Building or maintaining muscle mass is very important as we age as it helps us stay strong. In this article we will talk about the basics of muscle building and maintenance along with basic workout routines that will help you learn how to gain lean muscle mass. In this guide, we will keep things simple so that you can get started on your muscle building journey and continue to build upon your infrastructure.
Lifting heavy weights puts a stress on the muscle which causes it to break and adapt accordingly to future heavier loads. There is a maximum genetic limit for everyone but if you're starting out, start slow and easy and build from there.
Eating a healthy diet with adequate protein for muscle repair and energy in the form of either carbohydrates or fats will help you inch closer to your goals.
Proper rest is very important when it comes to promoting a healthy cycle of muscle repair and growth. Depending on how rigorous the workout is and your physical limitations, the rest periods can vary.
2. Basics of Nutrition
For a more detailed information on nutrition, check out the basics of nutrition. However, for the sake of muscle building we will focus only on the ones extremely relevant to muscle growth.
They form the building blocks of the body. During the day, body takes wear and tear and needs to be repaired. Proteins help with this process while serving as raw materials for creating new muscles. They can come from plant and animal sources where plant protein are incomplete while animal proteins are complete sources of essential amino acids.
Though proteins can be potentially used by the body as fuel, the body utilizes either fats or carbohydrates as the main fuel sources. Proteins are extremely important and the demand for it increases as your physical activity levels increase.
Carbohydrates are molecules that can be used as fuels by turning into simple sugars that can be used as fuel for the body.
Main sources of carbohydrates are sugars, starches, grains, vegetables and fruits but they also also exist in smaller quantities in nuts. Trace amounts can be found in animal products as well. Depending on your goals and athletic requirements, carbohydrates can provide you with rapidly available fuel that can potentially improve your performance and results.
Fats are another source of fuel for the body and are prioritized to be burnt when consumption of carbohydrates is restricted or removed or under extreme endurance routines. The body, under such states, taps into fat as a long term fuel to maintain its performance.
Fats are primarily found in animal products, nuts and seeds. They can be further extracted to make butters, ghee, tallow and various oils.
3. Building a Dietary Foundation
Unlike most fitness plans, the goal here is to play the long game and create a sustainable healthy diet that you can stick to over the long haul. This is where creativity knows no limits and you will have to find foods that you enjoy and are very simple to make or acquire. This is the key to your diet as practically all diets and fitness plans fail because people cannot stick to them for the long run. A healthy diet is the biggest contributor to your fat loss and muscle gain journey. Here's some tips
KEEP IT SIMPLE
This could mean finding pre-cooked or pre-made foods that are nutritionally and structurally rich foods that give you enough protein for muscle growth. Start to think of food as something that brings you joy and sustenance while the ability to trade your life with experiences outside of just food alone. The world, not just your kitchen, is your stage!
SOCIAL LIFE IS IMPORTANT
Find like-minded people who enjoy similar activities like you and want to become healthier. Once in a while, don't forget to go out with them to have fun! Don't forget that even when eating outside, you can make healthier and smarter choices.
TASTY & CONVENIENT IS KEY
Foods that are part of your diet should be readily available to you and convenient. If they are en elaborate recipe or require a long drive, you will not eat them for long. Sometimes, this would mean a grocery store a minute or two away from you or going to your nearby fast food chain to select healthy options or packaged processed foods with rich food structure.
START FOCUSING ON INTUITIVE EATING
Initially a few rare people may need to track but for most people, the goal should be to create intuitive eating habits so that wherever you go, you can pick foods that ensure your health and you can find joy in what you're eating. Think of how you'd go to a buffet and make a healthy and delicious plate from the foods there.
4. Fat loss & Muscle Gain
For most people, the goal is to not just lose body fat but to chisel or tone the body at the same time. Contrary to the popular belief, you can lose fat and sculpt your body by building muscles as well. In this case, you will be consuming adequate protein that will allow you to maintain or gain muscle mass while you continue to lose fat. By doing so, you will also reduce your calorie or energy intake which will lead to fat loss while maintaining or increasing muscle mass.
Your workout routines will allow you to target muscle groups so that you can get the body recomposition and look you desire. Remember, this is a marathon and a series of good choices in life so that you create healthy habits while you look great at the same time.
5. Types of Physical Routines
There are many ways to condition yourself and potentially gain lean mass or maintain it. The important factor here is to find something you enjoy and then build a routine around it. Here's just a few training methods that offer physical stimulation for your body to being your strength and conditioning journey. Each of them can be tailored based on your needs, goals and potential limitations.
Resistance training is one of the simplest and effective way to build lean mass. These routines involve complex movements or sometimes isolated motions with weights or load. You will be needing equipment or gym membership for such training.
Eg. Gym, bodybuilding, power lifting, crossfit, Olympic lifting
BODY WEIGHT EXERCISE
This involves using one's own body to work out with minimal to no equipment requirements. These are great for those who like to keep their routines simple and versatile.
Eg. Yoga, gymnastics, plyometrics, calisthenics
There are many outdoor activities that you can take part in which allows you a constant change in scenery while engaging in a social or isolated environment. With many outdoor groups, this can be a great way to find like-minded people.
Eg. Hiking, rock climbing, swimming, mountaineering
For individuals who enjoy a slightly more competitive environment and aren't afraid of getting physical, combat sports are a very functional way to gain strength and learn adaptability to different techniques.
Eg. Jiu Jitsu, mixed martial arts, kickboxing, boxing, wrestling, taekwondo
Endurance training can be indoors or outdoors and utilizes stamina and one's ability to mentally and physically persevere. These training styles rely heavily on cardiovascular fitness over resistance training.
Eg. Running, cycling, rowing, marathons
Sports are a great way to enjoy teamwork, health competition and engage with a community of other athletes and sports fans. Anyone can be part of sports and the sky is the limit here.
Eg. Football, soccer, rugby, tennis, water polo, volleyball
6. Muscle Groups
Upper body muscles help you with daily tasks and they are critical to maintain to ensure proper functionality throughout your life. You can train them together in the form of a compound movement or target specific muscle groups using isolated movements.
LATS (LATISSIMUS DORSI)
Lats are large back muscles on either side of the spine and provide a defined upper body.
Small muscles that run from upper back to base of neck. They support posture and prevent back pain.
These muscles fortify your central core of the body and help prevent injury from lifting weights and loads
Top shoulder muscles that give the definition and strength to shoulders
Triangular shaped muscles in the center of upper back
Improving chest muscle increases upper body strength as the chest is connected to the rest of the upper body
Strong abdominal muscle and core allows lifting heavy objects without causing much injury while giving definition to muscles in the area
These exist on either sides of the body and help strengthen the core of the body.
Biceps are top front muscles of the arm and help you with day to day functional activities, especially pull movements
Triceps are top back muscles of the arm and help you with daily activities and aid with pushing movements
These muscles help you with your grip strength which allows you to lift heavier objects
Lower body muscles boost strength general, help support body weight, help burn fat and provide you with strong and powerful movements.
Other than giving boost to leg strength, these muscles tone and tighten up the rear end!
Hips reduce injury risk and contain the adductor which help move legs towards the mid of the body while abductors help move legs away from the body's midline.
They are located at the back of your thighs. They provide muscular definition and functionality in every day routines
Quadriceps are located at the front of your thighs and play an important role in sports and intense workouts
They are located at the back of your lower legs. They provide stability and strength in the legs
7. Mind Muscle Connection
Muscles are controlled by the brain and this connection with your muscles and mind builds over time as you continue to resistance train. The more you focus on this, the more you'll engage muscle fibers and improve the training quality while allowing you to target specific muscle groups as needed for growth and stimulation. For example, if your goal is to engage chest muscles, a good mind muscle connection will allow you to engage chest muscles rather than focus mainly on shoulders and triceps. Here's a few ways you can improve this connection during your workouts:
Warm up with lower lower loads and try to locate the muscles you are planning to engage prior to your main workout.
Slow down movements to properly engage those muscles, even if you may have to lower the weights.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Focus on quality of movement rather than just trying to increase the load on those muscles. Tone down that ego!
Flexing or stretching in between sets or routines allows you to be more aware of muscles so you can engage them when you re-engage them
8. Progressive Overloading
When you are lifting a weight or using any form of load, eventually you'll find it too easy. You can increase that.
Reps or repetition of an exercise until you do a certain amount or you can't do any more. You can increase the repetitions to increase the load.
You can increase the volume by doing more repetitions and sets of workouts which may extend your overall time working out but you will increase the load of your routine.
If you are working out a muscle group once a week, you can increase the frequency to twice a week to increase the frequency of the workout and overload the muscle.
DECREASE REST TIME
When you're working out, you will be resting in between to prepare for your next workout. You can decrease the time spent resting in between sets or workouts to increase the load.
9. Fitness Goals
Depending on the type of workout routine, you can improve different aspects of your physical fitness. This can either help you simple day to day tasks or improve your athletic performance at a higher level. Following are some of the goals that top performing athletes can have.
Ability to lift heavier weights in a controlled manner
Ability to perform explosive movements
Ability to perform sustained physical activity
Performing something repetitively to get used to it
Performing something freely that requires a range of motion
Ability to do something easily and quickly showing improved skill level
10. Rest & Recovery
Rest and recovery are essential to muscle growth and gives your chance for your body to prepare for your next physical routine. It also gives your mind a break from being taxed by your workouts. Take at least 1-2 days per week to rest is a smart idea. You can use this time with your friends, doing some lightweight outdoor activities or simply lay down on a nice beach or cozy location and read a book. There's many ways to spend a relaxing day and focus on something else in life!
Now that you understand the basics, you can either read further guides or start a plan which will allow you to apply what you just learned. Find a plan and get started now.