There is no magic formula you can just plug in to get the perfect body. Discovering the workouts and diet plans that produce the best results for your body is a process that takes time and some amount of trial and error. However, there are strategies that have proven to be successful for many people. These seven tips can help you get started on your path to achieving the results you want.

1. Increase Your Weight Over Time

To continuously make muscle gains, you need to keep lifting heavier weights. You should increase the amount of weight you can lift as the main focus of your bodybuilding program. When you hit a roadblock, maintain your self control and resist the urge to start tinkering with gimmicky strategies.

2. Lift To One Rep Short of Failure

Some bodybuilders believe that to make progress, you have to fully exhaust your muscles every time you lift. However, this style of training can lead to central nervous system fatigue, which can result in exhaustion that prevents you from lifting weights you were previously able to handle. Additionally, if you work to failure on your first set, you aren’t likely to get much out of any sets you do after that. Instead of lifting to failure every time, aim for one to two reps short of failure. This allows you to keep pushing your muscles, without completely burning yourself out.

3. Choose Exercises That Work at Least Two Muscle Groups at the Same Time

Exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time are called compound exercises. Working more than one muscle group at the same time allows you to maximize the amount of time you have to spend in the gym each day. Examples of compound exercises include squats, which work the quads and hamstrings and the bench press, which works the shoulders, chest and triceps. Avoid exercises, such as barbell curls, that focus on one small muscle group at a time.

4. Eat Before and After Your Workout

Your body needs amino acids to build new muscle and carbohydrates for energy. Be sure to eat a meal both before and after your workout to ensure you have the fuel you need during the workout and replenish what you have used for the recovery period.

5. Keep Changing Your Routine

Most bodybuilders will experience periods where they stop gaining muscle, even though they are still putting in the work. These periods are called plateaus. The best way to prevent plateaus is to keep changing your workout. Periodically adjust the rest you take between sets, the order you perform your exercises or the exercises you are doing. Do not go more than two weeks without changing something about your workout.

6. Incorporate Both Split and Full-Body Training

Many bodybuilders adhere to a program where they always either do full body workouts or split their workouts to focus on specific body parts on specific days. Instead of sticking to just one method, alternate between the two every few weeks.

7. Get More Rest

Research has shown that resting two to three minutes between sets is more effective at promoting muscle gain than shorter rest periods. If your goal is fat loss or endurance, short rest periods may still be beneficial, but for building muscle, the longer rest periods are the way to go because they enable you to complete more reps on subsequent sets. If you want to avoid adding extra time to your workout, you can perform supersets. Supersets are back-to-back exercises that work different muscle groups. Supersets allow you to rest your muscles while you work out a different muscle group, which makes it possible to pack more exercises into the same length routine without sacrificing rest periods.

There are a lot of competing philosophies about the best way to achieve bodybuilding results. These seven tips can get you started, but you will need to experiment to find what works best for you.