10 Golden Rules To Build Muscles Naturally
Why Do You Want To Build Muscles
Before we dig deeper into the golden rules, let’s take a closer look at why building muscles naturally is good for your general health? Building muscles is more than just looking better physically. Building muscles can improve the quality of your life in many ways. You can get stronger and fitter in the process of adding more muscle mass on your frame. Your bone density is higher and your tendons and ligaments are stronger. This could protect you from unwanted injuries such as broken bones, and tendons sprains or tears from daily activities.
Besides that, your risk of many diseases related to the sedentary lifestyle, including Type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and certain types of cancers, is many folds lower. More muscle mass also allows you to have more rooms for calorie-dense foods to an extent (which should not be taken for granted) because part of the calorie consumed will be stored as glycogen in the muscle mass for energy use. As you also build your confidence level up during the muscle-building process, you are more ready to deal with challenges in life as well. In addition to all of the benefits above, you are also going to have better social status because superior physical fitness is a status of hard works and disciplines, which can give others reasons to look up to you.
Now that I give you the reasons to build muscles, you must also find your own personal reason to do it. Just want to look good is not usually the real reason why you want to build muscles. You will have to think about what is the real driving force to lead you to this article to read through thousands of words to find out what I have to say about the golden rules to build muscles. Without a strong “why” from you, these 10 golden rules are just rules that you will not be able to follow through until you reach your muscle-building goal. In order to have a strong “why”, you will need to repetitively ask yourself “why?” to look deep into yourself for your true motive. Once you find your strong “why”, the following 10 golden rules will work its magic to help reach your maximum muscle potential.
Let’s delve a bit deeper into these 10 golden rules to help you build muscles naturally.
- Training Consistently
Training is an essential part of the muscle-building process. There is where you stimulate your muscle growth through various forms of resistance training. In this article, we are going to focus on training with external loads such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, machine weights, and any other muscle building equipment you can find in the gym since this form of training is the most common form of training for muscle building purposes.
However, just plain training is not going to help you to pack on muscles. You will need to have consistency weeks after weeks, months after months. Consistency of training is dedicating a minimum of two to three hourly training sessions on a weekly basis over a long period of time, possibly two to three years for optimal results. Unless you are in an unfortunate circumstance (e.g. illness or accident), you will have to show up for your dedicated training session regardless of your level of motivation. It may sound cliche but show up is halfway to success. This is totally applicable to building muscles. You just need to show up and put in the 100% of efforts you can muster at the time. If you feel 50%, you put in all of your 50% into your training session. The compounding effect sessions after sessions is where the success lies.
Once your consistency is established, you will feel uncomfortable to miss a training session just like you missed brushing your teeth before bed if you are used to brushing your teeth before bedtime. It becomes a habit.
- Training With Structure
Walking into a gym and do whatever exercise comes to mind is not a smart way to build muscles. Neither is mindlessly following a program you found on the Internet or magazines (if anyone still buys magazines these days) without having a good understanding of the program. In order to make sure you optimize your muscle-building potential, you should have a training structure to help you decide what is your training cycle so that you can find a suitable training program for your current training cycles.
How do you structure your training cycles? The most basic way to structure your training cycles is to rotate your volume training cycles and strength training cycles quarterly. In volume training cycles, you will be doing high repetition training (more than 8 repetitions per set) using light to moderate weight for every exercise you do during your training session. In strength training, you will be focusing on doing low repetition training (less than 6 repetitions per set) using heavier weights for every exercise you do during your training session. This is because high repetition training using heavy weights over a span of weeks is going to lead to overtraining and hinder your recovery. It is not a feasible way to promote muscle growth. Strength cycles allow you to get stronger so that you can use heavier weights in your next volume cycle.
Training with structure can stop you from increasing weight too soon in your training progress. Increasing weight too soon often sacrifices your lifting techniques. This can, in turn, negatively affects the quality of training because you are getting fewer muscle stimulations. As a result of that, your muscle growth is subpar. Besides that, unnecessary compensation from certain muscles, which should not be exerting too much force for the lift, will occur when good lifting technique is absent during exercising. This can lead to both muscle and strength imbalances, which can then greatly increase your risk of injury.
- Don’t Forget Compound Movement
It is not uncommon that beginners like to use isolation exercises such as biceps curl and various forms of abdominals muscles as their go-to exercises. There is no doubt that these exercises can be helpful in some ways and they are the direct ways to train the muscles that look good in the mirror. However, you will miss out on some big gains if you are not attempting to get better at compound exercises.
Compound exercises (which include barbell squat, deadlift, bench press, shoulder press, pull up, dips, barbell bent-over row, inverted row, push up and etc) is a better way to build strength to do heavy weight training. This is because compound exercises allow multiple muscle groups to work together to generate more force. The other type of exercise, namely isolation exercises, only trains a single muscle group. While isolation exercises can be used to increase muscle size, their effectiveness is limited because the weights used for isolation exercises are a fraction of those you can use for compound exercises. When isolation exercises are used as supplementary exercises to compound exercises, they can help maintain muscle balance and strength balance to improve your strength for compound exercises. You can, therefore, use heavier weight when you do compound exercises
Training with heavy weights through compound exercises using correct lifting techniques can optimize your potential to grow more muscles. Besides, compound exercises have better stimulation on the release of anabolic hormones. This can, in turn, stimulate muscle growth.
- Maintenance Works For Muscle Recovery
Muscles can get tight and joints can get less mobile over a period of time if you are not looking after them properly. Tight muscles and immobile joints can be a recipe for injury. Therefore, you will need to do maintenance works to help your muscle recover better.
Such maintenance works include:
- warm-up routines. You should always do one to two warm-up sets with a lighter weight before you start training to make sure your muscles are ready to do the works.
- various forms of mobility exercises. Mobility exercises can help increase the range of motion of your joints (shoulder, hip, and ankle are more prone to a limited range of motion). You can do this as part of your warm-up, cool-down, or active recovery.
- both static and dynamic stretching exercises. Stretching exercises can help increase the length of your muscles for better movement. You can also use stretching exercises in your warm-up, cool-down, or active recovery routine.
With good maintenance, you are going to be able to move better day in day out. You can also train your muscles with a full range of motion. Training with the full range of motion, you can both maximize your muscle growth potential and improve your joint health. In addition to that, you are less likely to experience pains in your joint, your risk of injury can be greatly reduced, and your training longevity will be longer.
- Maintaining A Calorie Surplus For Muscle Growth
In order to maximize your training efforts for building muscles, you need to consume enough calories to fuel your body for training. You will also need to have enough nutrients from high-quality foods for muscle growth and recovery as well. Therefore, eating enough foods to maintain a calorie surplus is an essential part of building muscles.
Before you simply eat more for the sake of putting more weight on your frame, it is always wise to find out how much food you will need to eat for building muscles. You can do it through
- an experiment with your current food intake to find out if it is the right amount of food to maintain your weight, and then, add more foods on top of it. This may take a couple of weeks to see the result.
- use calculation from resting metabolic rate equations (e.g. Mifflin-St Jeor equation, Harris-Benedict equation, or Owen equation) to acquire the calorie number to maintain your current body weight and add roughly 20% to it for muscle building purposes. After that, you will have to count your calories to make sure that you are eating enough calories to support muscle growth.
Adding more foods to your diet to build muscles is harder than it sounds. First of all, you may struggle to eat more foods because you will most likely feel too full throughout the day for weeks. Secondly, you will have to eat good quality produce most of the time to build muscles. Junk foods have to be only a small part of your diet if you want to optimize your muscle growth.
- Eating Enough Protein
The process of building muscles involves
- the process of inducing micro-tears on your muscle damage through training. This process is called muscle protein breakdown.
- the process of building the damaged muscles back up by providing them enough protein as building materials. This process is called muscle protein synthesis.
If the rate of muscle protein breakdown is higher than muscle protein synthesis, you will be losing muscle mass. Therefore, you will have to eat enough protein to keep the rate of muscle protein synthesis higher than the rate of muscle protein breakdown so that you can build more muscles during your recovery than the muscles you lost during training.
Besides muscle building, your body also needs protein for other bodily functions. These functions include energy production, enzyme production, hormone production, immunity support, nutrients transport, molecules signaling, and bone structural support. Therefore, undereating protein can negatively affect your potential to grow more muscles.
In order to ensure you have enough protein to support muscle growth, you should aim for at least 2.2g of protein per kg of your body weight (1g of protein per lb of your body weight) on daily basis. You should also be mindful that too much protein (more than 3g of protein per kg of your body weight) will not increase your rate of muscle growth. Overeating protein over a period of time can increase body fat instead of muscle. In case you are wondering if overeating protein will cause damage to the kidney and the liver, there is no evidence to support this if you are a healthy individual. If you have a pre-existing kidney condition, you will have to be careful with the amount of protein in your diet.
- Don’t Bulk Up Mindlessly
One of the common mistakes made by fitness enthusiasts during the muscle building phase is that they justify bad food choices with their muscle-building goals. Therefore, they will eat anything they want for the sake of getting enough calories to gain weight. Unfortunately, such mindless eating behavior can lead to excessive fat gain alongside their weight gain in the process. The inflammation in their bodies will increase as a result of the increase in their body fat percentage. While a reasonable level of inflammation is necessary to promote muscle growth, it can impede the rate of muscle growth when the inflammation becomes chronic due to high body fat percentage.
Besides, they will have a hard time getting rid of the excess amount of body fat they added on their frame during cutting. In the cutting process, they are more likely to lose more muscle mass than desired as they will have to take a more extreme approach to lose the excess amount of body fat, especially if the cutting phase is short (less than 12 weeks),
Therefore, you should always prioritize good quality foods such as lean meat (lean protein for plant-based diet), starchy carbohydrates from real foods such as potatoes and rice, a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits as well as nuts and seeds. These foods can provide you a broad spectrum of nutrients to optimize your muscle-building process.
Since you will have to put on some size, you can include various forms of processed foods and junk foods in your diet with a smart strategy because purely relying on good quality foods can be unsustainable over the period of your muscle-building phase, which could be over a few months. In order to make sure that you are not adding excessive body fat to your frame, you should only reserve 20% or less of your total calorie intake for these foods.
- Rest Days
For optimal muscle growth, you will need enough recovery time for your body to do the necessary works to both repair damaged muscles and build new muscles. Therefore, you will need to schedule rest days into your training routine to take your attention away from training.
However, training too often in hopes of building muscles at a faster pace is one of the biggest mistakes made by fitness enthusiasts in the fitness community. High-frequency training without sufficient recovery is not only going to make it difficult for your body to build new muscles but also going to cause overtraining. Overtraining can have many negative effects on your health including weak gym performance, restless sleep, mood swing, irregular heart rate, fatigue, muscle soreness, joint pain, and etc. Your risk of injury during exercising can be greatly increased when you are overtrained. Therefore, you should not undermine the importance of rest days.
- Get Enough Sleep
When you sleep, your body can focus its work on both restoring your brain and restoring your body in which muscle recovery is a part of it. During your non-REM sleep (deep sleep), your blood supply to your muscles is increased to provide nutrients and oxygen to allow muscle repair and muscle recovery to occurs while blood supply to your brain can be reduced because your brain is resting during this sleeping phase. Cutting short your sleeping time will also cut short the time it takes to allow this process to takes place effectively for optimal muscle growth.
Besides the negative effect on your muscle growth, lack of sleep can affect your training in other ways as well. It can affect your training performance due to the difficulty to focus on tasks caused by lack of sleep. If you are not careful, you can injure yourself during training as well.
Lack of sleep can also affect your appetite by making you craving for more foods through the downregulation of the satiety hormones, leptin, and the upregulation of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Such craving can easily drive you to consume more foods throughout the day. Overconsumption of food in combination with less physical movement due to tiredness can then lead to unwanted fat gain over a period of time. Therefore, getting 7-9 hours of sleep is non-negotiable if you are after a serious result.
While sleep quality is important, good quality sleep is also important for getting enough sleep. Interrupted sleep can cut short the time required for effective muscle growth as well. In order to improve your sleep quality, you can look for ways to improve your sleeping hygiene. This includes setting your room up to be dark and comfortable, sleeping with constant white noise, having a fixed bedtime, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine close to bedtime, and keeping your sleep space exclusive for sleeping if possible.
- Be Patient
Building muscles take time. You will need to be patient. It is not a process of a few months. It takes years of consistency to see good results, especially if you start from zero training experience. Of course, experience in playing competitive sport at a younger age, good genes, use of drugs, and other factors gives certain people a better advantage over others to achieve results at a much faster rate. Therefore, you will have to treat your journey as your own as it is going to be different from others due to many factors.
A realistic timeframe to achieve a good result is about 2 to 3 years for a natural lifter if you are consistent and have good discipline. A realistic expectation is necessary as well. It is unrealistic to expect you will look like your favorite bodybuilder or famous fitness personality because everyone has different bone structures, muscle insertions, muscle fiber composition, and other factors.
Why it takes so long to build muscles? You will need time to
- learn to do the exercises with the correct technique,
- learn to establish muscle mind connection to stimulate muscle growth,
- adopt habits, including consistent training habits, that help you to build muscles,
- increase food intake with good quality food over time to sustain muscle growth (this is harder than you think),
- build strength so that you stimulate your muscles to grow through heavy lifting, and
- train through a plateau, with a different training strategy if necessary.
You will need to be patient in the process. That’s a saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. That is definitely applicable to the muscle-building process.
Building Muscle is not a “walk in the park” process. It certainly going to take months, even years, to add a decent amount of muscles that can make you an inspiration to many others. The effort you put into your pursuit of the muscular physique will be beneficial to your health in many ways. The end result of this pursuit is not limited to better physical health but also including improved mental health, better lifestyle, and more confidence in life.
Follow with good discipline, these 10 golden rules are good ways to set you up for success in the pursuit of your fitness goal to build more muscles. This is because these rules will help you to develop a set of routines over time with the right ingredients to train smart, eat better, do the right things, and stay consistent. You may not see good results in a few weeks but you will not regret your journey to your goal when you can confidently flex your muscles in front of the mirror even if it takes longer than you expected.