How do I build muscle? Well, firstly, with great difficulty. It’s not that easy to build significant muscle mass naturally, it’s going to take time. Most of the genuine science suggests that gaining 1 to 2 pounds of muscle every month is possible for men, and about half that for women. Initially, you might see a little bump in that number, as your body reaches what it feels should be its normal level, and then it’ll slow down. Now, genetics will play a part with which end of the spectrum you come in at, it’s easier for some people than others, but here are some of the things that are vital for maximising muscle growth.
Exercise and adherence to that exercise. If you don’t work your muscles, if you don’t put stress on them, they won’t react, they won’t grow. So, there’s your first step, and generally the most important step. You will never see anyone with decent muscle mass, who hasn’t worked out to achieve that. The second part to it is consistency. I’ve done a heavy weights workouts six times a week, for about the past fifteen years, and I’m not exactly massive! Yes, I probably could have tweaked my workouts or diet a bit more, especially in my early, more inexperienced days, and gotten slightly better gains, but that should still put into perspective how important adherence really is. Take a week off, and see how you feel going back. Take longer off, and you can start to kiss your muscles goodbye. If you’re not working them, your body’s going to stop needing them.
Progressive load. It’s not enough to just work your muscles, over time you need to work them more and more. Your muscles will become accustomed to the stress you put them under, so you need to change it up. The best way to do this is to increase the overall load, either by increasing the weight you’re using, or the numbers of repetitions of the exercise. So, all your little celebrities, who show you their ’30 Bodyweight Squats’ exercise routine are lying to you. That Beyonce/Kim Kardashian arse was either built by progressing workouts, or surgery. You decide which.
Protein, and your diet, is next on the list. If you’re not getting protein in your diet, or not enough, you’re not feeding the repair of those stressed muscles, and they will not grow. Certainly not as much as they should, if you’re getting the exercise aspect right. Protein is a vital building block of muscle tissue, and generally 2-3 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight over a day is a sensible marker to work from. And spread that out a little throughout the day as well, i.e. don’t just have it all at once, otherwise you won’t maximise its use within your body. Also, it is very very very difficult to build muscle in a calorie deficit, so you’re probably going to want to eat a little more than you have been, if your weight has been stable. That way your body doesn’t need to eat up your muscles for energy.
Rest and recovery. I mean, how much explanation does this one need? You need sleep, it’s important, and it gives your body downtime to repair and rebuild itself. But the recovery side of things, you’ll likely want to spread your workouts out. So, you shouldn’t really be working the same muscle groups every day. If you’re putting enough stress on them to ask them to change, then you’re going to want to give them enough time to recover before you work them again. You’ll get more out of a fresher muscle too, and you’ll avoid fatigue and injury more. Now, the easiest way to do that is splits, so work individual body parts or sections of the body on different days.
And those are some of the things you should be doing if you want to get the most out of your muscle mass gains. Exercise and sticking to it. Progressing that exercise over time. Eating enough protein, and food in general. And getting enough rest and recovery. Those are your basics. Good luck, and I’ll see you next week.
Body Fuel Personal Fitness Trainer