A Beginner’s Guide to Building Muscle

So you’ve just joined a local gym and you’re looking to add some flesh to your bones! A great starting point is to understand the how the body actually builds muscle. Like any building process there is an order and technique you need to follow for best results – good foundations, a blueprint, the right materials – otherwise your workouts will be nothing more than cardio.

The Foundations

Before you begin your training programme you have to be in good health, well rested and relaxed. Poor health, tiredness and stress have a huge effect on the body’s ability to build muscle. Not only do you perform badly during your workouts and risk injury, you are also far less likely to turn up to your workouts in the first place. You’ll need to put yourself through at least 20 workouts before you start to see a visible difference, so take a look at your work and social commitments over the next 12 weeks and ask yourself whether it’s a good time to be adding extra stress to your body.

The Blueprint

Going to your local gym and throwing a few dumbbells around just isn’t going to work. Nor will copying the buff guy and hoping for the best! You need to work to a blueprint – a solid training plan that sets out which muscles you’ll be targeting, which exercises you’ll be working them with, for how many sets and reps, and on what days of the week. If you’re not sure then book a session with a personal trainer and get them to put a muscle building programme together for you. It’s what they do. They are architects of the body!

The Materials

You cannot build a house without the right materials, nor can you build muscle without the right nutrition. Muscle doesn’t magic itself from the atmosphere after doing a few reps, it is made from good quality protein – fish, seafood, poultry, meat, eggs, beans, pulses. You should try to make your protein intake every few hours, which often requires taking a good protein supplement. You also need good quality carbohydrate to fuel you through your workouts and fuel the repair process that converts these proteins into extra muscle. You’re going to be eating a lot!

The Labour

Each exercise you do stresses the muscles according to your blueprint – bench press stressing the chest muscles, squats the legs, and so on. The body responds to this “microtrauma” by repairing the muscle fibers a little thicker during rest so that in future it can cope better with the load. It is this increase in muscle fiber thickness that makes muscle grow visibly bigger in a process called “hypertrophy”. Without enough stress to the muscle there is no stimulus to adapt and grow, so reps need to be performed to failure, meaning you can’t do another one with good form.

The Mortar

Even with the perfect blueprint, good materials and hours of labour, your muscle building plan is going nowhere if you don’t rest. Think of rest and recovery is the mortar that cements everything together. Without it you end up overtraining, over-stressing your muscle and immune system and ultimately everything falls apart. Rest is a positive and essential part of your training regime, so don’t think you’re “being lazy” or “skipping a day” or “losing out on time when I could be working out more!”. It’s useful to remember that muscles are built during rest, not during your workouts. No rest. No muscle!

The Layers

There will come a point where you’ve built enough muscle to cope at one level, which means it’s time to break through your comfort zone and step it up a level. In weight training we call this “the progressive overload principle”. You need to gradually increase the intensity of your workouts, otherwise your muscle gains will plateau. How? By increasing either the weight, reps or intensity of the exercises you do. So many gym goers make the mistake of staying on the same level and wonder why they’re not making any progress.

…And Repeat

The body building process – nutrition, workout, rest, nutrition, workout, rest – needs to be repeated over a number of weeks before you’ll start to notice your muscles getting bigger. If you want to get very big you’re looking at months and years rather than weeks. Be patient and make the process a part of your lifestyle rather than a quick fix blitz.

Liam Taylor, EverythingZing.com -
Gyms in stevenage