So you decided you want to look like an Instagram model with rippling and glistening muscles. Whether it’s because you just want to look better, or to feel all of the other amazing benefits of having more muscle mass.
Now it’s time to do it.
How the hell do you do it?
How Does Muscle Grow?
First, through science! You need to understand how it muscles work bio-mechanically, to understand how to channel that into practical steps.
Science Alert: Muscle fibers are super unique because they change size based on their activity levels. Bigger muscle fibers have more surface tension, and are capable of exerting larger amounts of force and power. There are two main ways that muscles grow in strength and size.
The first way is through the muscle fibers themselves growing. With activity and exercise, more protein chains can be created, making muscle fibers thicker. While this doesn’t always increase the size of the total muscle, it does work to improve the strength and moving power of the individual fibers, and the muscle as a whole.
The more effective process that boosts total muscle size is through an increase in a protein-containing semifluid substance around the muscle fibers. Type IIb, fast twitch, muscle fibers are the ones that grow the most through this process, as they are already larger than Type I slow twitch fibers. This increases the size of each fiber, but not necessarily the strength. This type of growth leads to higher protein levels throughout the muscle, which makes it grow and heal better. When you exercise, stress is applied to the muscle, which results in micro-trauma and small tears to the muscle fibers. In response, the body works to repair the tears and rebuild the muscle by filling in the proteins from the semifluid.
Alright, now onto the real steps.
How to Exercise to Build Muscle
How you exercise to build muscles depends on your goals. Gains in strength but not necessarily in size can be achieved by exercising with higher repetitions. Using lighter weights in this way can help improve aerobic efficiency which leads to higher endurance and reduced fatigue.
Big growth in size can generally be best achieved by exercising with heavier loads. This activates those Type II muscle fibers, which are larger and have the most impact on increased muscle size and definition. Using heavy weight for fewer repetitions can lead to growth from increased protein containing fluid, which may increase size, but not necessarily gains in strength.
There are a lot of other factors that can also affect your strength and size gains. The amount of time you rest between sets, the speed in which you perform your reps, utilizing eccentric contraction, and how often you exercise the same muscles, can all affect the way your muscles react to stress from exercise. Making sure to get enough rest between working out the same muscle by following a good progression plan can help keep growth stabilized. Experimenting with these elements can help you find and create the right total program for you.
What to Eat to Build Muscle
What you eat also has a massive impact on muscle development. Muscle is mainly made up of proteins, and the protein in the food we eat helps to support this function. It is extremely important to make sure to eat enough protein to support growth and maintenance. The building blocks of muscle all need adequate protein levels in order to support growth and hypertrophy. While there is no magic number of how much protein to consume, the general recommendations are anywhere from 60-200 grams of protein each day. This of course depends on your goals along with your body weight and composition. Talk to a nutritionist or dietician to find out what’s right for you.
Increasing and maintaining the strength and size of your muscles can be a complicated process, but it’s made much easier by knowing the science behind it. While a decent amount of trial and error is involved to find the right way to exercise for your body and your goals, the most important thing to do is to get up and get moving. Any activity can help to strengthen the muscles, which is the basis of improving their function. Have fun, and enjoy the process of hypertrophy and mass gains.