Every day, millions of people pack gyms all across the world trying to build up their bodies. Depressingly, most of them look exactly the same year after year, completely failing to build any muscle despite thousands of wasted hours. Does this mean that building muscle is a mysterious process, only possible for a few rare genetic freaks? Not at all! Gaining muscle is simple, as long as you follow a few simple rules.
Before you can understand the first rule of muscle, you need to know a few things about the muscles themselves. All your muscles are made up of thousands of long fibers that contract to move your body. These fibers are slightly torn when you lift heavy weights. Your body doesn’t like having weakened, torn muscles, so it immediately goes to work rebuilding these fibers to be capable of handling that weight without being torn again. The result is a slightly bigger and stronger muscle. What most gym-goers don’t realize is that the cycle of tearing and rebuilding can be performed over and over again, until your muscles are as big as they can get.
After the muscle has rebuilt itself, the weight you lifted in your first workout will no longer overload the fibers. To continue making muscle gains, you must use slightly more weight in your next workout. If you keep using the same amount of weight, your muscles will have no reason to grow. You should progressively increase the overload to your muscle fibers every time you work out. While other forms of exercise, such as calisthenics or running, can also cause muscle fibers to tear, lifting weights is the most efficient way to constantly increase muscular overload. You can always add another 5 pounds of weight in your next workout and cause the growth process to occur again; it’s less simple with other forms of exercise.
For the rebuilding process to occur, the body must have the nutrients it needs to make new muscle fibers. For body tissue to grow, it needs more food to provide energy, so you need to eat significantly more than you are used to. Because muscles are primarily made up of protein, most of this extra food should be high in protein, such as meat, milk, or peanut butter. If you tear your muscle fibers with heavy weights and then fail to give your body the nutrition it needs, you will start to lose the muscle you already have.
Most muscle regeneration occurs during sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will have less muscle growth. When you start lifting heavier weights, you will probably find you need more sleep. This is your body telling you it needs time to build the muscles you want.
There are three rules for building muscle. First, progressively increase muscle fiber overload by lifting slightly more weight in every workout. Second, eat much more than you are eating right now, preferably healthy, high-protein food for best results. Finally, get enough sleep to give your body time to build muscle. As long as your workout program and diet respect the three rules, you will build muscle.