The complete guide to muscle growth
You’ve read the title people, in today’s post we are going to talk some bro-science about muscle growth or muscle hypertrophy (the scientific term used for make more gains). We are going to talk about protein biosynthesis, most efficient ways of training for getting bigger, the two types of muscle cells and lastly but not least we’re giving out a few take away practical tips you can apply right after you’ve done reading this fine piece of information.
Most of the data below is based on the results of various studies out there (citation included) and some of it is based on my personal experience or on the reading I’ve been doing and knowledge I’ve gained throughout the time.
If you do a Google search on how to get bigger muscles the information out there may seem overwhelming, there are literally thousands of hundreds of articles on this topic, some of them very doubtful if you ask me.
In reality you only need to know a handful of key information in order to maximize muscle growth and that’s the purpose of this post, so bear with me for 20 minutes and by the time you’ve read this you will be holding a quite big chunk of all the information you need to achieve the physique you wish for.
Get stronger to get bigger
In my opinion this is the ultimate and most important thing you need to know when it comes to muscle growth. The stronger you get the bigger your muscles will become.
Getting stronger and stronger over time should be your main concern and your main goal in the gym. Adding more weight to the bar, or squeezing 1 or 2 more reps, making constant progress should be your focus in the gym. This is something often referred to as “progressive overload”.
If you will be lifting the same weight over and over again, no matter how may reps you will do, no matter how sets you will do or regardless of your technique, your muscles will not grow.
Weight lifting is all about adaptation. We put our bodies through stress by resistance training and as a result, over time, the body adapts to this by developing bigger and stronger. So we have this equation where the input is the amount of stress or the weights and the output is the adaptation or the muscle growth.
Constantly up the weights in order to get an increased muscle size as a result.
There are guys at my gym that look the same as they did one year ago. Absolutely no gains. That’s because they lift the same weights over and over again, they don’t struggle with the weights. They just hit the 135 for 10-12 reps again and again.
Your training should be high intensity, moderate volume. Use weights that allow you do to 5 to 8 reps tops per set and focus on constantly increasing the weight. I have science backing me up on this guys.
There is this study that took 29 trained guys and divided them into two groups, each group doing a different type of training:
- Group 1 was focusing on high volume training – doing 10-12 reps with a weight of 70% of 1 RPM and 1 minute of resting between sets
- Group 2 was focusing on high intensity training – doing 3-5 reps with a weight of 90% of 1 RPM with 3 minutes of resting between sets.
Both groups did the same exercises which consisted of bench press, squats, deadlifts and shoulder press, for 8 weeks, with 4 training days per week. You can read all the details of the study over here.
Long story short, the guys in group 2 made more strength and muscle gains than the guys in group 1. Bottom line, high intensity training a.k.a. lifting heavy weights stimulates both strength and muscle growth versus high volume.
The interesting thing about this finding is that working out in a low range of 3-5 reps has significant impact on muscle growth.
Another good tip that I recommend you to implement right away is to start tracking your strength. Write things down, go back 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months and see if you’re making strength gains. If you are not something is not right. Re-check your diet or change up your routine a little bit.
OK, so you need to get stronger in order to get bigger muscles, but how do you get stronger? Well let’s take a look at how our muscles work and how they grow.
Skeletal muscle structure
You may know from the anatomy classes that muscles are made out of fibers which are in fact the cells of the muscle. These cells (or fibers) have the form of long strands and are wrapped together by something called perimysium.
The structure of the skeletal muscle is much more complex than just fibers hold together by a special kind of tissue, but for the purpose of this article, knowing that the muscle is made out of fibers is enough.
And now the important part: not all fibers are the same. There are two types of fibers:
- Slow twitching
- Fast twitching
The two types of muscular fiber are quite different and react different to weight training. The slow twitching fibers have very little growth and strength potential but have great endurance potential. These are not the type of fibers you want focus on if you are a bodybuilder.
The fast twitching fibers on the other hand have great potential for strength and growth. This are the ones we like. Fast twitching muscle fiber can contract very fast, can get very powerful, but they fatigue quite fast.
All individuals have both type of fibers in their muscles, in various proportions which pretty much depend on genetics.
Sprinters and marathon runners are the perfect example for showing the difference between role of the two types of muscle fibers and how our bodies react to different types of training.
You noticed that marathon runners look very skinny yet they can run for 4-5 hours? Their muscles have great endurance, yet they are not big at all. That’s because they have developed their slow twitching fibers very effectively, by training accordingly.
Now look at the sprinter. These guys look amazing. They are very muscular, have great strength, but they don’t have the endurance. That is because they focus on training for maximum strength which allows them to propel their bodies to high speeds over short periods of time and distance.
The take away point here is that in order to grow in size you will have to focus your training on hitting those fast twitching fibers, use heavy weights (80% of 1 RPM or more), keep the intensity high and volume moderate. And that’s exactly what the study mentioned above demonstrated.
Positive protein turnover
Muscle growth takes place when the rate of protein synthesis is higher than rate of protein degradation. The ratio between protein synthesis and protein degradation is also known as protein turnover. You want to keep this positive, which will put you in an anabolic state (a.k.a. muscle building state).
Weight training and high protein diets increase the protein turnover in skeletal muscles.
Muscular development can’t happen without a proper diet though. You can’t make any gains if you don’t eat enough man. This is a mistake that many people do. Most trained individuals will need to be in a caloric surplus in order to gain lean mass and should eat 1.5-2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles, the fuel that drives muscle growth.
Since we’re on the diet part of the discussion now, let’s talk briefly about macros. We already covered the proteins which should be in the range of 1.5 – 2 grams per kg. What about fats and carbs? Well, most specialist say that fat intake should not be higher than 0.7 grams per kilogram, or that you should not take more than 25% of the calories from fats.
Carbs should fill in the rest of the calories in your diet. Keep in mind that carbohydrates are the primarily source of energy in the gym and will influence the way you perform, so don’t you be doing those low carb diets not even when you’re cutting.
The bro-science behind muscle hypertrophy
Remember when I told you that there are two different types of fibers in our muscles – slow twitching and fast twitching? Well, in turns out that there are also two different typed of muscle hypertrophy – or two ways in which our muscles grow.
We have the myofibrillar hypertrophy and the sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
Here’s how the two types of muscle hypertrophy look like.
Myofibrillar hypertrophy refers to an increase of the actual number of muscular fibers (contractile components), while sarcoplasmic hypertrophy refers to an increase of the “fluid” (non-contractile component) between the muscle fibers.
Knowing this won’t actually help you make more gains because there is no scientific evidence of the connection between the two types of hypertrophy – which one happens faster, or which one has a higher growth potential, nor there’s any known type of training that focuses more on myofibrillar or sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
Take away and muscle growth brief
Alright, we’ve gone through quite some information about how our muscles work and how they get bigger, now it’s time for a wrap up and some take away advice. If I would be ask to summarize this article in just 3 tip for building bigger muscles it would be something like this”
- Focus on high intensity, medium volume workouts
- Get stronger over time (progressive overload)
- Eat a high protein diet with plenty of carbs
Lastly but not least, don’t forget to leave your comments bellow, share this article if you liked it and reach me out at firstname.lastname@example.org.