The most common questions about building muscle
As a personal trainer whose own goal was to build muscle and gain a bit of size, it seemed pretty straight forward on how I needed to do so. However the first time I was approached by a client who wanted to do the same, I had to stop for a moment and remember that it’s not as straight forward for people who are either new to fitness or have recently changed their goal. This is a common thing for trainers to experience as it’s our profession to know these things. Here are some of the questions I’ve been asked about gaining muscle.
1. How long does it take to get bigger?
There is no set time for gaining muscle and it’s more about how efficiently you train and keep to your routine and diet. It is also dependent on your body type and how much muscle you’re wanting to put on, an individual will normally see significant changes to their body after about 12 weeks but other people will generally begin to notice after the first 3 weeks.
2. Should I be taking supplements?
You can build muscle without supplements, gaining muscle requires consuming more calories than your basal metabolic rate. If you can eat enough food to hit that daily calorie goal, you may not even need to use them. It’s also a lot healthier getting your nutrition from food than supplements, just make sure you’re getting your macro nutrient ratio right (how many proteins, carbs and fats you should be getting).
3. Whats is a basal metabolic rate (BMR)?
A BMR is a daily minimum calorie requirement for your body to simply survive. this often ranges between 1500 and 2000 for the average person but could be more or less dependent on your body type, fitness level and general activity level. You can find BMR calculators online to get an approximate for yourself, some gyms have machines that’ll measure this more accurately.
4. Does it matter what I eat if I’m trying to reach my calorie intake?
There are two types of muscle gain strategies when it comes to food. Clean bulking and dirty bulking, clean bulking is eating only healthy foods, you may need to eat more but the results will give you a more defined and bulky look. Dirty bulking is pretty much the “see food” diet and just requires you to eat, you may bulk up a little faster but you wont have the clean cut definition like with clean bulking. You also need to make sure you’re getting your macro ratio right for both.
5. Should I be doing cardio or not?
Cardio burns calories while you’re doing it, where resistance training burns calories for hours after you’ve finished your workout. Starting off I would personally either avoid it or keep it to one day a week as you need to keep your calorie burn as low as possible (without affecting the efficiency of your training) in order for your body to use the surplus of calories and nutrients to build muscle.
6. Will I always feel pain in the days following my workouts?
These are called DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) and they will generally always occur, they are a good sign to know you’re training efficiently. Don’t let this scare you as they will not always be as painful as when you first start training, you may even stop noticing and a good way to reduce the pain is to stretch properly and even do 10-15 minutes of cardio (not enough to cause drastic calorie consumption).
7. I have been lifting weights for weeks and have seen no progress, am I doing something wrong?
If you’re not noticing any progress then there are two things you should look at. Are you consuming enough calories to be in a surplus and are you training your muscles within the muscle building range? This is normally between 8-12 reps and 3-4 sets, where by the end of the set you’re struggling to move the weight anymore.
8. Will I lose all my muscle if I stop training for a few weeks like when I go on holiday?
You’ll maintain muscle for a couple weeks or more, but without training and your surplus of calories, your body will begin to break it down. If you are unable to train wherever you are, try to focus on still getting those calories in as it will help reduce the rate at which your body breaks the muscle down. Training is necessary for muscle growth and maintenance so if you stop altogether and still consume the calories, you may still look big but it’s eventually not going to be muscle my friend.
9. Should I be using machines or free weights?
If you’re new to fitness it would be a good idea to start on machines, they are designed to put your body in the correct position for the exercise. Once you are used to working out and have developed some muscle move over to free weights, remember to start low and work your way up, you can’t injure yourself if you go too heavy too fast, but you can always pick up a heavier weight if the first ones are too light. Ego lifting is dangerous!
10. How often do I need to workout to effectively gain muscle?
To start I would recommend working out three times a week for at least half an hour, but you’ll have more progress if you push for an hour, after a month increase to four days at an hour and then five days for an hour in the third month. This’ll get you used to training, help prevent injuries and give you the adequate rest needed. Rest is just as important as training.
You may have a lot more questions when it comes to building muscle, many people do, if you have a trainer don’t hesitate to ask them, it’s what they are there for. Having a trainer will also increase the progress of your gains as you’ll have professional help and unique program designs to your body type and health history. Don’t give up and remember consistency is key!How to Structure a Beginner Muscle Building Program.The Power of Stretching.Be prepared and refine your Gym Lingo, Etiquette, Exercise Knowledge and Workout Gear.