PROCESS OF BUILDING MUSCLE
Too many people forget how this process works, or they ignore it or they never understood it in the first place.
Not gaining muscle fast enough? Just do more exercise! Not losing weight fast enough for you? Just add more cardio! Or work out 6 day a week instead of 5! Most of these answers are often WRONG!
What follows is an extreme over simplification of the entire process but understand the basics and you'll be ahead of a lot of other people.
When you work out you are stimulating/stressing the muscle (exposing the muscle to movement/weight it not accustomed to). This causes small microscopic tears in the muscle fibers (that’s why you may get some muscle soreness) and the body adapts to the stress by repairing itself. In the process of repairing itself it increases the size and /or the number of fibers in the muscle making it stronger and /or larger.
Some soreness is actually a good sign. It tells you that you have worked the muscle enough to make it adapt by getting stronger. You will quickly learn the difference between good pain (soreness) and bad pain. If the pain is in the joint it could be bad pain. If it’s in the connective tissue (ligaments or tendons) it could be bad pain. If it’s in the muscle and goes away in 2 to 3 days it’s not a problem. Note: You don’t always have to experience muscle soreness to get stronger. Your central nervous system will also adapt to the exercise. You should be at least moderately tired when your workout is finished but feel like you could do the workout again within hours.
The human body is a remarkably adaptable and efficient organism. The average person’s body will adapt to stimulation within only two to six weeks depending on the person’s experience with resistance training, nutrition, recovery and genetics. But the average is around four weeks. In other words, unless you change up the stimulation every four weeks or so you will likely hit a plateau in your development. Meaning you will slow or stop the progress of getting stronger.
You don’t need to completely change your workout program every four weeks to avoid a plateau. There are a number of ways to alter the stimulation without changing you entire program:
· Increase Resistance- Increase the load (weight). Depending on experience with training, the goal of the training program (strength, hypertrophy, fat loss, speed, stamina, power, etc) and the muscle group. (Some muscle groups recover and adapt faster than others) the weight should be increased every 2 to 4 workouts for a given muscle group.
· Increase Volume- Increase the number of sets. Increase from three sets to 4 sets per workout for example.
· Increase Intensity- Drop sets, rest-pause, etc.
· Decrease rest periods between sets. For large muscle groups (glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, chest or back) the normal rest periods should be no more than 1 to 3 minutes. For smaller muscle groups (biceps,triceps, calves, forearm, traps) the normal rest periods should be between 30 seconds and 1 minute.
· Increase time under tension (TUT)- Doing the reps at a slower pace. For example: Performing the negative portion of a repetition by lowering the weight at a measured three to 5 second pace while using the same number of sets and repetitions. Note that you may need to decrease the weight by 10-20%. Studies show that the eccentric (negative) portion causes more adaption than the concentric(positive) portion of a rep.
· Change the angle of attack: Varying the grip width (using a wider or a closer grip, changing the position of the feet in leg exercises, changing the grip using various palm positions (overhand, sublimated, reverse, false) or devices to increase the size of the bar.
If you have an injury or an illness everyone knows there is a period of recovery required for their body to heal properly. Yet, many people don’t allow proper time for their body to heal from the intentional damage inflicted by exercise.
Unless you are very advanced at your chosen method of exercise each body part should not be worked more than once or twice (at most) per week with at least 48 to 72 hours between workouts for that muscle group. The larger muscle groups require a longer recovery time than smaller muscle groups and compound exercises working multiple muscle groups simultaneously (Dead lift, squat, etc) if lifting heavy, may need up to a week recovery time.
The best medicine for recovery is sleep. That’s the main purpose of sleep. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours sleep per night every night but especially on your workout days. For those people accustomed to sleeping less this may take some “practice”. But it will soon become a habit for most people. At first it may mean changing you normal schedule. Try going to bed an hour earlier. I bet you can function just fine if you have to miss the latest episode of “Swamp People” or “Housewives of Jackson's Gap”. Without sleep, your progress will stall.
This part of the process is probably the most important. Your body needs certain nutrients to survive. It needs certain nutrients to be able to grow. Without adequate nutrition your progress will stall very, very quickly. If you want to get stronger, build more muscle, get faster, lose weight or whatever your nutrition needs to support that goal.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be any sort of strict “diet”. (“Diet” is a four letter word!) But it must provide the nutrients your body needs. And eliminate as many” empty” calories as possible. Sometimes “nutrient timing” is almost as important to your goal as what you eat. (When you eat what). A nutrient program and nutrient timing program should be designed around your specific fitness goal.
The human body runs on Glycogen. Glycogen powers you brain, your organs, and all other body functions including your muscles. Glycogen is derived from the breakdown of Carbohydrates’ first. The secondary source, if sufficient carbs are not available is Protein. Provide insufficient carbs and the body starts to break down muscle tissue! Usually not what you are looking for in any fitness program.
The last macro nutrient used by the body for energy is fat. Fat cells are used for storage not for energy except as a last resort.
Consume too many carbs (more than the body needs for current and short term energy needs) and it is converted to fat. Consume too few carbs (less than the body needs for current and short term energy) and the body starts breaking down muscle for energy. Carbs contain approximately 9 calories per gram
The muscles are primarily protein and protein is necessary to get stronger and for hypertrophy (muscle growth). Too much protein above that needed for growth and it too can be converted to fat. Protein contains approximately 4 calories per gram. Protein also takes more energy (calories) to digest than fat or carbs.
Fat is the body’s storage facility for reserves in times of extreme deprivation of other macro nutrients but it also have other very important functions. Fat is necessary in producing and utilization of some enzymes, some hormones and organ function and maintenance. Fat contains approximately 9 calories per gram.
Get your diet right first with adequate protein, carbs and fat. You cannot out train a bad diet!
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