The standard way to gain muscle is to hit the gym: If you do many strength-training exercises over long periods of time, you will gradually gain muscle. This is true but does not tell the whole story. Working out at the gym is only one piece of the puzzle. How you work out, what you do when you are not working out and what you eat are also factors in muscle building -- and are equally important.
Up the Intensity
Keeping with the same routine over the course of months is not going to lead to noticeable improvements. Only under progressively-increasing intensities will your muscles grow. Add more weight throughout your training schedule. If you fail during your last set of 10 reps, it is not a bad thing -- it is a sign that you are pushing yourself. Add weight when you feel an exercise is too easy rather than sticking to a plan created on paper.
Plan Your Rests Well
Your muscles do not grow when you are in the gym -- they grow after you leave. Plan rests into your workout schedule. Do not work the same muscle groups two days in a row. To be completely safe, do not work related muscle groups two days in a row. For example, after a shoulder day, do not work on your chest -- instead work on your waist, legs, calves or forearms.
Use Good Form
The standard exercises you find in a book or learn from a personal trainer have science backing them. These exercises hit specific muscle groups so that they grow while you are resting. By not adhering to perfect form, you are missing out on the benefits you could gain from the exercise. Never slack on form if you want to optimize your gains. A lack of good form can lead to injuries. For example, in a straight-leg deadlift, proper form is to lower your the barbell or dumbbells to a mild-stretch and immediately but slowly return to a standing position. Exercisers who do not adhere to this form and instead go for a deep stretch, quickly bounce their bodies back upward or stop fully at the end of the movement may injure their lower-back muscles.
Eat More Protein
Protein is the building block of muscle. You can work out like a professional bodybuilder and still gain no muscle if you are not eating enough protein. Shoot for 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Good sources of protein include whey powder, chicken breasts, turkey and lean beef.
Do Hard Exercises
When you perform weightlifting exercises, your body releases growth hormone, which tells your muscles to grow. Some exercises release more growth hormone than others. These exercises tend to be the harder ones that many weightlifters avoid. Add these exercises to your workout to increase the production of growth hormone. Such exercises include squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses and bench presses.