The bodybuilding debates will never end. The endless arguments over how an effective muscle-building program should be structured will most likely continue until the end of time. Just scour the Internet message boards, flip through any muscle magazine or talk to the sales rep at your local supplement store. No matter who you talk to or what you read, it seems that everyone is an expert these days.
If everyone is an expert, confident in their own ideas and beliefs, how can the average beginner possibly know who to listen to? He or she is instantly confronted with endless questions that seem to have no clear-cut answer.
How many days should I train per week? How many sets should I perform for each muscle group? What type of rep range should I be using? What are the most effective exercises for stimulating muscle growth? How long should my workouts last?
These questions go on and on until he or she is eventually led to believe that building muscle is an infinitely complex process involving rocket-science precision and an intimate understanding of human physiology. I mean, that's what takes to build muscle, right? Wrong! Believe me, there are answers to these important questions, and if you are willing to put in the time and effort you will most definitely find them. But that's not what this article is about.
You see, amidst all of the confusion and endless debating, the majority of lifters end up losing sight of the big picture. Beyond all of the specific workout principles, such as rep range and exercise selection, remains one crucial principle, a principle that lies at the very heart of the muscle growth process. If this principle is not given full attention, or even worse, completely ignored, building muscle becomes next to impossible.
The bottom line is that muscles grow as they adapt to stress. When you go to the gym and lift weights, you create "micro-tears" within the muscle tissue. Your body perceives this as a potential threat to its survival and reacts accordingly by increasing the size and strength of the muscle fibers in order to protect against a possible future "attack". Therefore, in order to continually increase the size and strength of the muscles, you must focus on progressing each week by either lifting slightly more weight or performing an extra rep or two. In doing this, your body will continue to adapt and grow to the ever-increasing stress.
Building muscle is all about building strength!
So what is the most powerful muscle-building tool available? Quite simply, it is a pen and a piece of paper!
Every time you go to the gym you must write down exactly what you accomplished and then strive to improve upon it the following week. If you aren't always getting better, then you're either staying the same or getting worse. Every week you should have an exact plan of attack ready to be executed. You absolutely cannot afford to start throwing weights around aimlessly without a clear-cut goal in mind.
The specifics of building muscle are important to understand and implement, but regardless of what style of training you're currently using the ultimate deciding factor between success and failure is progression. You can sit around all day obsessing over specific principles, but the bottom line is that if you aren't getting stronger every week, you absolutely will not be getting any bigger. Examine your training approach closely. If you haven't been paying laser-like attention to the amount of weight you've been using, the number of reps you've been performing, and then striving with every ounce of your energy to improve upon those numbers each week, you are completely ignoring the very foundation of the muscle growth process. If you want to see the best gains in muscle mass and strength that you possibly can, a pen and a piece of paper is the most important tool you could possibly have in your arsenal.