So you want to gain lean muscle? Maybe you are naturally skinny and want to build a muscular body or maybe you were overweight and have lost fat and are now looking to build lean muscle mass. Here is a very basic guide to getting started. There are a few things that people often overlook when it comes to building muscle and these are:
So firstly Diet, they say abs are made in the kitchen and to a degree they are correct, you can't out train a bad diet so if you aren't making sure this is looked after correctly you are lining yourself up for a struggle. So when it comes to building muscle you must first of all make sure you are in a calorie surplus, this means eating more calories than you burn so the surplus energy can be used to fuel muscle repair and growth, any excess will be stored as fat so the key is not to eat too much, a 10% surplus should be good enough. So how do you know how much to eat? firstly by working out what your BMR (basel metabolic rate) is, which is essentially the amount of calories you burn just by living everyday life, then you add in your daily activity levels, so how much exercise you do per week.
There are calculations to do this but it's easier and quicker to use an online calorie calculator, here is a good one https://muscularstrength.com/mealplan so once you have worked this out it's really a case of trial and error as the calculators are rough estimates and you will need to weigh yourself once a week first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, if you are gaining more than one pound per week, dial your calories down by 100-150 per day until you are hitting that 1/2 - 1lb per week gain, any more than this means you are probably gaining too much fat. If you are brand new to weight training however you may gain more than this to start with. Same goes for if you aren't gaining any weight, just increase by 100-150 per day until you see the desired increase. When it comes to meal planning I find that preparing my lunch on a Sunday for the coming week makes life much easier and stops me from buying unhealthy food. Keep your food as healthy as you can, use lean meats such as chicken, turkey and lean beef, use complex carbs such as Brown rice and sweet potato, white rice is good for post workout however and I'll talk more about that in my next blog post. Fats should come from things like Nuts, Avacado and Nut butters (natural) coconut oil etc. Keep a track of your daily macro breakdown (Protein, Carbs and fats) and ensure you are having around 1g of Protein per pound of bodyweight. My fitness pal is a great app for tracking all your food, now some say you don't need to weigh everything out but I believe when you are starting out and until your trained eye can guess the amounts you are having to eat then you should weigh your food. As you gain weight you will need to recalculate your BMR as this will change as your weight increases.
There are many 'muscle building programs" out there and it really is a case of finding what works for you. There are fully body splits, push,pull,legs and then body part splits and more to choose from. Personally I think for a beginner a full body split say 3 times per week is a good place to start and keep the majority of your exercises as compound movements, which recruit more than one muscle group, these are Bench press, Squat, Deadlift, Overhead press and bent over row's. I'll put a sample program at the end of the blog. Training intensity is key to building muscle as you have to break the muscle down for it to repair and grow. When it comes to lifting weights there are many studies to say that lifting heavy weights and low reps is more effective and some say light weights and low reps and some even say a mix of both. Personally I would try starting with heavy weight, low reps and see how you get on, now when i say heavy i mean a weight that you can lift for 4-6 reps whilst not losing any form, not doing so can and probably will cause injuries. You should ideally be starting to struggle on the last 1-2 reps. The other key element to building muscle in your training is progressive overload and this means gradually adding weight to the bar every few sessions or increasing your reps with the same weight, basically you should be aiming to always beat your last workout and this in turn will give your muscles a reason to grow. If you just do the same workout, same weights, same reps week after week you won't see the results you want.
Another misconception by some is that the more time you spend in the gym lifting the bigger you will get, in fact it's the opposite. A normal session should last no more than one hour really. The muscles repair and grow in the 24-48 hours following a workout and especially when you are resting, this is why it's a good idea to have rest days in between workouts. Sleep is also another important factor, make sure you are getting enough quality sleep to help your body to recover and repair itself. 7-9 hours should be the aim here.
So in a nutshell, lift heavy, eat right, rest properly and you should see the muscle gains you want. It takes a bit of tinkering with your food and training but it's best to keep things as simple as you can.
Sample three day full body split:
Bench Press 3 x 4-6 reps
Dumbbell shoulder press 3x 4-6
Barbell Squat 3 x 4-6
Seated cable row 3 x 4-6
Skull crusher/tricep push down 3 x 8-10
EZ Bar Bicep curls 3 x 8-10
Seated calf raises 3 x 8-10
Incline bench press 3 x 4-6
Military press 3 x 4-6
Deadlift 3 x 4-6
Lat pull down 3 x 4-6
Standing calf raises 3 x 8-10
Cross body hammer curls 3 x 8-10
Overhead tricep extensions (cable or dumbbell) 3 x 8-10
Dumbbell Bench press 3 x 4-6
Dumbell lateral raises 3 x 6-8
Leg press 3 x 4-6
Dumbbell concentration curls 3 x 8-10
Wide grip pull ups 3 x 4-6
Tricep push downs 3 x 8-10
Seated calf raises 3 x 8-10
Hope this helps,
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