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How to gain muscle

First things first, gaining muscle takes time, patience, and effort. When it comes to increasing the size of your muscles, otherwise known as hypertrophy, you may initially think of body building, or training for physique or aesthetic goals. While those types of training are known for gaining muscle, most people, dare I say all, could benefit from gaining muscle. Yes, even you runners, hikers, climbers, and cyclists reading this.

 

There are common misconceptions that if you're aiming to gain muscle, you'll get bulky, gain weight, and sacrifice speed and agility for muscle impacting your primary outdoor activities. Although it is a possibility you'll gain weight if you gain muscle and are in a calorie surplus, that isn't something to be afraid of. The benefits of gaining muscle include, but are not limited to improved joint health, prevention of muscle atrophy, maintained or increased bone density, and increased strength, endurance, speed, and agility.


Read on to learn how to reap the benefits listed above.


Trainer holding Rogue plate

How to increase muscle mass:

1. Resistance train consistently 2-4x per week.

For hypertrophy, it's important to strength train consistently by aiming for 2-4 sessions per week. Consider doing full body training sessions with rep ranges between 6-12 reps with a controlled tempo. Full body resistance training sessions should include the five basic movement patterns. If there's a certain muscle group you are hoping to focus on that is not isolated in a squat, hinge, push, pull, or carry movement, such as your rear delts, it would be worth adding isolation work to encourage growth in said area.


It's important to remember that gaining muscle takes time and patience alongside consistency. It will take more than just a few weeks, in fact, months and years is more like it. This doesn't mean you won't see results early on, but understand that taking a full season or more to focus on building muscle will be more beneficial than a quick 4-6 week stint.


Volume matters when it comes to gaining muscle, but consistency and effort matters more. Work with me 1:1 online.

 

2. Keep your training efforts between RPE 7-9.

Effort matters regardless of your training goals, but especially if you want to grow your muscle mass. I use the RPE Scale (rate of perceived exertion) with my clients, and recommend you do, too, to self-assess your effort in a given exercise or workout. The RPE Scale helps ensure that you are lifting heavy enough to produce wanted outcomes, as well as progressing over time. For most training sessions, I recommend keeping your training efforts between RPE 7-9, which means you would aim to lift at a weight and rep range that leaves you feeling like you have 1-3 reps left in the tank.


Studies show you don't need to push all the way to failure to see results in muscle growth or strength, but know that it's okay if you misread your own RPE Scale every once in a while. The RPE Scale is a skill that takes time to develop and understand. Heck, I've been resistance training for 12 years and I still misread my own effort on occasion. Sometimes it be like that.

 

3. Train muscles through a full range of motion.

Training through a full range of motion means we are stretching the muscle fully before contracting. An example of this could be with a Bicep Curl. Yes, you can achieve a full range of motion in a by performing a Bicep Curl while standing, BUT you could extend that range of motion even further by doing an Incline Bicep Curl on incline bench, which requires your elbows to be slightly tucked behind you, creating a deeper stretch within the bicep when the elbows are fully extended.


Another example is with a Squat. Everyone's squat form is different depending on abilities and mobility, but in general, we are looking for a stance between hip- and shoulder-width apart with toes pointed forward or slightly angled out, so you can lower into the squat while keeping your knees in line with your second and third toes. If you find it challenging to get into a deep squat, it could be due to a lack of hip or ankle mobility. For the sake of this example, we'll assume it's due to ankle mobility. To mitigate this, you can perform Elevated Heels Squats to decrease the need of ankle mobility and increase the depth of the squat for a fuller range of motion. Elevated Heels Squats will allow you to get a fuller stretch in your quadriceps at the bottom of the squat, making it an ideal set up for producing hypertrophy in the quads. Note that if this is your current situation, I still encourage you to work on your ankle mobility as part of your warm-up, at minimum, to improve this over time.

 

4. EAT.

Consuming enough food, both in regards to calories and protein, to support your life and your training is helpful for increasing muscle mass. In general, I recommend aiming for 1.4-2.0g/kg of bodyweight of protein per day to encourage muscle growth, improve recovery from strength and endurance training, and support bodily functions.


A 150 lb person aiming for 1.4-2.0g/kg of bodyweight would consume 95-136g of protein per day.

A 200 lb person aiming for 1.4-2.0/kg of bodyweight would consume 127-181g of protein per day.

You could split up your protein consumption throughout the day by aiming for 25-40g of protein at each meal, plus snacks. Check out these 6 protein snack ideas.

Gotta eat if you wanna grow!

 

If you're reading this and still feeling hesitant to push toward gaining muscle, send me a message and share your concerns. I'd be happy to chat!

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Katharine Moustakes
Hey, friend!

I'm Katharine.

I'm a personal trainer, running coaching, and nutrition coach who's stoked about lifting, the outdoors, summit snacks, and my dog.

 

I understand that fitness is not your whole life. Fitness is a PART of your life. I approach training in a way that adds value to your life and longevity, so you can enjoy being active whether you're romping around in the mountains, playing with your kids, or signing up for your first 10K race.

I'm here to meet you where you are, so you can train safely and effectively, and gain strength and confidence both in the gym and on the trails.

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