Three Pillars of Building Muscle

Strength training builds and helps maintain muscle.  That muscle (and other factors) prompts fat loss.  That muscle has weight.  As such, there is a strong likelihood that someone who switches from a highly aerobic program like Julie to a more balanced program might not lose WEIGHT at a rapid pace.  What she will be more likely to lose is FAT, which is the ultimate goal anyway.

On to the follow-up:

Three Pillars of Building Muscle
We talked briefly last time about why building muscle was important.  I’m going to give you three pillars to focus on to make that transition from aerobics to muscle building.

1.  Intense, Progressively Overloaded Strength Training.  Ok, here’s a little insight into the training academic world.  The definition of “intensity” is argued about a bit, but most of us view intensity as a percentage of an individual’s one-repetition maximum for that lift.  That gives us a real number.  It doesn’t have anything to do with how much you’re sweating or how tired an exercise makes you.

In order to develop a muscle, it must be challenged.  If a weight is too light, it isn’t really challenged.  That’s where Julie is right now.  In order to maximize your muscular stress, focus on a weight intensity that is challenging for 6-10 repetitions.  Be sure to use a spotter when necessary.

The other key to this pillar is progressive overload.  When Julie first started exercising, it was probably all new to her and just the fact that she was moving at all provided an overload for her muscles.  Soon she adapted to that and now she’s not improving.  At this point, she needs to add a small amount of weight to give her muscles more of a challenge.  Use small increases in weight to consistently push your muscles further and further and they’ll have the stress they need to get them growing.

2.  Adequate Nutrition.  Sure, I know that a lot of people are trying to lose weight, so they’re not eating much.  There needs to be a caloric deficit to lose body weight, but it needs to be within reason.  When you’re on a muscle building or maintaining a program, your body will be using nutrients to repair and rebuild those muscles.  You need to give it what it needs.  If you’ve slashed your calories into the ground then you’re in effect trying to burn the candles at both ends by tearing up your muscles through training and then not allowing them to repair themselves through dieting.

The answer everyone gives is to just pack in the protein and you will build muscle.  While adequate protein intake is necessary for muscle growth, maintenance, and repair, it isn’t the be all and end all.  For the average person, a somewhat balanced diet consisting of moderate carbohydrates, protein, and fat will be a good starting point.  Once you see how you react to that diet you can tweak it to your individual needs.

3.  Good Rest and Recovery.  Your muscles grow out of the gym, not in it!  Forget that marathon, two-hour training sessions.  One of the great things about training for muscle maintenance and growth is that the training is best-kept brief.  You are seeking to stimulate your muscles to grow, not crush them.

If you are on a low-calorie diet looking to lose fat, pay extra attention to this.  You don’t have a lot of calories to play with (Number 2 above).  Hard training is stressful and it’s even more stressful if you don’t have a lot of nutrients.  Be sure to take care of yourself and limit stress.  Focus on getting enough sleep and reduce the stress in your life as soon as possible.

That’s a quick overview of the three pillars of building muscle.  Everybody pays attention to the training and tends to forget about the other two, but I would say that they are just as, if not even more important in your quest for more muscle and less fat.  Bringing your training, nutrition, and recovery in line will show in your workouts, your waistline, and your body fat.