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How To Build Muscle

Probably the most common goal especially for males, is to build muscle. Every gym across the world is filled with young guys making their beginner gains and established lifters trying to keep getting bigger and stronger.

Obviously there are plenty of women wanting to build muscle too. I get plenty of female clients that want to get rid of fatty areas and have some muscle show instead.

But how do you build muscle? How do you make more muscle?

Firstly, there is no one way. There are multiple different approaches and thoughts to it. Certainly people get better results using one method more than others. Theirs is also the personal preference of what each individual enjoys training.

Regardless of the approach, there are 3 principles on how to get more muscle.

These are:

1. Tension

2. Stress

3. Damage

Each as their own advantages and their own approaches. However, sticking to just one isn’t worth anywhere near as much as using all three by either doing a mix in a single workout, or cycling the programs over a course of weeks or months.

Lets expand a bit on the three principles.


This is typically created when you generate force to move or lift heavy weights/objects.

This is more of a powerlifter and strong man approach. A very “just lift heavy” attitude.

This is typically trained using 80-90% of you 1 rep max.

This means that you’d train 3-8 sets with 3-6 reps. And long rest period of 2-5 minutes between sets.


This is created when you maintain tension in the muscles by that quick reverse of direction just shy of the lock out. Basically that “get a pump” style of training.

This is much more of a bodybuilding approach to building muscle.

You’d typically use 60-70% of your 1 rep max.

You’d be doing 3-5 sets with 10-20+, even going until failure. Rest period is around 45-60 seconds.


This is really breaking down the tissue with slow negatives and extended range of motion. There is also a lot of tension during the stretched position on the muscle.

Typically more associated with a crossfit style of training. A very mixed style of training and trying to “shock the body”.

You’d probably use around 70-80% of your 1 rep max for this.

Do 2-5 sets with 8-12 reps and roughly take 1-2 minutes between sets.

Lets dive into this a bit further.

So with tension and stress, there’s a bit of a tug of war going on.

More of one usually means less of the other. This is down to the fact that as you add more weight, you need to generate more force to move the weight. This causes more tension in the muscles. However, this means that you can’t do as many reps which means that there’s less stress.

Even by look at the descriptions above. One uses the higher range of the 1 rep max, the other uses the lower end. One uses very low reps. The other you can do 20+ or even until failure.

Just from that you can see that they have opposite approaches.

This is why people like body builders, train using a variety of weights to train both. Or will use the 10-20 reps previously mentioned.

That is because the weight is manageable enough good form and protect your body, heavy enough to create tension while still getting a good range of motion, and light enough you can train close to failure.

Now with the damage muscle tissue approach, it’s slightly different.

I’m sure we’ve all been to the gym and there has been some person (just used person because I don’t think it’s appropriate to call them what I’d really like to), banging the weights as they finish a deadlift.

Because for some reason this person feels the need to let the whole gym know that they picked up a weight.

Well studies have shown that if you just drop the weight after you picked it up, that you are only using about half the effort you could be putting out.

That is because you only completed the concentric part of the lift.

The concentric part of an exercise probably best described as the “main” part of an exercise such as the push on a push up, the pull on a pull up, the coming up on a squat, the curl on a bicep curl.

But if you just drop the weight on a deadlift for example, you have completely taken out the eccentric or negative as it’s more commonly.

The eccentric is, well the opposite of concentric. So think of the lower on a push up, or the lower on pull up or squat etc.

Eccentric training can increase muscle strength and power. These functional adaptions are based on increase in muscle mass and the increase in muscle fibers.

So the next time you are lifting, don’t just drop the weight or neglect the lower of a weight.

Remember, by skipping this you are skipping a big part of the movement and missing a big chance to help build strength and muscle.

So that is the 3 ways to build muscle.

As I said at the start, there is no one way to do it. And the best way to get results is to do mixture of all 3.

Yes there are people who put nearly all their focus on 1 or maybe 2. But if you really want to be build muscle and be strong, then you can’t neglect any of these approaches as you will weaker in the aspect you don’t train.

To be all round strong and have your muscles challenged, you have to do it all at some point.

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