Fit and fine: How to get that muscular body
Getting a body like a body-builder needs a healthy mix of exercise, diet and restUpdated: Jan 26, 2020, 00:06 IST
This is a question that I get asked on a daily basis – how do I make my muscles grow? Over the years, a number of hypotheses have been put forward. Most of them have not been proven to be true. But now we seem to know with a fair bit of certainty what works and what does not. Before I get to the muscle growth question, let me state some basics – if you are not ingesting enough food, real food and not supplements, getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night and drinking enough water, then you have bigger issues to worry about than what to do in the gym. This bears repeating that we cannot out train a bad diet and applies equally to fat loss as well as muscle gain. It’s a cliché now, but muscle growth is a three legged stool – exercise, diet and rest. All three have to be spot on otherwise you are going to spin your wheels in the gym!
The top three factors for muscle growth
1. Mechanical tension: This is what is called progressive overload – increasing the load so that body has to adapt to the increased weight. But the increase in weight should not be done mindlessly – you need to connect to the muscle you are working. Focus on contracting and squeezing the muscle as hard as possible. Load the muscle through its entire range of motion. Too many trainees seem to think that just loading the bar and then using body language to move the weight will effectively work the targeted muscle.
2. Muscle damage : Focus on creating micro-trauma by lowering the weight under control. Eccentric exercise or the lowering of the weight under control causes the most amount of muscle damage. Next day, the trainee would be sore as the body repairs the damage done in the gym. This results in muscular size increase over the long term.
3. Metabolic stress : Body-builders call it chasing the Pump. Researchers call this “cell swelling” which is a result of pooling of blood in muscles. It was assumed that the pump was just a temporary cosmetic condition. But now we know that the pump creates protein synthesis and shuts down protein breakdown.
Applying the three factors for increasing muscle size
Mechanical tension is pretty simple. Add weight to the bar every week or every other week. Move the weight in a controlled fashion through the muscle’s entire range of motion. You should have the weight under your control. Most of the time, trainees are in a hurry to increase the weight while their form goes out of the window. Rinse, repeat.
Muscle damage happens when the weight is lowered slowly. Take two to four seconds on the eccentric portion of the lift. You would be sore the next day but rest assured if you recover from the workout, you will gain size and strength.
For Metabolic stress, extend the set by increasing repetitions using short pauses. Do it this way – if you can get eight repetitions with a weight, pause for 10-15 seconds after the 8th rep, do two more, pause 20 seconds, do two more. Or you can do strip sets – hit failure at the 8th rep, quickly reduce the weight and do 2-3 reps more, then reduce it some more and get two reps more.
If you incorporate the above in your gym workouts and eat enough food, your muscle size should go up. In the next column, I shall reveal how to calculate how many calories are needed for gaining weight and also for fat loss.
Author bio: Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years
From HT Brunch, January 26, 2020
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