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Last Updated on February 22, 2021

How to Gain Muscle Quickly and Naturally (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Gain Muscle Quickly and Naturally (A Step-by-Step Guide)

People often want to gain muscle in order to look their best, but building muscle has many benefits beyond the aesthetic. With more muscle, you can be more active without feeling pain the next day, create more supported joints for greater flexibility, and decrease your risk of certain diseases.

If you really want to learn how to gain muscle quickly and naturally, you’ve come to the right place, but there are no magic answers. What we do have is research-backed workout programs, nutrition coaching, and motivating support. Read on to learn how you can increase your muscle mass quickly and naturally.

What Is Muscle Mass?

One of the reasons I joined martial arts classes years ago was that I hoped that training regularly would give me a Bruce Lee body, and it didn’t, of course.

I lacked a fundamental understanding about how building muscles works. Martial arts gave me the necessary skills for self defense and improved my endurance, but it didn’t make me a Dwayne Johnson lookalike.

What I only later realized is that your muscles only build themselves up on a microscopical level when they need to. And you, as a macroscopic human, can foster that need in your muscles.

To gain muscle, you have to train on a specific rep range and on a specific frequency.

Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Muscle Gain

To gain muscles in the first place, you have to put your body under stress. Training itself is not altogether healthy for you. You’re losing precious body fluids in the gym, emptying your energy resources, and creating micro-tears in your muscles. It’s only when your body feels uncomfortable that you build muscles in the first place.

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Losing weight is also a stressful situation for your body in the short term. You’re taking in less energy than your body desires, which forces your body to restructure your organism in a way that needs less energy. In a non-scientific term: Your body starts burning fat if you eat less calories.

The common denominator of those two scenarios are necessity. Robert Greene, author of the international bestseller 50 Laws of Power, calls necessity the ruler of the world, as humans only act when they need to. Necessity implies being under stress.

Remember, healthy is always relative. Forcing an alcohol-addict to stop drinking may hurt them drastically in the short-term, regarding stress hormones, but in the long-term it might be a great decision when we consider the alternative.

In the sense of learning how to gain muscle, extreme muscle gain might be harmful, but if the alternative is obesity, it can be considered healthy, as it increases the life-expectancy for the individual more than being obese.[1]

What makes muscle growth healthy is the recovery phase. The pinnacle of a healthy muscle gain would be to do it on a plant-based diet, with plenty of sleep and a stress-reducing personal life.[2] Also, without the help of anabolic steroids, of course. 

How to Gain Muscle Naturally

Here are the 7 steps that you can take today to achieve maximum, healthy, natural muscle growth in the shortest time.

1. Commit Yourself

The first step to every long-lasting change is your mindset. This may sound cliché, but if you’re not committed to changing your lifestyle, you might just as well stay on your couch.

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“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln

Write down exactly why you want to gain muscle. Is it to impress that crush you have, to get more confidence, or to make your everyday life a little easier? Write it down and keep it where you can see it every day.

Pro tip: Use inspirational pictures to increase the effect.

2. Set a Goal

While you already have your pen and paper out, write down your goals. There’s something special about writing your goals down on paper. This is another side of commitment.

Make sure you’re setting your goals the SMART way—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. These are called SMART goals, and they work.

To build muscle mass is not a goal; to increase your bodyweight by 5 pounds of muscle before the end of July is. To measure your success, be sure to take before and after pictures to compare your results.

3. Find the Right Training Routine

I have a client in the fitness center that I manage for whom I just recently designed a full-body workout. After a month, he came up to me and confessed that he wasn’t following my training routine anymore. He was shocked when I told him that was fine. He expected me to be frustrated by his actions, but I wasn’t. I know that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, and I know that the right training program or routine is the one that works for you.

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You could have the best workout routine in the world, but if you always have to drag yourself to the gym and never feel excited, it’s not the right routine for you.

While the traditional, recommended repetition range for muscle growth is between 6-12 (based on studies of time under tension), there are also studies citing that 5-7 repetitions may be more optimal.[3] The exact same thing goes for training sets and rest periods between those sets.[4]

I generally would advise you to keep your rest periods between 1-2 minutes. Start with a whole-body training plan (yes, even train your legs), and aim for about 8-12 repetitions as a beginner. When you’re experienced, meaning you’ve been training for more than one year, you can decrease the number of repetitions.

Do about three sets per exercise and aim to spend no longer than 1.5 hours in the gym. This way you’re minimizing muscle protein breakdown due to avoiding a long training session, and, most importantly, you’re not neglecting your personal life.

4. Be Consistent

Having the right training routine when you’re learning how to gain muscle is key because it helps you be consistent. If you’re going to the gym regularly for 3 years, you will see results. It doesn’t matter if you have the best exercise program or your genetics; commitment will pay off.

If you need help creating an exercise habit, check out Lifehack’s 30-Day Resistance Band Workout Challenge. This will help you stay committed to a routine for a month, which can help you move more easily into a muscle-building schedule.

5. Focus on Progression

Progression is the major key when you are trying to build muscles.

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Adding more weight in the long term adds mechanical stress to your muscles. Your body has to see a reason to adapt, and a great way to make it adapt is to add mechanical stresses.[5] Each week or month, try to bump up the amount of weight you’re lifting or the number of reps you’re doing.

6. Eat More of the Good Stuff

To lose fat but build muscles, you need energy. You gain energy through your food, which then is transformed into muscle tissue. To gain muscle, you have to be in a calorie surplus, eating more calories that you actually need, and these calories need nutrient dense. Eat dried fruits or drink smoothies, as they increase your calorie intake without decreasing your appetite. I suggest you aim for a calorie surplus of about 200 calories per dayYou should include protein with every meal, which can come in the form of protein shakes or even protein powder. Eat carbs only post-workout in order to help with recovery as you build strength and muscle. You should also be drinking a healthy amount of water, as this will help your muscles heal and grow after a workout.

7. Switch up Your Routine

This is similar to progression. Again, you want your body to keep guessing in the long-term, as once you hit a plateau in your training, you have to try a new approach.

Implement different exercises, and train at a different rep-range. Have fun with your training, and experiment. You never know when you will find what works for you.

Final Thoughts

Muscle growth is an extremely complex process that involves many different physiological functions and variables. You can spend hundreds of hours studying it and barely scratch the surface, but building muscles isn’t that complicated.Most people who have built a great body in the gym are not renowned scientists; they’re regular people following a proven plan. They have committed themselves to the gym, and they are being consistent with their routine while seeking constant progress. This is possible for anyone who is motivated enough to try. Use my advice above and get started building muscle today!

More on How to Gain Muscle

Featured photo credit: John Fornander via unsplash.com

Reference

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Florian Wüest

Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss Hit a Weight Loss Plateau? Here’s How To Break Through It How to Gain Muscle Quickly and Naturally (A Step-by-Step Guide) Your Body on Caffeine Addiction: 70 Cups of Coffee in 7 Days The More Protein You Eat, the Faster You Build Muscles?

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts. While they are great for both, static stretches can offer a boost to any workout routine for people of all fitness levels.

Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain: stretching can help you. Static stretches come with myriads of benefits, such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness, which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll zero in on several great static stretches and take a look at the benefits and when they should be done.

Benefits of Static Stretches

Static stretches come with tons of benefits that can help you make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:

Improved Flexibility

If you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. Luckily enough, static stretches are all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.

Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.[1]

Although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretches have been shown to greatly increase muscle and joint flexibility[2] and tissue length[3], which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

Prevent Injuries

If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and again that performing the right stretches pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

Think of it this way:

When you stretch, you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time, and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.

Increased Blood Flow to the Joints

Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation, and removal of metabolites.

For static stretching, though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.

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However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.[5]

Improvement in Recovery

If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling sore muscles for days.

Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibers back to their tip-top condition.

Research has shown that practicing static stretches after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.

Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released, and this encourages reduced inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:

  • Improved relaxation
  • Increased movement efficiency
  • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
  • Reduction in muscle tension
  • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
  • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
  • Relief from cramping

15 Static Stretches to Enhance Your Workouts

Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.

1. Neck Stretch

    While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head, and place the other arm out to your side. Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing, and repeat for the opposite side.

    Many people tend to hold stress and tension in their neck and shoulders. If you find this is the case, this is one of the best static stretches to use for a muscle release in this area.

    2. Chest Stretch

      Stand upright, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks. While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you until you feel the stretch in your chest. Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.

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      3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

      Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch « CASS FITNESS

        Stand upright or sit up tall on a chair or mat, and extend one arm out in front to shoulder height. Grab the extended arm with your other arm, and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight. Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

        4. Triceps Static Stretch

          Lift your arms overhead, with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow. Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

          Many know this stretch from gym class, but it really is one of the best static stretches for the arms.

          5. Biceps Stretch

          Arm Exercises | Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch

            Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you. While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders, and chest. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

            6. Wrist Stretch

            11 Best Tennis Elbow Exercises For Pain Free Mobility [PDF]

              While standing up straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Grab your right fingers with your left hand, and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite arm.

              7. Side Stretch

                Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side. Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite side.

                The muscles down your side body are notoriously difficult to stretch out. This is one of the best static stretches to try on a consistent basis to get them loosened up.

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                8. Abdominal Static Stretch

                  Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up. While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push your upper body up from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                  9. Reclined Spinal Twist

                  Supta Matsyendrasana - Supine Spinal Twist - Yogaasan
                    Lie down, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor. While keeping the right leg straight, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side, and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.

                    Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground, and you should feel the stretch around your back. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                    10. Knees to Chest

                    Knee-to-chest exercise from Physical Therapists' Advice to Manage Pain at Home - The Active Times

                      Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent. Hold your shins, and pull your knees toward your chest. This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. If you’re looking to loosen up your back muscles, this is one of the static stretches you can do daily.

                      11. Hip Flexor Static Stretch

                      How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

                        Stand upright in a standard lunge position, and place your two hands on your hips. Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.

                        12. Figure 4 Stretch

                        How to Do a Figure 4 Stretch | Openfit

                          Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor. Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent. Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.

                          13. Standing Quad Stretch

                            Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture. With your left hand, grab a pole, wall, or anything durable for balance. With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.

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                            Keep your knees close together while doing this, push your hip forward, and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other side. This is one of the best static stretches for the quads.

                            14. Hamstring Stretch

                              Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent. Reach forward with your right hand, and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.

                              Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the left leg. If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead, but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.

                              15. Calf Stretch

                                Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you. Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.

                                Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg, if you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.

                                Bonus: Stretch With a Resistance Band

                                Resistance bands offer a unique benefit from free weights and create tension throughout your movement. Get the free 30 Day Resistance Band Full Workout Challenge, and challenge yourself to stretch with a resistance band.

                                When Should You Do Static Stretches?

                                Static stretching is great when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,[6] but not as a part of warm up routines before an explosive workout session.

                                This is because static stretches have a cool-down effect on each muscle group and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                That doesn’t mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out, but do it sparingly. Dynamic stretches, which involve more movement, are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body prepare better for the work ahead.

                                The Bottom Line

                                Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running. You need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training, and that’s the whole point of static stretches.

                                Starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine, and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before.

                                More Tips on Stretching

                                Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

                                Reference

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