Hitting the gym and starting to lift weights is not how you will build and increase your muscle mass. It may work. But it isn't the correct or the most effective/healthy method. As with anything related to exercising, you need the discipline and right mindset to build muscle mass.
Suppose you are a newbie in this world and have only gone to the gym to maintain a healthy balance between work, social life, and other responsibilities. In that case, you must know that building muscle mass requires an entirely different set of exercises and diet requirements.
Whether you have previously gone to the gym on a regular basis or not, this article will help you understand how to build muscle mass appropriately. These tips will support your goal, from how and what to eat or drink to how often to hit the gym to stimulate muscle growth and help you avoid trouble staying consistent with exercise.
Here are various things beginners need to know to grow muscle mass:
1. Learn how muscles grow
Muscles grow when you put pressure on the same muscle group for an extended period. The process that leads to muscle growth is known as muscle hypertrophy. Muscle hypertrophy comes into play when, in the aftermath of resistance or weight training, the fibers of your muscles sustain damage. [R]
As the muscle fibers break down (a natural process that causes soreness), your body repairs them by fusing multiple muscle fibers. The resulting jumble of muscle fibers is greater in mass (and size) than the muscle fibers they have replaced. This leads to the growth of muscle mass.
Keep in mind that muscle hypertrophy doesn't occur on its own. Certain hormones, such as human growth hormone, insulin growth factor, and testosterone play a crucial role in muscle build-up and repair. Your body releases these hormones in response to strength and resistance training. [R]
These hormones help muscles grow by activating satellite cells. Satellite cells are a type of stem cell (aka the body's raw materials). They stimulate anabolic hormones that increase protein synthesis (crucial for muscle build-up) and enhance tissue growth (crucial for muscle growth).
2. Perform the correct number of repetitions
The number of reps you do while lifting weights will decide whether your exercise will improve muscular endurance or muscle size and strength. Only one of these two things will happen. You can't gain muscle mass or strength and muscular endurance with the same number of reps. [R]
Keep in mind that while lifting lower weights with more reps will improve muscle endurance, doing the opposite (lifting heavier weights with fewer reps) will help you gain muscle mass and increase muscle strength. Newbies hoping to grow muscle would thus do well to follow the second approach. [R]
Here's how different number of repetitions take you towards a different goal:
- 1 to 5 repetitions help develop muscular strength
- 6 to 12 repetitions help develop muscle growth
- 12 to 20 repetitions help develop muscular endurance
According to the American Council on Exercise, individuals who do eight to 15 reps of weight training gain the most muscle, provided you cannot lift any weight after the last rep. However, if your goal is to build muscle strength, lift weights, then don't let you perform more than five reps. [R]
3. Tailor and structure your exercising sessions
Even if the ranges of the repetitions differ in your case, you should still stick to the maximum of 20 reps. Whether you alternate between heavy and lighter weights, the combined weight will still be heavy enough for you to reach muscle fatigue at 20 reps.
Here are the exercises using which you could build muscle mass:
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your back straight, put your hands at the bar (shoulder-width apart) and lift the bar from the floor using the strength of your legs.
Make sure the bar is close to your body at all times. Your core should be engaged to create tension. Lift the barbell all the way up, wait for 1, 2 seconds and then lower it with full control. Use the same bar path using which you had just picked the bar.
Duck under a squat rack in a way that the barbell is right on top of the meaty part of your shoulders. Hold the barbell with both your hands, lift it out of the rack, and take one step behind.
Next, sit down as if there's a chair underneath you and then use the power of your legs to lift the bar back up. All the while keeping your elbows forward and your core tightened. Fill your lungs as you start to lower the bar and exhale as you lift it.
Jump up and hold onto the bar with both hands shoulder-width apart. Make sure your palms are facing away from you. Otherwise, you'll be doing a chin-up, which you don't want to do here.
As you're hanging from the bar, your core should be tightened, legs squeezed together and the shoulders pulled back. It's preferable that your feet are touching each other. Next pull your body weight up until your neck passes the bar. Lower your body and repeat the exercise.
Lie down on a straight bench. Make sure your feet are pressed firmly against the floor. Keep your core, glutes, legs and feet tight and your wrists neutral. Put your hands shoulder-width apart on the barbell.
Gently lift the bar out of the rack and straighten your arms. Lower the barbell until it touches your mid-chest. All this should be done in a controlled way. There shouldn't be any jerking the barbell into the air or crashing it onto your chest. While lowering the barbell, your elbows should be close to the body.
Use a barbell to do a shoulder press. Pick the bar from the rack (hands shoulder-width apart) and take one or two steps back. Your feet should be hip-width apart.
Push your elbows forward and position the bar right in front of you. Then use the strength of your upper body to lift the barbell. Push it over your hand until your arms are fully straight. Wait for 1, 2 seconds before carefully lowering the bar into the front rack position to complete one rep.
Each of these exercises is a compound movement. This means that all these workouts work multiple muscle groups at once. This separates them from isolation exercises, such as bicep curls, which only work a single muscle group at once.
Make sure that you perform all these exercises twice a week. Use different weights and rep schemes each time. For instance, while you could opt for heavier weights-lower rep scheme for the first exercise session of the week, the second session might involve lighter weights-heavier rep scheme.
4. Customize your diet to support muscle mass building
Your diet plays a leading role in building muscle mass. Experts suggest eating lots of protein, healthy fats and fruits and vegetables (with each meal) to grow muscle mass. Drinking lots of water and lowering the intake of your carbs might also boost your muscle mass.
Regardless of the diet you take for building muscle mass, make sure it's protein-rich. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are responsible for repairing the muscle tissue damaged during exercise. This means if your body's protein levels are low, you won't experience muscle gain.
Some people opt for protein shakes to increase protein levels in the body. However, too much of these drinks has been shown to cause toxicity in the body. That is why we recommend that you buy SARMs, which stimulate your body's androgen receptors to build muscle mass. [R]
Alternatively, you can take peptide supplements like TB 500. Various studies have shown that individuals that combine peptide supplements with resistance training end up increasing muscle mass. Peptide supplements have been shown to improve muscle strength, too. [R]
5. Rest is crucial for building muscle
In any type of training and workout session, it is crucial not to underestimate the importance of rest. The absence of rest might lead to injuries and muscle imbalances, which can do more harm than good. When it comes to stimulating muscle growth, there is no exception.
Here's why rest is crucial for muscle building:
1. Allows time for recovery
Your muscles store carbs in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is broken down by your body to fuel your workout sessions when you exercise. Taking a few days off allows your entire body to replenish its glycogen levels before your next workout session. [R]
2. Prevents muscle fatigue
Over-exercise brings down the body's glycogen levels. This results in muscle fatigue, which can prevent your muscles from growing in response to a workout. Rest days allow the body to replenish its glycogen reserves, preventing the risk of muscular fatigue. [R]
3. Minimizes risk of injury
What will happen when your body or muscles are overworked? There will be a greater chance of you dropping a weight, falling out of form or taking a wrong step. Over-exercise also leads to muscle fatigue, increasing the risk of injuries which, in turn, will force you to take a few days off.
4. Enhances performance
If you aren't giving your body enough time to rest, your performance levels might nosedive. This is pretty natural. The lack of rest will make it hard for you to do everyday tasks, let alone do extensive workouts in the gym. That's why you need rest to keep on performing at your best.
5. Supports healthy sleep
Various studies have shown that sleeping for 7-9 hours per night is crucial if you intend to increase muscle mass and prevent muscle breakdown. Conversely, poor sleep quality has been associated with muscle mass reduction, increased risk of hypertension and diabetes [R]
6. Gender plays a crucial role in muscle development
The process of building muscle isn't the same among males and females. The credit/blame for this can be laid on the door of testosterone. Testosterone plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of muscles. It's found in both male and female bodies. Yet plays a different role in both.
For instance, while testosterone helps with the growth, repair and maintenance of women's bone mass, reproductive tissues and human behavior. In men, it helps regulate muscle mass and strength, fat distribution, and production of sperm and red blood cells.
Due to the different role that testosterone plays in males and females, the same exercises affect males and females differently. That is something both men and women need to know as they try to build muscle, lose fat and strengthen bone mass. [R]
7. Genetics plays a role, too
Your genes partially determine your ability to build muscle. One study has estimated that heritability (the differences between your genetic make-up and that of any other person) accounts for 30 to 85% for muscle strength and at least 50% for lean mass. [R]
Put another way, your genetic plays a crucial role in determining a) the strength of your muscles and b) how your body responds to exercise. That's why most bodybuilders fret that if ever given the opportunity, they would choose their parents well. [R]
Having said that, you can always improve your muscle mass and body shape, regardless of your genetic make-up. Especially if you're young and male. This group has higher amount of testosterone in their body, which naturally favors muscle growth.
8. Too much cardio might hurt your muscle gains
Cardio is bad for building muscle. Especially if you're performing it too frequently, too intensely, or for too long. That's because the energy needed for cardio is coming out of the same body reserve (glycogen) that your muscles tap into when you are exercising.
A 2012 meta-analysis proved this point. It showed that the improper combination of cardio and lifting weights impaired muscle growth among the participants by 31%. That's not all. The participants' strength gains also declined by 18% due to this improper combination. [R]
That isn't to say you should stop doing cardio altogether. Instead, as shown by a 2017 study, you need to separate your cardio and workout sessions. The study found that untrained weight lifters experienced a two-fold increase in muscle hypertrophy by separating cardio and muscle workout by 24 hours. [R]
Various factors play a crucial role in how you gain muscle. Some of them, like genetics and gender, are not under your control. Others, such as the number of repetitions you perform while doing weight training, your diet and how much rest you take between workout sessions, are.
Stick to the guidelines and tips mentioned above if you want to experience muscle gain. Apart from helping you achieve your core objective, doing so will also bring down your body weight and help you burn fat. What more can you ask for!