Many people, regardless of gender or age, have a goal to get healthier and build more muscle mass. Starting a new fitness routine is a scary process for beginners and they can be hard to understand or follow.
In this article, we will outline 8 tips to help you start on your fitness journey and build stronger and leaner muscles.
1. Utilize Cardio Workouts
When people have a goal to increase their muscle mass they usually tend to forget, or deemphasize, a critical aspect of any fitness routine: cardio workouts. In fact, many body builders and anyone wanting to gain muscle, forego cardio exercise because of a misconception that cardio workouts lead to muscle mass loss.
This belief is truly a misconception and while cardio exercise does make you burn more calories than strength training alone, it does not result in a loss of muscle mass. In reality, many fitness gurus agree that cardio routines are complimentary to strength training.
As we all know, cardio improves the health of the cardiovascular system and how well the blood circulates through the body. Better blood circulation when strength training can help you recover from DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) faster, allowing you to decrease your recovery time in between workouts and gain more muscle.
2. Focus on One Muscle Group a Day
There is a plethora of benefits to working out a single muscle group each day: you have shorter workouts, plenty of time for the specific muscle group to recover before the next workout session, and more time to dedicate to aerobic exercises like cardio.
A one muscle group a day fitness routine would look like the following:
|Day of the Week||Target Exercise Group|
|Thursday||Arms – Biceps and Triceps|
When focusing on one muscle group, you have the choice to stick to muscle isolation exercises that only target and work only one specific muscle group, or you can choose to utilize compound exercises that target more than one muscle group at a time.
Isolation exercises for the chest, for example, would be dumbbell flies or cable crossovers. Pushups, on the other hand, are a compound exercise that primarily strengthens the chest while also working out the shoulders and biceps.
The American Council of Exercise (ACE) recommends having at least two compound exercises a week that train the entire body to really get the most out of your strength training routine.
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3. Create a Personalized Fitness Routine
Creating a fitness routine that builds muscle may seem daunting for any beginner but there are a few core principals to make the process easier, including focusing on your full body routine and making sure that each workout includes exercises that strengthen the four major parts of the body (legs, core, upper body, and back/shoulders). Experts recommend that beginners should start out doing full body routines during each workout.
Additionally, it is important to implement full body routines during a strength training workout. Nerd Fitness recommends that you should always have a one leg exercise like squats or deadlifts, a one push exercise like bench presses or dips, a one pull exercise such as pull ups or chin ups, and a one core exercise such as planks or hanging knee raises.
Once your routine contains exercises of push, pull, leg, and core exercises, you are then free to decide what specific group you want to target during the rest of your routine. When planning your fitness routine, you should think about your problem areas and set attainable goals to help keep your routine on track.
4. Exercise Harder with Shorter Routines
Surprisingly, you can utilize shorter routines in strength training and muscle building as long as you up the intensity of the workout. Many of the benefits of exercise, such as fat loss and calorie burning, occurs after you finish your workout, making the duration of your workout somewhat meaningless.
In fact, if you strength train for too long, you will cause your body to release cortisol, a stress hormone that contributes to muscle breakdown. Instead, opt for shorter, but more intense routines that really work your muscles. To be more specific, perform exercises with heavier weights and a low set count with 10-12 reps each.
5. Stay Consistent with your Workouts
When starting any fitness program and muscle building, it is important to stay consistent with your routine, without skipping any days unless it is necessary. Additionally, you will also want to keep a strict time to work out every day to get your body in a set routine for working out. For example, let’s say your regular Monday plan was a 2-hour workout that focuses on leg strengthening that begins at 5pm and ends at 7pm, but on this Monday you must go to your child’s soccer game, cutting your free time in half.
When faced with situations like these, you should not skip that workout, just modify it to fit your time availability. If you only have time to do your four full body exercises then just do those, instead of rushing your full workout or skipping that day all together.
If you do have to skip a workout day for whatever reason, don’t make up for it the next day. Instead, go on with your regular routine and skip that workout day. To be specific, if you couldn’t get to the gym on Wednesday, which is your back day. When you work out your arms on Thursday, proceed with your original schedule and don’t try to make up your missed leg day.
Related: 10 Simple and Effective Home Bodybuilding Workout Routines
6. Increase your Calorie Intake to Build Muscle
A big aspect that many people overlook when building muscle mass is the number of calories they consume. While you may think you need to eat less calories to lose weight, it is the opposite when building muscle mass.
When you are active and working out every day, you will need to eat about 17-19 calories per lb. of bodyweight. So, for a 150 lb. male to maintain his bodyweight, he will have to eat 2,550 – 2,850 calories a day.
When you want to build muscle mass, you will want to increase your calorie intake to fuel your body to burn fat. One pound of muscle weighs approximately 3500 calories, which is what you will want to add per week to your original calorie intake to safely build muscle. So, for a 150 lb. man who eats 2,550 calories a day, he will want to add an extra 500 calories each day to build 1 lb. of muscle each week.
7. Carbs are your Friend
Another food misconception is that carbs are bad for you and will keep you from reaching your fitness goals, which is far from the truth. Carbs are converted into glycogen in the body which is stored in your muscles and help fuel your workouts.
When strength training at least two days a week, you will want to get half of your daily caloric intake from high quality carbs, not junk, processed, or fried foods.
8. Prioritize Sleep
Finally, you must start prioritizing good sleeping habits to gain muscle. Besides keeping your physical and mental health great, consistent sleep has shown to greatly increase your body’s performance when exercising. In NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement), your body increases blood flow to your muscles, causing rapid tissue and muscle recovery.
In REM sleep (rapid eye movement), your body relaxes and loses tension, decreasing the symptoms of some chronic conditions and pain. Experts at Sleep (which is run by the national sleep foundation) -recommend a consistent schedule of at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night to aid in muscle recovery and athletic performance.
You shouldn’t let starting a new fitness program intimidate you, building muscle mass leads to better quality of life, sleep, and mental health. While it may seem scary at first, if you follow the tips laid out in this article, you will be on your way to getting in the best shape of your life.
Related: The Best Muscle Building Workout for Each Part of the Body