Whether your goal is to get bigger and stronger, or enhance power and explosiveness for sports, you want to see progress — and right away.
But building muscle efficiently requires more than just putting in time at the weight rack. Along with your strength-training regimen, diet and lifestyle choices all play important roles.
For those searching for muscle building tips, here are some strategies to get you started.
Perform Multi-Joint Exercises
Resistance training is the most efficient way to build lean mass — especially if you pack your workouts with big, chemical (multi-joint) moves like the squat, bench press, lunge, and pull-up.
You can certainly build muscle with all types of moves, but a strong base in multi-joint efforts, at least some of the time, is a good idea,
Compound exercises cause the greatest increase in testosterone, a hormone that is muscle-building that is key, according to researchers at the University of Connecticut.
Don’t Just Lift Heavy
When you lift heavy weights or do explosive exercises such as sprinting, you target the type II muscle fibers we discussed earlier. But studies show that type I fibers (a.k.a. slow twitch — the type used in endurance activities) also have growth potential, so don’t ignore them.
Once every week or two, target those type I fibers with low-weight, high-rep work (e.g., 3-4 sets of 15 or more reps per exercise).
Get a Lot of Shut-Eye
Shoot for a minimum of seven hours a night. Getting less than that on a regular basis can cause you to rack up sleep debt, which can put the brakes on protein synthesis (aka muscle growth) and increase protein (read: muscle) degradation, according to a study by Brazilian researchers.
Plus, you won’t reap the full benefits of the human growth hormone, the levels of which spike while you’re in dreamland. Have trouble sleeping? Try these natural tips about the best way best to get good sleep tonight.
Increase Weight Responsibly
You will need to challenge your muscles to trigger growth, but you also have to be smart about how you go about it. If you increase the amount of weight you’re lifting too quickly, you will increase your risk of injury. But if you do it too slowly, you will shortchange your results or reach a plateau.
So how do you strike a balance? Pay attention to the effort you are exerting. If you are lifting with perfect form, and your last few reps of an exercise feel similar to your first few, you know it’s time to reach for a heavier weight.
Allow Time for Recovery
Muscles grow not during them, so make recovery a priority. In practice, that means eating healthier, consuming more protein, and not overtraining. Take at least one to two days off per week to allow your muscles to fully recover.
Training too often or at too high an intensity too frequently — without rest and recovery — can actually hurt your muscle loss efforts.
Take at least one to two days off per week to allow your muscles to fully recover, and maximize the effectiveness of your downtime by doing light cross training (e.g., hiking, biking ) or activities like foam rolling and yoga.
If you are patient, focused, and consistent with your workouts and recovery, you’ll see results.
Eat More Protein
Now that you’re lifting weights, you need to consume more protein to promote muscle repair, recovery, and growth since amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are necessary to build muscle tissue.
When you’re planning your high-protein meals, 20 grams of protein is the optimal amount generally accepted for muscle development. Research has found that the body doesn’t use much more than 20 grams for muscle building at any one sitting. Around 80 grams of protein per day (or, four meals containing 20 grams of protein each) is about right for many people.
If you want to calculate the optimal protein amount for you and your goals, Most experts recommend 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of desired lean body weight per day, depending on exercise intensity. (The harder the workout, the more protein is needed for growth and healing.)
If you have ambitious muscle-building goals, shoot for the higher end of the range by adding one or two snacks to your day.
Nutritional Tips for Muscle Building
In addition to consuming more protein, there are a lot of nutritional steps you can take to bulk up responsibly.
No one can be in a significant calorie deficit and gain muscle.
To find out how many more calories you should consume to gain weight, determine how many calories you need to maintain your current weight — your baseline — then add 300.
Strike the Perfect mix of macros
Whether your calories come from carbs, fat, or protein goes a long way in determining whether your weight gain stems from muscle or from fat.
An easy and relatively fast way to gain muscle is bulking first, then leaning out. Using this method, you simply have to focus on one thing at a time — building, then getting lean, versus trying to increase mass while simultaneously restricting fat gain.
To increase weight gained from fat, your macros should emphasize carbohydrates and fat, since it’s the most calorically dense macronutrient. The majority of that fat should come from unsaturated sources such as avocado, olive oil, and salmon.
Focus on post-workout nutrition
Generally, you should consume about 20 grams of protein with some carbs soon after a workout. During the post-workout anabolic window, you will also want to limit fats, which can impede the absorption of protein.
Though there is some recent research that suggeststhe window may actually extend up to several hours following exercise, there’s no harm in getting nutrients in early as long as you’re sticking to your overall caloric and macronutrient goals.