Introduction to Muscle Growth

No matter what your fitness goal is, at some point you'll have to work towards muscle growth.

"But I don't want to get big and muscly like bodybuilders."

I hear you, but here's the thing. Even if you just want to lose weight, you'll need to increase your muscle mass to speed up your metabolic rate which helps you burn fat.

And plus, it's not that easy to get a bodybuilder's body.

If you don't want to look like that, don't train like a body builder.

But muscle growth is still a key part in the bulk-cut cycle when working out.

So in this post, I'm going to share with you how to build muscle naturally.

Before we get into that, though, we have to answer the question:

How Big Can You Reasonably Get?

dumbbell curl

Everyone's body is different. Our frame, build, muscle sensitivity, etc are all different.

Which is why it's difficult to look at someone and say "I want that body" and then expect to look like them in time.

That said, I believe that through proper programming and nutrition, everyone can reach their peak potential.

So what is your peak potential?

Well, Casey Butts, ph.D did an analysis on some of the world's top bodybuilders (source/study)

He used data from old-school bodybuilders and came up with a way to "predict" a man's maximum muscular bodyweight and measurements.

(You can use this calculator to key in your measurements)

Once you have your goal, then you have a direction to work towards.

Of course, you're not going to get there overnight or even in a few months (unless you really dedicate a lot of time and effort to eat and train like a bodybuilder)

But it gives you a beacon to aim towards.

With that, let's get into the first muscle building tip:

1. Progressive Volume Overload

progressive volume overload

Training for muscle growth is very different compared to training for strength.

While in both cases you have to increase your volume progressively every session, building muscle requires less intensity.

Generally, you will only do between 50 to 75% of your 1RM (which is the maximum weight that you can lift).

So how do you calculate volume? Take the number of reps times the number of sets times the weight (reps x sets x kg)

That number is the volume you lifted that session.

That means the next session, you can either increase the number of reps, sets, or weight. Even if it's just by a little bit.

A recommendation given by Ava Fitzgerald, C.S.C.S., C.P.T., a sports performance coach from the Professional Athletic Performance Center, NY is to do 3 to 6 sets of 10 to 20 reps per exercise.

Note that according to this metaanalysis, muscle growth also requires you to do more than 10 sets total in a given week.

That means going to the gym at least 2-3 times a week is ideal.

So if you hit 6 sets and 20 reps each, you can consider increasing the weight.

One way to track your progress is to simply record your volume on an excel sheet every session. That way you can see your growth in real time.

2. Slow Down Your Eccentric Phase

eccentric training

In lifting weights, there are two phases.

There's the concentric phase, which is the hard part. When you're pushing the bar up during a bench press. Or pulling the bar down when doing lat pulldowns.

Then there's the eccentric phase, which is the opposite. It's when you let the bar down during a bench press. Or let the bar go back to resting position in a lat pulldown.

A study has shown that focusing on eccentric training can increase your body's ability to build muscle (by increasing mode and burst).

Even though not necessarily directly-related to muscle growth, slowing down your eccentric phase can help with hypertrophy.

So let's say you're doing a bicep curl, after you curl up, lower your arm back to resting position over 3 seconds. Then do the next rep.

This also increases your control and reduces risk of injury.

3. Caloric Surplus

caloric surplus

The Golden Rule and the foundation for BodyEngineers. Calories in minus calories out equals weight change.

When you're trying to build muscle, it's important to eat a surplus of calories.

To do that, you need to know how much calories you're burning every day.

Then calculate how much you need to eat to go over that number.

Contrary to popular belief, the more muscles you have, the higher your metabolism. That means that "skinny people have higher metabolism" is a myth.

Or at least, depending on your muscle mass.

The reason you need to eat more is so your body doesn't go into "hunger mode", which reduces muscle growth.

A rough guideline is to eat about a 500 calorie surplus every day when you're building muscle.

If you want to know exactly what your number is, our fitness experts can help you measure your body composition and plan a diet roadmap for you.

Oh, and also as a bonus, there's no such thing as "clean eating". You don't have to eat just bland, boring, tasteless food to build muscle.

4. Eat More Protein

protein

If you're really looking to grow your muscle and count your macros. Eat more protein.

Protein helps with your muscle repair. So, the more you work out and progressively increase your volume...

The more protein your body will need to repair your muscles.

For optimal muscle growth, eat roughly 0.3 grams of protein per kg of body weight per meal. And around 25 - 40 g after exercise depending on your training style.

If you're not into weighing your food, you can use apps like MyFitnessPal to track your calories and protein intake.

Some people will tell you to eat up to 1.8 g per kg of body weight.

But as the study above has shown, there is an optimal amount of protein your body would need. The rest is just excess and not as necessary.

However, you can still eat more if you're trying to hit your caloric surplus.

5. Get More Sleep

get more sleep

Finally, the most overlooked muscle building tip. Getting enough rest.

Your body needs to recover and repair. And during sleep, that's when your body releases the "growth hormone".

That's why it's important to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.

In fact, if you sleep just 5 hours per night for a week, it can have detrimental effects to your testosterone levels.

Dropping by 10 to 15%!

There's no way around it when you're trying to build muscle.

Grind hard in the gym and rest hard at night. That's if you really want to gain muscle mass fast.

And that's my 5 muscle building tips for you. Let me know what you think.

I hope this article was helpful. If you're ready to take your health and fitness seriously, we want to be a part of your journey!

Once a month we open up a 7 day slot for the public to consult our fitness experts on anything.

You will sit down with our experts and establish your goals, then they will assess you with a full body composition measurement to determine your "starting point".

After that they will give you an exercise and nutrition roadmap to help you hit your goal based on your lifestyle, commitments, and experience.

This opportunity is open to Singaporeans only. Head to this link to join the priority list to be notified when consultations are open.