Building muscle is a primary goal of many athletes and fitness enthusiasts. It provides the foundation for increased power and strength, increases your body’s resistance to injury, and helps you control body fat. On top of everything else, it makes you look and feel better.
It takes time to grow muscle, but patience is overrated when you’re focused on a specific goal. You want to gain weight and build muscle, but you don’t see noticeable size increases as quickly as you want. Why is that the case?
Chances are that your approach is off. That the exercise program you’re following to gain muscle isn’t good enough to give you the results you want. This is why we’ve come up with this article to guide you on the right path of growing muscle.
Here are seven scientifically proven ways to build muscle:
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Increase the training volume
Training volume – number of reps multiple by number of sets – is the primary determiner in muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscle mass). You need to increase your training volume if you intend to build muscle. Here is why we’re so sure. [R]
According to a review article, there is a direct relationship between weekly training volume and muscle growth. In other words, the more reps you do every week, the more muscle growth you experience. The review article found that users who did 10 sets or more gained the most muscle mass. [R]
That isn’t to say that you should increase your training volume from 3 sets to 10 sets to promote muscle growth. A sudden increase in training volume increases the risk of injury and should be avoided. You need to increase it slowly to allow your body to make the necessary adoptions on the way.
Prolong the eccentric phase
When lifting weights, you go through two phases. They include eccentric (easy) and centric (hard). To explain this point, let’s say you’re performing a Romanian deadlift. The initial lowering is the eccentric phase, and the return movement to a standing position is concentric.
A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology has shown that eccentric training effectively triggers hypertrophy. That is to say that if you want to build and grow muscle, you must increase the eccentric phase of the workout. [R]
Here’s how you could do prolong the eccentric phase:
Slow your tempo
This means decreasing the speed at which you perform workouts. Make sure you’re dedicating a significant portion of your activities to the eccentric phase (three to five seconds per rep). Then, once you’ve performed the strange part, get back to a regular pace and repeat.
Since you intend to prolong the eccentric phase, your muscles will come under greater tension. They might not be able to withstand the weights they otherwise could. That’s why you need to drop some weight when prolonging the eccentric phase, or else your muscles could get injured.
Focus on recovery
Eccentric training can increase delayed onset muscle soreness big time. That’s because by prolonging the eccentric phase, you’re forcing your muscles to produce more force than they did previously. This is why you should focus more on recovery – hydrating, eating protein, foam rolling, and sleeping. [R]
Decrease rest time between sets
Rest time between sets has a massive impact on how quickly you can achieve your goal of building muscle mass. If your breaks are too short, you increase the risk of muscle damage. If they are too long, you aren’t working out hard enough. Then, the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle of the two. [R]
Various studies have shown that muscles grow best when the rest interval between two sets is between 30 and 90 seconds. If you have a habit of scrolling on social media between the sets, set your timer to notify you when 80 seconds are over. Then get back to the workout. [R]
A rest period of 30 – 90 seconds is ideal for growing muscle because it encourages your body to release muscle-building hormones like human growth hormone and testosterone. Various studies have shown that these hormones are crucial for the growth of muscle fibers. [R]
Eat more protein
Weight lifting breaks down your muscles, and protein helps build them back. The more challenging your workout is, the more protein-rich your meals should be to expedite your recovery. Various studies have unearthed a direct link between eating more protein and muscle gain. [R]
How much protein should you eat for muscle growth? A study from the University of Sterling has answered this question. The researchers found that you should eat 0.25 to 0.30 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight with each meal to build muscle. [R]
Here’s what that means:
- If you weigh 200 pounds, you should take 50g – 60g of protein with each meal
- If you weigh 300 pounds, you should take 75g – 90g of protein with each meal
Making sure that your protein intake is up to the mark won’t only help you grow muscle – it will enable you to retain the ones you’ve already built. You can get protein from natural sources, including fish, chicken, beef, milk, yogurt (especially Greek yogurt), and cheese.
Keep in mind that supplements alone can’t offer maximal muscle gains. You need to combine them with exercise programs and nutrition to get the desired results. Also, if you’re already eating a balanced diet with enough calories and proteins, you may not need supplements to build muscle. [R]
Here are the accessories that could help you achieve muscle building goals:
Creatine monohydrate is one of the best supplements for anyone looking to build muscle. Numerous studies have shown that taking it as a dietary supplement can effectively increase muscle size and strength if you add them to a resistance training program. [R]
This supplement works by increasing the capacity of your body to produce ATP. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the body’s energy-carrying molecule. It’s responsible for carrying energy from where it’s made to need. Higher ATP levels directly lead to increase muscle thickness. [R]
Another impressive thing about creatine is that it’s entirely safe. Researchers have studied it extensively and concluded that it has an outstanding safety profile. That’s why anyone who intends to build muscle should consider taking creatine first. [R]
Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs)
SARMs are a relatively new class of anabolic compounds. They work by attaching to your body’s androgen receptors before boosting muscle protein synthesis and increasing nitrogen retention. Various studies have shown that SARMs help build skeletal muscle mass and increase muscle strength. [R]
SARMs can stimulate muscle and bone growth, making them unique to build muscle and burn fat while also protecting against age-related disorders such as osteoporosis.
Ostarine is currently one of the most popular SARMs on the market. Primarily developed to treat cancer complications such as wasting syndrome, it has been shown to increase lean muscle mass, muscle tissue strength, and decrease fat mass among users. [R]
Ligandrol, also known as LGD-4033, is another potent SARM. It has been shown to boost muscle growth, improve athleticism and enhance strength among users. This SARM is so powerful that the US Anti-Doping Agency has acknowledged that it’s performance-enhancing. [R]
Caffeine is a popular pre-workout supplement. It can increase endurance, muscular power, and exercise performance in fitness enthusiasts in a sleep-deprived state. It may also enhance fat burning, mental alertness, and muscle protein breakdown. [R]
Keep in mind that the studies that reported the beneficial effects of pre-workout caffeine used high doses of this drink. However, individual responses to caffeine differ, and some people can experience its benefits even at lower dosages.
The caffeine dosage that might be right for you pre-workout depends on your body weight. However, experts reckon it’s in the 200-400mg range. Make sure that you take caffeine (or any other supplement for that matter) at least 30-60 minutes before starting a workout.
Beta-alanine is one of the various non-essential amino acids already present in your body. It has been shown to increase muscular endurance, lean muscle mass, and fatigue resistance. It can also improve athletic performance among younger adults. [R]
Beta-alanine works by reducing your muscle’s acid levels during exercises. It does that by increasing carnosine levels in your body. This helps reduce overall fatigue, helping you exercise for more extended periods without overwhelming your muscle fibers.
Various studies have shown that beta-alanine works. One conducted on cyclists showed that taking beta-alanine for four weeks increased the cyclists’ time to exhaustion by 13-14%. This means that you can count on this supplement to deliver your best in the gym for long periods. [R]
Branched-chain amino acids
When we say branched-chain amino acids, we’re talking about three of them in particular. The trio includes leucine, valine and isoleucine. All three are essential for building and repairing muscle fibers, alleviating muscle soreness, and decreasing muscle fatigue. [R]
BCCAs provide all these benefits by sacrificing themselves. That’s right. Your body burns these proteins for energy. Later on, when you’re exercising, and your muscles need the power to grow and keep fatigued at bay, it’s this energy that they count on to remain satiated.
There are various sources of branched-chain amino acids. The natural sources include beef, whole wheat, whey, fish, eggs, chickpeas, lentils, and brown rice. Research has shown that healthy adults could safely take 4-20g of BCCAs per day for building muscle.
Ensure calorie surplus
This can prove challenging for someone who is used to counting calories in the hopes of dropping weight. When you want to build mass quickly, you count calories to ensure you eat enough in a day to support your fitness routine and muscle building.
Your goal is to gain weight you can transform into muscle. That’s why fitness enthusiasts have a bulking phase in their training program. They may not look their best during this stage, but it’s essential in helping them achieve their goal (building muscle).
Getting your muscles to swell no longer remains its priority. When you’re in a calorie deficit, your body builds less strength because it lacks enough nutrients to support all functions. Remember, your body sees food as fuel, and when the supply is short, it directs it to essential functions.
Studies show that people who eat high-calorie diets rich in proteins are 45% more likely to build muscles than those who follow a low-protein diet. So, you need to change your diet and add an extra 200 to 500 calories to your daily meals to gain weight.
Get enough sleep
Research has shown that it is almost impossible to build muscle until you get sufficient sleep every night. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Sleep helps your muscles recover from grueling workouts and plays a vital role in releasing growth hormones. [R]
These two things – muscle recovery and growth hormone release – are crucial for muscle building. The release of the growth hormone typically happens during stage 3 of non-REM sleep, also known as deep sleep, which you cannot achieve until you get sufficient sleep.
This leads us to the crucial question: how much sleep for muscle growth? There’s a consensus among experts that athletes need seven to nine hours of sleep every night to build muscle. For elite athletes, the time is close to nine hours.
Building muscle requires you to change your entire lifestyle. This means eating a protein-rich diet, getting enough sleep, and, of course, giving your best every day in the gym. Only then you could hope to fulfill your dream of putting lean muscle mass around your biceps.
Make sure to consult your doctor before you start taking any supplements recommended above. They’re aware of your medical history and any current medications you might be taking.