In part one of this article, we discussed the importance of stopping before muscle failure, adding more weight, exercising multiple muscles to maximize gym time, and switching up your routine.
However, there’s more to building muscle than what you do in the gym. Your habits outside of the gym are equally important. The following tips discuss additional techniques to optimize muscle growth.
5. Don’t Overdo It
Many bodybuilders feel like the more they push, the faster they see results. In reality, this is far from the truth. Failing to rest damages muscles and reduces results gained. 
Not only is it important to have rest intervals during a workout, but it is wise to take several “rest days” a week.
Frank Claps, owner of Fitness For Any Body, explains: “Your muscles and the energy systems that fuel them need time to recover. Even if your goals are more about health and general fitness than about increased muscle size and strength, training every day is too much.” 
Claps continues: “The best muscle-building results come from having four or five days of training with a few rest days within the mix.” 
Rest days are not the only important factor in recovery. Getting adequate sleep is vital for the synthesis of muscle protein, testosterone, and growth hormone. 
The best way to get enough rest is to schedule it. Some people plan the entire year; it is wise to plan more intense workouts for less busy times of the year. Make a point of getting to bed on time the night before hitting the gym, and don’t be afraid to skip the gym if you feel too exhausted.
If you feel like you have to exercise every day, practice milder exercises that improve muscle health and reduce injury, such as yoga and Pilates. Gentle cardio, such as swimming, biking, and running, boosts resting metabolism but doesn’t overstress the body. Recreational sports such as basketball, tennis, or volleyball also are good choices.
6. Leave Your Shoes At Home
Many bodybuilders have begun performing lifts barefoot. This trend has been perpetuated by famous athletes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Many people are not able to lift barefoot because most gyms require shoes. However, people who train at home or attend a more lenient gym are becoming accustomed to this trend.
A study conducted by Steven E. Robbins and Adel M. Hanna analyzed the relationship between running shoes and running-induced injury. This study suggests foot muscles are more flexible and avoid injury when uncontained. Allowing the foot to naturally arch increases balance and stability and reduces the chances of ankle injury. 
According to Robbins and Hanna, training barefoot improves joint alignment, strengthens intrinsic foot muscles, decreases energy expenditure, and enhances sensory feedback.
However, with barefoot training, it’s imperative you protect feet from trauma; you don’t want to drop a dumbbell on your toes. Additionally, most people are not accustomed to training barefoot and are too flexible in ankle or foot muscles. This results in side-to-side, movement-induced injuries, such as a sprained ankle.
If you decide to train barefoot, start with lighter sets and gradually work your way up to lifting heavy sets to slowly build foot muscle strength.
7. Don’t Sit Down
Bodybuilders are encouraged to remain standing when lifting weights. Sitting down isolates specific muscle groups and keeps workouts localized. Conversely, standing turns weight lifting sets into compound exercises that work the entire body. Standing during exercise also increases balance and stability, and improves the health of hips, pelvis, and legs. 
Here are some guidelines for correct posture while standing:
- Make sure your core is tight and stable; keep a comfortable distance between your feet (about shoulder length).
- Never hold your breath during a workout. Breathe out while lifting.
- Do not slouch or hunch.
- All movements should be slow and controlled. If you have a hard time controlling movements, you may be lifting too much weight.
- Don’t be afraid to reduce weight until you can lift in proper form.
8. Exercise Your Mind
Using the mind to overcome difficulties and push through hard workouts means the difference between failure and success.
It starts with having a good mindset; never compare results to other people at the gym. Each body is different and has different requirements to achieve results. Just because someone else achieved the body weight of your dreams in half the time does not make you a failure. Set realistic goals, and remember to reward yourself after each accomplishment.
It may help to visualize goals to push through workouts. Some people imagine a “ghost spotter” looking over their shoulder. Others use creative tactics, such as imagining two balloons tied to their wrists.
Meditation also is beneficial to athletes. There is scientific evidence proving the combination of daily meditation with exercise significantly reduces anxiety. Reduction in anxiety enhances resting periods and hastens recovery. 
However, the real benefit from meditation is renewed focus and motivation. Meditation helps athletes reconnect with goals and inner desires, reminding them why they work so hard in the first place.
 Clark, Shannon. “6 Quick BodyBuilding Tips.” BodyBuilding.com. Available from: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/6-bodybuilding-tips-faster-results.htm
 Stiefel, Steve. “Rest Your Body to Grow Your Muscles.” MuscleAndFitness.com. Available from: http://www.muscleandfitness.com/training/tips/schedule-rest-days-bigger-training-gains
F. Carraro, C.A. Stuart, W.H. Hartl, J. Rosenblatt, R.R. Wolfe. “Effect of exercise and recovery on muscle protein synthesis in human subjects.” American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism. October 1, 1990. Vol. 259 No. E470-E476. Available from: http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/259/4/E470
 Edip, Mehmet. “6 Bodybuilding Tips for Getting Jacked.” MuscleAndFitness.com. Available from: http://www.muscleandfitness.com/news-and-features/galleries/training/6-bodybuilding-tips-getting-jacked?page=7
 Steven E. Robbins and Adel M. Hanna. “Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1987, Vol. 19, No. 2 pages 148-156. Available from: http://www.runsnrc.org/RUNSNRC/Clinic_-_Supporting_Research_files/Robbins_1987.pdf
 Weir, Jen. “Is Standing or Sitting Better While Weightlifting?” Healthy Living. Available from: http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/standing-sitting-better-weightlifting-13191.html
 Michael S. Bahrke and William P. Morgan. “Anxiety Reduction Following Exercise and Meditation.” Cognitive Therapy and Research. December 1978, Volume 2, Issue 4, pages 323-333. Available from: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01172650#page-1