How Does Muscle Grow?
Your muscle fibers are in a constant cycle of breaking down and repairing. This will happen even with very modest activity during the day and is a constant process of cell repair and replacement.
However, unless your normal everyday activities are extremely strenuous, they won’t actually lead to any significant increase in muscle mass.
There are very specific things you need to do to maximize muscle growth, or even elevate it beyond just a maintenance level. In addition to that, you will need to provide your body with certain nutrients so that new muscle fibers can be created in the first place.
Let’s start at the beginning.
What Triggers Muscle Growth?
As we grow from childhood into adulthood, our bodies go through significant changes when it comes to skeletal structure and muscle mass. This is pretty much the only period when muscle growth happens without external triggers.
Beyond the normal muscle size that you gender, age, and genetics will dictate, you have to introduce some external triggers to gain mass.
What this means is that essentially, your muscles have to be subjected to progressively increasing amounts of stress, i.e., lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy weights.
What this stress actually does is cause small breaks and tears in the muscle fibers. After your training, this is what you feel as the aches and pains if you’ve done things right.
I’ll get to some types of training you need to do to cause this trigger in a moment, but the important thing is that the stress levels have to be continuous and progressively increasing.
What feels heavy today, won’t be so heavy in a few weeks’ time, meaning you need to find new ways to maintain the stress exposure.
How Does Your Body Create New Muscle Tissue?
All the muscle stress from training will provide a continuous damage and repair cycle in the targeted muscle tissues. And it’s this muscle damage that will result in two things happening.
First of all, your body will send signals to increase testosterone and growth hormone production. Secondly, your muscles will start the repair process of the damaged fibers, which increases their thickness and number.
Your body understands that it was exposed to increased stress, and it will aim to prepare for the next time this might happen.
The actual physiological process is biochemically quite complex, and it’s way beyond what could be explained in a blog post. But the important thing to understand is that there are very specific nutrients that come into play when it comes to muscle tissue.
The growth hormone that is released will signal that muscle tissue needs to be repaired and added to. Your muscles will then gather up amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.
Those amino acids are then used to create all those new strands of muscle fibers.
What Kind Of Training Do You Need To Do?
I already mentioned that the stress that you expose your muscles to has to be continuous and become progressively stronger.
That means that lifting weights for half an hour once a week will not do much good.
To maximize muscle growth, you have to train at least 4 days a week, and during these training sessions, you’ll need to cause as much stress as possible.
That means compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups with as much weight as you can handle. The idea is to do 5 or 6 reps per set, where the last 3 have to be a real struggle to complete.
I’ve seen it too many times where beginners end up doing the right exercises, but with nowhere near enough weight. They end up doing 15 or more reps in each set, which will not help with any bulking plans.
The idea is to lift often and lift heavy.
How Long Does The Training Effect Last?
This is something that most people actually underestimate, and fully understanding the training effect can really help you plan out your weight training.
While you’re lifting, the stress breaks down protein in muscle fibers. Only when you stop, take a hot shower and get your post-workout shake into you does the magic really start to happen.
It is very important that you give your body time to rest. The best time for muscle recovery is when you’re actually sleeping, which is when your body goes into overdrive as far as cell repair goes.
The training effect on increased protein synthesis can last for up to 48 hours. Yes, that’s two full days. For most amateurs, this means that doing weight training every two days is going to produce quite substantial results.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that after about 24 hours, the muscle building activity will start to decline. If you’re really looking for maximum muscle growth, then 4 or 5 weight lifting routines per week will be needed.
Getting A Boost With Supplements And Steroids
So, we’ve covered the fact that you need to introduce a lot of stress in order to trigger muscle growth. But there are great ways to increase the stress and also the effects that it has.
One option is to use pre-workout supplements that can help to increase your strength and endurance while at the gym. It’s like a small turbocharger on your car. Even just a 5% performance increase will substantially add up over a few weeks and months.
Another option is to use legal steroids or SARMs. These work in many different ways, but they generally aim to increase growth hormone production. This naturally increases the amount of muscle building after each weight session.
Essentially, you can get some help to work harder and then speed up the physiological processes in your body during the recovery phase.
As you can see, muscle building really isn’t all that big a mystery. It takes continuous stress on the muscles, but unfortunately, that’s one part that so many people get wrong.
If you’ve struggled with gaining some mass, then I suggest spending a few sessions at the gym with a personal trainer. Once you manage to get the weights and exercises right, the rest will happen naturally.