Regardless of your gender, age or genetics, anyone can tone and build muscle.
The human body is a beautiful and resilient machine that will constantly grow and repair given the right conditions. That is, given the right stimuli the body will do what it does best by adapting and growing which, if done on a consistent basis will get stronger and build progressively more muscle mass.
There are no secrets, powders or potions that will magically build muscle. When you get right down to it, the entire process comes down to a few basic fundamentals that when done in the right manner will continuously build more and more muscle mass over time. If you can understand and implement the basic muscle building process, you will come to understand just how powerful the human body can be.
In order to start the muscle building journey, one must learn the basic fundamentals. The fundamentals will lay the foundation and allow you to build the kind of body you’ve always wanted. Knowledge is power and the more you educate yourself about the basic muscle building process, the better prepared you will be for your fitness program.
With that in mind I want to take you, the beginner to building muscle through the entire process. This will be a step by step guide that will help you attain the necessary knowledge that will allow you to build and implement your own personal muscle building program. We will examine the muscle building process and how to construct an optimized muscle building program.
As with anything, before you get good at something you need to learn and understand about what it is you want to achieve. I’ve decided to break this guide into sections. Each section will describe each point of the muscle building process which, at the end will allow you to combine those sections into a complete program.
This beginners guide to building muscle is meant for those of you who have been weight training consistently for at least 4 months.
If you are a complete beginner to weight training, please go to our beginner’s weight training program here.
If you are interested in gaining weight fast, please see our beginners guide to gaining weight here.
It is critical that you understand how the muscle building process works before attempting a muscle building program. The guide is as follows:
Given the right conditions, the human body has the potential to be a growth machine.
It has the unique ability to adapt to all types of stimuli that will allow it to become more enduring, faster, and stronger. When it comes to building muscle, the body must first become stronger. The only way the body becomes stronger is if it is challenged on a consistent basis with progressive resistance. The reason it must be progressive resistance is because the body is a master at adapting. It will adapt, sooner or later to just about any type of stimuli that it encounters. Once it adapts, it will go into a state of equilibrium at which point, it will stay there until the resistance either stops (which the body will become weaker) or progresses to a higher level of bodily distress (which the body will become stronger).
Body stress is a term that describes external stimuli, such as weight training that puts the body under a certain amount of stress for a certain period of time. However, when it comes to the human body, it doesn’t differentiate between lifting weights or cutting wood (or other activities), all it knows is that it is under stress and will adapt to this stress by getting stronger, over time.
There are a few ways to introduce progressive resistance to the body but one of the best methods is through progressive weight training. The best thing about progressive weight training is that it will allow you the opportunity to get stronger over a certain period of time, at your own pace. Even if you’re a complete beginner to building muscle, weight training will allow you the opportunity to grow at the onset of your program.
There are certain advantages to using progressive weight training and some of the more important elements are as follows:
As previously mentioned, to build muscle the body needs to adapt to progressive levels of stress (which is often called “intensity”). This is always done in stages and depending on your fitness levels, will take shorter or longer periods of time. Think of progressive weight training as the “why” your muscles grow when using weight training.
Let’s use an example to illustrate this point.
Let’s say I do 8 easy repetitions in the bench press using 125 pounds on week 1 using 60% of my all-out effort. I know that my body has enough muscle mass and strength to perform 8 unassisted and easy repetitions. This is my bodies’ equilibrium point and there is no reason to adapt because I can perform 8 repetitions with 125 pounds. Now, suppose on week two, I decide to do perform the same 8 repetitions but instead of using 125 pounds, I decide to use 150 pounds. In addition, I barely manage to perform 6 repetitions using 80% of my all-out effort.
What do you think is happening to my body?
My body has been introduced to a higher level of stress (heavier weight) which causes it to work at a higher performance level (work harder). It is no longer at equilibrium. In order to reach its new equilibrium, my body will have to adapt to the higher level of stress by getting stronger. Provided that my diet and rest habits are sound, my body will respond to this new threat by building new proteins around the damaged muscle fibres and therefore, build additional muscle mass. It does this in order to adapt and reach a new level of equilibrium. So, the following week my body will have repaired and rebuilt itself in order to handle the new level of stress.
Let’s say when I return to the gym the following week, I manage to complete 10 unassisted repetitions with 150 pounds. The week before, I was barely able to complete 6 repetitions, what happened? In essence, my body has adapted to the new stress levels by getting stronger which has put my body in a much better position to perform additional repetitions.
What do you think happens when I return to the gym the following week but instead of using 150 pounds, I use 175 pounds? Again, my body must work at a higher level of performance in order to handle the new stress levels. It will once again try and get to place of equilibrium and adapt.
Additional unassisted repetitions using the same or additional weight will translate into muscle growth over time. There is a direct relationship between the strength of a muscle and its size. All things being equal, a stronger muscle will always translate into a bigger muscle. Remember, muscles have to get stronger before they get bigger (And never bigger before they get stronger).
Think of it this way. Let’s say I build a deck that can handle the weight of 10 people. The deck is stable and solid up until the 11 th person steps onto the deck at which point, it starts to get wobbly. When the 12 th person steps onto the deck it becomes very shaky.
In order to handle the additional weight, I will have to add more support at the foundational level which means a bigger and stronger deck. This means more adding more wood, concrete, joints and other construction materials to add strength and support. After repairing and rebuilding the foundation, the deck can now handle 20 people. The deck is now bigger and stronger.
This is a rough example of how the body handles more stress; it will repair and rebuild in order to get stronger and bigger to handle additional loads.
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.