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How to build muscle and maintain it!

The Better Body Group’s Danae van den Berg returns with some informative dialog on muscle building.

The title of this article may deter many who think, ‘my goal is fat loss, so why should I bother with building muscle?’ I encourage you to read on because having more muscle could actually be the key to your fat loss. The more muscle your body has, the more calories you burn.

Sounds too good to be true? No really, muscle needs maintenance! So the higher amount of muscle tissue you have, the higher the amount of calories your body burns at rest, never mind while actually exercising. With the right nutrition and a calorie deficit, this leads to a drop in body fat percentage and achieves that desired ‘toned’ look.

Now let’s find out how. Hypertrophy is the act of increasing the size and diameter of your muscle tissue through exercise. When you lift heavy weights in the gym, your muscles have to generate enough force to outweigh the resistance from the weights and this repetition causes wear and tear in the muscles.

Simply put, training ensures your muscles go through cycles of damage and repair, but the good news is that the stress put on the muscle fibres promotes an increase in size.

While hypertrophy is the act of increasing muscle size, you will need progressive overload to make sure you’re constantly adapting to stimulus and challenging your muscles.

You’re essentially using your previous workout as a bench mark and then trying to improve on that past performance. We can do this by increasing the intensity of your strength exercises, through using heavier weights, amount of repetitions, sets, frequency of training or tempo within the movements. Progressive overload plays the important part of adding stress to your muscles, allowing the break-down-and-rebuild cycle needed for growth.

So how do you make sure you’re using the right weights to start? You want to aim to use a weight that’s 70-80% of your 1RM (1 Rep Max = your body is only physically capable of doing one repetition of the given exercise). Complete the exercise for 3-6 sets, with 6-12 reps each time. This ticks the hypertrophy box nicely.

In terms of progressive overload, let’s use an example. Imagine I was doing a shoulder press with some dumbbells. In week one I do (enter imaginary and impressive sounding weight here) for eight reps, because that’s all I can manage. Next workout, I attempt the same, and do 10 reps! Finally, the third time I do them I get 12 reps, victory!

Now that I’ve trained my muscles to adapt to the weight I’m using, the next step is to increase the weight and start the process again, thus forcing my body to continue accommodating the change and avoiding a plateau. Give a hand for progressive overload my friends.

Lastly, and certainly not least, muscle building requires rest. In the aforementioned cycle of damage and repair in your muscles, that essential healing happens when you sleep.

Furthermore, when you sleep your body replenishes its glycogen stores, which is your energy source. I recommend the average adult gets around 7-9 hours of sleep per night to optimise your training and growth. In essence, want to reap the fruits of your training? Sleep!

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