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The 5 Principles of Muscle Growth

We all ned to grow muscle. At a younger age we don't have the muscle to help our metabolism and make everyday living easier, at an older age we start losing muscle.

They say muscle growth is simple, just not easy. It simply requires a lot of good old-fashioned hard work.

But, if you just focus on completing 3 sets of 10 reps on a variety of exercises, the odds are you won’t have much muscle to show for all your hours in the gym.

Muscle growth requires checking several boxes — with both nutrition and training — to help your body break down muscle tissue and build it back. It’s the main reason most people don’t see dramatic changes. They do some of the work, but not all of it.

If you’re looking to add more muscles, here are the principles you must master.

Principle 1: Muscle Growth Requires Calories

The quest for more muscle starts with nutrition. Gaining muscle fast requires being in a calorie surplus (eating more calories than you burn).

This means eating is a priority, but you don’t need to go overboard. You can only gain muscle so fast, and a modest calorie surplus works just as well as “eating everything in sight” and leaves you with a lot less fat to lose later.

So, how do you determine the caloric “sweet spot” where you maximize muscle and minimize fat gain?

To start, you need to figure out your average daily calorie intake, or maintenance calories. and are free online calculators that will help.

Once you know your maintenance calories, it’s just a matter of adding the right amount of extra calories to get your body weight to increase gradually.

An extra 500 calories a day is a good starting point, but the real question is if you’re gaining weight. If you want to minimize fat gain, a good rule of thumb is keeping weight gain around 500 grams per month.

Why 800 grams a month? Considering muscle gain is a slow process, any more than that and you’re probably adding too much fat. However, any slower and you’re not gaining muscle as fast as you could be either.

If you find that you’ve gained 1 kg in a week. Cut your calorie intake by about around 200-300 calories per day.

On the other hand, if the scale says you’re barely gaining at all, then increase your calorie intake by 200- 300 calories per day and continue to track your progress.

The calorie game plan is simple: assess, adjust, and repeat.

Principle 2: Optimize For Protein

On top of dialling in your calorie intake, you need to make sure you’re eating enough protein. Research suggests that the perfect range for building muscle is anywhere from 0.6- to 1-gram of protein per pound of your goal body weight.

That’s most of the dietary battle. If you’re consistently hitting your calorie and protein goals, then you’ve got your nutritional bases covered for gaining muscle.

Whether you’re building muscle or losing fat, it’s important to think about eating for the body you want, not the body you have.

Principle 3: Train each muscle 2-3 times per week

You can gain muscle only hitting each muscle once per week, or by working each muscle even more frequently. But, if you’re trying to maximize muscle gain, 2-3 times per week seems to be your best bet.

The cellular processes of building muscle are only humming away at high speed for about 24-48 hours after you finish a workout.

So, if you only train a muscle once per week, your muscles are only spending about 1/7-2/7 of their time in “growth mode.”

Remember, more isn’t always more with muscle gain. If all it took to gain muscle was tons of reps, there’d be a lot of people walking around with massive biceps.

The right amount of reps, the best exercise, a locked in diet, and optimized recovery is essential. When you lift weight, the muscle fibers tear and break down.

And then your muscles grow during the recovery phase.

Principle 4: Focus on full range of motion (And check your ego)

Working a muscle through a full range of motion builds the most muscle and strength. When muscles are slightly stretched under load, more muscle damage occurs, and local concentrations of muscle-building hormones increase much more than they do with shorter ranges of motion.

Basically, half reps only build your ego.

Lifting through a full range of motion may also help with injury prevention. Your muscles add more contractile units in series, meaning your muscle can stretch farther without the risk of tearing.

Your nervous system also learns how to control your muscles and joints through greater degrees of joint flexion, where most injuries occur if you don’t have enough control.

Mastering a full range of motion usually means you’ll need to lower the weight you’re using — sometimes significantly. It can feel like a step back, but you’re playing the long game.

The lighter, full range reps will still have benefits. And, as you add more strength, that one-step back will turn into 10 steps forward with muscle growth.

Principle 5: Challenge Your Muscles, Don’t Crush Them

There’s no magic rep-range to maximize muscle growth. That’s a good thing because it means you can train with lower and higher reps and still see results.

In general, though, the best approach might be using loads that let you get anywhere between 5 to 15 reps per set with good form.

You can gain muscle with fewer reps per set, but that usually means using loads that can beat up your joints. And, you need to make sure you’re doing enough sets to reach a volume that maximizes muscle growth.

You can also gain muscle with more reps per set, but, generally, those sets are going to be so exhausting (especially for lower body exercises like squats and deadlifts) that you’ll be gassed after the first couple sets, which can tank the rest of your workout.

Or, you might find that other limitations — such as grip strength or cardio endurance — give out before your muscles do. Either way, you might be exhausted, but that doesn’t mean your muscles were challenged in a way that will keep you building muscle.

If you’re focusing on anywhere from 5 to 15 reps, push every set to the point just before your form breaks down (this is known as technical failure).

It sounds funny, but your muscles are lazy. They use the bare minimum amount of muscle fibers necessary to produce the required amount of force to move an object. If you can understand this concept, you can learn a key ingredient of maximizing muscle growth.

The last muscle fibers activated are also the ones most capable of growth. But, your body won’t use those fibers unless it absolutely needs to.

By putting as much effort as you can into each set, and only stopping a set when you know you can’t get another rep with good form, you use more of your muscle fibers, including those that influence growth the most.

Muscle growth takes time, but, now you know what to do, and it’s up to you to put in the work and — most importantly — stay consistent.


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