Before trying to build more muscle start by learning about the muscle fibers in your body and the physiology of how muscle grows. If gaining muscle is the end goal then there are many different methods and approaches in training to accomplish this. Remember that each individual is unique and what works for one individual may not work for another.
There are two ways to achieve a great muscular physique depending on where you are starting from. For instance a skinny person would be working towards a mass specific diet and training program and an overweight person would be on a calorie restricted diet to help burn off the fat to show the muscle hidden underneath. While the use of traditional methods of gaining muscle are common, there are other ways to achieve similar or better results. We discussed the different muscle fiber types in the first part of this article found here. We will now discuss how the physiology of muscle is affected through best training practices.
How Muscle Grows
Muscle fibers constantly adapt to change. Change in frequency, duration or load all activate certain muscle fibers. Muscle hypertrophy or an increase in muscle size is an example of this change.
This hypertrophic change takes place primarily due to chronic high intensity heavy resistance training such as lifting weights. With consistent resistance training, neural adaptations occur, which cause changes in the muscle size, strength and even endurance. The cross sectional area of the muscle fiber increases not the number of muscle fibers themselves. The age and sex of the person has an influencing factor in the degree of muscle growth that can occur.
Training the body with compound movements has proven to increase muscle mass faster than training individual muscles one at a time. The reason for this is compound movements activate more muscle fibers at once and create more chemical reactions in the body that are favorable to muscle growth. A full body workout always releases more anabolic hormones than isolated muscle training.
Compound movements or exercises such as bench press, squats and dead lifts activate and use multiple muscles in the body and therefore are great for overall muscular development. Other great compound exercises are power cleans, shoulder press, pull ups, and chest dips.
Using a variety of free weights and machines can achieve hypertrophy. It does not matter how weight is moved by the muscle for muscular growth. However research has shown free weights activate more muscles to be used for any given exercise.
Intensity or Volume
Different intensity and volume is used to achieve physiological changes in the muscle. If your goal is to improve muscular endurance and increase muscle mass slowly then a low to moderate intensity is used, approximately 50% to 70% of your 1 rep max. The exercise set range is between 3 – 6 sets depending on level of training experience and each set is conducted with 8 – 12 reps. Generally this method is best to maintain a lean and healthy body.
For raw muscular growth and strength heavy resistance training of at least 75% of 1 RM is required. The rep range is between 6 – 10 reps and as high a volume of sets as physically possible to achieve maximum results. In conjunction with proper training a hyper caloric diet is essential to build muscle mass.
You can use both fast and low velocities in resistance training to increases muscle cross sectional area of all muscle fiber types, However fast velocity training induces greater development of the muscle. Type IIa and Type IIb muscle fibers are greatly affected by this form of training.
Progressive overload principle must continually occur in order to induce adaptations and changes resulting in muscular hypertrophy. The progressive overload principle can be achieved in several ways. Increasing the intensity of exercise or resistance weight used whilst maintaining the same sets and reps. Upping the volume by increasing the number of sets and or reps.
Please be aware that training is not the only thing one must do to gain muscle. Good diet and nutrition are also important, and without the correct manipulation of your diet to aid in hypertrophy, one can train as hard and as long as they want without getting the desired results. To learn more about diet and exercise sign up for our online personal training program and see the difference proper training advise can make on your body.
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