Muscle Gain 101: What to Know to Make Muscles Grow
Do you find yourself wondering how to build muscle the right way?
Muscle Gain 101 is here to teach you useful workout and nutrition tips on how to build muscle, as well as answer the most common questions about gaining muscle.
How muscle growth works
Maybe you tried different types of workouts and felt an increase in strength but never saw an improvement in muscle mass…
So you lost your motivation after a few weeks and quit.
If you only knew that…
- When you start working out (especially as a beginner) your initial strength gains are attributed to better coordination and nervous system adaptation.
- After the first 6-8 weeks you can do more reps, but you probably don’t look stronger yet. However if you stay consistent your muscles start to adapt.
- The muscles are made of fibers that can get thicker and stronger. After each workout, the body aims to repair the micro-injuries in the muscle tissue.
If you keep pushing yourself long enough, your body adapts to new training stimuli, and muscles start to grow.
The muscle building process is fueled by two things: structured, progressive strength training and a balanced, protein-rich diet. Here is what you should know about both…
Workout tips for muscle building
Muscle growth is influenced by genetics. Some people build muscle easier than others. But, no matter what your genetics are like, you can have a more muscular body if you structure your workouts with these tips:
- 2-3 strength workouts per week are recommended for beginners. If you are more advanced, you can do even more.
- For beginners: 24 h of rest is enough after a shorter (<30 min), total body workout. However, if you do a workout focused on just one muscle group, such as legs, wait 48 h before you do a leg-focused workout again. You can do a shorter, low-intensity total body workout in the meantime. For advanced trainers: Rest 1-2 days a week, ideally after the longest and/or most intense workouts.
- 2 to 3 sets per exercise is enough for beginners, whereas those who are more advanced can do 3-5 or more sets. The biggest mistake you can make is to try building muscle without a workout plan! Muscle growth requires a constant, gradual increase in workout load. A good training plan can calculate the sets and reps for you so you can see results – even at home!
- The recommended number of reps depends on the exercise and how hard it is for you. Start by doing as many reps as you can do with good form. For example, if you can only do one push up, do one in each set and then finish the set with knee push ups.
- Increasing the load progressively is a must for all fitness levels, from beginner to advanced, if you want to stimulate muscle growth. As you get stronger, choose a harder exercise variation or do more reps. A good rule of thumb is: if you can easily do more than 12 reps it might be time to consider a harder exercises or variation!
- Focusing on a slow, controlled descent is good for really feeling your muscles burn. The eccentric part of the movement (e.g. when you are lowering yourself down in a push up or in a squat) puts more load on your muscles. Try to count 3 seconds as you go down slowly; it can be a good way to make an otherwise easy exercise much harder!
Can you build muscle without weights?
Yes, load your muscles enough and they will adapt and get bigger and stronger. A good bodyweight training plan is the way to go. Why? It ensures that you keep challenging your muscles, even without the weights.
Wondering how to build muscle at home? You could use a 12-week bodyweight training program in the Results app that automatically adds more load to your workouts and tracks every workout you do!
Does cardio make you lose muscle?
If done properly, cardio can influence, but won’t destroy, your muscle gains. Nutrition and rest are key to combining strength training and cardio.
One thing that can really make you lose muscle… is not eating right!
Diet tips for muscle building
Loading your muscles without refueling them is just going to put stress on your body without visible results. Consider the following basics of a muscle building diet:
- Protein is the building block for your muscles. How much protein you eat in total throughout the day matters more than what you eat directly after the workout. Learn more about the right macronutrient distribution for you goal (how much protein, carbs, and fat to eat) with a food tracking app like Balance. Keep in mind: The body can only absorb about 20 g of protein per meal, so no need to stuff yourself at every meal!
- To gain weight (muscle or fat) you need to eat slightly more calories than you burn. Check out how to gain weight healthily, without overeating or getting fat. Again, a good food tracking app with nutritional guidelines can help!
- But what if you already have a solid amount of muscle mass and it’s just not visible? Many people just want to appear more muscular, not necessarily add more weight. Maybe you want to have a six-pack but your abs are not showing? Then you should focus on losing fat to reveal your muscles, not increase your calories.
If you don’t train or eat enough, your muscles won’t grow. On the other hand, if you train a lot, but eat even more, you might also gain fat.
That’s why it’s important to get an integrated training and nutrition plan. This will even sync the calories you burned in your workout with your daily calorie allowance!
Ready to build muscle?
- Do at least 2-3 strength workouts per week.
- Make sure to have a training plan that progressively loads your muscles.
- Feed your muscles with a balanced diet that has enough protein.
- Be patient and keep doing this for more than 8 weeks…
…and you will see results! Hello, bigger shoulders, chest, quads…and six-pack 😉