Updated: May 19
Building muscle is a goal for many people who want to improve their physical fitness and appearance. Apart from the newfound confidence that comes with achieving your fitness goals, there are many health reasons for wanting to increase your muscle mass. Some of those include the regulation of blood sugar, increased metabolism, and supporting regulation of your emotional state. Building muscle is called hypertrophy, which is an increase and growth of muscle cells, and to achieve hypertrophy you must enter what is referred to as the anabolic state. The anabolic state supports the many hormones that lead to hypertrophy including estrogen, insulin, growth hormone, and testosterone. This state of “tissue growth” can be done by following a few simple lifestyle adoptions, that nonetheless require a consistent approach. It can be a daunting task, especially for beginners who are not familiar with the process, let’s examine how to build muscle:
Strength Training- Bodybuilding, Weight Training, CrossFit
The first and most important step in building muscle is strength training. More specifically, however, you may want to incorporate bodybuilding style training for muscular development. Even though weight training and bodybuilding both build muscle over some time, bodybuilding is more focused on muscle growth and development, while weight training is performance-based (Personal Record-Setting). Nowadays it’s more common to find a hybrid of these two, yet the training styles have different end goals. CrossFit-style workouts can also build muscle but like weight training, it is performance oriented. Strength training can be achieved at some level with any of the above styles, it involves lifting weights or using resistance machines to challenge your muscles. It is essential to focus on compound exercises that work for multiple muscle groups at the same time, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and rows. These exercises stimulate the release of testosterone and growth hormone, which are crucial for muscle growth. Bodybuilding exercises are performed in a rep range of 8-12 reps (sometimes higher), Weight Training or Power Lifting exercises are performed in a rep range of 5-8 reps, and CrossFit can be a more varied range of reps. It is also essential to gradually increase the weight you are lifting to continue challenging your muscles. Aim to lift heavy weights with proper form.
Nutrition may play the most vital role in muscle building. It is essential to consume enough calories to fuel your workouts and provide your body with the nutrients it needs to build muscle. Focus on consuming protein-rich foods, such as lean meats, eggs, and legumes. Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. When you work out you create microtears in your muscle fibers/tissues, which causes your body to send the signals for muscle repair. This is hypertrophy, it repairs the previous myocytes with more muscle- larger, stronger fibers. Consuming enough carbohydrates to fuel your workouts and replenish glycogen stores is also important. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our body. Carbs are digested into glycogen; and alongside creatine and phosphate stores, they are converted into ATP. ATP is the energy source that is used during muscle contraction. Healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, and seeds, are also essential for proper hormone function and overall health.
Make sure you are tracking your macros and eating adequate amounts of Protein, Fats, and Carbs. Everyone requires a different number of calories based on different factors including height, current weight, and activity level to name a few. When you are aiming to build muscle it is important to remain in a caloric surplus. Find out how many calories you should be consuming here.
Supplementation is also an important aspect of building muscle. The supplement market is saturated with many different products promising different results. The truth about supplementation is that it can not beat a balanced and nutritious diet focused on whole foods. Supplementation is an extra, meant to fill in any gaps possible gaps in nutrition. There are only a few supplements you truly need. Whey protein for example has been shown to enhance lean muscle mass in conjunction with training and impacting body body composition by shifting nutrient partitioning from adipose to lean tissue.
Progressive overload is a principle that involves gradually increasing the workload on your muscles over time. It is essential to challenge your muscles regularly to promote muscle growth. Increase the weight you are lifting or the number of reps you are performing to keep your muscles working hard. When you are increasing the weight of your exercises, make sure that you are maintaining good form and body mechanics. Focus on the concentric and eccentric movements to maximize muscle fiber recruitment. Another good metric of progress involves lifting your 1 rep max (1RM), which entails lifting the maximum weight for one repetition of an exercise. These are typically compound movements such as the deadlift, bench press, and squat. This metric can be used every couple of weeks. It can be safe to say if you’re getting stronger you are also building muscle. However, it is essential to avoid overtraining, which can lead to injuries and hinder muscle growth. Rest days are just as important as workout days, and it is essential to allow your muscles to recover between workouts.
Sleep is essential for muscle recovery, as this is when your body repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue. Your body releases many hormones during sleep that are essential to muscular hypertrophy, and overall recovery and repair. Low sleep duration will hinder your ability to enter into an anabolic state and will cause your leptin to lower, and ghrelin to increase- leading to a poor metabolic state and increased cravings. This may result in more fat gain than muscle gain. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and try to establish a consistent sleep schedule that will regulate your circadian rhythm. There are many things you can do to speed up recovery after a workout and make sure you are always ready for your next session.
Consistency and Patience
Consistency is key when it comes to building muscle. Aim to strength train at least three times a week and stick to a proper nutrition plan. It is essential to make muscle building a priority and commit to a regular workout routine to see results. Also, building muscle takes time, and it is essential to be patient. It is unrealistic to expect significant muscle growth overnight. It takes weeks or even months of consistent effort to see results. However, it can be realistic to see a significant transformation in as little as 3 months of consistent training and proper nutrition. Celebrate small victories along the way and focus on progress rather than the envisioned result.
In conclusion, building muscle is a challenging but rewarding process. Focus on strength training, progressive overload, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and consistency to see results. Remember, building muscle takes time, but with consistent effort, you can achieve your goals. Following these lifestyle changes will undoubtedly result in hypertrophy and you will see changes in your physique within 3 months. The important thing to remember is that the progress and the regimen of working out are what you should find enjoyment in.
Before starting any fitness program or making dietary changes, including supplementation, please consult your physician for a thorough examination.
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