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.
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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.
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.
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. 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.
“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.
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. The exact same thing goes for training sets and rest periods between those sets.
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.
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. 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 day. You 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.
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
- 12 Proven Ways To Speed Up Muscle Recovery
- How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss?
- 10 Workout Hacks for Building Muscle
Featured photo credit: John Fornander via unsplash.com
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