How To Build Muscle Through Proper Exercise, Diet, and Supplementation
How Muscle Growth Occurs
The body is an incredible machine that can be trained to do some amazing things. Building muscle is our primary concern, but to do that, you've got to take a balanced, methodical approach.
Bodybuilding is as much art as science. There are two main kinds of muscle development: Hypertrophy and hyperplasia. According to Wikipedia, hypertrophy is an increase in cell size, while hyperplasia is the increase in the number of cells.
It has not yet been conclusively proven how to stimulate hyperplasia. However, hypertrophy is well-documented in the scientific and sports communities.
So, we'll focus on hypertrophy.
Muscle cells get bigger in two primary ways, through an increase in fluids within the cells (which is generally a temporary phenomenon) and through a change in number and/or size of the tiny components that make up the cell. The primary method of increasing the size and number of cell components is through adaptive training. That is to say, through progressive resistance.
Give a muscle a workout and it adapts by getting stronger. It gets stronger cell-by-cell. Interestingly, a muscle cell is all or nothing when it comes to contraction. Do a barbell curl, and only the minimum number of cells contract to lift it. If you want to stimulate more fibers (also called cells), you have to lift a heavier weight.
In theory, if you curled the heaviest weight you could, you would be using every single cell in your biceps. In practice, this isn't quite true.
Over time, the muscles adapt to that weight, by increasing the size and strength of each cell. Once adapted, though, the muscles stop growing simply because there is no longer a need to get bigger or stronger.
Add more weight or do more reps or do a combination of both in less time. In all cases, what you're ultimately doing is practicing progressive resistance training.
The bodybuilding principles you will follow throughout these pages will all hinge on this three-pronged approach to progressive resistance training (heavier weight, higher reps, or higher intensity).
This is not to diminish the effects of proper nutrition, rest, and mental attitude. Muscle growth can only happen with sufficient doses of each of these key supporting ingredients. A poor diet, lack of sleep, or a bad attitude will cripple your muscle building efforts. In fact, you most likely will injure yourself.
Indeed, a sound nutrition plan will fuel your growth. Without proper nutrition, all your efforts in the gym will be for nothing.
Drinking, carousing, or missing sleep will undermine your goals, too.
So keep all this in mind as you begin your bodybuilding lifestyle.
Here are some links to bodybuilding and muscle growth principles that have stood the test of time. All great bodybuilders have followed these principles, from Steve Reeves to Frank Zane, to Arnold, and beyond. A debt of gratitude goes out to Joe Weider for codifying many of these concepts into the bodybuilding lexicon.
Progressive Resistance Exercise (PRE)
This principle asserts that as a muscle gets stronger, you must place a great stress on this through heavier weights.
High Intensity Training
A method of progressive resistance training where sets are completed to failure, employing a combination of other principles. Some ways of raising intensity are: Heavier weights, higher reps, less rest between sets, “doing negatives,” and doing supersets, tri-sets, and giant sets.
A principle that states the bodybuilder must listen to his or her own body and train accordingly. It's based on bio-feedback.
Generally, performing one set of one exercise, then immediately following with a set of an exercise of an opposing muscle group. For example, following a set of barbell curls with tricep extensions.
Anything bigger than a super set. Generally, 3 or more sets of exercises performed without rest, like pull-overs, flyes, and bench presses.
A training regimen that splits weight-training the body into two (or more) parts. For example, you could train arms and legs one day and torso another day.