The importance of having muscle tissue on your frame cannot be overstated (and not just because it makes you look good). Muscle supports your bones and joints, protecting you from injury. It gives you the functional strength needed to stay active and capable throughout your life. It even improves your metabolic health, making you more resistant to disease, stress and weight gain.
So with that in mind, one of your fitness goals should be to gain muscle mass on an ongoing basis. Here are 5 tips to help you do that:
1. Focus on the Big Lifts
A lot of people tend to start out with aerobic exercises like running or cycling, before tentatively moving onto strength training. Even then, they tend to focus on bodyweight movements and isolation exercises like bicep curls or leg presses. These are great for toning individual muscles, but nothing beats big compound movements when it comes to getting the growth hormones flowing. If you do nothing else but bench presses, barbell squats and deadlifts, you'll see better results than you ever would using isolation exercises or light weights.
2. Ease off on Cardio
Aerobic exercise is important, but too much cardio can leave you in a catabolic state (i.e. your muscle tissue is broken down to be used as fuel). This is definitely something you'll want to avoid, so it's important to find the right balance when trying to gain muscle mass. Cut back a little on cardio by limiting yourself to no more than 3-4 sessions of 25-30 minutes per week, and save your energy for the weights room. Notice I said "cut back" and not "stop" — you'll still want a basic amount of cardio to maintain your fitness and look after your heart and lungs.
3. Get Plenty of Rest
You know that you don't grow in the gym, right? Getting adequate rest is incredibly important when it comes to body composition and overall health. The intense training that goes with building muscle makes recovery time absolutely critical, as you'll be risking injury or regression if you overdo it. Split up your workouts so there's at least one day of complete rest or light cardio between each session, and get your full eight hours sleep every night.
4. Be Smart About Your Food Intake
Building muscle tissue requires extra fuel, so you'll want to make sure you're eating enough. But if you just go nuts and eat whatever you want, you'll have a hard time noticing your gains under the squishy layers of fat. If you're naturally lean, you don't have to be too strict (although you'll want to keep your diet relatively clean for the sake of your overall health). But for the vast majority, it's a good idea to slowly increase your food intake and make sure to include plenty of protein in every meal.
Want to learn how to gain muscle mass quickly and safely? Request a free consultation here at our Personal Training Studio in Ranelagh and we'll show you how it's done.
Image: Caseytats Fitness