Here's what we know so far:
• How to use progressive improvement to build muscle
• How to structure a nutritional plan that will optimize muscle building
Now, we need to understand the importance of rest. First of all, muscle growth doesn't happen when you're in the gym. It happens when you're resting and relaxing. It's when you're muscles aren't working that they begin the repair and rebuilding process.
Think of it this way:
1) Progressive weight training breaks down your muscle tissue;
2) Nutrition repairs and rebuilds your muscle tissue;
3) Rest and recovery facilitates the relationship between muscle breakdown and repair
Provide enough time for rest and recovery and you'll build plenty of muscle. Provide inadequate rest and recovery periods and you'll run into overtraining problems. Overtraining is a phenomenon that keeps the bodies' muscles into a constant state of breakdown. That is, the muscles never have a chance to recover. Once you start overtraining your muscles, they become at risk for negative muscle gains or worse, injury.
I can understand that for most of you, there are other activities you enjoy doing. In addition to weight training, some of you may be into running, cycling, playing baseball, playing hockey or performing other activities. The trick is to manage all of your activities in order to provide your body with the rest it needs to get stronger and build muscle. Remember, in order to build muscle you absolutely MUST improve in each of your workout (compound movements) week after week. Once you stop improving, you stop building muscle. If you truly want to build strength and add lean muscle mass, weight training will have to become the top priority. You can't serve two masters and expect results.
Let me give you a personal example of my younger, more inexperienced muscle building days. Back in the day, when I was going to school I was into all sorts of activities. On a daily basis, I was undertaking the following activities:
• Walk to and from school (1 hour)
• Lunch hour floor hockey (45 minutes)
• Weight training after school (hour and a half)
• Wind sprints and stair runs (30 minutes after weight training)
• Run cross country (1/2 hour runs)
In addition, I was playing hockey at least 4 times per week (including weekends). My sleep habits were also bad because I only got about 6 hours of sleep per night. I was breaking my body down instead of building it. I vividly remember yawning through my workouts, almost falling asleep on the bench press. The worst part is that I would push myself to try and lift more and more weight in the gym. I actually started to lose weight and muscle. I had a sever bout of over training.
Do you want to know why I stopped growing? I stretched myself too thin and didn't give priority to that activity that I truly wanted to improve upon, weight training.
Once I stopped running and cut my floor hockey out, I started to improve in the gym. Doing so gave my body a break and once I started giving my body the rest it needed, I started to build muscle. I started sleeping 8 hours each and every night and I was home by 6:00 PM instead of 9:00 PM. You can read more about how I stopped being a skinny guy here .
In order to provide your body with the rest it needs to build muscle, try keeping your workouts to under an hour and give your muscles ample time to recover from each workout. The routine described above (type of routine to build muscle) provides your body with the rest it needs in order to improve from workout to workout.
How do you know if you're over training? You'll know something's wrong once you stop improving in the gym. Low energy and strength levels are a sign that something's wrong with your program.
To maximize rest and recovery periods, try the following:
• Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night
• Try getting in 5 to 10 minute cat naps during the day, if possible
• Limit your workouts to less than one hour
• Give each muscle group at least 48 hours of rest before training them again (directly or indirectly)
• Drink a gallon of water per day
• Consume those foods that maximize recovery periods. Read more here .
Here's a tip. The faster you get your muscles on the road to recovery, the faster they'll grow. To kick start the muscle recovery process, have a high carbohydrate/protein drink immediately after your workout. In addition, have this same type of drink as soon as you wake up the morning after your workout. Why do this? Your muscles are depleted of glucose and amino acids after a hard workout. You need to get as much nutrients into your muscle cells as possible.
Here's a high carbohydrate/protein drink recipe:
Two scoops of protein powder or weight gain powder (recommended)
1 ½ cup whole milk
1 cup orange juice
Half cup of vanilla yogurt
2 tablespoons of honey
5 ice cubes
5 grams of creatine
Mix everything in a blender until smooth.
For a complete discussion on rest and recovery methods, please see our section entitled beginners guide to rest and recovery .
After reading this guide, you now have a basic understanding of how the muscle building process works. In addition, you can understand just how simple the process is:
1) Improve from workout to workout using varying improvement methods (as above, How to build muscle with progressive improvement).
2) Provide the body with a surplus of nutrients (calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat) to repair and rebuild the body
3) Facilitate the repair and rebuild process by providing adequate rest and recovery periods
Once you start improving and gaining a better understanding of your body you can start using more advanced techniques that will stimulate further muscle growth. These techniques include super sets , giant sets , 21's and circuits (among others).
It's now up to you to put this knowledge into action.
Please keep in mind, that building muscle is a physiological process. However, each of us is different and will respond differently based on our bodies' make up. Age, gender, activity levels, and body type will all play a role in determining how we respond to weight training and building muscle. For example, someone who has an endomorph body type (heavy bone structure) will respond differently to someone who has an ectomorph body type (light bone structure) following the same type of muscle building program. An endomorph body type may have different dietary requirements in order to build muscle as opposed to an ectomorph body type.
We are all different and no two bodies are built exactly the same each requires a slightly different approach to weight training and diet. The trick is to figure out which body type you are and use a more custom approach.
We have a dedicated page for body type training and I suggest you take a look at the page at:
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Good luck and all the best,
Building Muscle 101
As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.
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