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Fit 4 Life | Five tips for muscle growth

Published:Tuesday | January 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMMarvin Gordon
When it comes to growing muscles, progressive overload is the name of the game.


The most common reason for exercising is putting on muscle or 'toning' up. There are a few things to know, however, if you are to avoid the common routine of working out then killing your gains.

Before you hit the weights, here are a few ways you can maximise your muscle growth this year.

1. Rest

Rest is something we readily sacrifice in pursuit of our goals. When it comes to strength training, however, rest is important. Rest days give your body the time it needs to recover and grow. Skimping on rest will hurt your performance and lead to overtraining. If you find yourself under-performing or if you have hit a plateau, take a week off. Get some rest. You will find you are more focused and energetic on your return.

2. Challenge yourself

When it comes to growing muscles, progressive overload is the name of the game. This means giving your muscles more work than they are used to. No, not lifting weights that are too heavy for you. Overload can be mechanical or metabolic. To achieve mechanical overload, increase the weight when a work out is no longer challenging. For metabolic stress, focus on training to, or through, muscle fatigue. Be careful when increasing weights. If you are not able to complete your reps with proper form, use a lighter weight.

3. Consume the right calories

Whatever your basic caloric needs, you will need to consume more to gain muscle. It's not just eating more. You will need to maintain balance. Consume enough protein, carbs and fats to fuel your workout and recovery. Consuming too many calories will make you gain fat. Use an online calorie calculator, such as My Fitness Pal, to determine how much food you should consume.

4. Free weights are your friend

Exercise machines make working out look easy. That is because they do make it easier. When you work with free-weights, your body bears the full force of the weight while stabilising itself. This means that you have to recruit more muscles, and you have to work harder, leading to more strength and muscle gains. Machines deprive you of these benefits. Use machine exercises as finishers or for safety while recovering from injuries.

5. Big lifts make you big

The muscle-building effects of compound (multi-joint) movements can't be overstated. Compound movements recruit multiple muscle groups, allowing you to lift heavier weights. This means more of your muscles do more work while triggering greater hormone response. These hormones - e.g. testosterone - boost muscle growth. So add squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and bench presses to your workout.

- Marvin Gordon is a fitness coach; email:;