Building muscle can be difficult, after the initial ‘newbie gains’ period wears off, with natural athletes quickly plateauing.
However, with diligent training, smart supplementation and a methodical diet plan — it is possible to continue making progress even as an experienced bodybuilder.
Below are 6 tips on how to increase muscular strength and hypertrophy, making a notable difference to your body composition (within several weeks/months of execution).
1. Eat in a Calorie Surplus
Many people forget the simple concept of overeating and how powerful this is for building lean muscle tissue. It does not matter if your macronutrient ratios are on point, if you are not giving your body excess nutrients to actually gain weight.
Eating in a small calorie surplus is recommended to limit fat gain, however aggressive bulks have worked for others who are happy to gain more fat (and may be more confident in losing it later on).
It is recommended to bulk or overeat in the off-season where your body is mostly covered under a t-shirt, as this way temporary decreases in muscle definition are less visible.
2. Increase Testosterone
Raising testosterone levels is an effective natural way to build muscle — with testosterone being a highly anabolic hormone, greatly affecting muscle mass.
Testosterone boosters can be an easy way to elevate serum levels, with Dr. Thomas O’Connor vouching for the effectiveness of ingredients, such as: tribulus terrestris, d-aspartic acid, DHEA and ashwagandha.
3. Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can lower testosterone levels in two ways — being a reduction of testosterone, via spikes in estrogen.
It can also lower testosterone from surges in cortisol. Cortisol not only is a catabolic hormone, but also promotes stubborn fat storage (which for many men can be the lower abdomen section). Such fat can be difficult to lose, and may take extensive periods of dieting to remove such subcutaneous adipose tissue.
Alcohol is unlikely to have a significant effect on body composition when consumed sparingly, however regular/moderate drink is likely to inhibit bodybuilding results.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was also known to drink beer in the off season, although this was a time when his diet was relaxed and thus he wouldn’t have been drinking near a contest.
Supersets are an effective training methodology for natural bodybuilders to overcome hypertrophy plateaus. By performing one set of an exercise, then a set of a second exercise immediately after (without any rest), the muscles adapt to this new stimulus by enlarging.
Whether this training concept is utilized when bulking or cutting, a person’s body will benefit; with fat loss also occurring, due to increased intensity and higher testosterone/growth hormone release from the workout (combined with a significant calorie after burn).
5. Stop Missing Sessions
Dedication is the most important component of building any physique, no matter how great or weak a person’s genetic code may be.
There is a reason why so many men’s calves in bodybuilding are lagging behind — and it’s not genetic (at least most of the time).
How many sets does the average man perform for the chest in a workout? Perhaps 12.
Yet how many sets are performed for calves? 6 or so.
This lack of volume and training frequency adds up over time, resulting in lagging muscle groups. Everyone is human and will miss workouts from time to time, however if this becomes a regular habit, muscle growth will suffer.
6. Eat More Fats
Fat, the macronutrient, doesn’t cause fat storage (despite myths insinuating such over the years).
However, fats can help to build muscle, indirectly through their ability to raise testosterone levels.
High fat diets, accompanied with sufficient amounts of protein and carbohydrates are an optimal macro nutrient environment for muscle growth.