Are you eager to gain more muscle?
To emphasize it directly at the beginning – you have to DO something. This is not about taking drugs and sit on the sofa to gain muscles. So I assume, that you are working out as a prerequisite. But after you left from the gym or you have ended your training at home, it’s also very important what you do afterwards to gain muscle. The thing is you actually destroy muscle-fiber, when you are working out. Remember the pain when you do your very last repetition – the pain? Or someone in the gym screaming while doing their latest rep – for the same reason. The growth you see while you are working out is actually coming from the increase of blood flow through your muscle, which needs more energy for the strain.
To grow your muscle, it has to be repaired, while you rest or in your sleep. So it’s almost more important, that you take responsibility for the “repair time” to be optimal, to allow you further workouts and putting more iron on. Below you will find the best tips to grow the muscle permanently – not only while the “pump session” :
1. Cardio only to warm up
Stop your cardio if you are not on fat reduction, like body-builders in their “on season”. The amount of calories you burn while doing cardio is relevant, but only WHILE you are doing cardio. When you stop the effect is gone. This “mechanism” doesn’t count when you are doing push-ups. When you are doing the “pumping iron” the effect on the body is different. The body has more to do, repairing the used muscles, so this takes more energy and in the long run reduces you fat level. So to warm up, it’s good to use the treadmill or similar for about 10-15 minutes. Afterwards, please prefer to train you muscles and don’t do aerobics anymore. In case you are “the runner type” or it’s too hot in the gym in the summer – you can switch to track and field training with sprint intervals (warming up with medium jogging + 30 seconds sprint + light job of 2 min + 1 minute sprint + etc. for around 30 minutes). In the summer it’s a good exercise to get out into nature and catch some fresh air. During that season I prefer mountain biking, kayaking or Track and field for 3 times a week.
2. Switch sometimes back to Full Body Workouts
The typical beginner in the fitness community starts with full body workout, and after a while – mostly 3 month – the trainer starts with a split-program. The split-program contains single muscle groups or the split is done into upper and lower body. The best idea is always NOT to isolate single muscle groups, but to train the whole body-part. This is one of the reason, why I recommend to use single dumbbells and not machines. You have to learn the movement, yes – but on the machine a wrong movement is nearly not possible, on the other hand it isolates your main muscles from the “helping muscles”, which have to be trained, too. So actually you move more muscle and get a better coordination, when you train with free weights. The reason, why beginners shouldn`’t train with free weights is, that learning of the correct move takes time, but the trainers in the gym have lots of people to watch, so they send the beginners to the machines. A sign of bad or cheap service, but it’s used all over the place. Best is to join the gym with a friend and the trainer should train both at first an later come every now and then to check the results. Most trainers doesn’t have a problem with this approach, and it helps you gain more muscle, than training isolated in a machine. You can gain more if you concentrate on komplex workouts on big muscle groups, like when you do squats(legs and lower back), deadlifts (lower back) or presses (shoulder and/or chest) or pull-ups (all upper body muscle groups).
3. You need more food intake (especially for the skinny guys)
If you are very conscious of food, you are used to read the very small food labels. Please be now aware to put in more (good) calories. Lots of skinny guys complain “we train like mad, but we don’t put on any more muscle” – that’s the reason, why. Skinny people have a naturally higher metabolic rate at rest, that means, that they need more energy (=calories) even if they sit on their couch, watching TV. So their body also burns more energy while working out then others – and the worst is, to eat the same stuff. As a result, they burn their few fat and look more skinny – all in all they may increase their definition like crazy, but they have to give up gaining muscle due to frustration “I will never have big muscles *buhuhuu*”.
They have to eat more, I mean reeeaaalllyy more – start with an extra of 500 calories and check your hungry feeling after the workout. Normally an intake of 1000 calories (daily!) for 4 weeks will take no harm for them. In this case their muscles have something to “convert”. Also helpful would be to support this eating diet with about one gram of protein per pound of body weight each day. From my experience as a fitness coach I can tell you it works – but lots of people are afraid of their additional meal each day. Yep, even eating can be a burden, not only working out.
And be aware – in case you are injured, you have to immediately stop eating that much (also not easy!!) and if you are over 40 and still skinny (congrats!), please start with 500 calories extra. With the years, your metabolism slow down alittle and doesn’t need that much anymore.
4. Take in More Protein
As important as correct movements of the exercise is a protein rich food intake. During the training you burn mostly carbohydrates. After you’ve left the gym, the reparation process of the muscles begins, and for that the body needs protein. The problem is, that the food processing needs also time, before it’s in your blood and at the muscles fibers. For whatever reason lots of fitness enthusiasts take ALL their protein in one shake directly before working out. But, what those “experts” doesn’t take into account is, that the processing in the stomach is not done in parallel to their 1 hour of training.
A better way to feed your muscle would be to eat a protein rich meal approximately 2 hours before the training. You can expect, that the average protein processing is about every 3 hours approx. 30 gr of protein. This is the quantity the body can easily process during that time, so you don’t need to gulp you 120 gr down in one go – take your time and drink it throughout the day. The exact amount of intake varies with the person, so you better start with 30gr/3h unless you have more detailed insights about your own body. After a while you get a better feeling about your personal resorption time and you can adjust your protein consumption accordingl – this know-how about your body are part of the fitness idea – to be more aware about your body .
In some fitness videos or in the gym you see some professionals drinking honey in between their resting minute to provide quick energy to their muscle, but this not needed for a normal gym visitor. It’s another thing, when you spend some hours per day in the gym like Kay Green – and even he prefers to eat every 2 hours a protein rich meal. If you have no energy during your workout you have to sleep more, take more time to rest (not more than 4 sessions per week) or mix a 30gr protein with 60gr of carbs as a shake throughout or pre-workout. That should keep your energy level high enough for your time in the gym.
The amount of raw protein is about 1.5 gr per pound of body weight up to 2 gr of protein. Depending on the situation. For a growth period it’s better to take 2 gr., if you are on one of the plateaus, where no progress is visible for weeks or you want to keep your muscle during off season, you can reduce to 1.5 grams.
5. Don’t underestimate the time you need to rest and recover
7 – 8 hours of daily sleep seems to be the best, but this is also very personal. The best is, that your body gets up by itself without alarm clock, when it had enough sleep. Unfortunately due to our lifestyle this is not always possible. So to measure the time of recovery from a hard workout, just go to sleep – even it’s 10 pm and you are not a little sleepy. You will wake up the next morning and you will realize how fit you are. Do this a couple of times, say 3-4 times and write down the time as you woke up complete awake and recovered – Ok, the sore muscle will NOT go away over night. The body is still in repair mode, but that’s good – you have your experience and your result.
This is the time to recover – the time to rest is classical 1 day strain – 1 day off. If you are in or near competition it’s like 1 day training and 1 day running/cardio.
At last but not least – please be aware that stress in your business life can harm your fitness level due to a higher level of cortisol, but this is another blog entry.