Your body builds muscle naturally in response to strenuous activity. But if your daily routine doesn't involve challenging your muscles to grow, how do you trigger the muscle-building process? It doesn't happen overnight (as any bodybuilder can tell you) but you'll be well on your way to "bulking up" if you follow these steps consistently.
- Make time to exercise. Decide which exercises you'll do on which days. Some exercises focus on a specific muscle (e.g. bicep curl) while other exercises call upon several muscles at once (e.g. squat). The important thing is to make sure each muscle gets a chance to rest for at least a full day before using it again. For example, you can do a full-body weight training routine every other day (with cardio in between, if you want) or you can alternate muscle groups (arms on Monday, legs on Tuesday, upper back and chest on Wednesday, etc.).
- Do Calisthenics or Compound Exercises. Push-ups, Pull-ups, Dips, Pistols, Reverse Crunches, etc. These exercises are functional and encourage your body to use primary muscle groups, secondary muscle groups, stabilizing muscles as well as your core. Add weight when these exercises get easy.
- Muscles grow during rest, not during training. If you don't give a muscle adequate time to recover, then you'll actually interfere with the muscle building process and can end up injuring yourself. When you lift weight, you're supposed to stress the muscle to the extent that it breaks down at the cellular level, resulting in increased protein synthesis, which produces thicker muscle fibers. This process begins 2-4 hours after the workout and lasts 24 hours (although some researchers suggest that muscles worked to exhaustion need 36-48 hours to rebuild). If you stress the muscle again before the process is complete, you'll break down the muscle fibers before they've had a chance to rebuild.
- To build volume rather than strength, design your program around lots of repetitions (8 to 12), three to five sets, and short (30- to 90-second) rest periods between sets. Athletes looking for power and strength, on the other hand, will favor a program with reps that max out at around six and sets ranging from two to six, with a long rest period (two to five minutes) to promote better recovery between sets.
- Practice good form. Learn how to do each exercise properly (full extension of movement, proper stance and posture, etc.) or else you'll not only reduce the effectiveness of the movement, but you'll also be increasing the risk of injury. To master each exercise, learn to do it slowly with light weight. Your form will improve with practice. Even though you might feel more accomplished when you move quickly, you're depending on momentum to do some of the work for you, instead of your muscles. Do each rep slowly, in a controlled and steady fashion. More advanced lifters are able to benefit to a significant extent through explosive repetitions, but since this also compounds the risk of injury in novice athletes, it is solely recommended for more advanced athletes.
- Lift to fatigue. As mentioned earlier, in order to trigger the muscle building process, you need to stress the muscle. By the final rep of your final set, your muscle should be exhausted. That should be the last rep you can do with perfect form. If you start losing form before then because your muscles are too tired, you're using too much weight. If you find that you can add in one or more reps in good form, you need to add on some weight.
- Ask someone to "spot" you, so that you can safely push your muscles to the point where they fail. Your spotter can then help you with the weight just enough so that you can complete the motion. Having a spotter for exercises like bench press is normal and expected, so don't be shy to ask someone. And if you can't find a spotter, don't lift to failure on any exercise where a dropped weight could injure you.
- Change your eating habits. You can't build muscle unless you give your body the proper building blocks to do so (and stop giving it junk). There are also plenty of supplements which can give you energy and aid in muscle recovery and repair, but remember, they are supplements, which means they only work in conjunction with a good, consistently followed exercise regimen and a proper diet.
- Incorporate complex carbs and protein into your diet. Focus on lean protein like egg whites and low fat yogurt, and whole grain carbs like oatmeal and whole-wheat toast. Avoid sugary, white processed foods; they interfere with your glucose levels and immune system.
- Eat small meals throughout the day. This gives your body a steady supply of fuel to build muscle. Eating in "spurts" (2-3 large meals per day) should be avoided because it hinders muscle growth during the stretches between meals. You should eat 5 to 6 small meals a day.
- Look for products that pair creatine with carbs, as this combination increases the rate at which the creatine is absorbed by your muscles. Consuming creatine with a glass of juice will have the same effect.
- Drink sports drinks during your workout. Look for drinks that contain carbs and protein. This combination reduces muscle damage and hastens recovery.
- Get a carb-loaded drink or snack (1.5g of carbs for each 2.2 lbs that you weigh) within 30 minutes of your workout to stimulate an enzyme that helps the body produce glycogen.
- Have a whey protein drink within 30 minutes of your workout to help your body repair and rebuild lean muscle tissue.
- Change your routine every four to six weeks. As your body adapts to stress, you'll hit a plateau where the benefits of weight training will begin to diminish. The only way to prevent this from happening is to change things up, such as by increasing weight and changing exercises.
- Focus more on the lowering part of the lift. So many people are so concerned with trying to get the weight where they want it to go, that they seem to completely forget why they’re actually lifting: To get bigger muscles!! The more you use momentum to help you get the weight up, the less muscle you are using. Furthermore, lifting heavier weights with bad form is not nearly as good as lifting lighter weights, the weights you should be using, with proper form. Also, the eccentric (lowering) portion of the exercise is actually more important than the concentric (contracting) portion. For example, the eccentric movement in benching is when the weight is being lowered and in lat pull downs it is when the bar is moving up. It is during the lowering part that your muscle fibers actually rip, thereby allowing them to be healed and grow even more. When you lift you want to make sure that you can feel the targeted muscle(s) burning; if you can’t, then you might need to adjust your form a bit. Common examples of this are abdominal exercises. Many people tend to bend their waist instead of their midsection and end up working their hip flexors more than their abs.
- Get an Electronic Muscle Stimulator (EMS). It helps train muscles to perform at peak performance by engaging muscle fibers. Be sure to consult your doctor first and do not use if you have heart problems.
- Kettlebell workouts are intense and also activate multiple muscle groups.
VideoThis video describes the principles of lifting weights to build muscle, with focus on classic free weight lifts like bench press, upright rows, bicep curls and more.
- While doing cardio will help burn fat so your emerging musculature is more evident, doing it for more than 90 minutes will favor a lean physique, rather than bulk. Most bodybuilders greatly limit their cardio while they're "bulking" (building muscle), then add more cardio when they're "cutting" (shedding fat).
- Remember that your ability to build muscle can be limited by genetics and sex. Some people are genetically predisposed to build muscle easily. Other people may need to experiment with different eating habits and training routines to find what works for them.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep is a critical element of rest. Avoid caffeine and alcohol for deeper sleep.
- Eating correctly costs a lot of money. If you have a limited budget, spend your money on your needed weekly food before spending it on supplements. Creatine works for many people but is a waste if you are not eating enough of the proper food to build muscle.
- To continue building more and more muscle, increase the difficulty of your exercise routine.
- Train to complete failure. This means you should do as many repetitions as physically possible on each set. This will ensure the most muscle tearing, and allow them to grow back bigger.
- Choose a weight that will allow you to do about 8-12 reps per set.
- Always take off or reduce your intensity/volume by at least 50% every 5 weeks to avoid over training, and to keep making gains.
- Many people you will encounter in a gym have misguided ideas about physiology and proper athletic programming. There's a lot of "gym mythology" floating around. Take others' suggestions with a grain of salt, and always ask for sources (like the ones provided below).
- Know your limit for exercise. Trying to be macho and doing too much can hurt you.
- Don't be intimidated or make assumptions when you see someone using a different amount of weight than you. They may be on a program in which they are doing fewer reps with more weight, or vice versa.
- Intensity is key. However, doing 1 rep of the most weight you can manage is not going to do much, if anything. You should work at a weight in which you can do 5 reps, but it must be physically exerting.
- A good muscle building and strength training program is called 5x5. Used by Reg Park, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Glenn Pendlay and many more. A free information source for this program is StrongLifts. You only need to have access to the equipment, no magic potions or books are on sale and so this is not a scam.
- How to Build Your Lower Body Strength
- How to Gain Weight
- How to Start Your Own Exercise Regimen and Stick to It
- How to Hypnotize Yourself Using the Best Me Technique
- How to Do a Deadlift
- How to Do a Squat
- How to Avoid Overtraining
- How to Train Your Body
- How to Gain Weight
Sources and Citations
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,341928,00.html?sPage=fnc/health/fitness
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 http://www2.canada.com/theprovince/news/liveit/story.html?id=2730f92c-5090-4836-aec9-66b328961bd7
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/health/184337_condor02.html
- ↑ See Dr. Hatfield's work in Hardcore Bodybuilding for more information.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 http://www.forbes.com/2007/09/18/health-supplements-muscle-forbeslife-cx_avd_0919health.html
- ↑ http://www.forbes.com/2007/08/10/health-fitness-muscle-forbeslife-cx_avd_0813health.html
- ↑ http://buildingaleanbody.com/2010/07/7-things-to-do-to-keep-building-muscle/
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