Gaining Muscle: Why and How To Do It
There are a number of reasons your work out goal may include muscle growth. If you have this goal, it requires more than just an appropriate fitness program; You’ll need to dedicate yourself to a well-rounded lifestyle to build muscle most effectively. While exercise in general has well established benefits, building muscle has its own unique set of health advantages.
Why Focus on Muscle Mass?
It might surprise you to know that building muscle benefits you more than just improving your aesthetic and strength. Gaining muscle also means: Better coordination, more bone density, lower risk of injury, joint health, and a boost in metabolism (1).
Recommended Workout Schedule
Before we get into example exercises, let’s answer a few common questions and address some misconceptions.
The information available on how to build muscle is varying and conflicting. While some people will suggest 1 day per muscle group, others recommend 3 times per week rotating muscle groups. Your personal exercise program will depend on your goals, time, and training experience. Though most literature supports the latter method, beginners should allow for more rest time and shorter workouts to start.
Don’t forget, no matter how advanced you become or what advice you receive, your safety always comes first. Never do any exercise you’re not confident with. The best practice is to start slow and have someone spot you when you’re learning something new.
As for what the science says: Muscles grow faster when worked more frequently and in conjunction with other muscles. One study showed evidence in support of optimal growth when exercising a muscle 2x/week over just once (2). Additionally, another study showed participants gained muscle faster when working them 3 times per week instead of one (3). We can suggest with relative certainty that you will see the best results by working out 2+ times per week.
Many studies find that training until muscle failure will activate a larger number of muscle fibers which leads to greater muscle growth (4). To achieve failure safely, you will want to do higher volume, multiple sets with a lighter weight. Some studies also show correlation between frequency of working out and boosted protein synthesis which translates to growth between workouts (5).
If your primary goal is muscle growth you want to frame your routine to hit each muscle group more than once per week and exercise to, or close to, fatigue.
Specific Workouts To Target and Grow Muscle Mass
While cardio shouldn’t be nixed altogether, it is not going to contribute as greatly to your muscle growth. Cardio-aerobic exercises should be done on alternate days to strength building days if possible. If you can’t do them on separate days, do your cardio after your strength exercises.
As a rule, multi-joint, or compound exercises should be favored when the goal is muscle growth. Multi-joint movements are using multiple joints and muscle groups. By using more and larger muscles, production of muscle building hormones is increased (6,7).
Examples of Multi-Joint exercises:
The advantages of multi-joint exercises are plenty, but when you want to target and isolate a specific muscle on its own they fall short. Single-joint exercises can fill this hole in your training regimine.
Examples of Single Joint exercises:
Shoulder Front Raise
Shoulder Lateral Raise
Additional Lifestyle Changes for Muscle Growth
But even with a perfect and strictly followed exercise plan, you won’t achieve optimal results if that’s all you’re doing. To complement your workouts and provide the best path to muscle growth there are other things to consider outside of the gym.
Your mental health and overall mindset influence every part of your life. Studies continue to prove the negative effect of stress and emotional disturbance on physical goals. Stress leads to decreased levels of testosterone and increased cortisol, which fight against muscle growth (8).
Take it from professional boxer Anthony Joshua who shared his top tips for gaining muscle with Men’s health. He stresses the importance of focus, enjoyment, and determination (9).
A proper sleep schedule will positively impact every area of your life, and is crucial to any fitness journey. Research shows the regulation of sleep and wakefulness is related to energy, hunger, satiety, and body composition (10). If you are not sleeping well you will be doing yourself a huge disservice in reaching your fitness goals.
It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation about muscle mass and not discuss “gains.” Food is fuel. You literally are what you eat and you will absolutely need to eat more than you are now if you are looking to gain weight.
What to eat
When your goal is muscle growth, the success of your dietary goals begins at the grocery store. Your initial thoughts might be of protein, which is good, but protein isn’t all you need to build muscle. Protein is the core of rebuilding muscle fibers, but without a healthy amount of carbohydrates and fats you won’t see much progress.
In an evidence-based article, Healthline shares 26 foods to include in your diet for muscle growth. They include: Salmon, Eggs, Chicken, Tunafish, Turkey breast, Chickpeas, and Peanuts (11).
Protein supplements (12)
When to eat
Furthermore, a 2014 study showed that the best results happen when protein is distributed evenly across each meal (13). Another study found that subjects who consumed a minimum of 20 grams of protein, six times a day lost body fat and increased lean mass (14).
Basically you will want to eat enough protein, fat, and carbs to give you the necessary fuel and aid in recovery.
While sleep and nutrition are parts of recovery, they don’t cover everything. Appropriate recovery time and practices will make the difference when it comes to the size and speed of your results. Especially after a heavy lifting session, recovery is crucial to encourage muscle and tissue repair. Muscles need 24-48 hours to recover and if you overwork the muscle before it has the chance to recover, it can cause more damage and impede growth (15).
To get the most out of your recovery, the Meteor will improve your body’s natural healing mechanism through carefully chosen levels of vibration. Make the Meteor a staple of your recovery for convenient massage and heat therapy wherever you are.
Build Muscle for Countless Benefits
As mentioned, building muscle is not just helpful for a summer body. More muscle means a faster metabolism, lower risk of injury, better muscle tone, improved posture, better jar opening skills, and much more. Like other fitness goals, the addition of proper self-care and recovery practices will get you wherever you want to go.