If you’re an athlete, it may allow you to outperform your opponents. If you’re a bodybuilder, it helps you outshine competitors on stage. Even if you only train for health, it helps make you feel, look, and function better in day-to-day life.
We’re talking about muscle mass.
Building muscle is a common goal for nearly everyone who lifts weights, from body building professionals to weekend warriors.
Unfortunately, no matter who you are or what your goals are, muscle doesn’t come easily. For beginning lifters with plenty of room to grow, 2 pounds per month is a reasonable expectation; seasoned lifters will gain even less during a bulking phase.
The good news? Just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s complex. Putting on muscle comes down to three simple principles:
1. Take in more calories than you burn
2. Lift progressively more weight
3. Give your body sufficient recovery time
Of course, it’s much easier to list these 3 basic principles than it is to perform them in the real world.
Here are five actionable tips for building muscle, whether you are a veteran of the iron or a newcomer to the gym:
1. Lift more weight
There are two ways to lift more: Increasing the amount of weight you lift, or increasing the number of reps you perform. For best results, you’ll need to both add pounds to your lifts and complete more reps. Make sure you are putting more plates onto the bar or using heavier dumbbells every week or two, even if you are only adding 5 or 10 more pounds.
To add more reps, consider using drop sets, where you perform your normal work set and then drop the weight to perform another set until failure. Always increase gradually, and don’t overdo it – lifting too much weight too quickly can lead to a serious injury that could keep you out of the gym for weeks or months, which definitely won’t help you build muscle.
2. Add more protein to your diet
It’s cliché but true: “Abs are made in the kitchen.” In fact, so are biceps, triceps, pectorals, quadriceps…you get the idea. You can lift like a maniac, but if you aren’t eating right, you’ll stifle your gains. If you’re bulking and hitting the gym to lift heavy a few times per week, aim for at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight to help your muscles grow.
Everyone’s body responds to protein differently, so you may need to experiment with the exact amount and see what works. Just remember, not all protein is the same. A fast food double cheeseburger has roughly the same amount of protein as a 4 oz. serving of skinless chicken breast, but you can probably guess which one is better for muscle building!
3. Get enough rest
Muscles aren’t actually made in the gym. The damage done to your muscle fibers when lifting heavy weight is only half of the equation. The real muscle building action happens while you’re sleeping. When your body is asleep, it uses much less energy, so more of the nutrients you’ve consumed can be devoted to repairing the tears in your muscle fibers.
In other words, when you scrimp on sleep, you’re robbing the body of its most important muscle building time. Everyone’s sleep needs are different – some elite athletes get as many as 12 hours of shuteye every day. Most people need at least 7 hours, but if you’re active, shoot for 8 to 10 if you can.
4. Be consistent
There are things you can do to speed up the process, but it’s impossible to build muscle overnight. It takes weeks, months, sometimes years of working out consistently to really pack the mass onto your frame.
Everyone misses a workout here and there. But the key to success – whether competing against other athletes or yourself – is showing up and putting in the work, even when you’re tired or don’t feel like it. It’s not ideal, but it’s much better to exercise when you’re at 70%, or even 50%, than to completely skip a workout.
5. Take the right supplements
To achieve optimal muscle mass, you need complete control over your macros. If you’re a hard gainer or have significant caloric and protein intake goals, using a mass gainer supplement is a great way to hit your nutrient targets. Also protein formula ensures you get quality nutrients that help your muscles capitalize on all of your hard work in the gym.
You’ve got the passion and determination needed to become the best version of yourself. If you eat right, push yourself in the gym, and choose the right supplements, you have a chance to be rewarded with powerful muscles that take your physique and performance to the next level.