Muscle Growth Basics

Muscle growth is what bodybuilding is all about. We train, to signal the body that the demands being placed on it are exceeding our current capabilities to perform them. The body then goes to work repairing the damaged muscle tissue, making it bigger and stronger so we cope better the next time. Only, the goal posts have moved – we lift heavier again, and the cycle continues.

What I’d like to touch on in this article is the subject of what we need to do to ensure that we obtain maximum muscle growth, and prevent ourselves from lapsing into overtraining, and the dreaded catabolism (loss of muscle).

First let me explain what over-training is

Overtraining is when a person’s muscles (or nervous system) simply can’t recover quickly enough from one training session to the next. Over time they find their gains in strength and size stop, and they may even begin to lose strength and size. This is known as overtraining, and other ‘symptoms’ such as general tiredness, lack of motivation etc, often accompany it. Amendments to your training approach must be made upon the first sign of overtraining. You can’t simply out-train yourself from overtraining by hitting it harder – you need to evaluate your diet, rest, and check/re-write your program if you feel what you are doing is too much volume or strenuous.

As I’ve said, training is nothing but the stimulus to tell our muscles to grow. It’s what we do in the interim that is important. Naturally, our bodybuilding programs – at least, a good bodybuilding program – will give you the maximum amount of rest possible for each muscle with little or no collisions. That means, if you work a muscle group one day, you’d get at least 72 hours before its hit again. This can often be difficult and it’s often a case of simply minimizing the re-training of a muscle.

The importance of diet and rest

Rest is where it’s at. Once you’ve trained hard, your body is seriously going to struggle to repair that muscle and bring it back stronger. You can’t play around and take this point lightly – you’ve got to rest and conserve energy. All the while, you’ve got to be sure you are getting enough nutrients to support muscle growth. Without getting enough nutrients (that is sufficient calories from macronutrients Protein, Complex Carbohydrates and Fats) then all the rest in the world won’t make your muscles grow.

You should try to eat an excess of calories each and every day to what your body would normally need. This should factor in what you’ll burn during training, and what you’ll need to grow. Only trial and error and testing on your part will find your own individual specifications here. I recommend trying to eat no more than 3,500 extra calories a week. Some people can go for more, and some it may be less – it’s all about putting muscle on but minimizing the fat gains that inevitably accompany a calorie surplus. (It’s one thing to get ‘big’ quickly – but what good is it if you’ve put a ton of fat on that you now have to spend months and months losing?)

If you fail to consistently eat enough calories, your muscles won’t grow at all. In fact, it’s likely they will eventually succumb to catabolism (shrinkage) or at the very least, will stay the same or struggle to recover completely before the next session. Again – this will show itself during training and progress as overtraining manifests itself, and things need to be addressed and re-evaluated to move forward once more.

I can tell you now; eating and rest really are the cornerstones to your program. Over training, 9 times out of 10, is down to a lack of nutrients and quality rest. If you know for certain you are eating enough and you are resting enough, then you’ll need to evaluate the layout and content of your training program. Always be sure to analyze your rest and eating before blaming your program as a lame duck.

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