How to Build Muscle
Do you want to get BIGGER? Do you know how to gain SIZE?
Do you know how to build MUSCLE? Do you know how to get JACKED?
Let me teach you…
Getting bigger is easy. All you have to do to get bigger is eat more calories than you use for energy. It is really that simple! It is that simple, but there is more to it than that. Let’s break it down…
Your body has what is known as a Basal/Resting Metabolic Rate, which is the base level amount of calories that your body uses just to survive on, or to sustain normal function. So if you were to just lay in bed sleeping all day without movement then this is the amount of calories you would burn, assuming everything else is constant. Now on top of your Basal Metabolic Rate, you use energy to go through daily activities and exercise. Any movement adds to your Basal Metabolic Rate and overall calorie expenditure. The more calories you use the higher your total calorie intake for the day needs to be in order to maintain a constant body weight. If you eat fewer calories than you use daily, you will begin to lose weight. If you eat more calories than you use for energy, you will grow. Now this is the simplest form of overall weight adjustment, but it does not answer the question of how to get JACKED, or build muscle.
“To build muscle you need to eat more and exercise more.”
To get JACKED you need to increase your activity level while in a calorie surplus. More simply put, to build muscle you need to eat more and exercise more. Now for specific growth, such as building more muscle in a certain area, you must stimulate that area through your activity. For example, if you want bigger arms you must train your arms in order to stimulate muscular growth while in a caloric surplus. If you want bigger legs, then you must simulate your legs to grow and eat more. Though it is a simple concept, the overall work is difficult.
“There must be a combination of optimal training intensity and work volume to stimulate growth.”
Now, to stimulate muscular growth you need to train with optimal intensity and volume. That means you must have enough intensity to place stress on your muscles for growth with enough total volume of work. For example, if you want to build muscle in your legs you need to do activity with enough intensity to create stress for growth, along with enough overall volume to create significant breakdown. An example of this optimal training can be sprints, plyometrics jumps or squats done for multiple sets and repetitions. You simply cannot build more muscular size in your legs by doing low intensity exercises, like walking or jogging, even if the overall volume is numerous miles (assuming you can already walk and jog a reasonable amount). That form of exercise stimulates mitochondrial growth within the muscle cells so they have greater endurance, but muscle wasting (to decrease mass) is also an effect of endurance training. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you cannot do only one set of high intensity exercise, such as a sprint, maximal jump or heavy squat set, and stimulate growth. There must be a combination of optimal training intensity and work volume to significantly breakdown the muscle fibers and allow for growth. Therefore, to accumulate the greatest amount of work volume while using optimal intensity, do multiple sets of moderate-high intensity exercise in order to stimulate growth.
However, every time you stimulate muscular growth, you increase your total work capacity and overall strength. This means that each time you stimulate growth you will need to do more total work each time thereafter. So, the goal should be to do the least amount of work in order to obtain the greatest amount of results. Do the least to get the most. This is often difficult. Many of us want major results NOW, so we do the most amount of work we can handle and gain a great amount of results. Then after doing this continuously our body will adapt to the large work load and no longer need to grow. If you did not reach your goal, then what do you do next? You just did everything you could do to stimulate growth and you still did not reach your goal. So your only choice in progression is to do even more and more work until you burn out, or get injured. A better strategy for this is to be patient with your goals and work hard, but be smart. That is one of the reasons that the Mathias Method starts with very few exercises in the lower levels and increases work over time, in order to allow for continuous growth. We want you to reach your goals as efficiently as possible without negatively affecting your future goals. Remember, strength training and body changing are long term goals that need to consider everything at once. You may be able to reach one goal quickly, but if that denies you the ability to reach future goals you may want to take a different approach, in order to obtain them all and more!
“The goal should be to do the least amount of work in order to obtain the greatest amount of results.”
So what is the best way to build muscle? What has been found is that it is most optimal to train within a 65-85% intensity over the course of multiple sets in order to stimulate the most muscular growth. This intensity will put weight lifting sets between 6-15 repetitions. For complete growth it is best to use varying intensities and rep ranges within these given parameters. This will stress growth in multiple ways so that your muscle cells gain both size and density for overall better function.
What about training to failure and using intensity techniques to stimulate growth? Though there are multiple intensity techniques used to increase breakdown, and added growth, within a muscle, the overall accumulation of total work volume has the greatest effect. With this in mind, it is still helpful to use intensity techniques such as taking sets to failure, overloading techniques, forced reps and drop sets, however they are best used sparingly. If used too soon in a training session or too frequently in a training cycle, their effect greatly decreases. To use these techniques most optimally, accumulate the appropriate volume for growth in a particular area and then use one intensity technique on the last set of your training in that area, and use this only once per week for a specific muscle group. This allows for the greatest amount of muscular growth within a specific area, without greatly affecting the overall training volume. Be cautious however, as taking your muscles to failure too often can create too much damage (injury) and will decrease function as they become adapt to reaching failure.
Another great thing about building muscle is the increased metabolic effect it has on your Basal Metabolic Rate. Muscle tissue is calorie expensive to your body as it needs to be maintained more than your fat stores. Just by building more muscle you will increase your metabolism and need to eat more calories each day to maintain a constant, or increased weight balance. This can be a very positive effect as it allows you to have greater control over your weight management. Just think, if you only consume 2,000 calories each day to maintain weight, then a fluctuation of 500 calories (approximately 1 meal or 1 bowl of ice cream) can have a large effect on your health and energy as that is 25% of your overall caloric intake. Whereas, if you have a larger muscle mass and consume 3,000 calories per day, having the same caloric fluctuation will have only a 17% effect on your energy for that day. This allows you to have greater energy reserves and allows for extra meals, or cheat meals, to have less of an effect. So if you like cheat meals, increase your muscular work load and eat more to build muscle.
“When attempting to build muscle, it would be most optimal to make small caloric jumps by adding only 200-500 more calories to your daily diet.”
Now, let’s take a moment to talk about nutrition. When I say to “eat more” that is exactly what I mean. To gain more muscle and overall size you need to eat more food than you did before. This should not be a major change though because, the same as with doing too much work at the start of training, if you try to gain weight too quickly it will likely add to your fat stores rather than just adding muscle. When attempting to build muscle, it would be most optimal to make small caloric jumps by adding only 200-500 more calories to your daily diet. That is simply another snack or a small increase in portions throughout the day. I recommend you start with the smallest caloric increase to see how your body responds before adding more calories. A more slow-moderate approach to adding size will help to build muscle more than add to fat stores, as most of the calories are used to recover from your added work load. These extra, or added, calories should be from balanced sources rather than just one macronutrient, such as protein. Often times people that want to build muscle just add large amounts of protein to their diets with the belief that more protein stimulates more muscular growth. This is not entirely true. Yes, protein is needed to build muscle but so are numerous other nutrients that make up muscle tissue. If you only eat additional protein, you will only use the amount required for new growth, which is not much above your normal daily needs, and the extra protein will be used for energy or added to your fat stores. Protein is not an efficient energy source so this would not be optimal for performance. It is most optimal to consume 0.8-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight in a normal muscle building diet. Overall, protein is the same as any other caloric nutrient when consuming too much. If you eat more than is used, it will be added to your fat stores. So to build muscle, maintain a balanced diet that does not lack any nutrient and eat more of it. Eat a little more of everything and keep working hard. As soon as change stops, add slightly more calories to continue growth. Small incremental changes can create the greatest success, and building muscle is a great example of that.
Overall, building muscle to get JACKED is a simple task that takes a lot of hard work to accomplish. Just eat more and put a lot of hard work into your training. Remember to be patient with your training and allow your body to recover properly between training sessions. Stay focused and keep getting STRONGer!
Strength to you,
The STRONGer Coach- Ryan Mathias, CPT
Owner and Creator
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