Updated: May 28
Building muscle is something that anyone can do. Although it may be harder for some people than others, with the correct training and diet, you will develop lean muscle tissue. However you must create the demand for that muscle to grow - if you don’t strain your muscles enough and/or in the right ways, your muscles will have no reason to adapt, and become bigger and stronger. Equally, if you train correctly, and create that demand, however you don’t fuel your body with the correct nutrition, or enough of the right nutrition, you will fail to get results as quickly as you’d like, if at all.
How often should you train?
Depending on your fitness level, and how long you’ve been training for, you should aim to train for up to an hour, for around 3-5 days per week. When you first start your training, you may find yourself training 3 days a week, perhaps with a days rest between each workout, and performing one exercise per muscle group - i.e. you’d be performing a full body workout each session. As you progress, you may advance onto a split routine, where you perform more exercises per muscle group, but perform different muscles on different days. Some people perform a 5 day split, training a different muscle each day.
What muscle groups should you be targeting?
This is a classic mistake. You should never just train the muscles you want to be noticed. For example, if you want to look good, don’t just train your chest, or just focus on your arms. For the best results, and to look in proportion to the rest of your body, be sure to train all your major muscle groups, including (and especially), your legs.
Examples of different muscles / groups include:
Chest (major & minor)
Back (Including lower back, traps & lats)
Shoulders (posterior, anterior & lateral)
Biceps & Forearms (2 heads of the bicep)
Triceps (3 heads of the tricep)
Abdominals (upper & lower)
Legs (hamstrings, quads, inner & outer thigh, calves)
Are you training all the muscles of your body? This list just names a few of the main groups. But you can see that if you only do the Lat Pulldown exercise in the gym for your back, your missing out on training the Traps (upper mid back) and Lower Back (lower mid back).
Should I be eating any specific foods?
For maximum results, you should eat to fuel your body correctly. Eating loads of fast foods and junk foods and snacks will not be supplying your muscles with the nutrients they need to grow and become bigger and stronger. In fact because of the poor quality of those calories, most will just get stored as excess body fat, which will hinder your results and prevent you from seeing your muscle definition.
Good sources of protein include a variety of lean meats, fish, eggs, quorn, nuts & seeds. If its expensive for you to be buying meat and fish regularly, consider supplementing with protein powder, either as a shake, or by adding plane (or flavoured) powder to your cooking ingredients. Protein powder is also a good way to get the additional protein needed in your diet, especially if you struggle to eat enough food.
Also be sure to consume healthy carbohydrates for energy, in the form of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and salads.
Dumbbells or Resistance Machines?
Resistance machines are great for complete beginners, or those that are less able to perform exercise using the correct form. This may include the elderly or those recovering from injuries. They are also good for helping you improve your confidence in the gym when you first start. However as soon as you are able, you should try to use the dumbbells, cable machines, functional equipment and freestyle (body-weight) exercises for maximum results.
Using the dumbbells and cables will allow your body to move in a much more natural movement, and will result in you recruiting a far greater number of muscle fibres for each exercise. You will get a much better all-round result in both strength and size. You will also be able to target the muscles in far more ways than you would be able to with just resistance machines alone.
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Should I be taking Supplements?
You can get results without taking any supplements. You simply train correctly and eat right. These are two essential things that many people get wrong. Although some people will get better and faster results than others. Taking supplements can help you increase your energy throughout a workout, your recovery times and improve your results. These include:
Protein Powder (calorie dense for ectomorph slim builds/hard gainers)
BCAA's (Branch Chain Amino Acids)
Nitric Oxide Boosters
ZMA (Zinc & Magnesium)