building muscle mass

it is necessary to increase the load to create a new growth stimulus in the muscle.

The mechanism of muscle growth is very simple and is called hypertrophy, that is the enlargement of the muscle cells that already exist within our body. So the purpose of those who want to increase muscle mass is to achieve hypertrophy. Hypertrophy occurs when a muscle adapts to an overload, ie after having made an effort above its capacity. This is equivalent to using an extremely high load in the gym for very short periods of time; when the muscle is overloaded it is as if it understands that it is no longer sufficient to perform the required work and is therefore stimulated to grow. It is therefore evident that when the muscle is adapted to the load currently used, it is necessary to increase the load to create a new growth stimulus in the muscle. Practicing exercises with increasing loads and intensities is called progressive overload and is the only effective method to produce muscle growth (separate drugs!).

The mechanism of growth


But let’s see more in detail the mechanism of growth starting from the day of training in the gym: when the muscle makes a particularly intense effort (overload) the muscle fibers undergo micro-fractures.

So it is not at all true that the muscle grows in size during the execution of the exercise; on the contrary, after the exercise a catabolic process takes place, that is to say, the micro-fracturing of the muscular fibers; if after exercise we seem to see the muscle a bit bigger is only because the effort has attracted more blood into the capillaries and temporarily creates this effect of “inflation”, destined to disappear after a few minutes. Long after the overload, about 12-24 hours later, the muscle begins to react and repair micro-fractures. This moment corresponds to when we hear the famous “heavy meat”, and it is precisely here that the muscle grows: by repairing the microfractures, the body performs an anabolic action (the opposite of catabolic) or regeneration and growth. The notorious anabolic steroids (taken illegally by certain bodybuilders) amplify the anabolic action of the organism and therefore exalts the growth process.

Well, let’s forget about the anabolic steroids and see how to behave during the anabolic phase to maximize muscle growth. First, we have to eat a lot of protein to supply the muscle the raw material to grow. If we do not supply raw material to the muscle, it would be like building a house using many builders without however giving them bricks and cement; no matter how much they commit themselves to trying everything they can to achieve the goal, they can not build anything really if they do not have the basic materials available. Furthermore, if we go back to overloading the muscle too early, that is, when the anabolic “reconstruction” process is still taking place, we produce an extremely negative effect called overtraining. This means that we are going to create further micro-fractures to the muscle making the work done in the previous training session useless and also the reconstruction process will be much longer because the muscle has been excessively fractured.

OK, now let’s see how to translate this process into practice. Muscle growth takes place following three important rules: as soon as one is violated, the growth process is interrupted.

weight lifting

1) Short and intense training

The muscle must be overloaded, not tired, so it is necessary to do a few series with few repetitions, no more than 6-8 repetitions per series. Going beyond the muscle would work in an aerobic and no longer anaerobic regime and this does not produce enough stimulus to reach hypertrophy. But the few repetitions performed must be truly intense; you have to reach the so-called muscular incapacity, or when you get to the last repetition, the muscle must be so exhausted that you can not complete the movement without someone giving you help. When muscle incapacity is reached, the muscle is overloaded and it is no longer necessary to train it; you can then move on to the next exercise.

2) Eating

You have to eat a lot of proteins and carbohydrates, with quality foods (so no snacks/fries / fast food), to supply the raw materials to the muscle to grow. I will address the topic of nutrition and supplements on a separate post later on after the Holiday season. For now, it is enough to know that you have to eat a lot by making many small meals (from 6 to 8 a day) throughout the day.

3) Rest

The muscle grows when it rests and not when it is training. The classic fear of the bodybuilder is not to train enough; instead, it should fear the opposite, that is overtraining. After hard training a part of the body it is good to let it rest for 5 to 7 days before training it again, to allow the body to repair and grow muscle from the previous training.

This post might somewhat go against what is read in many fitness magazines. In these magazines, incredibly large bodybuilder photos are often posted, along with their training cards. These cards provide for routines very different from what I told you; sometimes we talk about 15-20 series per muscle group when I propose one or two. But it must be considered that such programs work only on those rare monsters of genetics that also make use of illegal and extremely harmful anabolic drugs. They are therefore exceptions to the rule, exceptions that provide an altered view of this beautiful sport. Many people try to follow the training programs of these genetic monsters, but all of them fall in overtraining. So after months and months of hard work they realize that the results have been almost completely inexistent and, discouraged, they leave the activity in the gym. It is obvious that those with a lean constitution can never hope to reach the levels of certain professional bodybuilders, but following a method of training suitable for them can, with much patience and time, build a respectable physique.

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As always, thanks for popping in and see you soon.

Franco Nero
Franco Nero

Franco defines itself as a person trapped in a sedentary lifestyle, however, he is an avid fitness "addict" and like, many more in his environment spends vast parts of his leisure time on a gym, running, cycling.

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