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Building muscle

Muscle gives you shape, increases your metabolic rate, strengthens the bones, and decreases your risk of many diseases. So it’s worth building more of it!

What builds muscle

The most effective way to build muscle is to lift weights. A well designed weight training program will allow you to build muscle through progressive overload (getting stronger over time), metabolic stress (fatiguing the muscle), and muscular damage (actual damage to the muscle tissue — this is why your muscles hurt the day after lifting something heavy).

You’ll also need a diet that provides your body with the right nutrition to actually build new muscle tissue. This boils down to sufficient calories and protein.  
How fast can I build muscle?
3-5 workouts per week are ideal for building muscle. You might also wonder how often to work out each muscle group. The most common choices are:
Once per week
For example, training legs every Monday.

Twice per week
For example, training legs every Monday and Wednesday.

Three times per week
For example, training legs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Weight
So which is most effective? Higher frequency (2-3x per week) is more effective than lower frequency (once per week) when it comes to gaining strength and muscle mass.

Effective schedules

A workout "split" is the weekly schedule of your weight training program. Which days you’ll train which body part, and which days you’ll have a rest day.
Choosing a workout split
There a few factors you have to think about when choosing a workout split:

Ideal training frequency
What we discussed previously — how many times you’ll train each body part per week.

Your personal schedule
You should choose a split that works with your personal schedule. We all have jobs, school, a family, or something else that puts a limit on where and how often we can work out.

Your experience level
Some splits are more ideal for beginners than intermediate or advanced trainees, you pick something that matches you experience level.

Your preferences
Your preferences also matter. You might happen to like or dislike certain styles of training more than others. Adherence is incredibly important, and is much easier when you enjoy your training split.
The different splits
Here are the different splits and why they may suit you:
Full body split
This is a 3-day split, where you work out your entire body 3 times a week (usually Monday, Wednesday, Friday. It’s the most effective routine for a beginner.
Mon:
Tue:
Wed:
Thurs:
Fri:
Sat:
Sun:
Full body workout
Rest
Full body workout
Rest
Full body workout
Rest
Rest
Upper/lower split
An upper lower split is one of the most popular splits and suitable for all training levels. It’s usually a 4-day split that looks like this:
Mon:
Tue:
Wed:
Thurs:
Fri:
Sat:
Sun:
Upper body workout
Lower body workout
Rest
Upper body workout
Lower body workout
Rest
Rest
Push/pull/legs split
This split revolves around splitting the body parts you train into 3 groups: upper body pushing muscles (e.g, chest, shoulders, triceps), upper body pulling muscles (e.g, back, biceps), and legs (e.g, (quads, hams, calves). Here is an example of a 3-day split:
Mon:
Tue:
Wed:
Thurs:
Fri:
Sat:
Sun:
Push
Rest
Pull
Rest
Legs
Rest
Rest

Exercises

So once you’ve picked your routine, what exercises do you do?
Compound vs isolation
A compound exercise utilizes multiple muscle groups, and an isolation exercises targets just one.

The majority of your workouts should be comprised of compound exercises which include squats, deadlifts, lunges, bench press, rows, pull ups, etc.

Isolation exercises should also be part of your routine, just less than compounds. Such exercises include bicep curls, tricep extensions, leg extensions, calf raises, etc.
Machines vs free weights
All types of exercises and equipment are capable of stimulating muscle growth, as the body can’t tell the difference between what you use, just whether you’re creating enough tension, fatigue and damage. However, free weights are recommended rather than machines as they work on your stabilizers and balance.
Curls
Exercise order
More physically demanding exercises (compound exercises) should come before easier, less physically demanding exercises. For exameple, do squats before leg extensions.
Rep ranges
Compound exercises should usually be done in the 5-8 rep range, and isolations in the 10-15 range.
Rest periods
How long should you rest in between sets? You have to take into consideration how physically demanding the exercise is, and what rep range you’re doing.

For compound exercises in the low rep range, you should rest about 2-4 minutes between sets. For isolation exercises in the high rep range, you should rest about 1-2 minutes.
Progressive overload
In order for a muscle to grow, it must be forced to adapt to a stimulus that is beyond what it has previously experienced.

Basically, over time you have to increase the weight being lifted, add additional reps, or do something that increases the demands that your body needs to meet in order to continue growing the muscle.

Food and sleep

Sufficient food and rest is essential for building muscle.
Calories
Your body requires a small amount of additional calories to create new muscle tissue.

The first thing to do is estimate your maintenance level (the amount of calories you need to maintain your current body weight).

The best way to do this is to use a TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) calculator — many can be found online.
An easier method is to take your current weight in pounds and multiply it by 14 - 16. For example, a 150 lb person would have an estimated daily maintenance level of 2100 - 2400.
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Your caloric surplus should be about 200 calories above maintenance if you’re male, and 100 if you’re female. You’ll read many accounts of people eating 500 above maintenance online, but that will result in too much fat gain. If you keep it in the lower range, you’ll gain mostly muscle and fat gain will be minimal. Eating in a larger surplus will not result in more muscle gain.

Monitor your weight gain. If you’re male, you should aim to gain between 1 - 2 lbs per month, and 0.5 - 1 lbs if female. Keep weighing yourself and adjust your calories to match that range.
Protein, fat and carbs
Protein plays the most important role in the muscle building process. You should aim to get between 0.8 - 1.2 of protein per pound of body weight.

The remaining calories will be made up of fat and carbs. The typical recommendation is getting 20-30% of your total daily caloric intake from fat, and the remaining amount from carbs.

Depending on the diet you’re on, this might be different. For example, if you’re on the keto diet, you’ll be getting a very minimal amount of carbs.
Sleep
Not getting enough sleep negatively impacts the body in many ways, many playing a role in our ability to build muscle:
- Lower testosterone levels
- Higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels
- Reduced insulin sensitivity
- Increased hunger and appetite
- Impaired cognitive function
- Impaired recovery
- Impaired physical performance
zzz
To avoid all this, and to build as much muscle as possible, you have to get sufficient sleep. This is about 7 - 9 hours of sleep per night.

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