The vast majority of those who start their fitness, weightlifting or bodybuilding program are looking to improve their overall health as well as tone-up their bodies. In essence this means building muscle mass as quickly as possible with as little effort as possible. Well, the good news is there is a science behind toning your body, in the shape of muscle, but this will take time, effort and planning. Those who promise quick fixes for that perfect six-pack are at best economic with the truth and at worst…. well you know the rest.
Muscles need encouragement to grow
It may sound painful, it may sound bizarre but the only way in which your muscle will grow is if it is damaged by resistance exercise. We are not talking of ripping your muscles apart but what are known as “micro tears” which occur when lifting weights and any other resistance type exercise. These tears in the skeletal muscle fibres are not as painful as they might sound because the body instantly recognises the damage and looks to repair and rebuild stronger than before. This process is known as hypertrophy.
Sometimes it can be tricky finding the balance between under exercise, balanced exercise and over exercising. You also need to include your diet in this formula because unless you give your body the ingredients to repair and rebuild your muscle it just won’t happen. Also, if you under exercise then there is no stimulus for the body to rebuild and repair, if you over exercise then some muscles will become unrepairable so you need to find a balance.
Overloading your muscles allows them to grow
You will hear many different descriptions of life in the gym. Some people feel the “burn” while others feel the “pump” when exercising. The burning sensation you feel when exercising is the release of lactic acid as your muscles burn previously stored energy. This in itself does not automatically trigger excess muscle build but it does help to release an array of growth inducing hormones. It is not necessarily a case that increasing the “burn” will increase the mass of muscle which you build.
Many weightlifters will also describe the “pump” which is, in scientific terms, the feeling during exercise when your blood is effectively “trapped” in the muscle. It is not dangerous and it is not unhealthy but do not assume this is a reflection of muscle growth. While some experts may disagree, the simplest way to encourage muscle growth is repetition and the overlord of muscles (within safe levels) using resistance type exercises such as weightlifting.
Allow your muscles to rebuild
It is again a common misconception that the more frequent you train the greater your muscle build. While resistance exercises will create micro tears in your muscles, which the body will quickly repair and rebuild, there needs to be a downtime from your exercise regime. This is where the experts will advise you about exercising particular muscles on a regular basis.
If you do not give your body enough time to repair and rebuild then you can damage the muscles and you will not benefit from increased muscle build. If you leave it too long between exercising specific muscles then you could potentially lose muscle mass and strength. It is trying to find a balance between over exercise and under exercise which will ultimately dictate your level of success. However, do not forget your diet!
Your diet is important for building muscle mass
We all know that our diets have a direct influence on our general fitness but it also has a major impact upon the ability to build muscle. If you see your diet and food intake as the fuel which feeds the repair system after your muscle micro tears you will understand where you’re coming from. While exact levels do vary, some experts believe that your muscular build is impacted by up to 80% by your diet. So, on this basis while exercise is obviously a means to break down your muscle, your diet is the means to build it back up.
Knowing what to eat, when to eat and in what quantity will vary from individual to individual. We have a number of articles on the blog which cover healthy diet options and which type of foods will help build muscle mass.