Muscle development is one thing, achieving mature muscle thickness is quite another. It can also become an agonisingly slow process but one which is well worth the journey! Genetics and age play a large part in this case because with years of training comes muscle maturity and some people are simply gifted with the ability to carry a mass of dense muscle. If you haven’t been training for more than a handful of years or were not born with genes which gift you with “silverback” muscle density don’t worry, here are 3 ways in which you can rapidly speed up the process in the gym!
Muscle Fibres Explained
Muscle density and thickness develops due to a number of different factors and probably the main one is the ‘’tight packing’’ of muscle fibres giving you that hard grainy looking muscle. To get muscle fibres to react and develop in this fashion it is essential that you do two things:
1 – Maximise the number of muscle fibres working
2 – Target your type2b muscle fibres (fast twitch glycolytic fibres)
To achieve the first goal you must use intensity levels which force your high threshold motor units to become excitable, once this occurs you multiply the number of muscle fibres you are able to recruit by approximately 10 times!! In this instance intensity can be defined as going to failure within the prescribed repetition range and then including a handful of partial repetitions to finish the set. Targeting the type 2b fast twitch muscle fibres requires a specific training protocol, here are the rules:
1 – fast/explosive eccentric muscle contraction
2 – 2 second isometric muscle contraction
3 – 4 second eccentric muscle contraction
4 – Repetition range of 2-5 (point of failure reached within this range)
5 – Rest periods between working sets of 90-120 seconds
6 – Compound exercises generally work best combined with the other 5 rules highlighted above
Take a look at any world class middleweight powerlifter and you will notice the extreme levels of muscle density that they boast, and then analyse the way they train – it is similar to the prescribed points above.
Point 6 advised that to optimise the stimulation of the muscle fibres we are trying to excite you should utilise compound exercises, here is why. Compound exercises utilise more than one muscle group, they also bring into play more fixating muscle groups and more muscle fibres in general. Applying the knowledge from above, knowing that specific exercises help recruit more muscle fibres gives you the potential to bring more fast twitch muscle fibres into play, per repetition. The best compound exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench press, clean & press, military press and barbell rows.
Form Points 1, 2 and 3 explained the repetition tempo at which you should follow to help capitalise on muscle fibre recruitment – however this is just half the battle. If you form in the gym isn’t right then you will deprive yourself of full muscle fibre stimulation. Granted, using the repetition tempo outlined will help eradicate sloppy form to an extent but it is still essential that you keep a close eye on your form in the gym! Body contortions are not allowed, we are looking to work the target muscle fibres, not the ego.
Combined, these basic tips will surely allow you to improve your overall muscle density and muscle maturity – talk about ‘’growing’’ up fast!!