Every person who starts exercising should sooner or later set the goal of building muscle. Because that brings enormous advantages and has a positive effect on the quality of life.
Unfortunately, many people automatically associate muscle building with a masculine body, broad shoulders, thick biceps, and limited range of motion.
This is wrong and, if there is a lack of information, it can lead to avoiding and neglecting a significant part of fitness training.
So from now on, we want you to think of muscle building simply as strength training. You become stronger and more efficient in everyday life, you increase your general quality of life and slow down the natural aging process.
This is how muscle building works
Muscle growth, or hypertrophy, is a difficult topic. The process is induced by hard activity and/or weightlifting.
Muscle hypertrophy comes in two forms:
1) Myofibrillar – A muscle fiber’s myofibrils multiply.
Myofibrils include proteins that contract and relax muscles.
When the number of myofibrils increases, it usually leads to an increase in strength and less muscle mass.
2) Sarcoplasm – here the muscle cells in the sarcoplasm are enriched with fluid. This fluid surrounds the myofibrils and contains water, ATP, proteins, and other molecules responsible for muscle energy storage, production, and endurance.
The sarcoplasmic growth results in increased fluid capacity, which gives the muscles a larger appearance but does not produce a direct increase in strength.
You can design your training to target the type of muscle growth you are looking for.
Regardless, research suggests that all exercise-induced muscle gains involve three primary mechanisms: mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress (1).
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1: Mechanical Stress
Is the force or tension trying to stretch our muscles against contraction? For example, lifting a dumbbell to do a bicep curl.
2: Muscle Damage
Muscle injury occurs when we try a new action, do an activity in an unusual way, acquire new skills, or increase volume or intensity. The eccentric (lengthening/stretching) phase of a workout has the most mechanical tension. In the bicep curl, the eccentric phase occurs when the weight is dropped.
The muscle damage caused is usually small and is often referred to as microdamage or micro-tears and usually manifests itself in the form of muscle soreness after training.
3: Metabolic Stress
During exercise, metabolic waste builds up in fatigued muscles. When we continue an exercise with little respite or to failure, we “burn” or “pump.”
These systems signal the production of anabolic hormones like testosterone and growth hormone, which promote protein synthesis and decrease muscle breakdown. Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) impacts metabolism and muscular growth.
These hormones are essential to the repair, growth, and recovery process. They also ensure that our satellite cells (which are outside of the muscle) are activated. Satellite cells are the primary stem cells of skeletal muscle and are responsible for postnatal muscle growth, hypertrophy, and regeneration (2). These cells repair muscle damage by fusing together and lengthening muscle fibers, making them stronger and slightly larger.
The physiological process of muscle growth beyond strength training is complex and diverse. There are several factors to consider, from genetics, age, gender, and body composition to exercise schedule, diet, sleep habits, and lifestyle. The large number of processes involved is one of the many reasons why lifting heavy weights alone is not enough to add mass and drastically change body shape. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 6 science-backed tips to help you build muscle, improve functionality, and slow down the aging process.
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6 scientifically proven tips to get a defined body:
1. Eat with a slight calorie surplus
The concept of “eating more” when trying to gain muscle and lose fat is a scary one for many people. But the truth is, to maximize muscle growth, you need to consume more calories than you burn. This puts the organism in an anabolic state (3) and conserves the energy and protein needed for muscle repair, rebuilding, and growth.
The amount of calorie surplus depends on what goals you are pursuing, how often you exercise, and what your metabolic needs are. We advise you to start with a slight increase of 100-250 calories per day and monitor your weight weekly/fortnightly. If it is not possible for you to weigh yourself, you can alternatively take before and after photos. Make sure that you take the pictures with the same light and in the same position.
2. Get Enough Protein
Amino acids in protein are muscle-building blocks. Amino acids affect tissue growth, energy production, immunological function, and nutritional absorption.
One research study found that consuming 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is required to stimulate maximal muscle protein synthesis (repair and growth after intense exercise) (4).
So try to eat protein with every meal. If you’re having a hard time getting enough protein in your diet, consider drinking whey isolate or plant-based protein shakes. It’s one of the easiest ways to get the protein you need without increasing fat or carbohydrates.
Women’s Best Vegan Protein provides 21.8g of protein per scoop and Iso Whey provides 25g of protein per scoop. If you’re looking to build muscle with protein shakes, we recommend using at least 2 scoops of protein powder per day.
3. Avoid Low-Carb Diets
If you want to build muscle, low-carb diets are not recommended. Carbohydrates are low in protein and are the body’s main source of energy. They provide the fastest type of energy you need for your workout, replenish your muscle glycogen stores and help fight fatigue.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that individuals on a low-carb diet take longer to recover, lose strength, and have lower protein synthesis than those on a higher-carb diet (5).
Your recommended daily carbohydrate intake depends on your goals and daily activity level. We recommend getting between 40 and 50% of your daily calories from carbohydrates.
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4. Increase Your Training Volume
Training volume means the total amount of exercise performed in a given period of time. Most commonly, this is measured by the total number of reps, sets, and loads you complete in a workout (sets x reps x load).
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that there is a clear relationship between volume and muscle growth. The higher the training volume, the more the muscles grow (6).
You should note that:
- Slowly increase your training volume
- Follow a well-structured training plan
- Train certain muscle groups more often (e.g. lower body twice a week)
One of Schoenfeld et al. Research conducted in 2017b found that 5-9 sets per week showed the most muscle growth (7). If you’re a beginner, you should start with 8-12 reps and 4-6 sets per week when working for the larger muscle groups (back, chest, legs). Once you get used to it, you can slowly increase the number to 6-10 sets per muscle group per week.
5. Do Compound Exercises
Compound exercises are exercises that involve multiple joints and muscle groups. For example, back rows, squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, pull-ups, push-ups, etc. These movements require much more energy and produce a higher anabolic response than isolated movements.
This response increases the release of hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone, which are beneficial for muscle repair, growth, and recovery (8, 9). In addition, compound exercises train the stabilizing muscles, strengthen the joints and reduce the general risk of injury.
6. Add progressive overload to your training program
Our muscles adapt very well to repetitive stimuli, so it’s important to challenge them so they can grow. We do this with progressive overload.
There are several ways to gradually increase the load and create new stimuli:
- Increase your training volume
- Take shorter breaks
- Increase time under tension
- Use more weight
Whichever method you choose, it’s important to track your progress, make incremental adjustments, and note what works for you and what doesn’t.
Building nicely defined muscles without appearing too bulky is definitely a huge topic that needs to be researched endlessly. We’ve only touched on a small part of this article because there are so many factors to consider. the 6 mentioned tips, however, are a good start and will help you achieve good results.
The most important thing we can give you is to understand that you are on a continuous journey. You are definitely on the right track if you focus on being stronger and more active than ever. However, you must also set realistic goals, expectations, and deadlines – this is the only way to stay motivated and consistent.