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Maximizing Muscle Growth: 6 Proven Methods for Building Strength and Size

Woman holding barbell in front rack position

It is admirable and healthy to strive to become stronger. Because of this, you're hitting the gym more, lifting more, and eating more protein. Muscle building can, however, be challenging.

To build muscle, you need to push your muscles beyond their limits and give them time to recover and grow afterward. Lifting weights and eating more protein will help you become stronger, but to build muscle, you need to push your muscles beyond their limits. It takes patience and persistence to build and maintain muscle mass. 

So, how do you build and maintain muscle? Training, good nutrition, rest, and realistic goals create a formula for success. You need to understand that building muscle involves more than just going to the gym or eating more. Here are 6 things that affect your muscle building abilities.

You need to train with intention.

Training with intent involves a deliberate and purposeful approach to every training session and exercise. It means paying attention to what you are doing, what you are lifting, how much you are lifting, improving your lift, etc. Passively lifting weights without a plan may help you gain muscle eventually, but as you become a more experienced lifter, intentional training will help keep you building muscle beyond those “newbie gains”.

Make sure you progress your lifts.

Exercise Science 101, right here! Progressive overload training is a type of strength training that gradually increases the intensity of workouts to avoid a plateau in muscle mass and strength. The primary benefit is that it helps prevent a person from reaching a point where their exercise regimen is no longer challenging or effective. In order to continue to build muscle and strength, you need to continue to place more demand on the muscle whether it is by adding more weight, adding more reps, slowing down and using more time under tension (TUT) or putting your body in a different position (as with bodyweight exercises). 

Eat enough protein & maintenance or slight surplus of calories.

Yep, you read that right. NOT a deficit to build muscle. In fact, being in a chronic deficit (jumping from one fat loss diet to another) will not help your body’s ability to gain muscle at all. You may even discover that fat loss becomes a little easier when you get your body out of the chronic deficit that creates a chronic stressor to the body. Eating to gain muscle will be significantly more than 1200 calories, I can guarantee it.

Prioritize sleep & rest days.

This includes a deload week. In my programming with clients, I program deload weeks. Those who take them see better results overall than those who do not. Why? Because they have chosen to allow the body to rest and recover. Those who don’t deload typically find they are force to take one when their body becomes sick or injured due to lack of recovery!

Let go of the scale.

The scale doesn’t show you your muscle mass. Read that again. Your scale shows you your total body weight. Even scales that say they breakdown your body fat and lean mass numbers are not reliable. They are great for getting a general idea, but they utilize bioelectrical impedance which can be impacted by a variety of things including your hydration levels. Interested in having accurate testing done to determine your lean mass and how much muscle you are putting on? Click here to get accurate data!

Be consistent & give it time.

Arguably one of the most important. Are you about to jump ship because you think you aren’t seeing results? Let me tell you about a scenario I hear in my office frequently when clients come in for a BodPod test:

“Oh my gosh. This is going to be horrible. I just got back from Vegas.”

“Ugh. I’m sure nothing changed because my weight is exactly the same.”

“I’ve been working out but we had some birthdays this last month. I'm sure I didn't make any progress.”

You want to know what happens? They get in the BodPod and find that they have recomposed.

Why? Because OVERALL they were consistent and gave it time. They stuck to their plan 80% of the time.

A weekend away will not derail your efforts unless your weekend turns into weeks. Your weight being exactly the same does not mean nothing has happened (this is why accurate testing with the BodPod can be so beneficial: the scale tells you one number. ) A month of birthday celebrations does not have to affect your overall results. Even if 20% of the days in the month (basically a week) you ate birthday cake, that still leaves 80% that you were on track. 

If you are feeling that you are “stuck” and not building the muscle or strength you had hoped for, try implementing these strategies. Each are important, but start with a simple change that feels the most attainable and implement that strategy. Then add another and another. Before you know it, you’ll be putting on muscle in no time!

Interested in tracking your progress or seeing how much lean mass you have to start with?

Kelly Sherman, MS, NC, CGP, CPT owner Provision Nutrition

Kelly Sherman, MS, NC, CGP, CPT, is a licensed nutritionist specializing in empowering women to reclaim their health by cutting through misinformation and ditching the diet culture. She has a master’s degree in nutrition and is degreed in exercise science as well as a certified personal trainer. With over 20 years of experience in the field, she combines the best of both nutrition and exercise sciences to best help her clients reach their potential. To nourish is to flourish!


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