Playing a game can help you build more muscle! That’s right, it can. Think about that–a game can help you step up your intensity and focus on your goal. Competition brings out the best in all of us. From the day we’re born we’re taught to play life as a game. Our parents play games with us like catch mom or dad’s finger or make me laugh. Dodge ball or hide and seek bring the next progression as kids’ games. Then it’s on to spelling bees and kids sports. When we reach adult-hood we’ll risk bodily injury for the sake of a game. In fact, playing life as a game is one of our basic human needs.
Mind Games Champions Play
You ask… what’s that got to do with building muscle mass? Everything. Progressive resistance builds muscle. Intensity builds muscle, right? To generate intensity or to progress, you have to want and need to achieve your goal like it’s as important as the air you breathe. You have to want that next rep with such a burning desire that you’re willing to risk the pain. That next rep is like yards on a football field, you’re knocking down reps imagining they’re the opposing players and you’re on course to cross the goal line. There’s muscle mass just behind that goalpost.
During a set, the goalpost is getting one more rep today than you got last week. Fight for that rep! Hear the cheer of the crowd! Never turn back. Never give up. Pain sets in. You’re on fire. You’re gasping for air. The game is on the line. You readily accept the challenge. The bar is loaded up and wants to block and tackle you. You’ll scratch and crawl for that rep if you have to. The mind-set is training to win. The game is on.
A well-known bodybuilder turned Governor used to say, “During a set, I pick a weight that allows me to get just eight repetitions, and I imagine if I don’t get twelve repetitions my mother will get burned at the stake”. The idea of being a hero was his game. A champion bodybuilder I trained with used to imagine that on each set, he was knocking down soldiers; as he rested, they got up–weary, and he’d knock them down again and again until they had nothing left and stayed down. That was his game.
Cycling Intensity for New Muscle Mass
Here’s how to use this strategy to cycle intensity and spur new growth in muscle mass. Competition calls for times when you want to be the aggressor or the warrior charging forward taking your opponent down. It also calls for times when you want to retreat a little to your home turf and trick your opponent to wear themselves down while you move in for an easy defeat. You’ve seen this in great fighters––they draw their opponents in, close the distance and go for the win. It occurs in nearly every sport.
Let’s spur a surge in muscle mass growth with this strategy. Let’s take an example of a six-week training cycle. Your body can only stand so much ‘offense’, or high intensity from your workouts. During the first two weeks of high-intensity training your body adjusts its defenses to compensate for the offense. In weeks three to five your body adapts to the offense by gaining muscle mass. At about week six you hit the wall, or a plateau. Overtraining and exhaustion set in as cortisol levels creep up and fight your natural testosterone levels.
This is the perfect time to spur new growth by letting the defense take over. Recovery training is in order with the 4-sets-of-10-reps scheme for a new growth threshold. You’ll train fast with little rest between sets to stimulate natural growth hormone, which aids recovery. To use the method correctly pick a weight that allows you about 15 reps, but only do 10. Rest only 30 seconds and do another 10 reps. Rest again and so on until you complete your 4 sets of 10 reps. Do two to three exercises for each body part. The idea is to set up the muscle growth threshold by starting each new set before you’re ready.
After four to six weeks of ‘defensive’ training, you’ll have grown and you’ll be ready to take on a new growth spurt when you go back to offensive training with a higher-intensity routine. That’s how the game of muscle mass is played!