- To build muscle, you should develop a consistent strength training routine 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 push-ups, squats, and planks are safe and effective ways to improve strength.
- Find more articles on Business Insider here.
Even if you don’t plan on becoming a bodybuilder, it’s essential to 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 we don’t become frail and immobile as we age. It’s also important for everyday functional movements like gardening or heaving luggage into the trunk.”
Building and maintaining muscle mass can also improve your mental health, boost your self-confidence, and help you perform many daily activities with less stress, whether it’s climbing stairs or carrying groceries. To effectively build muscle, you’ll need to stick to a specific strength training program, give your body plenty of time to rest and recover, and change your eating plan to a healthy diet high in protein. Here’s how.
Create Your Training Plan
At first glance, it looks like there are millions of different training plans to choose from. That’s why it’s essential to think about what you want to achieve with muscle building in the first place. “Are you building muscle to compete, avoid injury, or to achieve your personal goal? Outlining your “why” will get you closer to your goal,” Jackson says.
It’s also wise to choose a workout plan you’re confident you’ll have enough time for. “Consistency is everything when it comes to fitness,” says physician and NASM-certified personal trainer Alex Robles. “Find a program you can realistically commit to.”
Start your workouts at low intensity, says Linda S. Pescatello, Ph.D., 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 an individualized exercise plan. Otherwise, however, there are many simple exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home to safely and effectively build muscle.
Building your arm, chest and back muscles is crucial 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 their back muscles are engaged,” Jackson says.
The following exercises can help you build your upper body muscles:
- Lifting weights
- Use resistance bands
Lower Body Workout
Abdominal Muscle Workout
Having strong abdominal muscles “is the foundation for everything,” Robles says. “It keeps you upright while walking, carrying groceries and lifting your toddlers. Plus, it helps you stand up from a sitting or lying position.”
When working on your abs, Jackson advises focusing on quality over quantity. These are some of the exercises that can help you build your abs:
- Sit-ups or crunches
- Bike crunches
Home Workout To Build Muscle
If you want a home workout that builds all the muscles in your body, Jackson recommends the following workout routine: Squats (10 of them).
- Squats (10 pcs)
- Push-ups (10 pcs)
- Wall sits (30 to 45 seconds)
- Planks (30 to 45 seconds)
- Lunges (10 repetitions)
- Dips from a couch or chair (10 repetitions)
- Crunches (repetitions)
Allow Yourself Time To Rest and Recover
It is essential to take rest days to give your muscles time to regenerate and recover. Sports cause tiny tears in muscle tissue. When you rest, these 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 resting at least 24 to 48 hours 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’s not a must, however, and there are some ways to ease the pain. “You don’t have to feel a burn to make progress,” Pescatello says.
Try the following to avoid sore muscles:
- 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 critical factor, Robles says. If you exercise regularly over a long period, the soreness will subside after a while.
“A healthy diet is a major contributor to muscle building. Protein is especially important because it’s made up of amino acids, which are the “building blocks” of protein in your muscles,” says Nancy Rodriguez, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut. To increase muscle mass when 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 to eat before your workout are:
- Whole grain products such as brown rice or whole wheat bread
- Unsweetened yogurt
What to eat after a workout?
After a workout, Rodriguez recommends eating protein-rich foods to aid in muscle recovery. It would help if you ate within an hour of your training, Robles says.
The best foods to eat after your workout are:
- Protein Shakes
Try Dietary Supplements
Many different supplements, such as creatine or whey protein powder, can help you build muscle alongside an intense training and nutrition plan. “Anyone who has difficulty consuming 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 researching 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 reacts to them afterwards,” she says.
Stay Consistent and Stick To a Plan
For effective muscle building, a plan is essential. “You need to give your body a proper stimulus that progresses over time,” Robles says. “If you don’t 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 offer the following tips:
- Start small. “A 20-minute workout is better than nothing,” Robles says. “Start slow and make your workouts easy. The more often you do it, the weirder it will feel when you’re not exercising.”
- Keep track of what you eat to make sure it’s the right foods in the right amounts for your goals, Jackson says.
- Always think about why you’re building your muscle and attribute it to an emotional reason rather than a logical one, Robles says. “The more specific you are in your reasoning, the more likely you are to stick with it.”
What does Research say?
Research has shown that building and maintaining muscle can have many health benefits:
- It may reduce the risk of chronic disease. A large 2019 study of adults age 45 and older found a link between low muscle mass and an increased risk of heart disease, particularly in men. Based on participants’ medical information over ten years, researchers found that the men with the highest volume of muscle tissue had an 81% lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- It combats the muscle loss that comes with ageing. A small 2013 study of people ages 88 to 96 found that those who did strength training twice a week over 12 weeks had improved balance and low susceptibility to falls. “For older people, it’s safe and important to include strength training,” Jackson says. “Even simple bodyweight exercises like squats, push-ups 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. Building muscle increases your resting metabolic rate, which allows you to LOSE weight even when you’re inactive. In 2014, healthy middle-aged men and women completed 96 strength-training sessions over nine months as part of a small study. Their resting metabolic rate increased by about 5%. “Muscle at rest burns calories, but fat at rest doesn’t,” Jackson says. “That means you’re improving your metabolism by adding muscle to your body.” This helps you burn more calories overall and prevents weight gain.
- It can extend your life. According to a large 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 standard 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, your aesthetics, your mental health and your 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’ll be surprised by the results.”