HOW TO BUILD MUSCLE
When people first start weight training in the gym with the intention to build muscle they usually do so with some success. This is known as the ‘newbie gains’ phase where you’ll build some decent amount of muscle and strength, providing that your training regularly and getting enough calories and sleep. This phase will not last forever though, and before long you will need to follow a structured plan with progressive overload to continue seeing improvements.
Although muscle building does require a lot of hard work and dedication, the things you need to do to achieve it are very simple. I will go over the 3 most important things to consider when trying to figure out how to build muscle and give you a general idea of how to achieve them.
Of course, you need to be training to build muscle, but there efficient ways to go about it to speed up your results. Firstly, you should be aiming to increase your workout volume on a regular basis. This means having some kind of overload to challenge your muscles more than before. There are various ways to go about this. You could add weight to the bar, add in reps and sets, decrease your rest periods, or increase your time under tension. Just make sure you log down exactly what you do each time you workout so you know how to build upon it.
Secondly, you also need to look at how often you’re training each muscle group. For example, let’s say you train your chest on a Monday, from this you will stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS) for up to 72 hours. This means for the next 48-72 hours your chest muscles will be repairing, ready to come back bigger and stronger than before. After 48-72 hours all adaptations stop, so if you’re only training chest on a Monday you’ll be missing out on 4 days worth of potential muscle growth. This is why training frequency is important and should take precedence over increasing workout volume when trying to build new muscle.
To build muscle you will also need to eat right based on your starting point. For example, if you’re already very lean and want to start adding muscle to your frame you will need to make sure you’re in a calorie surplus. This means you will need to make sure you’re eating more calories than what it takes to maintain your current weight. This can be determined by constantly tracking your caloric intake and weighing yourself. Once you have worked out your maintenance calories, aim to consume 500 calories above this each day and you’ll gain roughly a pound a week.
Within your total calories, you need to make sure you’re getting enough protein. You should aim to get around 0.8 grams of protein for each pound you weigh, so if you weigh 175lbs you will need to aim for 140 grams of protein per day. Some of the weight you gain will be fat rather than muscle, but if done correctly a sufficient amount will be muscle mass.
If you are trying to lose weight, try cutting 500 calories from your diet each day. This will cause you to lose roughly a pound a week. And if you have just started working out, you can likely lose weight while gaining muscle and increasing your strength.
You only build muscle when sleep, not when you train, so getting an adequate amount of sleep every night is essential. The recommended amount of sleep for most people is 7-8 hours, this will help you recover from your previous workouts, and prepare you for the next one.
Sleep deprivation can lower your energy levels, increasing the chance of you missing a workout due to exhaustion. It can also make you want to eat more, with studies showing that not getting enough sleep seems to result in eating more.
Lack of sleep can also have a negative effect on hormones. The hormones that are most frequently stated to be affected by sleep are insulin, androgens, growth hormone, and cortisol, however, they all seem to go away once you get enough sleep.
To improve your sleep quality, try and go to bed and wake up at a similar time each day. This will allow your body to prepare you for sleep by releasing the right hormones (cortisol to wake you up and melatonin to make you sleepy) at the right time. You should also try to stay away from stimulants such as caffeine 6-8 hours before going to sleep.
Reducing your exposure to bright lights from phone and computer screen in the hours leading up to sleep can also improve sleep quality. Most modern phones have a built-in option to help with this but you’ll need to download an application for your laptop/pc. The one I use is called F.lux.
This might actually be the most important factor when trying to build muscle, especially if you’re just starting out. You can easily waste years training in a way you think is working, only to spin your wheels and never make any progress.
By hiring an experienced coach you can fast forward through the years of trial and error and start training optimally right away. Before you hire a coach to help you I would recommend doing a background check on their history as a trainer, check for testimonials, before and after pictures and even their own physique to determine if they’re the right choice.
Once you have your training program and diet in place, stay consistent. Building muscle as a natural is not easy, it will take time, patience, and a lot of hard work.
If you would like me to put together a muscle-building plan specifically for you I offer monthly online coaching at an affordable rate. My 8+ years of personal training experience ensures that I understand your circumstances, preferences, and goals, turning them into a systematic plan to make your dream physique a reality.