So everyone has seen the guy at the gym who is always there, rain or shine. We’ll call him Jeff. So Jeff works out 5 days a week, and he’s been there for years. Jeff’s the guy who comes up to you and says “Bro, I just added another 5 pounds on my bench max.” Next week he’s angry because he can’t repeat the motion. Jeff puts the effort in at the gym, but it seems like his muscles just aren’t growing and his weight’s have been on the same plateau for years. So what makes muscles grow? The question that leaves all those gym rats confused in a daze.
Now I know that we all don’t want to end up like Jeff. Most of us have come to the realization that building muscle is a slow and hard task, one that needs tons of patience and consistency. Even the beginners who have dreams of building a hulking body in 3 months start to see reality after their first month of training.
Now what’s the worst thing that could happen to us? WE ALL know that the worst thing would be to put the effort in and see no results. The worst thing that could happen is Jeff. Because at this point all the effort we put into working out had no point. We might as well have just sat on a couch.
So why did Jeff no grow muscle? He following the code of hitting the gym consistently, but where did he go wrong? To make sure we all don’t end up being Jeff, here is what you need to do.
I believe that there are 2 main topics to go over when talking about what makes muscle grow:
- Step 1: understand what you need to do during workouts to make the muscles grow.
- Step 2: find out what the muscle needs to repair, and finally, what not to do. Because, you know, we don’t want to end up like Jeff.
What you need to do during workouts
In order to get those strength gains that you crave, the most important thing to do is exercise properly. There is no point in eating tons of protein if you aren’t tearing down the muscle fibers.
So let’s talk about what a muscle is first. It’s what makes you limbs usable, and as humans, we have strong control over how much muscle we recruit. Did you know that a gorilla has grip strength that is easily 3 times stronger than a human, yet there arms are about the same size?
Why is a gorilla is so much stronger?
The reason is that they have a stronger neural connection to the muscle, which allows them to contract with a much greater force. The downside to this is that gorillas can’t do delicate things like humans, such as origami or cutting a steak.
So in order for us the gain muscle, the first step is to be able to lift heavier. When we lift heavy, we increase neural connection, which allows for more of the muscle to be utilized. (Don’t worry, you won’t lose your delicate skills either, but you’ll never reach gorilla level strength!) Once you lift heavier than before, gaining muscle gets easier as well. As Ronnie Coleman says, “Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights”.
Now in order for your muscles to actually grow in size, the thing needed is called hypertrophy.
To gain muscle mass, the best way to go is to do a higher rep range. I guarantee that you will gain muscle faster if you go heavy for a while, and then work in a higher rep range. A guy doing a bench of 95 for 10 reps won’t make the gains of a man doing 185 for 10 reps.
This means that you have to up the volume of your workouts. Make sure you do lots of sets, and keep going in a higher rep range until you get that massive pump. The trick to keeping that pump and increasing muscular hypertrophy is to keep the intensity high.
So remember Jeff, the guy who comes in 5 days a week and doesn’t get larger? The one asking, “Uhhh what makes muscles grow?” Yea, he never broke a sweat at the gym. He was too busy talking about his 5 pound max rep gain to workout with intensity. Now think about the guy next to him, 40 pounds heavier and grunting like a bear, and sweat pooling up at his feet. That’s intensity.
One huge thing to not forget is that intensity will start to wane if you do the same movement for a long period of time. Change it up once in awhile, and do an incline bench press, a decline, or some dumbbell flyers. Do sumo dead lifts, Romanian dead lifts, Good morning squats. Just find a new exercise to master and add to your library catalogue of exercises in your head. Variation increases gains. Period.
How to Grow Muscle
Now that you’ve gotten yourself a good workout schedule that keep up with intensity, variation, and weight, we can talk about muscle repair. At this point our friend Jeff can be seen at the gym doing that same chest workout since day one. Let’s not be Jeff. Now that variety and intensity has got your muscles burning after every workout, the pain is real. How do you recover?
The first thing to do is not to work out the same bicep muscle twice a day. I mean, how do you expect it to grow if it keeps getting torn up before healing? Make sure to workout hard enough that you experience muscle soreness and do each muscle group 3 times a week. So there are a lot of theories on how much protein your muscle needs to grow. The thing is, there is a crazy variety out there, so here my theory. I think it’s great. I called it “eat if it doesn’t hurt ya”. There have been tons of research on optimal amounts of protein, but only a few that shows what happens when you have too much.
Essentially eating around 0.8grams to 1 grams per pound of bodyweight is a great target. The only I will say differently than all the other fitness websites is to consider not eating too much more than a gram per Pound of bodyweight. After going above 1.1 grams per pound bodyweight, it was shown that it can start taking a toll on your kidneys! Yikes!
So before you go out on a 400 gram protein diet, just wikipedia Rabbit Starvation. It’s interesting stuff.
So we covered protein, which is what all bro’s will say is the best and only thing muscle needs. Now let’s talk about something that is almost just as important. It’s called water. You want big muscles right? Well did you know that muscles are composed of around 70% water? It’s an insane amount, and you must be crazy if you want big muscles and don’t keep yourself hydrated!
So why is staying hydrated important? Dehydrated muscles can cause a couple of major problems. The first problem is having muscles not have that full look. The other problem is that your strength can decrease when you muscles are dehydrated. That would make it virtually impossible for you to have strong intensity at the gym. Water is extremely important for waste, digestion and other metabolic actions. Your kidney’s will strain, especially since you’re probably already giving them a ton of work from excessive protein. To keep the body running smoothly keep hydrated. Here’s some more info on Hydration.
Hydration When Building Muscle
So what should you do? They typically recommend drinking about 8 8-ounce glasses a day. We are not the typical person. We exercise and we sweat a lot. I think we should consider at least 80-90 ounces a day, and strive for a gallon if you can. Here’s my rule. If you feel thirsty, you are already too late, and your body needs more water so up your intake!
Sleep And Rest
Now let’s talk rest. I know that we all have busy lives. Watch this video to see what I think about people with busy lives, family and commitments. Put yourself first, or you won’t be the best self you can be!
So no matter what is getting in your way, always remember that enough sleep keeps you healthy, well spirited, and strong! It’s always a questions of how much sleep you should be getting everyday. The answer is probably at least 6:30 hours a day. I think it’s a good number to be getting, since that gets you around 4 Rem cycles.
There is a lot of debate, and lots of people require different amounts of sleep, I think that if you wake up feeling great, then you probably got enough sleep! If you start crashing near the end of the day, like around 4:00p.m.-6:00p.m., then consider that fact that you probably didn’t get enough sleep and adjust by half an hour until you get a great sleep routine going. Sleep well and get great gains!
So we feel like we are doing the above and it’s not working? The first thing is to think realistically. Has it even been a month yet? It takes months and years to see the results that you really crave. But beware, there are a couple things that can hinder muscle growth in a disappointing way.
Still not working?
It it’s not working it’s essentially a lack of any of the above. Not getting all of these things can slow growth down, and it might not be optimal. Not impossible, but why make it harder on yourself? I like to think of my body as a large equation, where missing one thing can affects the other parts slightly or significantly. For instance, dehydration can make you weaker, smaller, and lower intensity. It’s almost like a chain reaction, since your body is just one giant combination of reactions.
Everyone is different, so each change to the equation will have different results on your body. So watch what you put into it, and experiment until what you input is giving you the best output! Now you know what makes muscles grow!