Adding size may not be rocket science, but it still does require a lot of good old-fashioned hard work.
Correct muscle growth requires an investment in consistent resistance-based training, nutrition, and a basic understanding of how your body works. Unless you check all three of these categories, your progress is likely to be weighed down by frustration and inefficiency.
Here are 8 lessons about Muscle Growth to keep in mind:
1. Perform Multi-Joint Exercises
Resistance training is the most efficient way to build lean mass — especially if you pack your workouts with big, compound (multi-joint) moves like the squat, bench press, lunge, and pull-up.
2. Vary intensity
Once every week or two opt for low-weight, high-rep work (e.g., 3-4 sets of 15 or more reps per exercise). This helps you target type I fibers – fibers used in endurance activities – instead of type II fibers – the kind you stimulate with heavy weights.
3. Don’t rack up sleep debt
The human growth hormone spikes when you’re in dreamland, so make sure you’re sleeping enough. Not getting enough sleep can put the brakes on protein synthesis (in English, muscle growth).
4. Increase weight responsibly
Applying correct form and using your full range of motion is always more important than how much weight you’re lifting. Pay attention to the effort you’re exerting.
5. Don’t overdo it
Training too often or at too high an intensity too frequently – especially if not accompanied by appropriate rest and recovery – can actually hurt your muscle-building efforts. Take at least one to two days off per week.
6. Eat more protein
Now that you’re lifting weights, you need to consume more protein to promote muscle repair, recovery, and growth since amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are necessary to build muscle tissue.
Around 80 grams of protein per day (or, four meals containing 20 grams of protein each) is about right for most people.
7. Increase calories
Editor’s note: The importance of the calorie-muscle gain equation is why the idea of “lifting weights makes you bulky” is more myth than reality. If you’re not eating in a way to add size, you’re not going to add size. You’ll become stronger. You’ll add definition. But, the amount of muscle you can gain is directly influenced by how much you eat.
To find out how many more calories you should consume to gain weight, determine how many calories you need to maintain your current weight — your baseline — then add 300.
8. Strike the right mix of macros
You can get calories from carbs, fat or protein. The best way to gain muscle is to bulk up first, and then leaning out afterwards. For this reason, emphasise carbohydrates and fat. Try to get the bulk of that fat from unsaturated sources such as avocado, olive oil and salmon.