Muscle building is something that quite a large number of people are interested in – for the majority of people if they are in the gym, they don’t only want to become fitter and lose body fat but also build some muscle too. Below we are going to discuss the science behind making your muscles bigger.
A muscle is made up of a number of muscle fibers which in turn consist of myofibrils made up of sarcomeres. These sarcomeres are what causes the muscles, as a single muscle or a group of muscles to contract.
When we train, we are inevitably causing a certain amount of damage to these muscle fibers and for them to repair new myofibrils need to form. This is when the muscle becomes bigger and the process is called hypertrophy. Saying that, muscle growth can only occur if the amount of tissue building is greater than the amount of breakdown and can only take place while you are resting, not while working out.
The 3 main ways of how a muscle grows is muscle tension; the amount of time the muscle is under stress and also the amount of stress, muscle damage; the damage caused to the muscle discussed above and metabolic stress; an accumulation of ions and hydrogen in the fluid around the muscles which caused sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
This means that if you want your muscles to grow you need to be putting them under increased, progressive and adaptive stress to increase muscle damage by using different strategies such as lifting heavier and increasing the time under tension with more repetitions, sets, tempos. Make sure you keep the intensity of your sessions high with not a lot of rest. Furthermore, use a variety of multi-joint compound exercises and isolation exercises while varying your training programme every 4 to 6 weeks. This allows for constant new challenges and therefore progressive adaptations.
We also need to be aware of the things we should be doing outside of the gym. As mentioned above, muscle growth actually happens while we’re resting because this is when the adaptation to the training you have done takes place. For this to take place effectively we need to make sure that you are in a constant anabolic (building) state rather than a catabolic (breaking down) state.
For this to happen, you need to be in a calorie surplus but most importantly eating between 2.6 – 3.3 g of protein per kg of body weight spread out during the day. Enough sleep is also important as this is when your body, including your nervous system recovers and is ready for the next day; try and aim for 7-8hrs a day. Active recovery using a foam roller, a stretching session, deep tissue massage and yoga is also beneficial.
Remember that there is no magic trick to building muscle so try your best to follow a good progressive programme while also staying consistent with your training, nutrition and rest.
If you have questions or would like to find out more how to train for your individual fitness goals, get in touch.