If you’re part of our Two Six fam, (we love you, and) you know that we just started a new strength cycle this week!
We’ll be spending the next few weeks getting hella strong, with lots of focus on the squat, the deadlift, the bench press, and the shoulder press.
And sure, you may be able to get stronger just by coming in and doing the work. But let’s say you really want to supercharge your results during swole and flexy September.
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of this strength cycle.
How to Build More Muscle this Strength Cycle
Here’s a fun fact that you might not know about building muscle: A lot of the good work happens outside of the gym. Your lifestyle choices play a big role in your recovery, and by extension, your ability to build muscle.
Here’s where you should focus your energy.
Schedule Some Rest Days
It’s easy to assume that muscles get stronger when we train. But actually, they get stronger while we rest!
Lifting heavy causes little microtears in the muscles (don’t worry–this is a good thing!). As you rest, little cells called fibroblasts swoop in and help fix those tears, making our muscles stronger in the process.
Skimping on rest days doesn’t give your muscles the opportunity to fully repair. And, because the repair process is what makes your muscles stronger, skipping rest days can also limit muscle growth.
Not convinced yet? There’s more!
Intense training also uses up your body’s glycogen (carbohydrate) stores. Cutting your recovery time short also means you’ll be going into your next workout without as much fuel for your muscles.
CrossFit has historically recommended three training days followed by one rest day, but at a minimum, you need two rest days per week (more if you feel like your body needs it).
Learn more about the importance of rest and recovery here.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Good rest involves more than just taking days off from the gym. You need to get your sleep too!
Your body is hard at work while you sleep, releasing more growth hormone to fuel muscle growth. And, because your body uses less energy while sleeping, more energy can be channeled into building big beautiful muscles.
Do you know how Santa can’t come unless you go to bed? Well, your muscles can’t show up either! So plan for 7-9 solid hours of sleep each night.
Getting into a good nighttime routine can help, so be sure to limit caffeine and blue light in the afternoon, and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Fuel Your Muscles
You can’t expect your muscles to grow if you’re not feeding them well!
Our new strength cycle is a great opportunity to take stock of your diet, starting with your protein intake.
I wrote about a few ways to assess your protein needs here based on your goals and your activity levels. That said, I’d aim for 0.8 to 1 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day on a heavy strength cycle. This would equal 150 grams per day if you weigh 150 pounds (and I’m talking 150 nutritional grams–not 150 grams by scale weight).
What do you eat with all that protein? Ideally, some high-quality carbs! My go-tos include fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans, quinoa, rice, and oats.
Pass on Booze
I love a good glass of wine as much as the next girl, but it’s really not great during a strength cycle.
Alcohol interferes with a process called muscle protein synthesis, which helps repair muscle tissue. In other words, drinking too much can effectively undo some of the hard work you put in at the gym (and add a nice little layer of fat over those hard-earned muscles to boot!).
If you’re serious about building some muscle, you’re better off passing on alcohol or keeping it to one drink per day.
Ready to Make the Most of This Strength Cycle?
Hopefully, this post has given you some ideas for how to support your training efforts at home.
But if you need a little more help, I’ve got your back! Email [email protected] to schedule a free 15-minute strategy session so you can get fully on board the gain train.