Building muscle is a bit of a science in itself. It’s not just a case of rocking up to the gym, doing a few bicep curls, then leaving feeling honed and toned. Building muscle is the accumulation of a number of different efforts.
Wherever you are training, be it fitness first Abu Dhabi or even your home gym, In this post, we are going to try and cover everything to do with building muscle, from training, nutrition, supplements and everything in between.
Whether you are a newbie to the process of building muscle, or you have plentiful experience under your belt, you might just learn something new.
So here you have it, our top 10 tips for building muscle! Grab your protein shake and get comfy, just not for too long…
1. Resistance Training
When it comes to your fitness time, if you want to build muscle, you need to break it first! When you are putting resistance against your muscle you are making microscopic tears.These heal and grow back stronger making the appearance of a bigger muscle - this in a nutshell is how you build muscle.
To make substantial differences in your muscle size, you need to be resistance training 2-5 times a week. This form of training can be done in splits such as shoulder day, leg day, chest day etc., or you could focus on a lower body and upper body day, or do full body training. There are no set rules.
Resistance training is a form of exercise that causes your muscles to contract against an external resistance with the expectation of increases in strength, power, hypertrophy, and/or endurance. The external resistance can be dumbbells, exercise tubing, your own body weight, bricks, bottles of water, or any other object that causes the muscles to contract. In the gym you will most likely be using resistance machines or free weights.
2. Protein, protein, PROTEIN
The pinnacle of any muscle building routine - PROTEIN. With the very mention of muscle, the word protein will always spring to mind. If you are training to build muscle, then you need to consume enough protein to repair properly.
Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Proteins are found in lean meats, legumes, tofu etc., so there are plenty of sources available for meat eaters and vegetarians/vegans. The Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein for a healthy adult with minimal physical activity is currently 0.8 g protein per kg body weight (BW) per day. You can buy protein from great gyms in Dubai or from local stores or online.
3. Progressive overload
Progressive overload is an important training method when it comes to building muscle. It requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency, or time, in order to achieve the targeted goal of the user. In this context, volume and intensity are defined as follows: Volume is the total number of repetitions multiplied by the resistance used as performed in specific periods of time.
So, the aim of progressive overload, is for a muscle to grow, strength to be gained, performance to increase, or for any similar improvement to occur. The human body must be forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced.
Recovery is vital for muscle building. Without the correct recovery, how can your muscles repair and grow efficiently? Recovery needs to involve fuelling your body with the correct nutrition and proteins so you can repair efficiently.
In a study which examined the impact of recovery techniques on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), it was found that massage and cold exposure were found to be the most powerful techniques for recovering from DOMS and fatigue.
Studies have also found that methods such as massage and cold exposure are so effective because they enable a reduction in the space available for swelling and oedema formation, thereby limiting fluid diffusion into the interstitial space and facilitating the transport of metabolites/neutrophils/damage proteins from the muscle to the blood through changes in blood and lymph flow.
5. Rest days
Rest days are vital, as this is where your body can recover from all the strenuous weight lifting you have been doing. You should have, at the very least, ONE rest day a week. TWO ideally. If you don’t give your body a rest, then you will be running on empty, and your muscles won't be getting time to repair.
Studies have shown that three consecutive days of prolonged exercise result in a weakness in the body and muscles that persists for at least 3 days. This shows that spacing out your rest days will allow your body the time it needs to recover. Don’t be scared of resting, it is equally as important as the weights you are lifting in the gym.
6. Supplement with BCAA’s
In the gym world, and muscle building world, there are plenty of supplements available. BCAAs are one of most popular.
The Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are a group of three essential amino acids: Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. They are essential, meaning they can't be produced by your body and must be obtained from food. BCAA supplements have been shown to build muscle, decrease muscle fatigue and alleviate muscle soreness.
BCAAs usually come in the form of a flavoured powder, which you can add to water. They usually taste pretty great and make it easier to stay hydrated.
People usually drink them during a workout or on a rest day to give their muscles a good supply of amino acids when they need it most.
7. Nutrition on point
If you are taking your training seriously and want to build as much lean muscle as you can, you must ensure you are fuelling it correctly with the correct nutrition. Surprisingly, there’s a bit more to nutrition than protein.
There are three macronutrients the body needs for energy; protein, carbohydrates and fat. Bodybuilders and athletes need all three of these nutrients in varying quantities to support their fitness goals.
Carbohydrates: Providing energy and regulation of blood glucose. Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products.
Fats: Fat is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body cannot make itself. Fat helps the body absorb Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Vitamin E. Fats insulate us and protect our vital organs. They act as messengers, helping proteins do their jobs.
Proteins: They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body's tissues and organs
Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise. Creatine supports many other functions in muscles and improves high-intensity exercise performance. Studies have shown there is a positive relationship between muscle creatine uptake and exercise performance. It is also regularly reported that creatine supplementation, when combined with heavy resistance training leads to enhanced physical performance, fat free mass, and muscle morphology. The benefits of creatine supplementation are huge, which is what makes it a wonderful addition to any muscle building regime.
Water is something which is always overlooked in bodybuilding. Water is needed by every cell in your body and most of us don’t get near SEVEN glasses a day. Water is so important for a number of reasons. As well as keeping you hydrated, it cushions the brain, spinal cord, and other sensitive tissues. Water regulates your body temperature, it flushes body waste and helps to maintain blood pressure.
So what happens if you don't drink enough water every day? Your body could experience dehydration which can cause tiredness, slow brain function, irritability, dryness, and high temperature. None of these factors are helpful when you are training and trying to build muscle.
Consistency is the biggest factor when it comes to muscle building. Without consistency, you have nothing. You can’t just focus on one of the above aspects, you have to hit them all. Training must be consistent, nutrition must be consistent, protein and everything else in between. Building muscle is a slow process which cannot be rushed. All you can do is ensure you are hitting everything you can and constantly giving it your all.
Muscle building in itself is a bit of an art form. You have to make an effort day in day out, whether it's in the gym or what’s in your fridge. It's a way of life.