If someone sets foot in a gym, odds are that at least one of their goals is to build muscle. But it doesn’t happen magically, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. What does it take to get stronger? Keep reading to learn more about how to build muscles.
How to Build Muscles: 3 Actionable Tips
1. Increase Your Caloric Intake
If you want to build muscle, then you need to eat for that specific goal. Adding muscle to your frame means that you’re ultimately going to gain weight. And in order to gain weight, you need to eat more.
We can’t tell you exactly what to eat, because this is going to be different for every individual. It never hurts to work with a nutrition coach. But if you’re walking the road alone, try taking baby steps and monitoring your progress.
For example, you might start by increasing your caloric intake by 100-150 calories a day. Give this a couple of weeks and see what happens to your weight. Be sure to only make one change at a time so that you can isolate the results. Otherwise, you have no way of knowing what adjustments triggered which changes.
Now, you know you need to eat more — but more of what? Again, approaches will differ from athlete to athlete. But generally speaking, here’s how it works when we look at the macronutrient breakdown (carbohydrates, protein, and fat). Protein usually holds at one gram per pound of body weight, although you can indeed tweak this and eat more. Because fat doesn’t have a huge role in muscle growth, that’s not typically a priority.
This leaves carbs — the macro that coaches will usually first adjust when trying to alter body composition. Try adding in extra healthy carbs, like rice, oats, or potatoes.
Full disclosure: This might take some trial and error, and that’s okay. The point is that to build muscle, you’ll very likely need to eat more.
2. Recover as Hard as You Train
Strength training and weightlifting are important to build muscle faster — true. But a lot of people mistakenly think that it’s as simple as lifting more weight, more frequently. In fact, the more, the better, right?
Yes, you need strength training (more on this in a minute). This is when you create micro-tears in your muscles, which is the first step to adding muscle to your body. However, muscle does not grow during training. It grows during recovery.
So, if you want to build muscle, you need to take your rest and recovery as seriously as you take your training. Otherwise, your body will never have a chance to build up that muscle in the first place.
What does this mean, exactly?
There are many different ways to recover. In fact, there are different kinds of recovery. For example, passive recovery — also referred to as “total rest” — means complete stillness and inactivity. On your off days, you’re parked on the couch doing absolutely nothing.
Active recovery, on the other hand, is exactly what it sounds like. On your off days, you still keep your body moving, albeit with something less strenuous. Think things like a brisk walk, some time on the rower, or yoga.
Should you prioritize passive recovery or active recovery? Some of this comes down to preference. Try them both and see what helps you feel better. Then, we look at what research tells us. Studies have found that active recovery clears out blood lactate faster than passive recovery.
So, as much as you want to sit down and binge-watch your favorite Netflix show, you might want to make time for some low-impact movement, too. Of course, do this in addition to complete rest, hot salt baths, and maybe a trip to the sauna.
Don’t forget about recovery and mobility tools, too. The foam roller is your friend when it comes to releasing tight tissue. A lacrosse ball will get in those hard-to-reach places to alleviate tightness and work out those knots.
Perhaps your best ally in recovery is electric muscle stimulation. By triggering muscle contractions, PowerDot encourages the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and improves circulation, thereby speeding up healing and recovery. Furthermore, it increases muscle strength and endurance and helps when you’re coming back from an injury.
If your recovery is paired with discomfort and pain, use PowerDot’s Smart TENS programming. It helps to block pain signals from reaching the brain. Moreover, it nudges your body to release endorphins, which are natural painkillers.
3. Prioritize Compound Exercises
We’ve got nothing but love for bicep curls. However, if you want to build muscle, you should make your priority compound movements, like squats, deadlifts, and presses. These types of lifts should comprise a good bulk of your muscle gain workout plan.
Why? Simple. Compound movements, by definition, target multiple muscles/muscle groups at one time. Instead of isolating one muscle, with squatting, for instance, you’re engaging nearly your entire body. Essentially, you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Because we want those microtears, you’re going to need to add some real weight to these lifts. Higher reps at a very light weight probably won’t cut it. Go for more challenging weights, even if it means lowering the rep count.
Note: We’re not telling you to lift to failure or even anywhere close. Missed reps don’t build muscle! Rather, we’re telling you to use a weight that gets your attention.
You’ll likely find a barbell more conducive to your goal to build muscle, because it allows you to go a lot heavier than dumbbells and kettlebells (although you can absolutely still build muscle with these).
With all three of the above tips, we want to offer a gentle reminder that consistency is key. You’ll need to be hitting the gym and staying on top of your nutrition on a regular basis to get real, long-lasting results.
Perfection isn’t necessary. In fact, it’ll backfire. Just aim for consistency, plain and simple.
Grab a barbell and learn more about the key elements to a powerlifting program — a very common and efficient way to build muscle faster.
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