Muscle mass and heavy lifting are often considered as two sides of the same coin. But is that really true? While the latter often helps the former, it sure isn’t the only way to stimulate muscle growth.
As we shed light on the 101 of building muscle mass, it is only necessary to tell the whole truth about it. What it really is, how to gain muscle mass in a healthy way, tips for beginners, recommended exercises, and more.
Read up as we answer the most essential questions about the ABCs of it all with our in-house Fitness Expert, Spoorthi.
What is muscle mass?
Well, to put it simply, muscle mass is the total amount of muscles in your body. Often described as the “engine” that drives your body’s fat and calorie-burning mechanism, increase in muscle mass can help your body burn fat faster and also strengthen the immune system.
Did you know? The largest muscle in your body is located at the back of your hips! Gluteus Maximus is the reason why you can climb a flight of stairs, without any hassle.
Now that you know a little about the main focus point of the conversation, let’s jump right on to the benefits of having more muscle mass. Gotta know why people are so passionate about building it in the first place!
Benefits of building muscle mass
Faster, better, stronger metabolism
When you work towards building more muscle mass, they become metabolically active, hence continuing to burn calories even after your training session! This in turn, improves metabolism. This also helps with improved energy levels.
Healthy joints and bones
The more muscle mass you have, the more support you provide to your joints, and so better they support your bones.
Better heart health
It also includes increasing lean muscle mass, it gives the cardiovascular system newer places to send freshly pumped blood to.
Chronic health diseases stay at bay
If you’re someone who has been working a little extra hard towards getting fitter, you might often wonder if doing so will keep chronic health diseases away from you. Let us simplify this for you -
More muscle mass ---> less body fat ---> lesser chances of chronic health diseases
Be it diabetes, arthritis, asthma, obesity, heart diseases and an endless list of complicated diseases that’ll make your brain twirl, building more muscle mass saves you from all this, and some more.
Now that we’ve gone through the zillion benefits of building muscle mass, how’d you like to know a bit about how you can go out building muscle mass?
Myth or fact : Can you build muscle mass by only lifting heavy?
As a common misconception, people who regularly hit the gym believe that gaining muscle mass is directly proportional to the frequency and intensity of heavy lifting you do. But that in fact, is not the case.
Sure heavy lifting is one of the many ways through which you can build stronger muscles, but it isn’t the only one. You see, building muscle mass through heavy lifting requires disciplining nutrition. If you keep lifting heavy and let nutrition take the side seat, you’ll end up building no muscle at all.
Crucial factors that influence building muscle
Choosing the right weights
Rep ranges 8-12 are ideal for hypertrophy (increase in cell size). If you chose to do fewer reps with a heavier weight, it would be more likely to focus on muscular strength rather than hypertrophy. And on the contrary, if you perform higher repetitions with lighter weights, that would be focussing on muscle endurance.
Varying rest timings
For strength-based workout, you want to take longer rest periods, but for hypertrophy, optimal rest intervals are anywhere between 30 - 90 seconds and not more than that.
While lifting ‘heavier’ is what will help you build muscle mass, the only way you can ensure that is by tracking your workouts and focussing on progressive overload. What it means is to slowly and gradually increase the total volume of your workout (i.e. reps*sets*weight)
Here are some other things to keep in mind
- Body weight exercises such as squats, lunges & push-ups
- Resistance band movements
- Electrical muscle stimulation
- Suspension training
- And, keeping a food journal because none of these exercises will work until you eat a high protein diet
All this being said, if you’re newly embarking on your fitness journey and are unfamiliar with the territory, here are a few tips for beginners.
And if you are interested in lifting heavier weights, here’s how to do it safely
Track your effort scale. If 1 is the lowest and 10 is the most effort you can put in, ideally, you want to be in the 7-8 range which means that you are not nearing your maximum threshold.
Don't make heavier jumps for progression. For example, if you have been doing 10 reps of 3 sets with 10kgs, an ideal progression would be 10 reps of 3 sets with 12 kgs OR , 12 reps of 3 sets with 10kgs itself. Higher jumps for progressions would cause you to fatigue sooner and may even up that effort scale
It’s okay if you don’t make progress on a certain day. Fret not and focus on that effort scale and make the attempt in the following training session.
It’s pretty obvious that building muscle mass is no rocket science, and heavy lifting is not always the answer. The best way to do it is by figuring out what works best for you. And of course, a little help from the experts never hurt anybody! So if building muscle mass is something that interests you, get started with the above tips and we bet there won’t be any going back.