7 Ways to Build Useful Muscle
Here are 7 ways to build explosiveness, lean muscle, shred body fat, and boost your confidence.
1) Movement is a Must
Without a base of movement it doesn’t matter how strong you are, inefficiencies in movement will hold back your high performance training. Sports occur with jumps, throws, sprints, cuts, hops, and reactive movement, not barbells and dumbbells.
Doing sprints can keep your fast twitch muscles firing on all cylinders and maintain explosiveness as you age. Perform jumps and throws before workouts. Sprint and do change of direction drills two or three times per week to keep you athletic and lean.
2) Build a base of strength
There are multiple types of strength, but we’re focusing on absolute and relative strength.
Relative Strength is the amount of strength relative to body size. This reflects a person’s ability to control or move their body through space. All else being equal, smaller individuals have higher relative strength.
Absolute Strength is the maximum amount of force exerted regardless of muscle or body size. Greater amounts of absolute strength favor those with higher bodyweight and in general, larger individuals.
Building a base of strength improves relative strength (when size is in check) and improves your ability to generate force.
Why this matters:
You want a body that performs as well as it looks. Both absolute strength and relative strength are needed for high-performance gains.
Plus, you’ll increase nervous system activation, leading to:
- Increased muscle fiber recruitment: the number of muscle fibers being recruited.
- Increased speed of rate coding: the speed at which the body sends electrical signals to the muscles.
These both lead to greater adaptation and improvements in workout performance and help you build lean muscle.
3) Progressive overload
I hate to break it to you, but squats, cleans, presses, pulls and lunges are still the best for building lean muscle and strength. To maximize these exercises you must progressively overload the body. That means add weight, decrease rest, and increase training volume. Push your body beyond its abilities or you won’t grow. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
4) Keep Isolation Isolated
By isolation exercises I’m referring to the typical bodybuilder exercises: lateral raises, biceps curls, and the like. Except for a few exercises at the end of your workouts these isolation exercises are inefficient and a waste of time (for NON-Competitors).
With a limited amount of time to train you’re better off building strength and explosiveness. Get strong, and then worry about isolation, as it’s needed. Some may use isolation as it’s needed to prevent injury and improve movement (i.e. rotator cuff exercises).
5) Pride, Passion, and Perseverance
“Pride, passion, and perseverance. Pride, passion, and perseverance.”
I remember my High-School Football coach preaching these terms over, and over, and over again. I used to think he was full of it, but he’s right. These three terms are vital to your success on and off the field.
– Pride to put your best foot forward and pursue your goals no matter the circumstances.
– Passion to be relentless and put in the time when no one else is working.
– Perseverance to push through plateaus and struggles that will occur.
Attacking training with pride, passion, and perseverance is imperative to building athletic muscle.
6) Exercise Risk/Reward
Everything is a tool and requires a risk-reward analysis.
Each exercise is a tool, not the end-all-be-all. There are dozens of exercises to train the same muscles, pick the best option.
7) De-loading Exercise
Train all you want, but without an emphasis on recovery you’ll end up beat up, weak, and un-athletic.
Intense exercise causes tons of stress: joint & ligament stress, muscular damage, neural fatigue, and hormone disruption are all factors that must be taken into account and is highly individualized to each athlete. De-load, do recovery workouts, use soft-tissue therapies and contrast showers for better recovery.
There’s more to building muscle and being athletic than your strength numbers. Get off the platform and into the world. You have to move, move well, and move often in a variety of ways. You have a finite amount of resources for training; pick exercises wisely, train hard, and be persistent. These principles are key for building athletic muscle without turning you into a bloated ball of fail.