5 important steps to muscle building – which you can easily check off at home
- To build muscle, you should develop a consistent strength training program and eat a high protein diet.
- Building and maintaining muscle mass can have many health benefits – it can reduce your risk of heart disease, help you lose weight, and even help you live longer.
- You don’t even have to go to the gym to build muscle, as home workout exercises like pushups, squats, and planks are safe and effective ways to improve strength.
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Even if you do not plan to become a bodybuilder, it is important that you pursue muscle-strengthening activities throughout your life.
"We lose muscle as we age," says Allison Jackson, a New Jersey-based personal trainer certified by the U.S. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). "Building muscle prevents injury and ensures that we don’t become frail and immobile as we age. It’s also important for everyday functional movements like gardening or heaving luggage into your trunk."
Building and maintaining muscle mass can also improve your mental health, boost your confidence and help you perform many daily activities with less stress, whether it’s climbing stairs or carrying groceries. To effectively build muscle, you need to stick to a specific strength training program, give your body enough time to rest and recover, and change your diet to a healthy one that’s high in protein. Here’s how.
1. Put together your workout plan
At first glance, it looks like there are millions of different workout plans to choose from. That’s why it’s important to think about what you want to achieve by building muscle in the first place. "Are you building muscle to compete, avoid injury, or to reach your personal goal?? "If you outline your ‘why,’ you’ll get closer to your goal," Jackson says.
It is also advisable to choose a training plan that you are sure you will have enough time for. "Consistency is everything in fitness," says physician and NASM-certified personal trainer Alex Robles. "Find a program you can realistically commit to."
Start your workouts at a low intensity, says Linda S. Pescatello, PhD, professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut. Especially if you have a chronic condition, it can be helpful to consult a doctor or personal trainer to create a customized workout plan. But otherwise, there are plenty of simple exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home to build muscle safely and effectively.
Building your arm, chest and back muscles is important because you need them for everyday movements like pulling, pushing, lifting and reaching. "People with office jobs will have less trouble being hunched over a desk all day if the back muscles are engaged," Jackson says.
The following exercises can help you build your upper body muscles:
- Lift weights
- Use resistance bands
Lower body workouts
"Definitely don’t skip leg day. It’s just as important to build your lower-body muscles, especially if you spend most of the day sitting, Jackson says.
Strengthening leg muscles improves your balance and flexibility. ‘It preserves your ability to squat or safely pick things up off the floor,’ Robles says.
Here come some exercises that can help you strengthen your lower body muscles:
Having strong abs "is the foundation for everything," Robles says. "It keeps you upright while walking, carrying groceries and lifting your toddlers. In addition, it helps you stand up from a seated or lying position."
When working on your abs, Jackson advises you to focus on quality over quantity. These are some of the exercises that can help you build your abs:
- Sit-ups or crunches
- Bike crunches
Home workouts to build muscle
If you want to have a home workout that builds all the muscles in your body, Jackson recommends the following workout routine:Squats (10 each)
1. Squats (10 of them)
2. Push-ups (10 of them)
3. Wall sit (30 to 45 seconds)
4. Planks (30 to 45 seconds)
5. Lunge (10 reps)
6. Dips from a couch or chair (10 repetitions)
7. Crunches (repetitions)
2. Allow yourself time to rest and recover
It’s important to take rest days to give your muscles time to regenerate and recover. Exercise causes small tears in muscle tissue. When you rest, those tears are repaired by cells. These are called fibroblasts and help your muscles grow and get stronger.
"Rest days are actually the days when your muscles build," Jackson says. She recommends getting at least 24 to 48 hours of rest per body area. So if you work your arms today, continue with your leg muscles tomorrow. Muscle soreness is a common side effect of exercise. It is not a must, however, and there are some ways to ease the pain. "You don’t have to feel a burn to make progress," says Pescatello.
Try the following to avoid muscle soreness:
- Warming up and stretching properly before a workout can loosen up your muscles, Jackson says.
- Using a foam roller can also help you recover quickly after a workout because it hydrates your muscles.
- Consistency is the most important factor, Robles says. If you exercise regularly over a long period of time, the soreness will subside after a while.
3. Eat right
"A healthy diet is a major contributor to muscle development. "Protein is especially important here because it’s made up of amino acids, which are the ‘building blocks’ of protein in your muscles," says Nancy Rodriguez, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut. To increase muscle mass if you lift weights regularly, your daily protein intake should be 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.
What you should eat before a muscle building workout
Robles recommends eating fast-digesting carbohydrates about an hour before your workout, as they will give you a boost of energy without weighing you down.
The best foods you should eat before your workout are:
- Whole grain products such as brown rice or whole wheat breads
- Unsweetened yogurt
What you should eat after your workout
After a workout, Rodriguez recommends eating protein-rich foods to aid in muscle recovery. You should eat within an hour of training, says Robles.
The best foods you should eat after a workout are:
- Protein shakes
4. Try nutritional supplements
There are many different supplements, such as creatine or whey protein powder, that can help you build muscle in addition to a strong training and nutrition plan. "Anyone who struggles to consume an adequate amount of protein on a daily basis would benefit from protein powders," Robles says.
In addition, research has shown that creatine, a substance that occurs naturally in muscle cells, can be safely taken before or after a workout to improve your performance and muscle health.
Jackson suggests doing some research to find reputable supplements for muscle building, or talking to a fitness expert to try supplements that might be good for you. "I recommend taking samples to see how your body responds afterwards," she says.
5. Stay consistent and stick to a plan
A plan is essential for effective muscle building. "You have to give your body a real stimulus that progresses over time," Robles says. "If you do not have a plan, this will lead to mediocre results."
If you stick to your plan, you can see results after just six weeks of strength training, Robles says. To stay consistent and hold yourself accountable, Jackson and Robles provide the following tips:
- Start small. "A 20-minute workout is better than nothing," Robles says. "Start slow and make your workouts easy on yourself. The more you do it, the weirder it will feel if you don’t exercise."
- Keep track of what you eat to make sure it’s the right foods in the right amounts for your goals, Jackson says.
- Always remember why you’re building your muscles, and attribute it to an emotional reason rather than a logical one, Robles says. "The more specific you make your argument, the more likely you are to stick with it."
What the research says
Research has shown that building and maintaining muscle can have many health benefits:
- It can reduce the risk of chronic diseases. A large 2019 study of adults 45 and older found a link between low muscle mass and increased risk of heart disease, especially in men. Based on participants’ medical information over a 10-year period, researchers found that the men with the highest volume of muscle tissue had an 81% lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- It fights the muscle loss that comes with aging. A small 2013 study of people aged 88 to 96 found that those who did strength training twice a week over a 12-week period had an improved sense of balance and a low susceptibility to falls. "For older people, it’s safe and important to include strength training," Jackson says. "Even simple bodyweight exercises like squats, pushups and dips can help build strength and muscle."
- It prevents insulin resistance. Building muscle can help prevent insulin resistance, a condition that often leads to type 2 diabetes. A large 2011 study found that those with higher muscle mass relative to their body size had better insulin sensitivity. "Muscle tissue can also help regulate blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for people with diabetes," Robles says.
- It can help you lose weight. Muscle building increases your resting metabolism, which helps you lose weight even if you are inactive. In 2014, a small study of healthy, middle-aged men and women completed 96 strength-training sessions over a nine-month period. Their resting metabolic rate increased by about 5%. "Muscle at rest burns calories, but fat at rest doesn’t," Jackson says. "This means that you will improve your metabolism by adding muscle to your body." This will help you burn more calories overall and prevent weight gain.
- It can extend your life. According to a major 2018 study, people with low muscle strength are 50% more likely to die prematurely than those with more muscle mass. The study found that lower normalized grip strength – a common measure of muscle weakness – was associated with a higher risk of diabetes, hypertension and physical disability in U.S. and Chinese adults.
"Everyone can benefit from having more lean muscle tissue," Robles says. "It can improve your metabolic health, aesthetics, mental health and self-confidence."
If you want to build muscle, patience and consistency are key, Jackson says. "If you really want to change your body, take control of your diet and start strength training," she says. "You will be surprised by the results."
This article was translated from English and edited by Elias Holdenried. You can read the original here.