I have always enjoyed being active. Growing up as an only child, finding ways to entertain myself usually involved some form of activity. The love for activity easily translated to high school and collegiate sports. A time where I thought I was in the best shape of my life. Although my diet included anything I wanted, my sleep schedule was quite unbalanced and weight training workouts were inefficient, I enjoyed every second of it. Once collegiate athletics was no longer an option, adulthood set in quite quickly. The transition from college to full time high school educator, husband and father of three daughters no longer allowed for unhealthy diets or insufficient sleeping schedules. Once I realized I was sporting a full blown “Dad Bod”, I had to find a way to improve my not only my build but my health. After committing to Life Time Fitness (Lake Houston), the most equip facility in the area, I started my journey to become physically fit. Although, at the time, I thought I was taking full advantage of my membership by using the weight training area, I want getting the results I wanted. It wasn’t until I conversed with a trainer who suggested challenging myself to become a better me. Initially, I thought, isn’t that the reason I come here in the first place. Shortly after his explanation of balancing your diet, creating efficient workouts and self-discipline, I was intrigued and ready to legitimately be in the best shape of my life. With much guidance from my trainer and use of my clubs state of the art facility I was about to complete my sixty say challenge by understand three principles. Muscle-building is a science. It is best to follow the basic principles of hypertrophy to increase my likelihood of seeing results. Everybody is different, so listening to my body’s responses is detrimental. Two people can be on the exact same program and experience different results. Lastly, perseverance, even after mistakes, is how you accomplish your goals.
The first step of accomplishing my goal was to meet with my trainer to develop what my actual goals were. I must say, after much research, building muscle is much more than just lifting heavy weights. I explained to my trainer, Khari, that I wanted to lose weight and build muscle in order to produce an athletically toned physique. I also explained that I have tried different training plans that I had found online, mainly isolated movements, but nothing truly gives me the look I am going for. Khari thoroughly explained that I really didn’t need to worry about differentiating between types of muscle growth because the factors that lead to building bigger biceps or more defined. He suggested instead of trying to figure out how to “hack” more size on your body or figure out what type of fiber to attack, it’s better to take a comprehensive approach to the primary factors that appear to lead to more mass while cutting fats.
According to research, there are three primary mechanisms of muscle growth: muscle tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage. Realizing that all of these factors are correlated with the amount of weight I am able to lift.
Learning how to create muscle tension was most difficult because it drives all three factors and was the area most I struggled to comprehend and execute in the gym. Initially, the philosophy of time under tension wasn’t apparent because I was lifting to trying to push for a certain amount of weight, two hundred and twenty-five pounds on flat bench press to be exact, no knowing that it wasn’t necessarily the best way to build muscle. Actually, my attempts to move that much weight using any means possible resulted in faulty form, loads of pressure on my ligaments and joints. While I might have gotten the job done, my muscles weren’t necessarily carrying as much of the load as I wanted for growth. Khari suggested focusing on a body fat percentage goal. Weighing in at sixteen point percent body fat, I decided to set a goal of ten percent body fat by the end of the challenge.
Once the goal was set, my trainer explain that understanding that everyone builds muscle differently, this is where personalization comes into play. Some people might see incredible process with only lifting heavy weights, whereas others might see it with moderate weight for more reps. But if I want to really focus in on building muscle — and not just becoming stronger or being able to train harder — then variety was my best friend.
So the key was to focus on various exercise routines medium (6-12) and high (15+) rep ranges on isolated muscle groups to ensure that I triggered all of the processes of muscle growth. Because some exercises are best for gaining strength, while others are ideal for tension, or creating the pump, diversity was essential in my training plans. This didn’t mean altering my workouts every day, instead I would complete through cycles where I’d rotate reps and the movements performed.