How do you build muscle?
When you are completely at rest you are losing muscle. This is a very slow process but it's potentially happening as you read this.
If you think about it, it kinda makes sense. Over time, age tends to rob us of our muscle. It's why we associate the words 'old' and 'frail' together. If you're not doing any kind of resistance training, eventually your muscle disappears.
But don't be alarmed. It's going to be okay.
When you perform resistance exercise (think free weights, machines, bands etc), you create a stimulus for the muscle to grow. Doing resistance training sends a signal to your muscle to become bigger and stronger.
However, this signal only lasts somewhere between 24-48 hours and is only sent to the muscles that you used during your workout. You can't get bigger legs doing bicep curls. I know, I'm sad too.
So, Alex, to build muscle I just have to lift weights and muscle will appear?
Yes, kind of, maybe.
If you do a workout where you do 3 sets of 10 bicep curls with a 25lbs Dumbbell, you would stimulate the biceps to grow. However, if you were to workout again using the same reps and the same weight, it doesn’t cause the same stimulus as before. The first time you do the same workout the stimulus would be a little less, resulting in less muscle.
If you were to continue to do the same weight, reps and sets over and over again you would eventually reach the stage where it is not a challenge anymore and would maintain your muscle instead of building it further. Therefore, you need to lift heavier weights or more reps over time.
When I train myself or one of my clients I use a principal called 'Progressive overload'. This concept involves consistently doing more than you did before over time, to ensure we are always creating that stimulus to our muscle to get bigger and stronger.
This might look like more reps, more weight, more sets or using a more challenging exercise or exercise technique. There are a lot of ways to achieve progressive overload, but the important thing is that we achieve it at all.
To know whether you are doing more than before, you need to keep track of what you’re doing every workout. This is why I keep details of every single rep, set, and workout. As long as you are lifting more than you were before, and supplying the fuel your body needs the muscle will come.
How soon until I get jacked?
There are lots of factors that go into how quickly you can build muscle:
However, under the good conditions the average person can expect to gain around 1-2 lbs of muscle a month. This assumes the following:
Take home message
Building muscle is all about doing the fundamentals well and doing them consistently. If you're lifting with the right technique and able to commit to multiple workouts a week, and then do that for a few months you'll gain muscle.
In my job as a personal trainer, this is where I help people the most. I educate them on how to 'feel' their muscles properly, push them to lift more than they did before, and then hold them accountable to doing the hard stuff over and over again until their body looks the way they want it to.