Blog
07
02
2019
Personal Trainer, Liverpool Street

The Truth About Building Muscle

The Truth About Building Muscle

The holy grail of gym training is gaining lean muscle. Team JDP Fitness is here to give you the lowdown on how to do this and dispel some of the myths around building muscles. This is the truth about building muscle. 

Engaging in regular physical activity that includes strength training, endurance work and flexibility is best for overall health and wellbeing. However, many people don’t exercise just for the health benefits; they also do it to “look good”. For us, this often means adding lean muscle mass. In search for leaner, visible and “bigger” muscles, some people compromise their physical health. They suffer from injuries related to over-exercising or experience side-effects from using substances that promise quick muscle growth (e.g. steroids). Some also compromise their mental health. Studies show that those with a drive for muscularity have higher rates of body dissatisfaction, which has been linked with poor psychological adjustment, eating disorders, depression, low self-esteem, social anxiety, and other health problems. To help you out we have comprised a list of truths about building lean muscle and hopefully help to disprove some of the myths you may have heard on the gym floor. 

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In order to reduce the risk for physical and mental health problems, those wishing to add lean muscle should approach this goal with realistic expectations and use reliable information. Unfortunately, reliable information on building muscle is extremely difficult to find, especially on the Internet. Hundreds upon hundreds of websites claim to hold the key to building big muscles—usually through the purchase of a product that the site conveniently sells or through a program that is also available for purchase. Let’s face it, if these products performed as well as they claim, everyone who wanted larger muscles would have them. This is clearly not the case. What follows are four truths that science has revealed about building lean muscle.

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Truth #1: The Ability to Put on Muscle Mass is Limited

A person’s ability to put on muscle mass is limited by their genetics. Through proper training, good nutrition and adequate rest, a person can maximise their genetic potential, but they cannot exceed their genetic limitations. The fat-free mass index (FFMI)—a calculation similar to the Body Mass Index (BMI)—is used to identify the proportion of a person’s lean body weight (i.e. body weight that is not fat) in relation to their height. Studies reveal that a person cannot achieve an FFMI greater than 25-26 without using steroids.

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Not only is there a limit to overall muscle mass, but there is also a limit as to how quickly a person can add muscle. Contrary to what websites and trainers at the gym claim, it is not possible to add 10 pounds of muscle per month. Although numbers are difficult to find, one researcher claims that under ideal circumstances (good genetics, disciplined training and nutrition) a person can add no more than an ounce (28 grams) of muscle a day, which would translate into about two pounds a month. Of course, this gain cannot be sustained month after month for years. The same researcher indicates that the greatest gain in muscle mass he has recorded in an individual in a year is 18 pounds; again, under ideal circumstances and without the use of steroids.

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The bottom line: Respect your limitations and work within them. Work towards strong, healthy muscles that function well rather than big ones.

Truth #2: Challenge Your Muscles

Muscles only grow in response to being challenged. When muscles are sufficiently challenged, muscle fibres are damaged and small tears are created. As these tears get “patched up” and repaired, the muscle grows.

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The best way to challenge a muscle is to forcefully contract it against a resistance, such as through weight lifting, notice we didn’t say 300 bodyweight reps like some Instagram influencers would have you believe! To maximise results it is best to train the major muscle groups (e.g. shoulders, chest, back, arms, abs and legs) a few times a week. To find out more about weight training, consult a certified trainer like JDP Fitness. 

Truth #3:  Rest Your Muscles

Muscle growth occurs when muscles that are damaged through forceful contraction are repaired. This repair takes place when the muscle is resting. If a person continues to work a muscle that has recently been challenged, it won’t have time to repair and grow. Therefore, a muscle should not be worked two days in a row. Think of a small baby. To optimise a babies growth they not only need to eat properly but they also need to sleep for long periods of time. Important to remember, that quality of sleep will have an impact too. Nobody successful built quality lean muscle whist significantly stressed or through power naps. 

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Truth #4:  Feed Your Muscles Properly

In order for damaged muscles to repair, they require energy and the proper nutrients to build tissue. You must consume more calories in a day than you burn in order for muscles to grow The extra calories will be used to fuel muscle growth.

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There is a misconception that building muscle requires a diet that is high in protein. Most of a muscle’s weight is water (70%), whereas protein makes up 22% of its weight. A person cannot add more than about one ounce (28 grams) of muscle a day under ideal conditions, which translates into just over 6 grams (28×22%) of extra protein needed for muscle growth. This is about the amount of protein in two slices of bread or a small glass of milk. Therefore, although one needs to add some extra protein to their diet to build muscle, it doesn’t have to be a large amount. Also note, when we say a calorie surplus we mean quality calories. Anyway can be in a surplus with 4 cheeseburgers a day, but 1 you will add unnecessary body fat and again you are missing out on quality nutrients that your body needs to develop lean muscle tissue. 

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Sample Workout Template for Building Muscle

Here we have put together a simple 4 day workout split for building muscle. 

Upper Body A

Bench Press

3 sets of 6-8 reps.

2-3 minutes rest between sets.

Rows

3 sets of 6-8 reps.

2-3 minutes rest between sets.

Incline Dumbbell Press

3 sets of 8-10 reps.

1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Lat Pull-Downs

3 sets of 8-10 reps.

1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Lateral Raises

2 sets of 10-15 reps.

1 minute rest between sets.

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Triceps Pushdowns

3 sets of 10-12 reps.

1 minute rest between sets.

Dumbbell Curls

2 sets of 12-15 reps.

1 minute rest between sets.

Lower Body A

Romanian Deadlifts

3 sets of 6-8 reps.

2-3 minutes rest between sets.

Leg Press 

3 sets of 10-12 reps.

1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Seated Leg Curls

3 sets of 8-10 reps.

1-2 minutes rest between sets.

 Standing Calf Raises

4 sets of 6-8 reps.

1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Abs

4 sets of 8-15 reps.

1 minute rest between sets.

Upper Body B

Pull-Ups

3 sets of 6-8 reps.

2-3 minutes rest between sets.

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Barbell Shoulder Press

3 sets of 6-8 reps.

2-3 minutes rest between sets.

Seated Cable Row

3 sets of 8-10 reps.

1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Dumbbell Bench Press

3 sets of 8-10 reps.

1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Dumbbell Flyes

2 sets of 10-15 reps.

1 minute rest between sets.

Barbell Curls

3 sets of 10-12 reps.

1 minute rest between sets.

Skull Crushers

2 sets of 12-15 reps.

1 minute rest between sets.

Lower Body B

Squats

3 sets of 6-8 reps.

2-3 minutes rest between sets.

Split Squats 

3 sets of 8-10 reps.

1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Lying Leg Curls

3 sets of 10-12 reps.

1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Seated Calf Raises

4 sets of 10-15 reps.

1-2 minutes rest between sets.

Abs

4 sets of 8-15 reps.

1 minute rest between sets.

As you can see from the workouts, each one is focused primarily on the most effective compound exercises with just the right amount of secondary focus on isolation exercises as well.

There is also damn near perfect balance among the opposing movement patterns, and the exercises in each workout are ordered in terms of most demanding to least demanding (the exact way it should be).

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As you can also see, the intensity/rep ranges and rest intervals between sets for each exercise is exactly what it should be for building muscle, and the volume for each muscle group both per workout and per week total is all perfectly within the optimal volume range for intermediate/advanced trainees looking to build muscle mass.

So, what I’m trying to say is, all of the factors and components that work best for building muscle have been brought together perfectly in one ideal workout routine.

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As for Workout Order & Scheduling, as shown, The Muscle Building Workout Routine contains 4 different workouts. There’s 2 upper body workouts (A and B) and 2 lower body workouts (A and B).

 

author: Matt Williams

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