Building muscle is all about developing a smart approach
Is building muscle high up on your list of fitness goals? Make the most of your workouts by developing an approach that supports your body in the best way. By doing so, you’ll encourage successful synthesis of new muscle protein. Learn how to stay on track with these dos and don’ts.
If you’re working toward a muscular look, a few rules can help you stay on track. After all, simply picking up the heaviest weights or packing in the protein isn’t enough. Building muscle is all about developing a smart approach. To get you started, here’s a list of the top dos and don’ts for reaching your muscle building goals.
Do keep a routine
As with all lifestyle changes, sticking to a routine makes all the difference. Successful muscle building depends on regularly practicing resistance training to stimulate the production of new muscle protein. If you want to see your muscle grow and achieve hypertrophy, it’s crucial to make resistance training, using weights, resistance bands, or even your body weight to work your muscles, a solid part of your workout.
Do more sets
Sometimes, it can be hard to push yourself to the next level. However, your muscles need more reps and sets to grow. To achieve optimum hypertrophy, perform multiple rounds. Aim for 4–6 sets depending on the type of exercise. Don’t forget to give yourself a minute to rest your muscles before starting the next set. And while it may be tempting, resist the urge to rest for more than 1 minute. This could work against the stage of metabolic stress (“the pump”) that you want to experience. It’s the type of muscular tension that is vital for building muscle. Short periods of rest are enough to help muscles recover and prepare for the next set.
Do eat enough protein
Protein helps improve your metabolic rate by increasing your muscle, which is why you need to get enough of it. If you want to make the intake as natural as possible, stick to dietary sources of proteins. Popular choices include casein, whey (both found in dairy products), and soy. Soy is ideal if you’re looking for a plant-based option. Of these proteins, whey yields the highest rate of muscle protein synthesis stimulation. The daily recommendation for adults (19 years and over) is 0.8 gm of protein to each kilogram of body weight. Avoid consuming more than this. Otherwise, your body will store the spare protein as fat.
Research has also shown that muscle remodelling can be boosted by periodised protein consumption – this means varying your macronutrient intake to encourage optimal hypertrophy and increase muscle strength. So while you may consume more protein at one time, you will also be interspersing it with intervals where you have other macronutrients like carbs, which are also essential for building muscle tone over time. This is to be worked out alongside your exercise regimen.
Don’t overwork muscle groups
Each muscle group needs some downtime before it is put back to work. Plan a routine that switches things up each day. This way, you’ll have a healthy rotation of working different muscles throughout the week. Ideally, keep a 72-hour gap before you come back to the same group. Studies have found that after an exceptionally intense lifting session, you might need as much as 96 hours to completely recover. If you’ve worked on a larger muscle group, the full recovery time will be longer. On the other hand, smaller muscles recover faster. Furthermore, younger people take less time to recover than older adults.
Don’t rush through reps
While completing a certain number of reps is important, it’s just as crucial to hold them for the right amount of time. Muscles need to experience the movement (or weight) long enough for the exercise to be effective. The American Council on Exercise says this duration (“time under tension”) should be between 30 and 90 seconds for muscles to successfully build up. One study found that leg extensions performed for 12 seconds (6 seconds up and 6 down) produced greater muscle protein synthesis than when it was done in 2 seconds (1 second each up and down).
Don’t think heavier weights equal more muscle
If your goal is to build muscle, you don’t have to reach for the heaviest weights. In fact, research shows that lighter weights can be just as good – or even better. In one experiment, men saw higher muscle protein production after using lighter weights until they reached their lifting limit and felt fatigued. Researchers concluded that this may be the key to building muscle. So rather than doing a little with a lot of weight, trying doing more with lighter, manageable weights. You might be surprised at the outcome.
Don’t think your second time around will be just as hard
Even if your history of training is sprinkled with periods of inactivity, it doesn’t mean you have to start muscle building from scratch. According to researchers, once your body has experienced training, it develops a permanent change. When you restart, your muscle memory makes it easier to pick up where you left off. One study demonstrated this by observing animal subjects who built up muscles in one leg. To do this, researchers omitted the use of helper muscles in the second leg, encouraging the effort of the first.
As a result, the nuclei in the muscle fiber of the first leg increased. But even after letting the muscles waste for 3 months, that increased level of nuclei remained. Additional research has found that this phenomenon is due to the memorization of muscle movements. Basically, your brain can tell whether you’re doing something the wrong (or right) way.
Over time, your brain hangs on to the correct version, embedding it into long-term memory. This calls for less effort on your part when you repeat that movement later on. How awesome is that?