Generally speaking, it’s pretty easy to answer the question of how to build muscle. You train hard, you eat a lot of the right food and so the muscle grows. But as always, the devil is in the details and you can easily get lost in them. Especially with tons of various advice around, which is sometimes contradictory and trying to untangle solid routine out of it can mess with your head.

Barbell curls

What I want to do in this article is to simplify the process of muscle building to a list of essential guidelines that are sure to help anyone who is willing to follow them build solid muscle. So here they are.

1. Go for the Afterburn

The number one mistake made by guys when training is not training smart enough. Guys think that if they spend a lot of time at the gym on lengthy 1-2 hour long workouts they will burn more fat and build more muscle. As a matter of fact, they’re wasting time more often then not.

To burn fat and build muscle you need to boost the levels of anabolic hormones in your body (testosterone, human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1)), and that is not done by lengthy workouts with long periods of rest, nor long low intensity cardio workouts.

The answer here are maximum intensity short interval workouts. So you should strive to fit your workout in the interval of maximum 30 minutes and keep the intensity as high as you can. What’s more, increasing your heart rate in these intense intervals makes you gasp for air which increases the level of oxygen you breath in. This “afterburn” effect increases your methabolism greatly.

2. Supersets and Dropsets

The way to increase intensity can be done by using either of these two training techniques. Superset is simply doing two or more exercises in a row without rest. While dropsets are decreasing weight or substituting an exercise with an easier form exercises as you fail to continue doing a set. An example of a workout that fits this description is my favorite high intensity shoulder workout in a single dropset:

Shoulder Muscles Dumbbells

Click the image for an example of an intense dropset workout.

3. Varying Repetitions and Exercises

Your muscles adapt to stimuli so you have to change them around. That means not only varying a number of repetitions per set but changing up your workouts regularly.

So if you’re doing sets of 8-10 reps, change the weights up so you can do 12, or 6. If you do drop sets until failure, these variations will happen naturally.

4. Prefer Compound Exercises

Prefer compound exercises over isolation moves. Engaging multiple muscle groups at a time increases intensity and builds your metabolic strength much better than isolation exercises. And it goes without saying that it means faster muscle growth.

I recently wrote about the most important moves in fitness and muscle building. Employing that strategy of workout would maximize the results of compound exercising:

Dumbbell Press

Click the image for the main 8 compound moves for your workout.

5. What About Cardio?

As I mentioned, long low intensity workouts are not as effective. You’re burning fat to fuel your body during a long 30+ minute run but it stops right at the finish line. What’s worse, a cardio workout too long will release catabolic hormones in your body and eat into your lean muscle mass and that’s the last thing you want. Low intensity doesn’t boost your metabolism as much nor does it boost the “muscle growth” hormones.

But that doesn’t mean you should stop doing cardio. Instead, switch to high intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio and do short sprints followed by slower walks. Amp up the intensity and you’ll benefit from cardio in much shorter periods of time without the adverse effects.

Flip the page for the remaining 5 essentials.

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