Every week, Genesis Gym Singapore’s personal trainers get hundreds of questions from clients in our Singapore personal training gyms, as well as from the online coaching platform we have in Singapore as well as in China.
Here are the answers to common questions related to muscle building.
#1 – How to train to increase muscle?
There are several ways to grow muscle. But they all involve the progress of some kind. So you need to increase something each time. That “something” could be the heaviest weight lifted, the total amount of weight lifted (weights x reps), reps per set, lower rest, or longer time spent doing each set (slower movements of the weight). Record workouts and try to increase 2-5% in weight or 10% volume, or one rep per week. When you can no longer make progress using your current method, it is time to change your workout.
#2 – Why don’t you use those cool training methods I see in other gyms?
Just because I know something doesn’t mean I should use it! Too many personal trainers go for a course or read a book, then are overexcited to “try” these cool new methods on their clients. This shows a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of how bodies respond to exercise.
A programme can have a different effect on different people depending on MANY things… Such as…effort level, nutrition level, muscle fibre type, goals, different experience level, genetics and so on.
But in general, I suggest you use the most basic programmes. Even our athletes that compete in the Olympics all use basic methods 90% of the time. The reason is that advanced methods tend to be hard to recover from.
And if you are training a sport many hours per week, or you have a lot of other job or family responsibilities you will NOT be able to recover from this training. So you end up stagnating in your progress quickly.
The other big reason is that while advanced methods look cool on Instagram or youtube, they should be reserved for when you are very experienced and need a “boost” in your progress.
If you use these methods too early you will no longer get a good response in the future. As your body has already gotten used to the method already.
So use basics all the time and save advanced methods until you are truly advanced.
#3 Why am I hitting a muscle-building plateau?
Plateaus happen with there is no new stimulus. The stimulus can be a new movement, more weight, more reps, using pauses or even focusing more on the muscle contractions. This combined with good nutrition and emphasis on recovery methods will result in breaking through the plateau.
#4 How long should I do my current fitness training programme?
Every programme which you do with 100 % effort will work for at least a short time. If the programme is more suited to you it will last longer. If the programme is balanced and has low injury risk it will last longer and if you are new to training it will last longer and if you are genetically NOT so gifted it will last longer. The most gifted people need to change more often.
#5 If I don’t get sore, am I still progressing?
Soreness is not the best sign of progress. Soreness is a sign that you did something new. When I spent a few days moving one of our personal training gyms to Marine Parade/Katong/East Coast, I shifted a lot of heavy rubber mats.
This needed a lot of finger strength. More than I normally train my fingers… so my fingers were sore. This is common with any new workout.
But if even you do the same workout a few times you are still sore that means that probably your nutrition is not good enough and your recovery is slow. I would focus on eating enough protein all day, eating more carbs around training times as well as sleeping enough.
#6 What are your favourite exercises?
There are many good ones but if I had to choose only one per body part I would choose the following…
Chest – Incline dumbbell bench press because you get a slight upward angle that trains the often weak upper fibres of the chest. Using dumbells also allows a better “squeeze” at the top of the exercise. This “upward” angle also tends to be more useful for most sports.
Back – One arm rows. One arm movements allow a larger range of motion which allows more complete development of muscles. And is also healthier for the shoulder joint long term.
Legs – High bar back squat (or split squat if you don’t have the flexibility to squat well) Deep squats with the knee fully closed will train all the muscles of the quadriceps in a balanced way leading to better long term knee health.
Shoulders – One arm dumbbell press. One arm presses allow more movement of your shoulder blade which allows a more complete movement and better muscle development. This also means clients who lack shoulder flexibility won’t need to compensate the movement as much with their lower back if they use a one-arm exercise vs a two-arm exercises. That makes the movement safer.
Hips/Glutes – Romanian Deadlift. This exercise does not require you to pick the bar from the floor which is the most dangerous part of the movement. So we get most of the benefits with lower risk to trainees.
Arms – Close grip neutral chin up, and dips. These two exercises build the biceps and triceps faster than isolation exercises like curls and pushdowns. And they are the top priority for arms training for clients who have limited time.
#7 – Are there any essential exercises?
There are no necessary exercises. There are only exercises with better or worse benefits per unit of time. And better or worse benefits per unit of risk.
Every exercise takes time and has a risk factor. So we just want to get the best benefits while minimizing the time and the risk.
I was in the army and we did really poorly planned exercise but everyone was fit and lean.
However the benefit per unit of time was terrible.
We were in the army camp 24 hours a day and did many hours per day of exercise.
If you are busy this is not possible, you need high efficiency. If you have a history of injury, you need high safety.
So don’t think of exercises as essential or non-essential. Think of exercises as good “value” in terms of time and safety.
#8 – Are powerlifting exercises (squats, deadlifts, bench press) necessary for progress?
These exercises are great but they are not necessary unless you are going to compete in a powerlifting tournament. For regular fitness and sports performance, the 3 movements are good but not essential.
Don’t worry if you need to use less weight, or substitute a slightly different version of the exercises for your own body shape or injury history.
For example, not everyone needs to do squats. I have trained international athletes without using a single squat. Only using single-leg exercises because of old back injuries.
#9 – How many times a week should I train each muscle?
Depends how hard each session is. In general for natural, steroid-free people, I ask them to train each muscle about 2-3x a week. Because the research is that muscles grow best with stimulation every 48-72 hours.
So big muscles like legs, 2x a week, and smaller muscles like arms can be used 3x a week. So for example biceps, if you do one-day biceps, another day rows and another day chin-ups that’s 3x a week your biceps are used this will lead to good growth. For quads one day maybe squats, another day maybe jumps that 2x a week.
#10 Is it better to use body part splits or train the whole body each workout?
For most clients who train about 2-3x a week, I usually do a total body workout but for those who can train 4 or more times per week, I will more likely do body part splits because this allows better recovery between training days.
#11 How fast can I build muscle naturally (without any steroids)?
In my experience, the average male can build about 15-20kg of muscle naturally ABOVE their mature, untrained state.
So if a 25-year-old is 60kg before starting training he can probably be the same body fat and be 75 to 80kg in a few years time.
In the beginning, it works fast, but as you get more experienced and stay drug-free it becomes slower. The first year you can do 40-50% of the total. That is about 6-9kg naturally.
Each year after that you can put on about 40-50% of the remaining potential. So in year 2 it’s about 4-6kg. In year 3 its 2-3kg. And in year 4 onwards 1-2kg per year is considered great progress. Be patient!
So (totally unbiased opinion! haha) if you are looking for the best personal trainers in Singapore to help you put on muscle in a natural way that maximizes your genetic potential please schedule a consultation at any of our Singapore personal training gyms and we will be glad to meet up to see how we can best work together.