Those 5-pound dumbbells were a great place to start as a beginner, but if you've been lifting weights for a while, it's time to bump up the weight. “You can use both exercise machines and free weights,” explains Michele Olson, PhD, exercise physiologist, professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery, “but, if you are not lifting heavy enough weight, it doesn’t matter if you are primarily using free weights or machines.” In order to build muscle, you must break down muscle tissue using a weight that is challenging enough to cause micro-tears, which when repaired, form denser, stronger fibers.
Reaching failure matters because tension matters. Failure is when the muscle cannot generate anymore force. Which means one applied (worked out) enough tension through the muscle to just want to give up. And guess what? Carrying groceries can do this for some. Why? We are all at different strength levels. So don’t worry about other people and what they can or cannot lift. I say this because FAILURE can be achieved with either light weights or heavy weights.
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To make that motion more natural, glute-building exercises are key. Ones that require hip motion or balancing on one leg, like these from John Henwood, running coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City, are best: They fire the glutes to help you stabilize and stay upright. Do one set of 15 to 20 reps, two or three days per week, and say hello to a stronger stride.
Several muscles cross the front of the hip and create hip flexion, pulling the thigh and trunk toward each other, but probably the most important is the iliopsoas. It is actually composed of two muscles, the iliacus and the psoas, which lie deep in the back of the abdomen. If you looked at the front of a body with the internal organs removed, you would see the psoas lying alongside the spine, attached to the sides of the lumbar vertebrae. The iliacus originates on the inner bowl of the pelvis. Both muscles cross the floor of the pelvis, emerge at the outer edges of the pubic bones, and finally insert on the inner upper femur (thighbone). Because the muscles are buried so deep, we can't see or touch them, so it's easy to understand why there is much confusion about their location and action.
The lower the rep range (and therefore the higher the intensity and the heavier the weight), the more rest there should be between sets. So most of the time, exercises being done in the 5-8 rep range need longer rest periods than exercises being done in the 8-10 rep range, which need longer rest periods than exercises being done in the 10-15 rep range.
When you’re planning your high-protein meals, 20 grams of protein is the optimal amount generally accepted for muscle growth. Research has found that the body doesn’t use much more than 20 grams for muscle-building at any one sitting. Around 80 grams of protein per day (or, four meals containing 20-grams of protein each) is about right for most people.
To do dips, place your hands at shoulder-width apart on a bench, with your body and feet stretched out in front of the bench. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your body down so that your butt nearly touches the floor. Lift back up with your arms to starting position; repeat, doing 3 x 8. If this isn't a high-intensity set for you, increase the resistance by lifting one foot off the floor.
“Imagine you've fasted for over eight hours,” he says. “At breakfast, you're firing your metabolism off really high. If you don't eat for another five hours, your metabolism starts to slow right down and you have to try and kickstart it again with your next meal. If you eat every two and a half to three hours, it's like chucking a log on a burning fire.”
Running with a sway to one side or experiencing muscle spasms? If your gait is off, it could be a sign of weak glutes. “A stiff hip joint would usually cause a more severe or obvious altered gait. If there is hip stiffness/poor mobility in the hip joint, it will lead to abnormal movement in all of the hip stabilizer muscles, including the glutes, and eventually pain and weakness,” Bayes explains.
To begin, place the top of one foot on a weight bench (or a chair) and step forward with the other foot out in front of you, similar to a lunge position. Make sure that the front foot is positioned at least at shoulder width and it is far enough away from your body that your knee will not come over your toes when you perform the squat. Put your hands in front of your body (or overhead to make it harder). Perform a “single leg squat” by bending the front leg. The knee of the leg that is up on the bench will go towards the floor. Get it as close to the floor as you can. Do not let the heel of the front foot come up off of the floor. Keeping your heel down will ensure that you engage your glutes and hamstrings in this exercise. You should feel the tension in the hip flexor of the leg that is on the bench when you perform this exercise (you will also feel the muscles of the front leg working). It is important to keep your torso upright throughout the full range of motion. As you go down into the squat, the hip of the back leg is going into extension, which will stretch the hip flexor as well as strengthen it as it stabilizes the hip throughout the range of motion.
That side note matters because the diaphragm can’t lift any weights. The best way to work this muscle is through breathing. And with any muscle, body weight should be the first place to start when it comes to building muscle and strength. If one cannot engage muscles properly with a push-up or pull-up how can one properly engage muscles during a bench press or lat pull down? They won’t..
Of the three, protein will of course play the most important role in the muscle building process (like calories, it’s one our required “supplies”), although fat and carbs will still be important for other reasons which range from optimizing hormone production (e.g. testosterone, the muscle building hormone) to enhancing training performance and recovery.
Most typical bodybuilding programs have way too many sets and reps and use the wrong exercises. However, if you lower the total volume, go heavier, and use compound movements as I’ve outlined above, there is nothing wrong with a body-part split for advanced lifters. In fact, it’s often less stressful to the joints than your average upper/lower split.
"It's especially important to eat a carb- and protein-rich meal immediately after a workout," Aceto says. "Right after training, it turns out that your body is really lousy at taking carbohydrates and sending them down fat-storing pathways," he says. "So post-training, carbs will be sent down growth-promoting pathways instead." And when these carbs are combined with a protein source, you've got a strong muscle-feeding combination because carbohydrates help deliver the amino acids into muscles by boosting insulin levels. This anabolic hormone drives nutrients into the muscle cells and kick-starts the muscle-growth process.