The Quest for More Muscle

Wish you had more muscle? Read on to learn the best strategies for building it.

Less fat, more muscle—that’s your goal, right? There are many benefits of increasing your muscle mass. On top of getting an instant boost to your self-esteem, more muscle means you’ll look more fit and trim, will be better able to burn calories while at work and at rest, have the ability to lose more weight, feel stronger for daily tasks, and the be less likely to suffer an injury.

So what’s the best way to go about gaining muscle? Does it mean you have to spend hours at the gym chiseling every tiny muscle? If you’re wondering, read on to learn a few simple strategies.

Work Those Muscles

You’ve got at least 650 muscles in your body and they won’t grow unless they’re used. This means you’ve got to work against some sort of resistance (free weights, your own bodyweight, or elastic bands) in order to maintain and grow new muscles. The best way to build muscle is to gradually increase the amount of weight you’re lifting and the number of repetitions. Muscles get accustomed to the amount of weight they’re working against, so each week plan to add a few extra pounds to your barbell or a few more repetitions.

When you push your muscles to their limits through weight or repetitions, small tears form in the muscle tissue. It’s when your body repairs those tears that new muscle cells form. You won’t see results overnight, but keep at it and you’ll see growth eventually.

You have to challenge yourself and your muscles. When you are really regimented, it’s the same over and over and you start to get comfortable. Switching up the style of training works your muscles differently. – Curtis Jackson (50 Cent)

Focus on Compound Exercises

It’ll take you a lot less time to build muscle if you focus your energy on compound exercises. These exercises work multiple muscle groups at once instead of one or two at a time. Unless you’re trying to build a single muscle group, don’t waste your time with exercises like bicep curls, leg curls, tricep extensions, and seated calf raises. Rather, do compound exercises like squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, shoulder presses, barbell rows, pull-ups, and leg presses.

Get Rest

In order for the tiny tears in your muscles to heal and new fibers to grow, your muscles need rest after a good workout. For you, this may mean doing your strength training exercises every other day (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) or only focusing on certain muscle groups during your workouts (legs on Monday, chest and arms on Tuesday, and back and shoulders on Wednesday, and so on).

Besides a day off here and there, your muscles require a good night’s rest to recover from hard workouts. Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
Feed Your Muscles

Muscle cells need nourishment to grow. If you’re on a calorie-restrictive diet, don’t expect to see muscle gains. Rather, expect to lose valuable muscle. A diet that supports muscle gains will include plenty of protein, good carbs, and vegetables. Protein is valued for its ability to stimulate new muscle growth. Strength trainers, athletes, and active people need more protein than the average person.

To support muscle growth, your goal should be to eat a minimum of .55 grams but closer to one gram of protein for every pound of body weight each day. Weigh 200 pounds? Eat 200 grams of protein. Just be picky about your protein sources to avoid consuming too many calories. Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, dairy, and eggs. If you find you’re having trouble getting enough protein, try adding a protein supplement of some sort.