THE 4 PILLARS OF MUSCLE GROWTH
The human body is an organic adaptation machine. It is built for survival and every trait we have today came from natural selection. Those that were strong and could survive, run, kill and go the longest on the hunt without food, supplied us the genetics that we have today. This is universal no matter what race or continent you derive from.
Looking shredded didn’t help us survive throughout millennia, however being strong, having greater muscle endurance, and providing better blood and oxygen supply to muscle tissue did. And it just so happens that these adaptations tend to occur alongside muscle growth.
The body will grow muscle, but always in order to achieve a different adaptation. If you train with heavy weights, you’ll grow muscle to allow you to become stronger. If you train with higher volume, more sarcoplasm is needed to supply the energy demands of the sets and reps you are doing.
The take home message here is that the body doesn’t care about getting bigger; in fact “training for size” is a misnomer because size is a secondary characteristic to other adaptations. This is precisely why so many different approaches to training work.
Multiple older generation pro bodybuilders trained on opposite ends of the spectrum, and you can find high volume and low volume proponents among successful natural bodybuilders as well.
That being said, there are some things that must occur in order for muscle growth to happen.
First, your training must provide overload. To put this simply, whatever training approach you are using, it has to be something that your body is not currently adapted to. The amount of volume needed is completely dependent on where you are currently at. It is theoretically possible that sedentary populations (those who move much less than the average person) if put on walking programs they could gain muscle. In fact a great amount of studies are conducted that way, which is exactly why the weight room and good, knowledgeable strength coaches, are almost always ahead of the literature.
2. Progressive Overload
Doing more work, either by lifting heavier or doing more sets or reps will provide overload, because it is progressing past the body’s current level of adaptation. That’s all the term progressive overload is. You either lift heavier, perform more sets/reps or do both in order to achieve progress. The more advanced you’re becoming, the more techniques you can start utilizing in your program to ensure continuous muscle growth and strength gains.
I’m sure you’ve heard the quote “You can’t out-train a poor diet”. Muscle cannot be grown out of thin air even if your training is providing progressive overload, so you must be eating enough to provide the building blocks for muscle growth. Notice that I did not say gain a lot of weight quickly, since faster weight gain will result in more fat gain without necessarily increasing the rate of muscle gain, unless we’re talking about muscle memory and regaining muscle mass after an injury or sickness, but even then, there are specific criteria that need to be hit in order to do so.
While the intentional intake of an appropriate energy level assists in lean body mass gains, a sufficient intake of protein to build that newfound muscle tissue is equally important.
You need to follow a structured program if you want to achieve constant, continuous progress. Any program that’s tailored to your needs can work, but you need to be able to fine-tune, alter or adjust your approach depending on your short-term and long-term goals, pre-existing injuries and lifestyle.
For the drug free trainee, progressive overload and nutrition are truly 95% of the equation. Everything else is very low on the hierarchy of importance in comparison to the basics. If you find yourself stressing about these details, you are doing more harm than good as high stress levels are more counterproductive than getting this final 5% perfect. I have seen countless of trainees stressing over supplementation, nutrient timing and esoteric training approaches when they don’t even know how many calories a day they are eating or don’t have a plan to ensure progress in the weight room.
Let me be very clear, if you don’t know how many calories, grams of protein, carbs, and fat you are eating daily, stop reading. If you don’t have a training plan that has some sort of structure and a planned approach to progression, stop reading. You do NOT need to spend $200 on countless supplements thinking that you found the missing link to your approach and that this or that miraculous supplement is what you need in order to gain 30lbs of muscle overnight.
Stop thinking that you “work hard” because you make yourself puke on every leg day and then eat everything in sight when bulking or starve yourself only eating chicken and broccoli when dieting. While that is hard work, equal effort should be spent on learning the science. If you don’t have the patience and focus to educate yourself and develop a sensible plan, don’t fool yourself into thinking you are working as hard as you could be.
With the above being said, yes, there are things you can do to maximize your physique that go beyond the basics; such as including intelligent supplementation, intelligent nutrient timing, and intelligent application of specific training techniques, but to neglect the 95% in order to go for that extra 5%, will make you achieve neither in the process.
To sum everything up, if your training provides continuous progressive overload, then literally any approach is going to work. For continued muscle growth, the body must be forced to make new adaptations. Training with the same weights over and over again, will leave you with the same physique over time.
If the weights aren’t moving up, you can’t possibly expect yourself to start looking better. Likewise, your nutrition has to support your training; only if you’re eating sufficient dietary protein and enough calories should you expect to gain muscle and grow stronger. Once the basics are in order, you can focus on the minute details that will give you that extra 5%.
If you’re tired of getting no results in the weight room and you’re ready to level up your life you can work directly with me. For any questions shoot me a DM on Telegram or via the contact page.