Benefits of Building Lean Muscle
There are many reasons to build lean muscle, in most cases it’s just to look aesthetically pleasing however their are many different reasons as to why you should build lean mass including:
- Strengthening your bones
- Boosting your metabolism aiding in fat loss
- Pumping up your natural testosterone levels
- Sharpening your central nervous system
- Improving your all-round cardiovascular health due to strengthening the limbs making life easier on your heart
So as you can see, getting bigger and stronger isn’t just for men that want to look big, it can aid a variety of individuals in their fitness goals.
Step 1. Training
The best and most efficient way of building lean mass is resistance/weight training. By lifting heavy amounts of resistance you cause microtears in the muscle fibres. Your body proceeds to respond to this by repairing the muscle and adding extra muscle to prevent it from happening again. Following a good nutrition plan (to feed the muscles) and training programme can result in rapid muscle growth.
There are many forms of training an individual can undertake and which form of training that works best can vary from person to person. Now there are two forms of muscle growth that can be accomplished, Myofibrillar Hypertrophy and Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy. Both forms of Hypertrophy build bigger muscles however they do so differently.
Step 2. Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy or Myofibrillar Hypertrophy?
This form of hypertrophy increases the sarcoplasmic muscle cells, making your muscles look more full as well as slightly increasing your strength. This is the quickest way of growing muscle however it’s also the quickest and easiest to lose should you take time away from your nutrition and training. It’s also not the most optimal way of training if you’re looking to focus on increasing your strength.
This style of training focuses more on the strength increase as contractile proteins increase in number adding to muscular strength. Myofibrillar Hypertrophy does take longer to increase muscle mass as the size gain is smaller however muscle loss is far less likely should you choose to take time away from the gym and your nutrition. This is the optimal way of building up your strength but is a slower process for building up size.
Myofibrillar or Sarcoplasmic?
If you’re looking to get big muscles quick I would train the Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy using Advanced Training Techniques such as supersets, dropsets, rest pauses etc and aiming for a 6-12 rep range..
If you’re looking to build up your strength I would suggest to train in compound movements with heavy weights aiming for a 1-5 rep range with longer rest periods allowing you to lift as heavy as you can which focuses on Myofibrillar Hypertrophy.
If you’re looking for the very best results however, I would switch between both forms of hypertrophy every 4-8 weeks allowing you to get the best of both or even incorporating both forms of hypertrophy in your routines by using Techniques like Pyramid Sets in you training.
Step 3. Nutrition
Of course one of the key components to building lean mass is your diet and nutrition and no matter what you do in the gym, without a nutrition plan accompanying your training you will yield no results or may even set yourself back from your goals.
Your body will undergo hard and vigorous training frequently and therefore needs to be fed and getting rest.
The very basic way of setting a good nutrition plan for building lean mass is simple. Take your daily maintenance caloric intake and add 200-500 calories. Do not exceed this calorie goal as it can result in a lot of fat gain which isn’t ideal. By sticking to this calorie goal you will more than likely gain muscle without the fat however you have to keep an eye on your body week to week. If you notice you’re getting a little chubbier maybe minus 100 calories and try that for a few weeks. If you’re gaining strength and size but no fat, then you’ve got it spot on, keep it up. However you may not gain any mass and might even look smaller, in which case you need to increase your calories by an extra 100. You have to experiment and see what works for you understanding that in order to build mass you have to be in a caloric surplus.
Now this doesn’t mean you get to eat unhealthy or junk food. Your foods still need to be full of nutrients and are as natural as you can find. Try to steer away from refined foods and stick to whole foods. By doing this you’ll surely hit your Macro Goals (Carbs, Fats, Protein) which is essential for building lean muscle. This also doesn’t mean you have to scrap junk food forever, you can still eat junk food and go out for drinks on the weekend, just ensure that the frequency of you consuming bad foods is low. Remember your body is going to resemble what you do consistently and frequently, so the odd chocolate bar or meal out is okay.
Step 4. Rest and Recovery
While weight training is necessary to gain muscle, an equally important part of muscle growth is rest. You have to remember that your muscles are repairing during a resting state which means you have to ensure you get enough of it. If you don’t give your body enough rest during weeks, months and years of heavy lifting, you can become demotivated and can even reduce muscle mass due to the release of the stress hormone known as cortisol (commonly known as the main source of catabolism) which has also been linked to increasing fat storage.
Ensure you’re getting a good 8 hours of solid sleep every night followed by 2-4 rest/recovery days per week for optimal recovery. After training for 8 weeks give yourself a week of lighter weights and higher reps or even a week away from weight training to allow your muscles to repair and recover which will ready your body for the following weeks of heavy lifting. It’s also worth mentioning that you should only train each muscle group 1-2 times per week to allow recovery using a body split programme.
Step 5. Consistency
The final step that most people struggle with is consistency. You have to keep it going. You will not achieve your fitness goals in a day, a week or even a month. It can take years of dedication dependant on your goals but you have to keep going, keep moving forward.
There will be times where you may not notice results one week or you’re not having a good week and you think about taking time off or skipping a workout. This is not the way forward, you have to push through the hard times and keep going and stay consistent to achieve your goal no matter how easy it might be to give up. It will be hard at times but the results of your hard work will show and it will feel incredible.
- Train hard with heavy weights
- Choose the right training programme for your specific goals
- Use a good nutrition plan to combine with your training
- Ensure you getting a good amount of rest and recovery
- Stay consistent
I hope this helps anyone who has had unanswered questions or is considering to build lean mass.