How To Build Muscle, According To Experts

vincity May 17, 2023
Updated 2023/05/17 at 9:33 AM

Get A Workout Schedule That Is Tailored To Getting Your Desired Body Without A Trainer

Building muscle takes time and proper training, but it’s something just aboutanyone can do. It involves a physiological process called hypertrophy, which stresses the tissue, breaks it down and triggers the body to rebuild bigger and stronger tissue. 

To begin this process, you need a training plan that incorporates a progressive increase of weight load, as well as proper nutrition and plenty of sleep. If building muscle is your ultimate goal, understanding hypertrophy and how to train for it will help you get the job done.

The Benefits of Building Muscle

Building and maintaining muscle is important for a healthy and active lifestyle. It’s not just for young athletes or fitness enthusiasts—doctors agree it’s a good idea for everyone to incorporate strength training into their routines throughout their lives.

As we age, muscle mass and cross-sectional area of the muscle can decrease (sarcopenia), leading to reduced bone density (osteopenia), reduced strength and eventually reduced function. Maintaining strong muscles contributes to strong bones, which can prevent fractures and degenerative conditions, such as osteoporosis.

According to a study in the Journal of Health & Fitness, muscle loss can lead to “a cascade of health issues,” which includes bone loss, fat gain, diabetes, heart disease and mortality. In addition to improving blood pressure, glycemic control and lipid profiles (cholesterol), strength training to build muscle can improve mental health.

How to Build Muscle Effectively

To build muscle effectively, it’s important to have a basic resistance trainingplan. Victoria Sekely, a doctor of physical therapy, certified strength and conditioning specialist and run coach keeps it simple: “The best way to build muscle is to lift weights. Period.”

To begin, keep in mind three primary factors that trigger hypertrophy: mechanical tension, muscle damage and metabolic response, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). First, tissue must be overloaded by increasing the load or resistance, which causes damage to the tissue. This overload leads to an inflammatory response, which initiates the release of growth factors, which is the metabolic response.

To put this concept into practice, the NSCA recommends finding your one-repetition maximum (1RM), which means the maximum amount of weight you can correctly and safely perform one time. To avoid lifting weights that are too heavy, try estimating your 1RM by first finding an amount of weight you can lift for three to five repetitions, then estimate what your 1RM might be.

As a general rule of thumb, if you can comfortably perform three sets of 10 repetitions at a certain resistance, you probably need to add resistance and lower the amount of reps. Lifting a comfortable amount of weight without increasing the load doesn’t trigger hypertrophy.

If you’re new to strength training, train by doing two to three rounds of six to 12 repetitions at 65% to 85% of your total 1RM amount with 60-second rest periods between sets to build strength gradually.

For example, if your 1RM is 10 pounds, try to do two to three sets of six to 12 reps with 7.5 pounds, which would be 75% of your total 1RM weight. Do fewer reps if you’re lifting an amount closer to your total 1RM weight. This process releases the greatest amount of testosterone and growth hormone in both men and women, which contributes to building muscle.

Once you’ve established how much weight you can safely use for 1RM, this chart from the NSCA can help you estimate how much weight to use for your repetitions at 65% to 85% of your 1RM.

Try incorporating this type of strength training into your routine two or three times a week if you’re just starting out, or up to six times a week if you’re an advanced athlete.

Note: Your 1RM is a moving target. As you build muscle, the amount of weight you can tolerate should increase, so reassess your weight tolerance every few workouts and adjust your resistance as needed. In other words, if your 1RM for a squat was 50 pounds during your first week of training, you’ll need to reevaluate your progress after a few workouts with this weight. If your body can handle more weight, your 1RM can increase to 75 pounds in your third week of training. If your workouts are effective, you should see your 1RM slowly increase over time.

If you’re new to exercise and strength training, start with bodyweight exercises, such as squats without resistance or push-ups, before adding weight, says Sekely. It’s important to be comfortable with the mechanics of a movement pattern before adding a heavy load, she adds.

1. Get Specific

When building muscle, target a certain muscle or muscle group in your training. Adding multi-joint exercises that incorporate the target muscle allows you to lift heavier weight, says Sekely.

For example, if your goal is to increase the size of your biceps, get comfortable with an exercise that loads that muscle directly, such as bicep curls. It may also be beneficial to add multi-joint exercises that offer some help from larger muscle groups while still targeting your biceps, such as a dumbbell row, which incorporates the latissimus dorsi muscles, otherwise known as lats, and other shoulder muscles.

Consult with a strength coach or physical therapist before embarking on your muscle-building journey for guidance on the best exercises for you to meet your goals, says Sekely, especially if you have a history of injury or are new to strength training.

2. Eat Protein

To build muscle safely and effectively, it’s vital to provide your muscles with proper nutrition. Muscle hypertrophy occurs when cells work to regenerate muscle fibers, which must be coupled with adequate protein intake from the food you eat. “If you’re not providing your body with enough protein, your body will be unable to rebuild those muscle fibers,” says Sekely.

While carbohydrate intake is important, protein is critical, says Robert Graham, M.D., an internal and integrative medicine physician in New York City. “Protein is the most important and essential component of nutrition and the foundation of muscle gain,” he says. If you’re wondering how much protein you need to build muscle, Dr. Graham recommends 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Good sources of protein include chicken, eggs, salmon, Greek yogurt, lean beef and soybeans. And while you’re focusing on food, be sure to maintain adequate hydration levels as well.

3. Sleep

Getting enough sleep is important for anyone hoping to build muscle. We need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night for our cells to enter a phase of repair and rejuvenation, says Dr. Graham. Without adequate sleep, the process of repairing damaged tissue is less effective and can lead to poor gains and possible injury. Protein intake combined with substantial sleep helps make the process of hypertrophy most effective.

4. Don’t Settle

As you train, keep in mind that your numbers should be evolving constantly. If you’re truly building muscle and strength, then your 1RM and training regimen will need to grow with you. Frequent assessments of strength and a thoughtfully planned exercise progression are critical for continuous gains. If you keep lifting the same amount of weight, you won’t trigger the damage and repair process required for building larger muscles. Meanwhile, if you lift too much, you could be doing more damage than intended, leading to injury.

5. Breathe

Whether you’re working on your legs, arms or core, coordinate your lifting with your breath to provide your muscles and heart with the oxygen they need to perform the challenging tasks safely without spiking your blood pressure.

Abdominal bracing can also protect your body from injury by creating a more stable base from which you can lift. To perform this type of breathing, begin by inhaling. Then, on the exhale, draw your belly in gently as if you’re preparing to be punched in the stomach, creating a sturdy trunk and foundation for lifting. Perform your heavy lifting during the exhale.

6. Listen to Your Body

Never blindly follow a training plan without accounting for your body’s response. While building muscle can feel challenging, it shouldn’t cause pain. Depending on your age, overall health and goals, your plan to build muscle will vary. Remember to make your own plan and listen to your body as you go.

If you feel a strain in any part of your body that’s not intended, you may be overloading your tissue or using postures that can lead to injury. Building muscle should make you stronger, not cause injury, so it’s best to consult a strength coach or physical therapist if necessary before beginning your muscle-building journey.

Recent News

Share this Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *