Whether you want to improve your appearance, feel more confident, or have the ability to lift your partner above your head like Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, building muscle and strength is a great way to do so. Regardless of your motivation, if you’re interested in learning how to be physically strong, you’ve come to the right place. Getting significantly stronger takes more than lifting heavy in the gym, though it’s true that it’s an essential part of the process.
If you want to gain muscle, you’ll need to work both smarter and harder. But don’t worry, we’re going to walk you through each step you need to take to do so. To learn everything, you need to know to start building muscle and strength today, just keep reading.
Table of Contents
Prioritize Adequate Sleep
The first step in any fitness regime is to address your sleeping habits. Now, you might be thinking, “hold on, I want to learn how to get stronger, what does sleep have to do with building muscle?” That’s a completely understandable question, as sleep is a criminally undervalued part of strength training and health as a whole. But here’s the truth. If you sincerely want to reach your best results in the gym, high-quality sleep isn’t a recommendation, it’s a requirement.
With a good night’s sleep under your belt, your body will have the energy it needs to reach peak performance. You’ll find that you have greater endurance and can lift more because your body is well-rested.
Let’s talk about the science behind muscle growth. It’s a common misconception that you become stronger while you’re doing the actual lifting. The reality is that you become stronger not during exercise but during rest.
As you lift heavier and heavier, you strain your muscles to the point of tearing. Later, while you’re sleeping, your body goes to work repairing these muscles. Muscle fibers are fused together to form new muscle strands. These new muscle strands are both bigger and stronger than the ones they replaced.
The trick is to help your body along as much as possible in this process. And the most effective way to do that is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
To get the highest quality sleep you can, go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. If you find it difficult to fall or stay asleep, you might need to reduce your caffeine intake or build a relaxing nighttime routine to help tell your body it’s time to sleep.
Increase Your Caloric Intake
Now that we’ve gone over the importance of a good night’s sleep before a workout, let’s talk about calories. To build muscle and therefore strength, you’re going to have to gain weight. In order to do so, you need to be in a caloric surplus. The fitness industry has done a fantastic job of muddying the waters when it comes to gaining or losing weight. Remember, this industry is worth almost $100 billion worldwide for a reason. Unfortunately, for many companies, money comes before being honest with the customer.
So let’s simplify things. If you want to change your weight, you need to change your calories. Eating fewer calories than you burn will cause weight loss. Consume more calories than your body uses in a day and you’ll gain weight.
That’s it. That’s the big “secret” to weight loss and gain. It’s not glamorous or exciting, but it is the reality of the situation. Before you can eat more calories, you have to know how many calories you’re consuming. Start tracking your calories and after a week, calculate the average. When you’re increasing your caloric intake, don’t just pick a number higher than your current calorie count out of thin air. To get the best results, you need to make small adjustments over time.
Next week, eat 500 calories more than you eat now and stick to this number for two weeks. After the two weeks are up, step on the scale. If the number has increased, you’re good to go. If it hasn’t, bump your calories up another 500 per day.
Improve Your Diet
Let’s say you find that you need to increase your caloric intake by 1000 calories per day. You could just eat an entire box of cookies or a tub of ice cream and call it a day, right?
The truth is, yes, you could do that. And sometimes, when you’re trying to figure out how to gain muscle, calories are calories. However, eating junk food and empty calories in order to reach your goal will likely result in a greater body fat percentage than you wanted.
If you want to gain clean weight, i.e., weight from muscle, you need to eat clean. Now, that doesn’t mean you can never have ice cream. In fact, ice cream is a good choice of post-workout snack, as it includes both the protein and fats that your body needs for muscle growth and repair.
That said, the bulk of your diet should be made up of whole, nutrient-dense foods. Get plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats and carbs, and you’ll find it much easier to put on muscle rather than fat when gaining weight.
Eat More Protein
In a healthy adult, about 40% of the overall body weight is muscle. And 20% of that muscle is made up of muscle protein. It goes without saying, then, that protein is the most important nutrient for muscle gain. It’s a good idea to consume protein both before and after your workouts to promote muscle repair and growth. But exactly how much protein do you need?
Well, when you’re building muscle mass, you should aim for about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 160 pounds, you’ll need to eat around 160 grams of protein. As you gain weight, you need to add grams of protein accordingly.
One of the most common sources of protein is chicken breast. This food is around 30 grams of protein per 100 grams or 3.5 ounces. If we continue with the example of a 160-pound person, that person would need to eat more than 5 servings of chicken breast to reach their protein goal.
While this is possible, it’s both expensive and a little unrealistic. That’s why adding supplements to your routine is so helpful, which brings us to our next point.
Consider Taking Supplements
There are endless amounts of supplements on the market, claiming to provide a wide variety of benefits. But if you can only add one to your routine, it should be a protein shake. A good protein shake will include around 30 grams of protein per scoop, as well as amino acids and other essential nutrients. So if you make a 2 scoop shake to enjoy after your workout, you’re already at 60 grams of protein for the day.
Keep in mind, however, that you shouldn’t try to get all your protein in at once. This is both unhealthy and ineffective. You need to space your protein consumption evenly throughout the day.
A protein shake before or after your workout is a great way to reach your protein goal. To get the most out of your shake, drink it within 2 hours of your workout, regardless of whether you drink it before or after.
In addition to adding a protein shake to your daily routine, you can look into other supplements to take your workouts and results to the next level. That said, before you buy sarms or any other supplement, it’s vital that you consult your physician.
Though supplements are harmless to most people, it’s possible to experience adverse effects. This is especially true if you take prescription medications or have an underlying condition. Your physician will be able to help you create a plan that works with you and your health needs.
If you take nothing else away from this article, let it be that your health should always come first. Never sacrifice your health in the quest for bigger muscles and greater strength.
Perfect Your Form
When you hit the gym, it’s tempting to head straight for the weights and lift as heavy as possible. You need to do this eventually, but before you lift heavy, it’s essential that you perfect your form. Lifting with bad form will not only delay or even prevent your results but can cause serious injury. The last thing you want to do is tear a muscle and be set back months in your goals because of it. You can also buy head harness for neck strengthening, because a strong neck can prevent injuries.
This is why one of the best weightlifting tips we can give you is to start with light weights. If you know what the correct form looks like, do a few sets using light weights in front of a mirror until you’re sure that you can perform the lift without error.
Unsure what perfect form looks like for a certain exercise? There’s no shame in asking for help. Most gyms have experienced personal trainers on their staff, ready to assist you when necessary. Work with a personal trainer until your form is where it needs to be, then you can break out on your own.
Focus on Compound Movements
If you go to a typical gym, you’re surrounded by an almost overwhelming number of machines capable of working even the smallest, most specific muscle. These might look fun, but when you want to build strength, it’s better to ignore them.
There’s a time and a place for isolation exercises, but it isn’t when your goal is to get stronger. You need to focus on compound movements and narrow your workouts down to the big five of weightlifting: bench press, squat, deadlift, rows, and overhead press.
These exercises recruit the largest amount of muscle mass, maximizing your muscle-building potential. In addition, you should do these lifts with free weights if possible. Free weights require a greater level of stability, giving you a boost in terms of the lift’s effectiveness.
The exception is when you’re working out alone. If you don’t have someone to spot you, stick to an assisted weight machine such as a Smith machine. This keeps the barbell within a fixed path of travel and comes with stops that will protect you from injury should something go wrong.
Increase Resistance Over Time
The human body is a highly intelligent machine, capable of adapting to just about anything. This holds true for weightlifting. As you increase the demand on your body, your muscles will adapt to handle it.
With that in mind, you’ll need to increase resistance, or the amount of weight you lift, every time you train. Similar to adding calories to your diet, you need to add weight in a gradual manner. Don’t try to jump 50 pounds at a time. Intensify the demand on your body little by little and you’ll see greater results.
No matter the weight you’re lifting, you should never lift to absolute failure. Lift to failure of form instead, meaning when you can feel that cannot do another rep with good form, stop lifting. You might be tempted to ignore this advice, but remind yourself that good form is what protects you from injury and maximizes your results.
Learn How to Be Physically Strong to Improve Your Life Overall
The benefits of learning how to be physically strong go far beyond appearances. In addition to looking better and feeling stronger, you’re going to feel more confident, have less trouble sleeping, and even add years to your life.
Remember, the most important step is to prioritize your diet and sleep schedule before you hit the gym. Without addressing these two aspects of your lifestyle, you’ll find it much more difficult to get the results you’re looking for. Interesting in more tips and tricks for improving your health and fitness? Take a look at our blog!