Building muscle isn’t just about lifting as much weight as you can every day, or pushing yourself to the absolute limits — it’s about finding the right balance of work, diet, and recuperation. There are no shortcuts with building muscle, it takes dedication, discipline, and desire.
You will need to lift weights progressively building up the weight in a safe, consistent way, and ensure your nutrition is conducive to promoting healthy muscle growth. You will also need to engage in muscle care to avoid injuries that can set you back in your progress.
If this all seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be, and before you begin adding 30 extra kilograms to your weights. Let us offer some helpful advice so you can build muscle safely and effectively.
You aren’t going to be bench pressing 90kg straight off the bat, particularly if you haven’t exercised your body in this way before. Doing so would be quite dangerous and ultimately disheartening. So a good place to start is to determine where your limits currently are so that you can structure a realistic muscle building plan.
The ‘one-rep max’ can be a good indicator of where you’re at and can help you decide what weight you can manage for more reps. To build muscle, you want to focus on low repetitions and high weight. When you’re lifting close to your one-rep max, you should aim for five to six reps. When you’re lifting a little lighter you should aim for 10-12.
If the weight lifting section of your local gym is completely uncharted territory, even just the thought of approaching the area might be enough to put you off. So start simple. Build up your confidence by doing some bodyweight exercises in the comfort of your own home. Not only will this help you come to grips with your current fitness level, it’ll actually help you build muscle as well.
Simple bodyweight exercises — such as squats or pushups — can be just as effective for building muscle as weight lifting. Despite what you might think, muscle growth can occur without the need for external weight. So start with some bodyweight training to initially build up your muscle as well as your confidence before moving on to dumbbells.
As well as starting simple, it’s worth spending some time to identify what you would like your results to be, and what area of your body you would like to focus on. There are known exercises that are commonly used to target specific muscle groups, and taking the time to decipher what works best for you is the best way to optimise results.
In a single workout, it is best to focus on two opposing muscle groups like traps and pecs, biceps and triceps, etc. Popular exercises to research include:
Explore, and find what works for you! And, if you’re looking for all-over muscle gain, why not try compound exercises? These exercises are those that use more than one muscle group to lift a weight. By lifting a barbell off the floor, you are targeting muscles not just in your arms, but also muscles in your thighs, backside, abs, lower back, and upper back as well.
Warming up before lifting is important to get the blood and oxygen pumping to the muscles and the heart-rate elevated. You should also stretch the muscles after exercising to help promote recovery and healthy growth. Take 5 or 10 minutes to warm up before engaging in muscle building exercises – the key is to prepare your body for the work it’s about to do.
Stretching after you’ve warmed up is another integral part of the workout process. If the muscles have warmed up, stretching can reduce the risk of injury, improve flexibility, posture, and even coordination.
As well as the warm-up, it’s important to let your body ‘cool down’ after you’ve worked those muscles as well as having a solid post workout routine. Stretching is also important here so that you can avoid tired, sore, or stiff muscles by making sure they fully relax before resuming a normal pace.
After a workout, you need to give your body the necessary fuel to repair the micro-tears in your muscles, as this is the biological process behind muscle growth. When we work out, we use up our fuel reserves within our muscles. This means that we need to replace these stores and repair the damage done. Well, eating the right foods after your workout can help you get this done faster.
Lots of protein and carbohydrates are important to achieve this. Protein helps repair and build muscle. So for muscle gain, it’s integral to work protein into your post-workout diet. Carbohydrates also help with muscle recovery — it’s important to eat foods rich in carbs so that you can maintain a strict workout regime.
Building muscle is not easy, and will require hard graft and discipline to achieve. These are the basics for you to build on to produce a robust framework for building muscle successfully. But we would also suggest consulting a trainer to target the best and safest ways for you to build muscle.
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