Do you find yourself wondering how to build muscle the right way?
Step into school, find a seat and welcome to Muscle Building 101. Yes, you’ll learn useful workout and nutrition tips on how to build muscle, but more importantly, you’ll understand how to utilize the mind-to-muscle connection to skyrocket your results.
We’ll also answer the most commonly asked questions about how to start building muscle.
How muscle growth works
Maybe you tried different types of workouts and felt an increase in strength but never saw an improvement in muscle mass.
So you lost your motivation after a few weeks and quit.
If you only knew that…
- When you start working out (especially as a beginner), your initial strength gains are attributed to better coordination and nervous system adaptation. In other words, your body is learning how to function better. Think of this as setting the stage for the upcoming muscle growth.
- Consistency is key. Your muscles start to adapt immediately on a cellular and fiber level. Strength and muscle growth will come next, but you must be consistent every week.
- The muscles are made of fibers that can get thicker and stronger. After each workout, the body aims to repair the micro-injuries in the muscle tissue. The muscle gains and new strength you’re looking for happen during rest and recovery.
If you keep pushing yourself long enough, your body adapts to new training stimuli, and muscles start to grow.
But here’s one of the most important facts about muscle growth: If you want to see incredible results, you need to have a strong mind-to-muscle connection.
What is the Mind-to-Muscle Connection?
The mind-to-muscle connection is all about how you feel your muscles during an exercise. Unfortunately, this phrase gets tossed around a lot without being properly explained for beginners to build muscle.
To really understand this concept, we want you to pick up something with some weight to it. If you have a small dumbbell, that would be perfect. If not, that’s okay. Pick up a milk jug, a soup can, a hammer, or anything that requires some effort to hold.
Now, start to perform a biceps curl in your left hand. Move slowly, focusing intensely on curling the weight up to shoulder height, then slowly – and I mean slowly – lowering it back to hip height. Don’t let the arm fully straighten; make sure there is a slight bend in the elbow.
Really feel the muscle as it moves. Keep performing repetitions, and when the blood starts to feel like it’s pumping, this is when you really need to pay attention. Notice how there is a slight burn? It’s not hurting, but the muscle is starting to burn in a good way. Keep paying attention.
Eventually, the muscle belly will feel “swollen.” Again, it doesn’t hurt or feel swollen in a bad way, but you can feel the bicep muscle filling with blood because this is where you’re directing all of your attention.
If you have skinnier arms, you might even notice that a vein starts to look more pronounced.
Watch this entire process from start to finish, then do the same thing on the other arm.
Afterward, you should be able to replay the exercise in your head and bring to mind how the muscle was activated and how it felt. The attention to detail you showed during this exercise is exactly how you should perform each and every rep in your workout.
When you focus on feeling the muscle contracting, the body responds more effectively to the stimulus. Most importantly, the results are much better. Don’t worry about the number of reps or sets. Focus on how the muscle is moving, how it feels, and building an intense mind-to-muscle connection.
Blueprint for Muscle Growth
The muscle building process is fueled by two things: structured, progressive strength training and a balanced, protein-rich diet. Here is what you should know about both.
Workout tips for muscle building
Let’s address the elephant in the room right away: muscle growth and genetics.
To a small extent, muscle growth is influenced by genetics. While some people might have an easier time building muscle, the influence of genetics is more focused on how the muscle looks and which spots will be tougher for you to build.
For example, a lot of men complain about having small calves and that part of the body being the toughest part to gain muscle. But, no matter what your genetics are like, you CAN build a more muscular body. Follow these tips on how to structure your workouts for muscle growth:
Building Muscle for Beginners
Here are the most recommended acute variables that can help build muscle for beginners:
Workouts: Every week, you should aim to perform between 2-to-3 strength workouts.
Sets: For beginners, 1 to 3 sets per exercise is recommended. Compound movements should be performed with three sets, while secondary exercises only need one or two sets.
Reps: The recommended number of reps can vary based on the exercise and your goal. For muscle building, you should perform between 8 to 12 repetitions using a weight that is 65% to 75% of your one-repetition maximum (1-RM), or the maximum amount of weight you can lift once with perform form. You can use an online one-rep max calculator to help you find the weight that would allow you to get no fewer than 8 reps and no more than 12 reps.
Rest and Recovery: For beginners, 24 hours of rest is enough after a shorter (<30 min) total body workout. However, if you do a workout focused on just one muscle group, such as legs, wait 48 hours before you do a leg-focused workout again. You can do a shorter, low-intensity total body workout in the meantime.
The biggest mistake you can make is to try building muscle without a workout plan! Muscle growth requires a constant, gradual increase in workout load. A good training plan can calculate the sets and reps for you so you can see results – even at home!
Building Muscle for Experienced Lifters
Here are the most recommended acute variables that can help you break out of a plateau and continue to gain muscle:
Workouts: No less than three strength workouts per week are recommended for those who have been lifting for at least six months.
Sets: Those who are more advanced can do 3-5 or more sets. Again, reserve the higher numbers of sets for compound movements.
Reps: As someone who has been training for several months or years, you might be able to lift more weight than a beginner, but you still want to aim for the same 8-to-12 repetition range. Select a weight that allows you to lift no fewer than 8 reps and no more than 12 reps. This is usually 65% to 75% of your one-rep max.
Rest and Recovery: Rest 1-2 days a week, ideally after the longest and/or most intense workouts.
Outside of acute variables, here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding workouts for building muscle. These tips apply to both beginners and experienced lifters:
Building Muscle Workouts FAQs
1. How long should I use the same weight?
Increasing the load progressively is a must for all fitness levels, from beginner to advanced, if you want to stimulate muscle growth.
If your goal is to build muscle, don’t worry about increasing the reps if a weight feels too easy. Instead, increase the weight. If you can easily do more than 12 reps, it’s time to go heavier.
2. What is the tempo (speed) I should use for my reps?
Focusing on a slow, controlled descent is good for really feeling your muscles burn.
The eccentric part of the movement (e.g., when you are lowering yourself down in a Push-up or in a Squat) puts more load on your muscles.
Try to count 3 seconds as you go down slowly; it can be a good way to make an otherwise easy exercise much harder!
3. Can you build muscle without weights?
Yes, load your muscles enough, and they will adapt and get bigger and stronger. A good bodyweight training plan is the way to go. Why? It ensures that you keep challenging your muscles, even without the weights.
Want to work out at home and need some motivation? Download the adidas Training app and join a challenge!
4. Does cardio make you lose muscle?
If done properly (and in combination with a high-protein diet), cardio will not destroy your muscle gains. Nutrition and rest are key to combining strength training and cardio.
With that said, does running build muscle mass? Not exactly.
Running can help you build lean muscle mass, but if your goal is to maximize the size of your muscle mass, weightlifting should be your primary focus.
One thing that can really make you lose muscle… is not eating right!
Diet tips for muscle building
Breaking down your muscles without refueling them is just going to put stress on your body without the benefit of visible results. Consider the following basics of a muscle building diet:
Protein, Protein, Protein
Protein is the literal building block for your muscles, so it goes without saying that it’s essential if you want to see results in how much muscle you gain.
A few things about protein:
Studies show that to maximize muscle growth via resistance exercise, your daily protein intake should be at least 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. The upper limit of protein intake, according to the same study, is 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day.
If you’re serious about size, we would recommend the latter.
While a post-workout protein shake is important, the total amount of protein you eat throughout the day matters more than what you eat directly after the workout.
Finally, keep in mind that the body can only absorb about 20 grams of protein per meal, so no need to stuff yourself at every meal!
Number of Calories
To gain weight (muscle or fat), you need to eat slightly more calories than you burn. Check out how to gain weight healthily without overeating or getting fat.
Definition vs. Mass
What if you already have a solid amount of muscle mass, and it’s just not visible?
Many people just want to appear more muscular, not necessarily add more weight. Maybe you want to have a six-pack, but your abs are not showing?
Then you should focus on losing fat to reveal your muscles.
This will require a caloric deficit, meaning you should burn fewer calories than you consume. In order to maintain your muscle mass in a caloric deficit, it’s important to keep your protein consumption high.
You might even need to increase it above the upper limit of 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This will ensure you spare your hard-earned muscle tissue from catabolism (breakdown).
Here are some quick responses to the most commonly asked questions about how to build muscle:
Muscle Building FAQ
1. How can I gain muscle fast?
Each person’s body responds differently to training for muscle growth. With that said, the best way to ensure you see fast results is to be consistent with your workouts and diet. The more you procrastinate or eat poorly, the longer it will take to see results
2. What are three ways to gain muscle?
1. Increase the resistance of your exercises and focus on progressive overload.
2. Eat a balanced diet, including plenty of lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
3. Get enough rest and recovery between workouts to allow your body to properly repair itself.
3. How to gain muscle in 1 month?
If you’re looking to gain muscle in 1 month, then focus on the three steps outlined above. Don’t be too concerned with how much weight you can lift or how many reps you can do. Focus on form and creating a strong mind-to-muscle connection while exercising. Above all, be consistent with your workouts and diet.
4. What causes muscle gain?
Muscle gain is caused by a combination of strenuous exercise and a nutritious diet. When you lift weights, it causes tiny tears in the muscle fibers. To repair these tears, your body needs protein to build new muscle tissue. This is why having enough protein in your diet is essential for building muscle mass. Additionally, lifting heavy enough weights will cause an overload on the muscles, which will stimulate further growth.
5. What foods cause muscle growth?
Protein is the key nutrient for muscle growth. Protein-rich foods such as lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and dairy can all help to promote muscle gain. Additionally, complex carbs like oats and quinoa provide energy, while healthy fats like avocados and olive oil add essential nutrients and help with recovery.
6. Do muscles grow on rest days?
Yes, muscles can and will grow on rest days. During a rest day, your body is recovering from all the hard work you put into your workouts. During this time, muscle fibers repair themselves and rebuild bigger and stronger than before. Additionally, eating a nutritious diet with plenty of protein will also help to build new muscle tissue.
If you don’t train or eat enough, your muscles won’t grow. On the other hand, if you train a lot but eat even more, you might also gain fat.
That’s why it’s important to get an integrated training and nutrition plan. This will even sync the calories you burned in your workout with your daily calorie allowance!
Ready to build muscle?
- Do at least 2-3 strength workouts per week.
- Make sure to have a training plan that progressively loads your muscles.
- Feed your muscles with a balanced diet that has enough protein.
- Be patient and keep doing this for more than 8 weeks…
…and you will see results! Hello, bigger shoulders, chest, quads…and six-pack abs.
Annie is teaching in a classroom with elementary school kids. There is a chalkboard with a container of chalk…