Hello My Friends!
Welcome to The Vitality Project!
In all of the time that I have served as a healthcare provider, fitness, nutrition and anti-aging subject matter consultant the question of muscle-building seems to be the most prolific of all the questions that I am asked.
Well….here is the simple answer.
Although there are many written accounts of how your body creates and maintains it’s LTM (lean tissue mass), it’s a process that takes a great deal of time, effort, patience and looking at all the other aspects of your lifestyle which greatly impact your ability to gain and keep your LTM.
The ONLY method of increasing muscle quantity (size) or quality (strength) is to exercise with weights. Of course, you can marginally increase muscle strength in your legs, calves, hips and buttocks by walking but this is more likely to happen in people who have very weak muscles to begin with. In those who are fully capable of weight-bearing and have not been sedentary for too long, this type of exercise will usually not give you what you want because of one simple law.
Training (exercise specificity)
This law basically states that your body will adapt to an exercise stimulus in a given manner depending upon the type, intensity and duration of that stimulus.
So if you want bigger, stronger muscles you have to apply an external force to them. The nature of that force will determine the degree of adaptation your body will produce…makes sense?
This is where weight-training makes a very important impact in the young or in the aging body as your LTM has a direct and profound determinant in your long-term health. Your LTM influences your immune response, bone production, blood pressure, blood volume, reaction time, cardiac output, balance, functional capability of your musculo-skeletal system, joint health, mental well-being…even sexual response….just to name a few.
Above all…people who have higher levels of LTM live longer because this is equated with a much better aging response and adaptive abilities during aging.
So….how do you accomplish this task…well the best method I can recommend is either joining a gym or investing in weight-training equipment yourself and using it at your home.
Without going into many different scenarios, I will keep it basic.
The level of success in developing and maintaining your own LTM will depend upon the following:
Exercise Volume, Exercise Intensity, Exercise Selection, Exercise Technique, Rest, Nutrition, Stress.
Exercise Volume: Depending upon your program, I recommend no more than 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions per body part in the beginning stages. Later, more sets can be added if you wish to specialize in upper or lower body movements. Beginners, may want to perform 1 set of 15 repetitions for each body part performed in succession in a circuit pattern with 8-10 stations allowing you to target all of the major muscle groups.
Exercise Intensity: The degree of effort with determine the rate of muscle adaptation. This can be assessed by the amount of weight, lifting speed and rest periods taken. Of all the factors that can adversely affect training outcome…this has the greatest influence!
Exercise Selection: I usually recommend that beginners start with single-joint exercises and progress to multi-joint movements. Also machines may be your best bet in the early stages with free weights being an essential element to your training later on.
Exercise Technique: The manner with which you train with weights can make all the difference not just in the probability of injury but in the level of adaptation. This HAS to be taught by someone who really gets this…a few minutes of coaching can save you years of doing this whole thing wrong! This is the second area where people often fall off the rails with their approach to resistance training.
(Have you ever wondered why people claim that they went to the gym but it didn’t work for them because they didn’t get results?)
Rest: I recommend 3 days in the gym for beginners and up to 5 for advanced trainers with at least 1 week off completely per month…yes every month! Although over-training is described much too often…it can happen and the early signs usually have nothing to do with muscle soreness or fatigue!
Nutrition: What you eat definitely makes a difference in your own body’s ability to create and maintain your LTM. The quality of the food you choose, the combinations of foods consumed, when you eat and how frequently are all important factors in this case.
Stress: If you are under physical or emotional stress, it will be very difficult to create and maintain your LTM as stress hormones like cortisol make it very difficult for people to make muscle tissue or keep it.
Taken together, these major factors will greatly influence your own ability to build and maintain your LTM which is so vitally important throughout your life in the attainment and maintenance of excellent health!
If you are currently performing resistance training but not enjoying the results you would like…consider the above points very carefully and re-evaluate your own program.
Dr. Kevin J. McLaughlin
The Vitality Project