How to Consistently Build Lean Muscle and Gain Strength
My guess is that if you have spent some time working out, you’ve achieved some results. You may have improved your strength, lost a bit of weight, or gained a bit of muscle, but in maintaining consistent improvements is where you found a problem.
I was there with you. I tried for 7 years, gaining, and then losing, constantly hitting plateaus like a flies hit my high beams. That is, until I figured things out. Here are 7 strategies that will help you consistently build lean and athletic muscle mass.
1. Change your goals.
Having a goal to build 32 pounds to your skinny frame in “x” amount of days is a great goal, so keep that as your vision of where you want to be down the road. But rather than being focused on the end result – the muscle or the strength you want to gain – identify specific tasks or steps you need to take, that will get you there. Make those steps your weekly and monthly goals.
For example, if you are doing the PowerHowse Challenge, you could have a goal of following the program word-for-word for 2 full months. Follow that up with a week off. You could also have a goal of not missing 1 workout for a 2-month period, or only having 1 cheat-day each week.
Keep your goals short, and focused. By focusing on the things that will get you to your goals, you’ll be less likely to get ‘tripped up’. But if you’re always focused on the end-point, you can get discouraged and sidetracked because it seems so far away. You may think that missing one workout isn’t the end of the world. But it reality, missing one workout will make it more acceptable to miss other workouts later on down the road.
2. Add weight weekly.
Try to be improving on a weekly basis. It doesn’t matter how much weight you’re adding each week, just try to add some. Progressively overloading your muscles is a great way to avoid a plateau. Our bodies adapt to the demands that we place on them, by increasing those demands we’re continually pushing our bodies to adapt to something greater each week.
3. Change consistently to gain consistently.
By change I don’t mean change your program every 3-4 weeks. If it’s a good program, there should be ‘change’ built in to it.
You should be seeing changes in the different sets and repetitions you’re performing at least once a month. Changing up exercises is good too, but I suggest keeping the exercises that will benefit you the most – like compound exercises focusing on the bigger muscle groups – but change the method of weight: going from using a barbell to dumbbell’s every couple of weeks.
4. A week off can do the body good.
Sometimes what we need is a week off from training. I tell the guys who are doing the PowerHowse Challenge to take a full week off from their training every 1-2 months. It’s not only a physical break that we need but a mental one as well.
Working out consistently can take a mental toll as well as the obvious physical toll our bodies are put through with intense training. A week off can put you back into the “hungry” mentality that you need to truly succeed and see your best gains. Don’t take “day’s” off from your workouts; rather, go hard with your 3 or 4-day split, and take a full week off. Go for a little trip, cheat on your diet a bit, and get back that hunger that you had during the first couple of weeks of your training.
5. Identify an emotional “why”.
If you don’t know why you’re working your ass off, putting your body through pain, then odds are you’re not going to stick with it. You need to understand why you want to build this ideal body.
Why do you want to get stronger, more muscular, lose fat, become healthier, live longer, etc…?
Make this reason emotional. Some of us just have a burning desire to want to be great, but why do you want to be great, and how is transforming your body going to help you achieve this?
Ask the question: “why”, and keep on asking until you get to the route, the real reason why you’re working so hard. The reason that will then get you to the gym when it’s the last thing in the world you want to be doing (we’ve all been there).
6. Eat, Eat, Eat. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep.
If you’re training like you should be training, and really breaking your muscles down with each workout. You need to allow them to recover. That’s why I say that you should be training a maximum of 4 days a week. You also need to be consuming enough calories, with enough protein and nutrients to help your body repair the muscle you’re breaking down during exercise.
Get your 8 hours a night, and never turn down seconds of a clean, and healthy meal. Two great principles to live by when trying to build lean, athletic muscle mass.
7. Learn to Enjoy Pain
I’ve said this before – and I’m probably going to say it again and again – but learning to thrive on putting your muscle through the burning pain that occurs in your last few reps before failure (within proper form) can mean the difference between good and great results.
Hard work truly pays off, and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t working as hard as I should have been before I started getting results. I’d look at the number of reps I’d have to perform, I’d get there, then drop the weight. In my mind I’m thinking, “that’s not all that hard.” I’d then rest for a couple minutes and repeat.
When I did start achieving the results I had dreamed about my whole life, it had a lot to do with the intensity of my workouts. I cut the duration in half – or more – I was lifting less: going from 6 days a week to 3 or 4. But my workouts were painful. I was putting my body through INTENSE sessions and then letting them recover, which then resulted in the 32 Pounds of Lean, Athletic Muscle Gained in 32 Weeks.
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