Few clients come to CoachMeFit looking to gain weight and build hypertrophy (large muscles). However, I have noticed that as my clients ‘progress and reach their weight loss goals they start to create new goals, such as building more muscle. When looking to gain lean body mass, your workouts are going to be slightly different then if you are going for maximum weight loss. Some of the key factors that will change are the types of exercises, the number of repetitions, the intensity and the amount of rest time.
With clients looking for weight loss, trainers will generally do exercises that increase their heart rate. Combination exercises are a great way to do this. You may do a stability ball squat combined with a bicep curl to shoulder press. Since multiple body parts are exerting force at the same time, your heart has to pump harder to get blood to all of the working muscles. For my clients who are looking for maximal strength and mass gains, we focus more on muscle specific exercises. The combination exercise of the stability ball squat + bicep curl to shoulder press could now be split into 3 different exercises; stability ball squat, bicep curls, and shoulder presses. Doing these exercises individually allows you to focus on one muscle group at a time and allows you to lift heavier weights than if you were doing a combination exercise.
The number of repetitions is another factor that is going to change when going from a weight loss plan to a maximal strength routine. When doing exercises for fat loss repetitions will usually be in a range from 12-20. For maximal strength and muscle building repetitions will range from 6-12.
Training intensity can be defined as an individual’s level of effort compared with their maximum effort. With that being said, you are going to train at a higher intensity level when you are training for strength and lean mass gains as compared to when you are training for weight loss. Weight loss intensity is normally around 60-75% of your maximal effort, where as intensity levels for lean mass gain and maximal strength will be around 75-85%.
A common misconception is that rest is for the weak. When training at a higher intensity, rest becomes very important. As I mentioned earlier, for fat loss you want to get your heart rate up. Rest times are shorter when training for weight loss because you do not want to let your heart rate decrease; weight loss training rest times can be anywhere from 0-60 seconds. However, rest times for hypertrophy are longer, usually 1-3minutes. This is because the longer rest periods allow your adenosine triphosphate and creatine phosphate (which is your energy supply for your muscles) levels to have more time to replenish. Inadequate rest intervals can decrease performance and could lead to excessive muscle compensation and even injury.
Hypertrophy is a great fitness goal; however the training process is specific and intense. The tips listed above are very important and beneficial in reaching this goal. If you follow the guidelines of muscle specific exercises, increased training intensity, lower repetitions and adequate rest periods, you will quickly begin to see changes in your body and an increase in lean muscle mass.