.
Start slow and build. If you’re just starting out, try going to the gym 2-3 times per week and focusing on full body routines. Use the 2-for-2 rule: if you perform two repetitions beyond the number you did during your previous training session for two consecutive sessions, you can increase the weight. Work up to four or five days per week after 4-6 weeks.
Frequency and consistency are extremely important. Being consistent and making it to the gym frequently will be the determining factor for how much muscle you gain. Weight training breaks down your muscle tissue. Your off-days help allow the muscle to rest and rebuild more strongly than before. However, this new super-compensation of strength will only last so long. Take advantage of your last workout and get back to the gym!
Choose the correct exercises, repetitions, and sets. Begin your routine with lifts that work multiple joints, like squats, deadlifts, and rows. Using multiple joints will increase the intensity or feel of the workout, allowing for a greater muscle growth response. The number of repetitions and sets will determine your training volume. Gradually increasing your training volume will help increase muscle. Work your way up to three or four sets of 8-12 repetitions for each exercise.
If you’re lifting something heavy, get a spotter. Always have someone spotting you on exercises that could potentially leave you in a bad situation. Grab a trainer at your local gym or see if someone working out close by can help you. Having a spotter will also give you a confidence boost and get you to work a little harder, which can go a long way!
Plan ahead and set goals. Plan each 4-6 week mesocycle with a goal in mind. Set up the workouts for the week before the week starts. Have small goals each week that help paint the bigger picture. This will keep you on track and consistent.
Jamie Osmak, certified strength and conditioning specialist, is a member of the Sports Rehabilitation team at Hospital for Special Surgery’s James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center and Tisch Sports Performance Center. Jamie is a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist with a degree in Exercise Science from Rutgers University.