Build muscle

November 12, 2012

Build muscle

The best way to get in shape is to focus on toning and building your muscles rather than just losing “weight” which could be anything from fat to actual muscle!

The human body contains around 650 muscles – walking around involves 2oo alone!

Muscle fibres

There are two types of muscle fibres – slow twitch and fast twitch.

  • Slow twitch fibres are generally used in endurance activities (not necessarily slow activities!)

  • Fast twitch fibres are utilised when more than 25% or our maximum strength is required for a task. Fast twitch fibres are twice as big as slow twitch and have more potential to increase in size

For most people the mix of slow and fast twitch fibres is about equal – elite athletes being the exception.


For some tasks, such as walking, a small number of muscle fibres are working whilst the others are inactive. The smallest muscle fibres will begin working on their task first and if the task requirement remains at less than 25% of body strength then no fast twitch fibres will join in. In order to involve more of the fast twitch fibres it is essential to reach the limits of your strength. Just using a muscle repeatedly until it is exhausted will not facilitate the involvement of all its fibres. Anyone who is trying to build muscle will eventually have to use weights which require maximum effort – this will activate the fast twitch fibres as well as work the small twitch fibres.

Build muscle, save bones

The squat, despite its detractors, remains one of the best exercises for performance and strength. Squats not only build muscle but will also increase bone density and thickness.

A dead-lift is a strength building movement that is both practical and basic.

Improve muscle quality

The number of muscle fibres, the percentage of fast and slow twitch fibres and the shape of fully developed muscles are all genetically defined. This does not, however, mean that muscle quality and appearance cannot be improved when seeking to build muscle.


Whilst we all have some testosterone none of us have the same increasing, year on year, levels of a developing, maturing male. Near peak testosterone production occurs in the late teens with huge increases beginning between the ages of nine and fifteen. Testosterone levels will continue to rise until around the age of thirty. Muscle mass, without intervention, will peak between the ages of eighteen and twenty five.

There is a clear link between testosterone levels and muscle mass; creating temporary surges in testosterone levels during strength training will contribute to increased muscle mass. This is easily done in a number of ways -

  • Include exercises such as squats, dead-lifts, pull-ups and dips which use the most muscle mass

  • Use heavy weights – at least 85% of your maximum

  • Use gym time to do a lot of work with multiple exercises, sets and repetitions

  • Keep rest periods short – 30 to 60 seconds only

Obviously it is not possible to do all of things in every workout – when seeking to build muscle it is essential to vary your workouts every few weeks.


Eating good quality, lean protein regularly is an essential part of muscle building – protein is required to make muscles grow as well as to prevent them shrinking. Younger men who are trying to gain weight as well as build muscle will need more than just a high protein diet. Focussing on calorie intake will help to ensure the correct amounts of protein are being ingested.

One kilogram of muscle mass requires two grams of protein. Therefore a male weighing in at seventy three kilos will require at least 146 g of protein daily – but this equates to only 584 calories when as many as 3,000 calories may be required daily. In these circumstances the use of protein shakes may be beneficial.

Run less

If you want to build muscle you may need to cut back on any running – running tends to shrink muscles in order to make them more efficient. Cutting back on running as part of your exercise program will result in increased growth of both slow and fast twitch muscle fibre.

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