We’ve all been there. Looking in the mirror, flexing, wishing we had larger, more pronounced muscles. But what can you do to get your muscles to grow?
You’ve been hitting the gym, you’ve been lifting weights and doing what you think is right, but nothing is working. Sure, you’re a bit more toned than when you started going to the gym, but that hasn’t helped you actually put on muscle mass. Truth be told some individuals are, what the industry dubs, “hard gainers.”
This means it is more difficult for someone to put on mass because their metabolism churns through protein faster, leaving less for muscles. Well, don’t worry. Whether you’re a hard gainer or you are simply struggling to put on added muscle mass we have the answers for you.
Here is everything you need to know about gaining muscle mass and how to do it naturally.
Male Muscle Growth
The Anatomy Of Building Muscle
So let’s take a closer look at how you build muscle. From there will dive into workout out those muscles and giving your body the necessary ingredients to help build muscles.
When you work out your muscle with weights you essentially are tearing the muscle fibers. These are small, microscopic tears caused by the stress of lifting. Your body then needs to repair it. It uses protein to rebuild your muscles (which are made out of protein). As long as your body is getting enough protein your muscles will continue to grow as you tear the fiber.
How much protein is necessary?
This is up for some debate, and it also depends on what else you’re eating. A general rule of thumb is, if you want to build muscle, you need to have at least one gram of protein per pound you weigh. So, if you weigh 175 pounds you’ll want 175 grams of protein.
But that’s only part of the equation. It also depends on what else you’re eating. Take carbs. Carbs are processed by the body before protein and fat (which is why before a sporting event your mom would tell you to “carbo-load.” Carbs would give you the energy to perform).
Having carbs in your system when working out and exercising is a great way for an energy boost. But what happens if you eat a low carb diet?
Your body will begin using protein for energy. This means if you’re consuming 175 grams of protein but you’re not consuming carbs, your body will use some of this protein for energy, which cuts down on the amount of protein available for building muscle.
If you follow this kind of diet you’ll need to increase your protein level to make up the difference (University of New Mexico, 2004).
Hitting The Gym
You already know you need to go to the gym if you want to start building muscle mass. It’s not one of those things you can wish upon yourself.
Yes, hitting the gym is only part of the process. But it is also the most significant. Regardless of what you do, without the gym, you won’t begin to build muscles.
But what in the world are you supposed to do once you’re at the gym?
The gym can be a confusing place, and if you ask people at the gym what you should lift and how often, well you’re probably going to get a different answer from each person you ask.
In fact, even experts have different ideas as to how frequently you should lift. We’ll give you a lowdown on the options and then point out the benefits of each.
The classic gym routine is upper body Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then legs Tuesday and Thursday. This is really the old school method of lifting. It’s also not the best for targeting certain muscle groups.
Your lower body is made up of just a handful of large muscles, so it’s possible to reasonably hit every muscle group in a decent amount of time.
But the upper body?
There are so many groupings of muscles that, if you actually wanted to hit the entire upper body, you’d be at the gym for hours. And let’s face it. Nobody has the time to be inside of a gym for hours at a time (unless you’re a fitness model and it’s your actual job).
There is also another drawback to this kind of setup. You don’t get your muscles ample time to recover. It’s true you should never hit the same area of your body on consecutive days. This is actually one of the reasons why you might not be putting up muscle mass.
There is such a thing as “overtraining.” Overtraining occurs when you begin working muscle tissue that hasn’t recovered from the previous workout.
So how do you avoid overtraining while making sure you still hit all of your muscle groups and keep your muscles growing?
There are a few different workouts splits you can follow for this. One of the most recommended is the push, pull, leg workout routine.
For example, on a Monday you will perform all “push” exercises. This is where you push the weight away from you (such as a bench press, shoulder press, tricep extension, and so on).
Then, on Tuesday, you’ll do all “pull” exercises, which is, as you guess, all movements where you pull the weight toward you. This would be curls and tows.
Then, on Wednesday, you’ll do a traditional leg day and repeat the process.
The benefit to this kind of a workout schedule is you’ll split your upper body into two days (instead of one) and give muscles 72 hours to recover instead of 48, which helps you avoid overtraining.
If your muscles take a long time to recover this might be one option, but in reality, you don’t need to go a full week without training a muscle group.
So, ideally, the best schedule is the push, pull, leg method. Ultimately though, you need to work with what fits your schedule (Aston University, 2020).
Now that we have an idea of how you want to hit the gym you will need to know what kind of reps you should be targeting. Because the goal is to grow your muscles first, and likely increase strength second, you’ll want to target the 8 to 12 rep range. This is enough to challenge your muscles while maximizing muscle fiber damage.
Don’t just stop at 12 though. If you can perform more reps with the weight keep going until failure.
However, for the next set make sure to increase the weight. You need to lift until failure. If you are in the 8 to 12 range that’s good. If you are lifting more add weight, if you are lifting less reduce the weight.
You need to perform at least three sets, although if there are some muscles that are struggling to grow when compared to other muscles you’ll want to increase this to four or five.
Your calf muscles, for example, do not grow easily. That is because you use the muscles so frequently the fibers are tight and used to stress. To see growth here you’ll need to increase the sets (Cnet, 2020).
You can’t grow your muscles without the right diet. We already went over the need to have around one gram of protein per pound of body weight. And as you increase in weight you’ll need to increase your protein intake.
However, there is more to your diet than just protein.
Hydration is key. Your body is primarily made up of water, and your muscles will need water in order to build muscle (and to avoid cramping). The old rule of thumb is to drink eight servings of 8-ounces of water. That’s 64 ounces of water per day. That is a minimum water intake. You need to likely be drinking more than that to stay hydrated.
You also need to avoid any kind of sugar or salt beverages. Sugar and salt will absorb the water you’re drinking, which will reduce the amount of water your muscles receive.
Yes, there are all kinds of sports drinks out there that say you need to be drinking the products that are chock-full of salt. The only time you really need to be drinking this is if you’re highly active during vigorous athletic activity and you are low on electrolytes.
Outside of this, you’ll be better off sticking with water. You don’t need sports drinks while lifting weights. You’re not sweating enough on a continual basis to need the added salt, and the sports drinks might end up leading to muscle cramps (and if you’ve ever had a cement-mixer like a cramp in your calf muscles you know just how bad it can be).
The timing of your protein intake is also important. Before you go hit the gym you need to either down a protein drink or have a protein-heavy meal. This will give you protein for your workout.
Then, following your workout, you need to have another protein drink. Your body will begin repairing the damaged muscle tissue right away, and the added protein will help with this.
Lastly, you’ll want to have some protein in your system when you go to bed.
While your body will repair itself throughout the day the majority of the rebuild will occur at night while you are sleeping. To help with this you’ll want to have some protein in the system.
The best way to do this is to drink a whey-based protein right before bed. Whey is soft on your stomach and easy to digest. You don’t want to eat a full chicken or consume it difficult to process protein, as you will end up with stomach aches and gas at night (Healthline, 2018).
Supplementation is important for your quest in building muscle mass.
However, just remember that these are “supplements.” The products are not magic ingredients. They will supplement your workout and your diet but they won’t make up for a lack of effort in the gym or a lack of diet.
Whey protein and other protein powders we’ve already mentioned. These items are the easiest way to add protein to your diet.
However, there are other supplements you need to consider. Creatine is the natural energy your body produces. It is quick-burst energy that allows you to power through fast movements (such as lifts) but it is quickly burned through.
Adding a creatine supplement to your diet will help you squeeze off more reps, which means more damage to your muscles, which means you’ll build bigger muscles.
You’ll want a pre-workout supplement, which gives you added energy when hitting the gym, and you’ll want to add in a branch-chain amino acid supplement, which helps in the muscle recovery process. You should also look at more traditional supplements, such as fish oil. Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids help with muscle inflammation. This allows your muscles to recover faster so you can hit the gym harder (Healthline, 2017).
Anyone can put on muscle mass. It is a bit more of a challenge for some over others, but everyone has the capability of doing it. It doesn’t matter how old you are or if you’ve ever set foot in a gym before, you absolutely can begin bulking up.
So whether you’re doing it for a competition or you just want to increase your muscle size, all you need to do is follow the information listed above.
It will take some time, but don’t worry, it won’t take long for you to begin seeing the differences in muscle growth and the improvements in your body. Just stick with it and you’ll achieve your ultimate male muscle growth dreams.