5 Indirect Ways To Build Muscle
On the surface level lifting weights and drinking protein shakes are seen as THE way to build muscle and strength.
Everything else is non-existent - except perhaps a handful of supplements here and there.
This is the way of the gym rat, this is the way that'll ensure you're going to hit plateau after plateau, struggling (and probably failing) to break through each time.
In order to build a physique that resembles an ice sculpture with raw strength to match you need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, the other actions, decisions and things you can do to ensure you'll continue to build muscle mass and strength.
And here's the thing... neither of these involve more protein or lifting more weights.
The gym rat that cuts his sleep an hour short to spend an extra hour hitting biceps, the guy that dismisses juicing in favour of another whey protein shake...
Don't get caught up thinking lifting more often and drinking more protein is the #1 to get to where you want to be, the law of diminishing returns is apparent wirth everything, including bodybuilding.
There's a certain point at which increasing your protein intake is counter-productive and bad for your health, there's a certain point at which performing more sets, more workouts and increases your workout duration is going to place you at greater risk of injury and not allow your body to recover sufficiently between workouts.
Here are 5 things you should consider doing if you're not already to indirectly improve your strength and size...
Get Sufficient Sleep
You've probably heard it before - your muscles don't grow in the gym, they grow when you're recovering, and this saying holds very true.
Your hard work in the gym creates the demand for your muscles to grow, but it's not until you've got in some good nutrition and you're sound asleep that your body is able to repair itself (and repairing is growth).
3, 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night isn't a problem if it's once in a blue moon, but if you're constantly living off only a few hours of sleep you're not going to recovering properly and as a result you're not going to be getting the results you're after.
I've seen a number of studies on stimulant use in sleep deprived athletes, and stimulants can only just bring the deprived athlete up to the performance level of the athlete that did get a solid 6 hours or more of sleep a night. But here's the thing - when the well rested athlete supplements with black coffee or a pre-workout supplement it's game over - their performance increases a resonable amount and the sleep deprived athlete cannot keep up in terms of performance, poor performance results in poor long term results.
Ensure you're getting sufficient sleep when a plateau arrives to ensure you continue to grow.
Increase Your Cardiovascular Fitness
There's still a lot of debate and hate when it comes to cardio.
"Cardio kills gains!"
I call bullshit.
If you're in a bulking phase and you're burning too many calories from your cardio workouts all you need to do is consume more calories - unless you're racing a marathon cardio will not be eliminating your gains from lifting.
Cardio from my experience actually helps lifting, better blood flow, increased endurance during sets, better breathing, looser muscles and an all-round better feeling of well-being that allows you to push yourself beyond what you would be able to do if you did not perform any cardio.
Since I have been doing stair sprint, jump rope and battle rope cardio circuits and workouts my leg and shoulder workouts have also increased, I don't 'fade' after a few sets as I previously would have when lifting heavy.
Instead of running yourself into the ground with heavy weights all week ensure you're throwing in a bit of cardio too.
Get Juicing (Greens!)
Green juice is not too high in sugar, green juice will not make you fat.
Green juice is however, loaded with vitamins and nutrients that our body craves - resulting in increased energy, performance and feelings of well-being.
Because our body is satisfied with the nutrients we're deriving from our green juice we don't get the cravings we normally would that tempt us to cheat on our diet with junk food.
Don't get me wrong - hitting your caloric intake goal and macronutrient numbers are important, and protein shakes are a great aid when we're trying to hit a large protein intake for the day, but micronutrients are often overlooked, just because we don't count them in order to get shredded or build mass doesn't mean they're of no importance to the gym-goer.
Ensure you're hitting your calories and macronutrients but allow a couple of hundreds calories within these numbers to whip up a green juice.
A basic recipe I enjoy most days includes:
1 piece of ginger
Betroot juice has been studied quite a number of times as of late and all signs point to an increase in exercise endurance - yes, that's right, green juice can aid your performance in the gym.
There's no right or wrong juicing recipe, it's simply a matter of experimentation and finding what you enjoy and reap the best rewards from, however for men the betroot and pomegranate are fantastic for increasing libido and blood flow, throw in some dark leafy greens too which are rich in micronutrients and you've got yourself a potent, powerful juice.
Get A Training Partner
“Champions come in pairs of two because they battle themselves in perfection” – Greg Plitt
There’s nothing wrong with training alone, however if you’re looking to get the best bang for your buck out of each and every workout a training partner a training partner is essential. Don’t just rush out and choose anyone to be your training partner though, as if your training partner does not fit in with the details I’m about to elaborate on below chances are you may be going backwards with your workouts, instead of progressing forward.
A training partner is far more than just someone who spots you while you’re failing on your left few reps of that heavy bench press set, they’re someone who is invested in you, someone who truly wants you to succeed. This made sound corny and all but good training partners share a special kind of bond. They’re positive and they want each other to succeed and they’re prepared to help them unlike many of the negative nancies’ out there in the world today that find great joy in the failures and shortcomings of others.
Arnold Schwarzenegger discussed in multiple fitness magazines just how important a training partner was to him, stating “The biggest help I ever had was a training partner.”
Make Your Own Pre-Workout
Save money, get better results and increase your knowledge on supplementation by making your own pre workout supplement at home, it’s extremely easy… allow me to share with you how I’ve been making my own pre workout supplements that have assisted me in overcoming strength plateaus.
Simply purchase the essential ingredients listed below, add in the optional ingredients if you wish (like I said, these are nice but not necessary) and mix them together in water. Consume 20 – 30 minutes before your workout.
The Essential Ingredients to Make Your Own Pre Workout Supplement At Home
200 – 350mg
Caffeine is a stimulant that increases muscle endurance & improves mental focus.
Beta Alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that reduces fatigue and induces a ‘tinging’ feeling.
Creatine Monohydrate is one of the most well researched and documented supplements on the planet, creatine is an amino acid that can assist us in increasing lean muscle mass and gaining strength.
Citrulline is an amino acid used to stimulate the production of Nitric Oxide which increases blood flow to the muscles resulting in that full, pumped feeling when lifting. Citrulline also has been proven to relieve muscular soreness and increase endurance.
The Optional Ingredients To Optimize Your Home Made Pre Workout Supplements
The below additions are not necessary, however may suit you!
BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids)
Brain Chain Amino Acids assist in preventing the breakdown of muscle when training fasted, if you’re performing cardio first thing in the morning (provided you haven’t eaten for 6~ hours prior) you’ll be in an optimal zone to burn fat, however you run the risk of muscle breakdown too.
Supplementing with Brain Chain Amino Acids such as these are the solution for your fasted cardio.