Sculpting that perfect physique is no walk in the park. The correct fitness program matters, but so do nutrition and recovery time. As any bodybuilder will tell you, it’s also about sticking to your workout plan day in and day out.
There are anywhere between 640 to 850 muscles in our body, and exercising them requires time, patience, a well-informed fitness regimen and tons of willpower. Just ask The Rock, whose mantra is “be the hardest worker in the room.”
Ready to break through your next muscle-building plateau? Here are seven facts about building up muscle to help you stay on track.
Mental attitude matters
You don’t need to mimic The Hulk in order to increase mass. A positive frame of mind goes a long way in helping you stay focused on building muscle. When you approach each training session with confidence, the results are bound to be more effective. Most first-timers think that building biceps is all about body over mind. In fact, there is a direct correlation between your state of mind and muscle.
The stress hormone, cortisol, also needs to be kept in check. This hormone causes blood to thicken and is responsible for storing excess fat in all the places you don’t want to see it. To make the most of your workouts, surround yourself with positive workout partners, don’t ignore other areas of your life and keep stress at bay to help boost your muscle-building results.
Don’t ignore your lower body
There’s nothing worse than having a sculpted upper body and spindly legs. But less-than-desirable appearance aside, focusing on only a few muscle groups could keep you from maximizing your strength and conditioning. If you dread leg day and skip the gym whenever it comes around, chances are your growth hormone will not be encouraged enough to maximize your efforts.
When you spend time at the squat rack and do your deadlifts right, testosterone levels are enhanced—thus aiding the growth of overall muscle. Moreover, if heavy lifting is what you’re after, improving the strength of your lower body will help you lift better. Avoid knee wear-and-tear and hamstring injuries by working out your legs to keep them strong. Make sure you dedicate one day out of a three-day workout week to your lower body.
Take the correct supplements
The right dietary supplements coupled with a protein-rich diet could push you to the next level of building body mass. Use supplements to enhance your muscle-building regimen. The amino acids in whey protein play a vital role in muscle building and recovery. When taken as part of your daily regimen, whey will help you bulk up faster. Don’t forget about the creatine. Adding some creatine supplements to your diet will help keep your muscle cells hydrated and enhance muscle fiber growth.
Keep in mind, supplements aren’t cheat codes for that perfect body. The correct dosage recommended by your trainer is meant to augment your workout. So make sure you don’t over-indulge, and choose only the most trusted protein powders and pre-workout supplements.
There’s a thin line between bodybuilding enthusiasm and harmful obsession. The latter could result in an elevated pulse rate and overall physical and mental fatigue.
When you’re building muscle, your body doesn’t have to be pushed to its absolute limit. Go easy on the weights and be patient for physical results to manifest. A 10-week study showed that men who used heavy weights on one leg and lighter weights on the other developed new muscle in both legs that was nearly identical. Especially when starting out, take it easy with the weights and concentrate on form rather than pushing your body to the brink of a breakdown.
The myth about fats
A number of bodybuilders swear by the misconception that fats are bad. It may sound logical, but the reality is that saturated fat can actually help improve testosterone levels. If you’re wondering why your trainer suggested cold water fish or sunflower oil (high in Omega-3 and Omega-6, respectively), it’s because both contain fatty acids that can help keep you robust while you build up.
Here’s something to keep in mind: 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, and you do need a healthy dose in order to stay fit. The right fat keeps your heart healthy—an important factor while pumping iron.
Give yourself recovery time
Don’t believe the bodybuilders who tell you that you need to work on your muscles every day. That will only result in fatigue. Equally harmful is the myth that rest is for amateurs. A healthy amount of sleep enhances protein synthesis and allows your body to recover from the rigors of a high-intensity workout. A high-protein meal and a warm bath should precede seven to nine hours of nightly slumber.
The amount you rest should be balanced with how much you’ve been working out. For instance, if you alternate between upper and lower body workouts every two days, take a day off before you start the process again.
Read up on new techniques and research
An overall knowledge of your muscle-building routine will help you avert disaster and ensure you’re up to date on the latest science. Reading well-researched articles on muscle hypertrophy will make you stand out at the gym. After a point, this knowledge can even help you set your own goals, depending on your physical needs.
Bodybuilding has captivated our imagination ever since the golden era of Muscle Beach and the iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger film Pumping Iron. But as with anything else in fitness, using the correct form and science-backed methods will better position you to build muscle safely and effectively.