Muscle Building For Everyone

Muscle Building For Everyone

We all have preferences for how we want to appear and what we find attractive.

Introduction

We all have preferences for how we want to appear and what we find attractive. Many people enjoy the way muscle mass makes them look and feel. Both men and women may feel more empowered when they have visible muscles. And many people feel sexier when their body is toned and muscular.

The path to a beach body with muscles that ripple isn’t easy for most. While some people are naturally muscular and can achieve this look with regular exercise and a standard diet, it can take a bit more work for others.

Is A Muscular Physique Possible For Everyone?

Muscle Building For Everyone

Is A Muscular Physique Possible For Everyone?

Body types vary. The good news is that regardless of your body type, each body contains the essential ingredient for muscle mass. We’re talking about muscle cells. Each person is born with a certain number of muscle cells, and fat cells. You cannot add cells or take them away. It’s preprogrammed into your DNA.

However, you can change the size of those cells. You can make fat cells shrink and muscle cells can grow larger.

Muscle cells are different than other cells in your body. While most cells have a single nucleus, muscle cells have many. When you work the muscle cells through strength training exercises, they develop more mitochondria. Mitochondria are the little energy producers in your cells. As you build up your mitochondria, your muscle cell size increases. In fact, the increase can account for up to 30 percent of your muscle mass. But this isn’t the only way that muscle cells grow.

Your skeletal muscle is composed of thread-like myofibrils and sarcomeres that form a muscle fiber and are the basic units of contraction. Contraction and extension are the two basic movements of a muscle. When you bend your arm you’re contracting some muscles and extending others. Extend or straighten your arm and the opposite muscles contract and extend.

Muscle Building For Everyone

So Why Do You Want to Build Muscle Mass?

Strength training breaks down some of your muscle fibers. It damages them, and that, believe it or not, is a good thing. Because after you exercise, your body repairs or replaces the damaged muscle fibers through a cellular process where it binds muscle fibers together to form new muscle protein strands. These repaired strands increase in thickness and number to create muscle growth.

Notice that your muscles don’t grow when you exercise. They grow when you rest. This is important to remember later on when we’re talking about taking good care of your body and resting.
Additionally, when you exercise you increase the volume of the fluid and glycogen stored in your cells. This also increases the size of the muscles.

So there are three different ways that a body can increase muscle mass through exercise. However, you can also see that genetics can play a very important role in the development of muscle mass. Some people with the right genetics can develop very large muscles. Other people will need to work long and hard at bulking up. However, both types of people can show off the muscles they do have by reducing their fat.

Adipose tissue, aka fat, covers your muscles. It serves as a fuel as well as a protective mechanism. When you reduce the size of your fat cells, your muscles stand out. They’re no longer covered by a thick layer. They’re more noticeable. This is why bodybuilders go on a very specific diet before they compete in a bodybuilding contest. They need their body fat to drop down to very low levels so the judges can clearly see the outlines of their muscles.

It’s also important to point out that men and women generally differ when it comes to building muscle. Testosterone triggers muscle cells to grow. Women don’t have much of this hormone so they don’t bulk up as quickly. But they can build muscle mass. And the good news for women is that the exercise and strength training approach for men and women is the same.

So Why Do You Want to Build Muscle Mass?

You might wonder why someone would want to build muscle mass. In particular, you might wonder why a woman would be interested in building muscle mass. The benefits for both genders are quite significant.

Burn Fat Quickly

It takes a lot of energy to keep muscle cells working. It also takes a good amount of energy to repair those muscle cells after a workout. This energy comes from a couple of places. It comes from the food you eat. It also comes from the fuel that’s stored in your body in the form of fat.

The chemical makeup of fat is easy for your body to break down into glycogen, which is the fuel that your cells need. So when you build your muscle mass, you also increase your body’s energy needs, which means you burn more fat.

Of course, this has to be combined with proper nutrition in order for you to lose weight. However, it does mean that muscle will help you lose weight more quickly and that you’ll keep the weight off.

Muscles Look Great

Let’s be honest here and just say that muscle is quite attractive. Both men and women who are strong and healthy are generally considered to be more visually appealing. It’s also important to point out that when you have a strong body you feel better. You feel vital and energetic. You also feel empowered.

Taking good care of your body is also good for your mind and spirit. And those are also attractive qualities. It doesn’t hurt that you rock that swimsuit and look great in just about anything you put on, but it’s also nice to know that your body is healthy too.

Strong Bones

Muscle Building For Everyone

Age Well and Improve Your Health.

As men and women age, we lose bone density. Strength training helps slow down this loss, which means that as you age you’ll be at less risk for osteoporosis and bone breaks due to falls. Additionally, strength training improves your balance and coordination, which also reduces the risk of falling.

According to a study conducted by the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, strength training does have a positive impact on bone density as well as soft tissue lean mass.

The study was designed to evaluate the effects of 18 months of resistance exercise on regional and total bone mineral density and soft tissue lean mass in premenopausal women aged 28-39 randomly assigned to an exercise or control group. The results for bone density showed “significant regional increases” for bone density in postmenopausal women. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7484276)

Age Well and Improve Your Health

Strength training, which is the primary type of exercise that builds muscle, has been shown to have a significant impact on a person’s overall health. Specifically, it has been shown to:

•Increase joint function
•Improve ligament and tendon strength
•Increase metabolism
•Improve cardiac function (though not as much as with aerobic exercise)
•Increase HDL (the “good”) cholesterol
•Improve mental wellbeing
•Result in weight loss/fat reduction
•Provide significant neurological benefits

The bottom line is that strength training doesn’t just make you look and feel great, it’s an excellent way to help improve your overall health and wellbeing. So let’s get to it. Let’s talk about what’s required to build muscle mass and get that body you’ve been dreaming of.

What’s Required to Build Muscle Mass?

There’s a two-part equation to building muscle mass and both components are equally important. They are:

Strength Training – Getting Comfortable with Heavy Weights
Proper Nutrition and Self Care – Your Body Won’t Respond if it Doesn’t Have What it Needs.

We’re going to take a look at each of these elements individually, beginning with proper nutrition and self-care.

Muscle Building For Everyone

Nutrition and Proper Self-Care is an Important Key to Building Muscle Mass.

Nutrition and Proper Self-Care is an Important Key to Building Muscle Mass

What you put into your body and how you care for your body has a direct correlation on how fast you’ll build muscle mass. Proper self-care not only supports your body to build muscle, it also helps you recover more quickly.

Rest assured, if you’re lifting heavy weights and breaking down muscle fibers, you’re going to be sore. That soreness will be greatly reduced if you take good care of yourself. Let’s take a look at nutrition first and then we’ll talk about the other components of good self-care.

The Lowdown on Protein

There’s a lot of misinformation about protein consumption and strength training. There are a few truths and we’ll focus on those.

Truth #1 – You’re Probably Not Getting Enough Protein

The vast majority of the population doesn’t get enough protein in their diet. They focus instead on starchy carbohydrates like bagels, cereal, pizza, and fries.

Studies vary on their recommendations, but most agree that around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is ideal for an athlete. If you’re sedentary then you can cut that number down to about .8 grams per pound of bodyweight. That means if you weigh 150 pounds then you’ll want to consume 150 grams of protein each day.

Keep in mind that protein is in everything from cereal to carrots. You don’t need to, and probably shouldn’t, consume 150 grams of protein from meat. And it adds up quickly.

Muscle Building For Everyone

Truth #1 – You’re Probably Not Getting Enough Protein.

For example, there are 31 grams of protein in a single chicken thigh. And your average quarter pound hamburger patty has 20 grams of protein. If you have about 4 ounces of protein at each meal and you have a protein shake after your workout, you’re probably getting what you need.

Why all the fuss about protein? It’s necessary to help ensure your body’s many systems stay healthy and strong while you’re training. It helps facilitate muscle repair, and if you aren’t getting enough then your body will deplete your other tissues in order to get what it needs. That means you risk muscle wasting as well as a weakened immune system and organ dysfunction.

You don’t have to eat meat to get your protein. If you’re a vegan or a vegetarian there are alternative sources of protein to consider. Nuts, beans, and seeds all have protein, as does dairy and eggs.

For example, a half-cup of tofu has 10 grams of protein. When you’re looking at post-workout protein shakes, pea protein, hemp, soy and egg white protein are all alternatives to whey protein, which is the most common protein supplement.

Protein is only one component of a healthy diet. It’s vitally important that you eat mostly vegetables and fruits with your protein. The starchy carbohydrates that make up so much of the average person’s diet not only won’t help you lift heavy weights, you’ll be hard pressed to get rid of that layer of fat that’s hiding your beautiful muscles. So let’s talk about sugar because that’s exactly what those starchy carbs are: sugar.

Eliminate Sugar – Seriously

There are entire books on why sugar is bad for you. It causes system wide inflammation, and inflammation is the instigator for every type of disease. Too much sugar causes your body to store it in the form of fat, and it causes resistance in your cells which leads to diabetes. And everything from your morning orange juice and bowl of cereal to your late afternoon protein bar has sugar in it.

If you want to burn fat and build muscle then the sugar has to go. Begin replacing your junk food with healthier alternatives. Instead of a muffin, have a banana. Instead of having cereal for breakfast, have an egg and an avocado. No one is suggesting you stop eating carbohydrates as long as they’re in the form of a fruit or a veggie and don’t have any added sugar.

This goes for your sports supplements too. Look for protein shakes that don’t have any added sugar and instead sweeten your shake with fruit. For example, coconut milk, a frozen banana, a scoop of cocoa powder and protein powder make a tasty treat. There are bars that also don’t have any added sugar and are sweetened with dates and other naturally sweet ingredients.

Reducing your sugar intake isn’t something that happens overnight. Sugar is addictive, so going “cold turkey” can cause a whole host of side effects that most people just aren’t prepared to deal with. Instead, try replacing your worst offenders with healthy choices. If you drink soda daily, replace it with water and so on. Keep a daily food journal to help you identify which foods contain the most sugar.

Muscle Building For Everyone

Medium chain fatty acids that have been shown to boost metabolism.

This simple step of reducing and hopefully eventually eliminating added sugar from your diet will produce dramatic results. You’ll lose weight and you’ll begin feeling strong and energetic, which is exactly what you need for your strength training program. If you need help avoiding the temptations of sugar you might be surprised to learn that fat can help.

The Fat Facts

The information we’ve been given about fat has been dead wrong. Doctors and the food industry have been telling us that if we eat fat, we’ll get fat. In truth, we’ll get fat if we eat sugar. If we eat fat, well… we digest it and life goes on. In fact, there are some fats that are extremely good for you.

You’ve probably already heard tons about Omega fatty acids so we won’t go into great detail about them. They help improve organ health, fight inflammation and will help your post-workout recovery. Many athletes take a fish oil or Omega-3 supplement on a daily basis.

There are also these lovely fats called medium chain fatty acids that have been shown to boost metabolism. When you’re looking to add healthy fats to your diet look at avocados, nuts and seeds, fish, and coconut oil. Olive oil is another healthy fat to add to your diet.

When you’re fighting a sugar craving, instead of giving in and eating a cookie try eating half of an avocado or a handful of cashews or pistachios. The fat helps your body and the natural food sources have fiber and antioxidants. The cookie not only provides your body with absolutely nothing but calories, it can also harm your body with the processed sugars, flours and fats.

When you’re making food choices, always choose the whole food first. Processed foods are not your body’s friend.

We’ve been talking a lot about what to eat but not about when or how much. Let’s get into that, and a few other important tips, before we head into the second component of muscle building – strength training.

When to Fuel Your Body and Other Important Muscle Building Steps

How much you eat each day is up to you and your approach. Many athletes follow the Zone Diet or a Paleo Diet. The Zone is very regimented and you control how much you eat and when you eat it. The Paleo Diet primarily focuses on what you eat.

Instead of focusing on absolutes, which vary from diet to diet and person to person, let’s instead offer a few general guidelines.

Eat Four-ish Meals a Day

Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and add to that daily schedule a post-workout meal. This meal should be high in protein and healthy carbs and it should be consumed within 30 minutes of your workout. If you want to eat more often, then you’ll also want to track how your body looks and feels. If you’re gaining weight and not building muscle mass then you probably need to cut back and not eat as often or as much. Additionally, if you’re always hungry and not recovering quickly or building muscle then you probably need to eat more.

Muscle Building For Everyone

Water helps move the toxins out of your body and the nutrients into your body.

Stay Hydrated!

Water helps move the toxins out of your body and the nutrients into your body. If you’re dehydrated you’ll be exhausted, you won’t sleep well, and your body won’t get the energy it needs to lift heavy or to recover. Drink a full 8-12 ounce glass of water before each meal and you’re on the right track. Drink more when it’s hot or when you’re exercising a lot.

Sleep!

Your body needs rest to repair your muscles. Sleep is the time when your entire body goes into recovery mode. If you don’t get enough sleep you’re not giving your body what it needs to stay strong and healthy. Strive to get between 7 and 10 hours of sleep a night. Olympic athletes get a minimum of 9 hours a night – that’s how important it is to your performance.

Finally, take measures to reduce your stress. It’s hard on your body and your brain. Strive to reduce stress in your life and to learn coping mechanisms so that day to day stress doesn’t affect you. Stress, like sugar, causes inflammation and disease. Okay, enough about nutrition and health, let’s get to the heavy lifting!

Muscle Building – It’s All About Lifting Heavy

If you have been told that to build muscle you need to do light weights and many, many repetitions then you’ve been lied to. The only way to build muscle mass is to lift heavy weights.

Now, before you start checking out and losing interest, lifting heavy weights is fun. It’s empowering and you’re going to be amazed at how quickly you improve your strength. One of the reasons that many people avoid strength training is that they’re reluctant to set foot into the free weights area of a gym. All of those barbells and weight plates can look intimidating.

Think about it like this, do you pick up heavy things off of the ground? Do you lift heavy things over your head to put them on a shelf? Do you carry heavy things in your hands from time to time? Chances are you do. If you have ever moved furniture, picked up a fifty pound bag of dog food or carried bags of groceries into the house you’re performing the same movements you’ll perform with weights.

Get Familiar

The equipment in a free weight gym is basic. You have a barbell. It will either be a 15 pound training barbell or a 35 or 45 pound barbell. If you’ve never lifted a barbell in your life you’ll probably start out doing exercises using only the barbell, with no added weights.

Muscle Building For Everyone

Muscle Building – It’s All About Lifting Heavy.

Next you have the plates. They have their weight stamped on them. It’ll either be in kilograms or pounds. The larger plates usually start at 10 pounds. Then you’ll have a 15, 25, and 45 pound plate. There are also smaller 2.5 and 5 pound plates. Then you have clips that you put on the end of each end of your barbell to keep the plates from sliding off. That’s it.

The Sets

The next concept to learn is the fundamentals of a strength training workout. It looks like this:

After doing about five minutes of low intensity cardio to get your muscles warmed up and your blood pumping you’ll want to start warming up your specific lifting muscles.

You’ll warm up at about 50% -60% your max. (For example, if your max deadlift is 150 pounds you’d warm up by doing deadlifts at around 75-85 pounds.) Warm up in short sets, gradually increasing your weight until you’re at about 80% of your max and you’re ready to begin the workout.

Your sets will be for max effort. Generally speaking max effort workouts look like this:

1x1x1x1x1 – This is for a one rep max, which is the heaviest weight you can lift one time.

3x3x3x3x3 – This is for a three rep max, which is the heaviest weight you can lift three times. It will be less than your one rep max.

There are also 5 and 10 rep max workouts and workouts to failure. For example, you lift the weight as many times as you can until you can’t lift it anymore.

CrossFit workouts tend to build muscle quickly because of the nature of the rotation and the variety. CrossFitters will do several high intensity workouts each week coupled with heavy lifting workouts. This helps burn the fat and it helps build muscle mass. If you’re strictly focused on building muscle mass you can do one or two high intensity workouts each week and spend the rest of your time focusing on strength training. Here’s a quick example of a high intensity workout:

10 sprints for time:

Run 100 meters
Rest the time it took you to run the 100 meters between each round.

The Importance of Compound Movements

There are different types of movements that you can do. The most effective and functional movements are what are called compound movements. They use more than one muscle or muscle group.

For example, when you do a bicep curl you’re primarily focusing on your biceps. Great. However, if you do a chin up or a weighted chin up you’re using your biceps, your shoulder muscles, chest muscles, back muscles and even your abdominals. You’re getting more bang for your buck.

So let’s take a look at some core weight lifting movements.

Squats – Your leg muscles are your biggest muscles. When you do a squat you use not only the big muscles in your legs including your hamstrings and quads, you also use your lower leg muscle, your glutes, and your core muscles.

There are essentially three different types of squats and the difference depends on where you position the barbell.

Front – The barbell is resting on your deltoids and is held against the front side of your body as you squat.
Overhead – With a wide grip the barbell is held overhead as you squat.
Back – The barbell rests on your shoulders and is positioned behind your neck. You squat with the weight on your back.

Other weight lifting and strength training movements include:

Deadlifts – This may be the heaviest weight you can lift. It starts with the barbell on the ground and you lift using your hips and leg muscles. Proper form is critical here to prevent back injury.

Cleans and Snatch – These are the two most difficult movements in weight lifting. They’re Olympic weight lifting movements. They’re extremely fun to do, however it’s strongly suggested that you watch a few videos or get some help from a trainer before you attempt these movements. And always practice and learn with an empty barbell.

Shoulder Press and Jerk – To work your upper body – including your core muscles, your arms, shoulders and upper back – the shoulder press, push press, and push jerk can get the job done.

The shoulder press is a strict movement moving the barbell from the front rack position to overhead. With a push press you’re allowed a small dip so you can gain some momentum and lift a bit more. The movement is still from shoulders to overhead. With the jerk you’re able to dip your body in order to drive the bar up. You’ll drop down below it so you can lift more. Someone with a 90 pound strict press might have a 115 push press and a 125 push jerk.

Pull-ups – Pull-ups work the entire upper body, including the core muscles in your abs and back. Once you’ve mastered pull-ups, you can add weight to them to make them more challenging. If you can’t do a pull-up, there are modifications you can do to build strength. You might do a jumping pull-up to help you get over the bar. You can also slowly lower your body from the top of the bar; these are called negatives, and they help increase your strength.

Pushups – Pushups are another upper body and core muscle builder. Again, you can add weight to them when you’ve mastered the pushup. You can also do them from your knees if you don’t have the strength to do a traditional pushup just yet.

Thruster – The thruster is a movement that combines a front squat with a push press. With the bar held in front of you in your front rack. You squat just as you reach standing you push the barbell overhead. Do ten of these with a moderate weight and you’ll feel the burn.

What About Abs?

You might have noticed there are no abdominal movements listed above. That’s because we’re talking about compound movements and each one of the movements we’ve discussed works your abs and your back muscles. However, if you want that six pack, you can also do sit-ups on the floor. You can add weight to the movement or ask your gym to show you how to use the GHD (Glute Hamstring Developer) apparatus to work your abdominals and back muscles.

Getting Started – Don’t Be Afraid Of Free Weights and Barbells

We’ve already talked a bit about getting comfortable with free weights and barbells. If you aren’t in the market to buy your own set of weights (and you can generally buy them used for a good price) then consider joining a gym.

If you join a gym, get a tour and ask about the rules. Some gyms require a spotter for movements like the back squat and bench press. Make friends or work out with a friend so you always have a spotter. You might also consider signing up for a personal training session and tell them your goals.

Keep in mind that your goal is to build muscle mass so anyone that tells you to do tons of reps at a low weight isn’t helping. Also make sure you know the proper form for each movement. You can learn by watching video tutorials online or take a weight lifting foundations course. Good form prevents injuries and helps you maximize the movement.

Train Frequently

You’re not going to see results if you only strength train once a week. The key to building muscle mass is to develop a schedule that has you working your muscles on a regular basis. That includes a day or two of cardio and some time off to let your body simply rest. A sample schedule might look like this:

Muscle Building For Everyone

Getting Started – Don’t Be Afraid Of Free Weights and Barbells.

Day 1: Upper Body – Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Pushups and/or Pull-ups (Choose one or two movements and focus on those)
Day 2: Lower Body – Squats, Deadlift, Lunges (Choose one or two movements and focus on those)
Day 3: Cardio – Run, jump rope, swim, cycle, dance, row.
Day 4: Upper Body – Focus on movements you didn’t perform on Day 1
Day 5: Lower Body – Focus on movements you didn’t perform on Day 2
Day 6 – Cardio
Day 7 – Rest

Keep track of your weights. For example, if you begin strength training and you’re working out with an empty barbell for your shoulder press, try adding a small amount of weight the second week you’re working out.

You might be surprised to see that you’ve already gained a bit of strength. Also keep in mind that some days are going to be better than others. Poor diet, poor sleep, and stress can all have an impact on performance. Stay strong and be persistent and patient.

Conclusion – How Long Will It Take?

When you combine nutrition and good self-care with a consistent strength training program you will see results fairly quickly. It’s not uncommon to increase your muscle mass and gain weight in the first few months. This is because muscle weighs more than fat.

You’ll probably also notice that your clothes fit differently as you get stronger. Don’t get on the scale or pull out the tape measure for at least a month. Be patient. Work with your genetics not against them. In about three months you should see a noticeable difference.

3 Responses to Muscle Building For Everyone

  1. Wonderful website. Lots of helpful information here. I am sending it to several pals ans also sharing in delicious.
    And naturally, thanks on your sweat!

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  3. Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It’s the little changes that will make the greatest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

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