Muscle Growth

One of my Favorite Muscle Building Hacks

By Sal Di Stefano on Apr 4, 2019 3:45:38 PM
4 Minutes Reading Time

Building muscle is pretty damn difficult for most people. The human body doesn’t necessarily want to build extra muscle tissue. Doing so means your body needs more energy to function and, for most of human civilization, energy (food) wasn’t super easy to come by. Thousands of years of evolution made our bodies terrible at building lots of muscle while simultaneously amazing at storing body fat.

Most fitness professionals have agreed upon a few things you need to do in order to build muscle. You need to provide your body with a stimulus to build muscle. The best stimulus is heavy resistance training. You also need to eat adequate amounts of calories or you won’t have the building blocks necessary for your body to build muscle. A diet that is relatively high in protein is also a good idea. If you do the above, and you are otherwise healthy, the odds are you will build at least a little muscle.

Building more than just a little muscle, however, takes more details. You need to do the best muscle building exercises and you need to program your workouts so that you balance stimulus with rest. This can actually be a pretty complicated process.

I’m going to share a pretty cool muscle building workout “hack” with you. If you want to design your own workout and you are a little confused as to what exercises to pick and which order to put them, you will LOVE this hack.

You can categorize almost all main muscle building resistance training exercises into three categories. Mid-range, stretch and squeeze. Take any exercise and identify where you feel the greatest resistance of that exercise and this will tell you which category it falls in.

Mid-range exercises tend to be compound movements that don’t put your muscles in a crazy stretch or crazy contraction. A barbell squat or a bench press is a good example. The bottom portion of a rep in either exercise doesn’t really put any of your muscles into a crazy stretch (unless you are super tight) and the top portion of a rep in either exercise doesn’t fully contract the main target muscles. A barbell squat can be categorized as a quad movement. The bottom doesn’t stretch the quads and the top doesn’t require you to really squeeze the quads either. Same with the bench for your pecs. No stretch and no peak contraction squeeze. Most compound movements are like this and they are the biggest and best general strength and muscle building exercises you can do. Mid-range movements should be the first (and sometimes also the second) exercises you do in your workout.

Stretch movements place a lot of tension in the stretch portion of a rep. These movements tend to be isolation movements. A flat dumbbell fly is a great example for the pecs. Most of the tension is at the bottom of the rep when the pecs are stretched. An overhead tricep extension for the triceps or an incline dumbbell curl for the biceps are other great examples. These movements are GREAT for stretching muscles under tension. Stretch movements should be done after the mid-range movements

Contract movements place most of the tension at the squeeze portion of the rep. These also tend to be isolation movements. A leg extension for the quads is a great example. The hardest part of a leg extension is the squeeze at the top. Another example are concentration curls for biceps or pec dec flyes for the pecs. Contact movements are great at the end of the workouts. 

Here is an example of a chest workout that follows this “hack:”

Bench press (mid-range)
Incline press (mid-range)
Flat bench fly (stretch)
Cable crossover (contract)

Do this with every body part. Start the workouts with mid-range compound movements then move to stretch movements then finish with contract. This combination usually produces insane pumps and, if nutrition and other program factors are good, usually results in rapid muscle gain.

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Sal Di Stefano

Sal is one of the hosts of the Mind Pump Podcast. At the age of 18 his passion for the art and science of resistance training was so consuming that he decided to make it a profession and become a personal trainer. By 19 he was managing health clubs and by 22 he owned his own gym. After 17 years as a personal trainer he has dedicated himself to bringing science and TRUTH to the fitness industry.

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