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  • Head Coach, Desmond de Moussac

How to Exercise for Muscle Gain

So you want to gain muscle. You want to finally replace those flabby arms with toned and well-defined biceps.


Where do you start? There are 101 muscle building programs on the internet to choose from.


In this article, we'll look into the popular muscle building ideas on the internet, and breakdown the DOs and DON'Ts of muscle building to help you get your GAINS as quickly as possible.

Key Takeaways:

When you gain strength, you gain muscle.
When you work multiple muscles at once, you get the most bang for your buck.
When starting a new exercise, allow your body to form a strong muscle memory of the movement.

There are so many different exercise programs out there that it can be tough to know which one is right for your needs. This is especially true for muscle building programs that are full of jargon like super-sets, drop-sets, hypertrophy, etc.


In this article, we will be comparing broad categories of exercises, whittling down to the most effective types and teach you how to build your OWN exercise program that best suits your needs, without all the exercise jargon.

1. External Load VS Bodyweight Exercises

In our 1st comparison, we will look into these 2 broadly categorized types of exercises and see which one is most effective for building muscle.


External Load Exercises refers to movements that require you to "add-weight" to your current body. These exercises frequently involve equipment like barbells and dumbells, but can also require other things like medicine balls, sandbags, kettlebells, etc. This forces your muscles to adapt to the added resistance, and as a result, build muscle over time.


Bodyweight Exercises refers to movements that primarily involve on your own bodyweight to carry out. These exercises typically require little to no equipment and can be done easily at home. Over time, your body gradually adapts and can more easily move your body, enabling you to do more complex and difficult movements, at higher repetitions.


Winner: External Load Exercises

In this comparison, on the basis of muscle gain, we have to award it to external load exercises. This is based on a very simple principle that when you gain strength, you gain muscle mass.

Gaining muscle is the body's reaction to tension and stress. When it has been put under these strenuous conditions, it adapts and builds muscle so that you can better handle greater loads.

And the most effective way to do this is to gradually increase the load on your body over time, resulting in the body responding by gradually increasing muscle mass to adapt to these changes.


In general, bodyweight exercises struggle to help you gain muscle mass as, after a certain point, it no longer puts your body under a challenging load. Resulting in less muscle gain. Increasing repetitions of an exercise only increase muscle fatigue, but not tension.

2. Compound VS Isolation Exercises

External load exercises can be broadly categorized into 2 types: compound and isolation. Compound exercises involve multiple joints and muscles. For example, the Squat, which works not only your quads, but also your hamstrings, glutes, and even your core.


While Isolation exercises involve only 1 joint and muscle. For example, a Bicep Curl is an isolation exercise that works only the biceps.


Winner: Compound Exercises

Not surprisingly, compound exercises offer more bang for your buck because (1) they train more muscles at once, (2) allow you to lift heavier weights, and (3) even significantly raise growth hormone levels.


(1) The more muscles you train, the more muscle you can gain. By exercising multiple muscles at once, you can spend less time in the gym, and more time enjoying your gains.


(2) Consequently, because they employ multiple muscles, they also allow you to lift more weight than isolation exercises. As we've mentioned above, more weight equals more muscle gain.


(3) The increase of post-workout growth hormones is influenced by the total amount of muscle involved in the workout. That's why research shows that compound exercises increase growth hormones more than isolation exercises.

While isolation exercises do have a place in your workout program, if you are doing bicep curls 90% of the time, you are probably not gaining muscle in the most efficient manner. We recommend having compound exercises in 70%-80% of your workouts.

3. "Shocking Your Body" VS Progressive Overload

You've probably heard of the notion that you need to "shock" or "confuse" your body often by changing your exercise routine, otherwise your body will get used to it and stop gaining muscle. This is the "shocking your body" methodology.


Progressive Overload refers to increasing the amount of tension or load placed on your muscles over time. This involves progressively increasing the weight you are lifting.


Winner: Progressive Overload

While "shocking your body" into growth sounds plausible on the surface, this is simply not true. Confusion doesn't cause muscle growth, making them work harder does.


The downfall of programs that get you to "confuse" your body is that it does not give you time to adapt to the movement of the exercise, especially as a beginner weightlifter.

When learning a new movement, there is a brain to muscle connection that gets stronger and stronger over time. This is also commonly known as muscle memory.

This connection is so important that when you are just starting out, you could even start to lift more weight without gaining an ounce of muscle. It's therefore very important to form a strong muscle memory when first starting out.


When you change your workout routine too often, you rob your body the chance to form muscle memory and get to a point where you can start to push harder during every workout session to lift heavier weights.


Your number one goal should be to increase your strength over time. Hence, don't change your routine until you start to plateau in your strength. For a beginner weightlifter, it could be a year or even 2 years before you reach that point.

So there we have it. The secret to exercising for muscle gain.

  1. External Load

  2. Compound Exercises

  3. Progressive Overload

Stick to these 3 principles, and you'll look like a Greek God in no time!

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