15 Keys to Strength Building and Muscle Mass
Here are a few keys to building strength and lean muscle mass.
Anyone who ever worked-out knows that this is a demanding and long-term process. The muscles won’t stay in the desired shape if you stop training when you’re satisfied with results. Celebrities like The Rock, Chris Hemsworth, and Arnold Schwarzenegger often point out the amount of hard work and persistence it takes for strength building and muscle mass.
This is a commitment that requires a special lifestyle, diet plans, and sufficient time to spend training. If you are ready to begin this journey, let's see what are some of the keys to successfully grow your muscles.
Difference between weight loss and mass gain training
A lot of people are unaware of the difference between training for weight loss and muscle gain. It's completely understandable since these two programs do share a lot of similarities. In both, you can use the equipment, have a cardio workout, and change your diet.
While weight loss is all about spending calories and losing fat, strength building is concentrated on replacing the fat with muscle tissue. You will get a toned figure with defined muscly shapes and improve body measurements, but your weight may not decrease at all. This happens because you gained muscle mass and that also adds pounds to your body.
Get checked out
Regardless of if you are healthy or suffer from some condition, strength training is quite a change from your usual lifestyle. To make sure you are up for it or learn what intensity to start with, you need to go see your physician. They will examine you, do some blood work, and advise you what precautions to take during your workout.
Being aware of your limitations can help you start with the right exercises and not waste your energy on the wrong practices that can also hinder your health. Consulting your physician will make sure that strength training and change of diet are safe for you, especially if you suffer from heart disease or diabetes.
Find a trainer
A trainer is a professional who knows what kind of moves and exercises you should do for strength building and muscle mass. Beginners need to find a trainer and listen to every piece of advice they give to achieve the most results. Doing an exercise in the wrong way can lead to injury and zero effect.
Online tutorials and videos are helpful and you can find great tips there, but still, nothing can replace direct communication with your trainer. If you can't afford a full-time trainer, have a few sessions with one at your gym until you learn the basics. Expert advice is a valuable resource to build your muscles without ruining your health.
Know the right exercise
To develop mass, you can’t focus your training on a single muscle. Performing complex lifts can include more muscle groups simultaneously and induce strength building. If you are looking to build muscle mass, these are some of the exercises you need to have in your training program:
- Bench Press
- DB Rows
- Military Press
- Split Squat.
These exercises are also known as multijoint movements. With more joints involved in your workout, you can lift more weight and build your muscle mass faster. This happens because heavier loads stimulate the production of growth hormone and testosterone. Additionally, it's best to do these workouts at the beginning of training when you are fresh and energized so you can lift that much weight.
Focus on the biggest muscles
Those who have been working out for a while should focus on the biggest muscles to build strength. Legs, back, and chest are muscle groups that can benefit from pullups, deadlifts, military presses, and squats. The idea here is to initiate muscle hypertrophy — a bodily process that leads to muscular growth.
For this to happen, you need to reduce cardio and do 6–12 repetitions of 2–3 sets, with mandatory rest of up to 60 seconds between each. This will cause damage to the muscles that proteins will help rebuild, making them grow in mass.
Don’t underestimate resting
The body is not inexhaustible. Muscles need 48 hours to recover from exercise, so this is something you need to give them to avoid injury and repair themselves. One day of rest is acceptable during the week or you can create a workout plan that will split training into muscle groups. For example, if you do legs on Monday, do back on Tuesday, and arms on Wednesday.
Energy fatigue is something that often happens when you do a full-body workout every day. Professional bodybuilders avoid this by focusing on one large and one small body part. Just like exercising brings muscle growth, rest helps the body recover from exhaustion.
Work out at home
The current pandemic has made it hard for people to continue with their usual schedules. Going to the gym is one of those activities disrupted by the quarantine and self-isolation measures. However, working out at home is also an option, if you know how.
Equipment for strength training is not as expensive as you may think. You may find a used one online or look for discounts at the sports stores. Creating your workout space at home is an excellent project that will build your enthusiasm and give you a push in the right direction. Beginners can start with resistance bands and dumbbells, until starting with more demanding equipment.
Introduce supplements into your diet
Supplements are optional, but taking certain ones can help you with your strength building milestones. For example, taking creatine can bring an additional 40% of energy to the muscles even though this molecule is naturally present in the body. Those who need more calories may find weight gainers useful supplementation to their diet, while beta-alanine increases endurance.
Branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs help muscle growth and although they are present in proteins, you should still use them as supplements to increase strength building. Even though supplements are not considered medication and you can get them without a prescription, it's recommended to consult your physician. Too much supplementation can have serious consequences on your health and prevent you from reaching your workout goals.
Diet is the key to strength building and muscle mass, so pay special attention to your meal schedule. To give your body the number of calories it needs you to need to eat often, possibly every 3–4 hours. To make sure your meals have an appropriate caloric value, divide your daily calories by six meals.
While celebrities have professional chefs to cook for them, you may feel overwhelmed by this notion since it requires time. It’s not a big deal if you organize your time and start cooking a day or a few ahead and storing meals in the fridge. This will make sure you have healthy meals and appropriate caloric intake to boost your muscle growth.
Keep your calories high with protein foods
When you exercise, you spend energy that comes from burning calories. Weight loss programs want you to eat fewer calories and burn fat deposits to recharge, but strength building wants the complete opposite. However, where your calories come from is extremely important.
Proteins are crucial to gain muscles so you need to have more of them in your diet. To make sure you are getting enough, it’s best to use supplements, like whey protein powder. It’s recommended if you are physically active and want to gain muscle mass, take 0.5–0.9 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. Of course, consulting a nutritionist may be the best way to start a proper diet when strength training.
Don’t avoid fatty foods
Don’t avoid fat, just start eating the healthy one. Extra virgin olive oil, almonds, avocados, and fatty fish are all full of fats good for the heart and for gaining muscle mass. The general rule is to have 20–35% of fat in your diet, but this varies from person to person.
Fat is highly caloric so you need to be careful with its quantities. If you are unsure of the values or how to include fat in your diet, talk to professionals who can create a meal plan for you based on your desires.
Carbs as a muscle fuel
There's no muscle growth without carbs. They are converted to glycogen which provides the energy you use during workouts. Unlike with weight loss, where the majority of carbs is unwelcomed, strength building requires that half of your caloric intake comes from them at least twice a week.
Nonetheless, this is not permission to munch on pasta, pizza, and sweets. Instead, opt for complex carbs present in cereals and whole-grain bread that will keep you healthy and energized. Just make sure that high-fiber foods, like some fruits and veggies, are not on your meal plan before the workout.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is important for every process in your body, even strength building. During sleep, the body performs protein synthesis in the gastrointestinal tract, which is why you should consume this type of nutrients before bed. The cells regenerate, growth hormone is produced, and consumption of energy is decreased.
During the REM phase, the body repairs tissue, organs, and bones from micro damages it suffered during the day. At least 7 hours of sleep will help your body replenish the energy and give you optimum performance during tomorrow's workout. However, oversleeping can disrupt your natural sleep cycle so never have more than 9 hours of shuteye per night.
Include different exercises
Repeating the same exercises every day is not only going to tire your down more quickly but also you won't use the complete potential of your muscles. Try using the workout equipment to exercise one muscle group from multiple angles. Pay close attention to your body position, how you hold the equipment, and the direction of movements.
Changing your exercise even a little may allow some muscles to relax while putting an accent on the others. For example, doing crunches on the flat-bench is not the same as doing them on the decline press.
Have a training buddy
During strength training, it’s useful to have a spotter — a person who will make sure you don’t get hurt and help you with the heavy parts. Moreover, you should find a training buddy who will be both spotter and support. Working out is challenging and hard, so sometimes you may come to a breaking point and think you’ve had enough.
Some people can control the urge to quit on their own, while others need a nudge in the right direction. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about since it happens to everyone, even the toughest of the bunch. Just make sure to choose a person you trust, that won’t let you cut corners, and can motivate you to continue with strength building and muscle mass.
There’s no success without patience since results in strength building don't come overnight. Changing your muscle mass will require a special diet, a new lifestyle, and a considerable amount of time. Anything happening fast can be unhealthy and harmful to your body, so prepare for a lengthy process.
Another reason to be patient is that training can be boring because of the same workout and slow results. This is something you can take care of with audiobooks, workout soundtrack, or watching TV in the gym or at home. Alternatively, you can use this time to brainstorm ideas, clear your head, or just de-stress from your day.
The bottom line
Strength building and muscle mass take a lot of work, planning, and adopting new habits. If you are ready to sacrifice your current lifestyle for the healthier one, then you are on the right path. The best thing is that strength training is for everyone, not only the muscular types. People on the weight loss program can benefit from strength training as well, since fat is replaced with muscle tissue, giving their body a more toned look.