Training for muscle growth
If you’re looking to build muscle, there are three key elements you’ll be focussing on - training, supplements and diet.
Here we look at training, with some top tips for bulking up.
- Heavier weights, lower reps - the process of building muscle is actually a recovery process. Weight training breaks down the fibres in the muscle, and as they recover, they grow. Using heavier weights helps that process. Typically for muscle building, you want to train to failure, meaning that you can only just get the reps out. Aim for a weight that allows you to do 5-10 reps. Take a 60-90 break between sets and complete three sets.
- Less cardio - cardiovascular exercise (such as running, cycling, walking - anything that causes you to breath more heavily) burns too many calories for most muscle builders. Many avoid it altogether because it runs the risk of burning the muscle they’re working so hard to build. If you love your running, you could get away with one session a week but you don’t need it, and serious builders usually drop all cardio.
- Weights not resistance bands. Resistance bands can give you a great workout - if you’re looking to tone or maintain. But for building, it really needs to be weights. You can use machines, or hand-held weights, both are just as good.
- Body group splits - when you’re training for muscle growth, it’s best stick to the same muscle group in each training session. A good way to split your training is quads, glutes/hamstrings, shoulders, back, arms. Do one muscle group per session and then ensure each group gets a rest while you train the others. And don’t forget that all important total rest day - it’s essential when working with heavier weights, to give the body time to recover, ready for the following week’s work.
Supplements for muscle
Building muscle comes from a combination of training, supplements and diet. Supplements do two jobs in helping to build muscle:
They help you get the most from your body during your workout, so you can push yourself that little bit harder
They enhance recovery - and it is recovery from training that actually strengthens and builds the muscle.
Here we look at four supplements that can help you achieve your muscle goals.
- Creatine - creatine helps to supply the energy a muscle needs to contract, so it improves your power when lifting heavier weights. Taken before a workout, it will help you work harder for longer.
- Caffeine - for an energy boost to keep you training for longer, take caffeine around 20-30 minutes before training.
- Taurine- is an amino acid that helps with the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide improves blood flow to the muscles. It can give you a better pump in the gym and help with recovery. Take your taurine supplement 20-30 minutes before training.
Protein - Protein is essential for tissue growth and repair. Since muscle growth happens during recovery from training, taking a protein shake within half an hour of your workout will help you build.
It’s worth getting to know your supplements and how they help your body to work harder, train for longer and recover faster. They are an essential part of any serious muscle building regime.
Diet and eating for muscle growth
‘Abs are made in the kitchen’ goes the saying - and it is true that no matter what you do in the gym, or what supplements you take, if you’re not eating for muscle growth, you’re undermining all your hard work.
The simple maths is - if you are to build muscle, you need a calories surplus. You need to be eating more that your body would normally require, so that you have something left over to ‘feed’ the muscle growth.
For building muscle, you’ll want to be getting a high proportion of those calories from protein. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a daily intake of 1.4 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. So if you start out at 80kg, you’ll be aiming for 112 grams of protein. Spread out your intake throughout the day - a good goal is for every meal to include some form of protein.
Protein is the essential building block for muscle growth. But it’s not the only key nutrient to think about. It is also important to include the right amount of fats and carbs in your diet. High carb meals taken before and after training can improve your workout. Focus particularly on the low glycaemic index (GI) carbs - that is, the ones that are released into your bloodstream more slowly. They include rice, oats, sweet potato, rice cakes.
Healthy fats support a whole range of body functions including building cells, and muscle movement. Do don’t forget to incorporate them into your diet as well - in the form of avocado, fish, oil, egg yolks, nut butters, nuts.
Support your workouts and supps with a diet designed for muscle growth, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your muscle building goals.