What Does It Take To Build Muscle?
Bodybuilding is one of the best activities to get into if you want to be healthy and fit.
Whether you decide to start a bodybuilding program to lose weight or gain weight, it all starts with one objective: Muscle Growth.
Putting on muscle not only makes you look good but it will help you lose body fat by increasing your metabolism or the body’s ability to burn calories.
So the question is how does a beginner build muscle?
Building muscle is not just about lifting heavy weights.
There are other factors to consider when designing a beginner bodybuilder’s program for muscle growth:
Building your body starts in the mind.
It takes hard work, sacrifice and commitment to undertake a program for building muscle.
You have to deal and overcome fears and self- limiting beliefs in order to comply with the demands of the program.
The great thing about bodybuilding is that anyone regardless of age, gender or level of fitness will always get results.
The key is consistency and patience.
Let’s say for starters, you were able to do 10 repetitions with 25 kilos in the bench press.
If in your next chest session you were able to do 11 repetitions with 25 kilos in the bench press, you have already gotten stronger by 10%!
You can consistently improve from one workout to the next only if you believe in yourself.
And if you don’t hit your target, understand that progress is a process in itself. You can fall short of expectations but never sell yourself short!
Use failure as motivation to get better and eventually you will reach your goals.
2. Focus On Gaining Strength
Beginners who have never lifted a weight will experience immediate gains within a few months of training.
This is because in theory, any resistance applied to a muscle will stimulate growth.
After a while, muscle growth begins to plateau because the body has adapted to the stresses of the program.
The challenge therefore is to sustain muscle growth by periodically increasing the amount of resistance.
In other words, if you want to build muscle you must focus on getting stronger.
How about for women? Should women who want to “tone” their muscles also focus on strength?
One of the most iconic female physiques; one that greatly changed the perception of the female body was Linda Hamilton’s “Sara Connor” in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”.
Linda was tight, toned and fairly muscular. But was she big? No. She looked athletic, functional yet remained totally feminine.
Linda’s workouts consisted of basic weight- lifting and body weight movements. It takes serious strength to do one arm pull ups!
Thus, a stronger muscle is a “toned” muscle.
For beginners, an effective bodybuilding program for muscle growth is one that emphasises basic compound movements.
These are exercises that utilise the largest and strongest muscles in the body.
The most effective compound movements are the following:
- Squats – builds legs, glutes, hip flexors, lower back, abdominals.
- Bench Press – builds chest, upper back, shoulders, triceps.
- Deadlift – builds entire back, legs, glutes, biceps, forearms, abdominals.
- Overhead Press – builds shoulders, upper back, triceps, serratus, abdominals.
To fully maximise the benefits of these exercises, use free-weights exclusively.
Free-weights force you to balance the resistance, focus harder to maintain form and use proper technique.
Coordinating the different muscle groups involved in the lift will not only make you bigger and stronger but more athletic as well.
Machines and cables have their place in any workout program but free- weights will get you faster and more sustainable results.
Finally, before starting any exercise program always consult a certified Personal Trainer and seek professional medical advice to determine your current level of fitness.
3. Diet and Supplementation
Without a doubt, the nutritional aspect is the most difficult part of a muscle building program.
The most successful trainers are those who are committed to their diet and meticulous about attaining their ideal macros: carbohydrates, protein and fat.
If you have less than two years experience of consistent training, forget about using supplements.
Focus on getting your macros from whole foods. Discipline is very important in building muscle and supplements are a short cut to getting your nutrition in.
Keep your meal plan simple. Ask the nutritionist in your gym to design a meal plan for you.
He or she will get valuable information on your body type and medical history to make sure the food he recommends will ably support your training program.
A basic muscle building diet in bodybuilding will have the following principles:
- Consume at least six (6) meals distributed every 2-3 hours throughout the day.
- If you’re a beginner, start out with 1 gram of protein per 0.45 kilogram of bodyweight per day spread out with the 6 meals.
If you weigh 70 kilos, that would mean 155 grams of protein distributed as 25 grams of protein per meal. 25 grams is equivalent to 3 eggs, 2 pieces of chicken or a 170 gram burger patty.
As the training becomes heavier and harder, slowly increase the amount of protein you are taking in by increments of 0.25 grams every week. The amino acids in protein are crucial for repair and recovery.
- Carbohydrates are important in replenishing muscle glycogen. For size and strength consume 2 grams of carbohydrates per 0.45 kilogram of bodyweight. Consume 65% of your carbohydrates with the meals AFTER training.
- Your fat sources should only come from the food you eat. For example, if beef is your main protein staple then the fat in beef should account for your quantity of fat for the day.
If you want to gain size and strength, choose fattier protein choices such as beef, eggs, salmon, dark chicken meat and dairy.
Fat has twice more calories per gram than either protein or carbohydrate.
This is all about building muscle. You should not be afraid of looking smooth when you are training for muscle growth.
In the same way that a sprinter cannot get faster by running long distances, you will not get bigger and stronger if you follow a calorie- restrictive diet.
4. Rest and Recovery
Here is a principle that even the most advanced lifters fail to follow with consistency: you do not grow during training, you grow when you’re resting.
When you train, you break down muscle protein which puts your body in a catabolic state.
The only way to bring it back to an anabolic or muscle- building environment is to feed it which is optimised during recovery.
Muscle growth is also subject to the Law of Diminishing Returns where doing more will result in fewer gains until the entire program becomes counter- productive.
It takes discipline to stay away from the gym and rest.
And the best way to accept the value of rest is to understand that in order to achieve goals you must be patient.
Getting adequate rest and recovery is the final component in your muscle- building program.
You often hear beginners in the gym say, “I want to lift weights but I don’t want to get too big.”
These are the ones who quit within a few weeks of training because they become impatient.
Before you become “too big”, first you must achieve “some muscle” and this takes time and effort.
You have to set goals that are realistic without compromising your health and well- being.
But every journey begins with that all- important first step. Take it and never look back. It will be difficult and fraught with challenges.
But it you believe in yourself and stay on course, you will succeed!