Muscle gain is good for your health as it can strengthen bones, improve balance, help you reduce weight, lower blood sugar levels, and prevent cognitive decline.
5 health benefits of muscle gain
- Supports bones and joints. Building muscle helps improve bone density and joint support. When your muscles are strong, you minimize the stress on your bones. This can help you manage back pain and arthritis and reduces your risk of developing osteoporosis as you get older.
- Improves balance and mobility. As your muscle mass improves, your balance improves as well. This reduces your risk of falls and injuries, which is especially beneficial for older people, since advancing age can lead to decreased muscle mass and function.
- Helps with weight loss. When you gain muscle, your metabolism is enhanced and you can burn more calories even when you are at rest. Strength training can help you shed fat and replace it with lean muscle.
- Lowers blood sugar levels. Along with your liver, your muscles act as storage space for glycogen or carbohydrates. Increasing muscle mass allows your body to store more glycogen in your muscles, which helps regulate your blood sugar levels. When your body doesn’t have enough muscle mass, glycogen breaks down in your body and causes blood sugar spikes, which can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
- Prevents cognitive decline. With aging comes some decline in cognitive skills. Studies suggest that regular strength training may help improve your thinking and learning abilities and prevent age-related mental decline.
What to keep in mind when gaining muscle
If you are a beginner, keep in mind the following tips before building a workout regimen for gaining muscle mass:
- Warm up and cool down. Not warming up before exercising can increase your risk of sore muscles and injuries. Warm up with stretches or light jogging for about 5-10 minutes. Once you’re done with your strength training, cool down for 5 minutes.
- Start slow. Start with exercises that suit your fitness level. You should feel some muscle tiredness after about 12-15 repetitions. Once you have reached this level or beyond, consider adding more weights or strength to your resistance band.
- Give your muscles time to recover. Avoid trying to target the same muscles on consecutive days. Give yourself a gap of at least one day while working on other muscle groups so that your muscles have time to recover.
- Stop if you feel pain. If you feel pain during an exercise, stop and slow down. Consider lowering the weights or resting for a few days until the pain goes away.
- Breathe. Do not forget to breathe regularly as you strength train. Regular breathing maintains the oxygen supply to your muscles so that you don’t tire out too quickly.
- Use the correct form. If you are unsure how to perform an exercise with the right form and posture, get the help of a fitness expert. They can observe you and help you correct any mistakes so that you avoid injuring yourself.
- Eat before your workout. About 1-4 hours before your workout, eat a meal rich in complex carbohydrates and protein. Options include:
- Peanut butter and banana
- Greek yogurt with berries
- Oatmeal with low-fat milk and fruit
- Handful of nuts and raisins
- Apple and almond butter
- Eat after your workout. Try to eat within 1 hour of completing a strength training workout. Post-workout meal options include:
- Smoothie made with low-fat milk and fruit
- Low-fat yogurt with berries
- Talk to your doctor. If you have a chronic condition like heart disease or diabetes, are on medications, or are over 40, ask your doctor before starting a strength training workout regimen.
What exercises can help you gain muscle?
- Cardio: In order to build muscle effectively, you need to build up your endurance with cardio. Examples include walking, running, cycling, jumping rope, and dancing.
- Resistance bands: Resistance resistance bands are inexpensive and effective for use at home for. Start with a low strength one and gradually increase the strength as you gain more muscle.
- Free weights: You can use free weights to target specific muscles. Options include barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells.
- Weight machines: You can use weight machines or resistance machines at the gym or buy one for home use, although these tend to more expensive than other options.
- Suspension training: Suspension training involves a system of ropes and cables that suspend a part of your body and your body weight for resistance.
- Body weight: You can use your own body weight instead of equipment. Squats, pushups, planks, and lunges are all examples of body weight training. These activities help build up your lactic acid system and allow you to sustain muscle contraction for a longer duration, which is necessary for efficient strength training:
- Elbow planks
- Rest your body on bent forearms and straightened knees.
- Push off the floor, raising your legs onto your toes and resting mainly on your elbows.
- Tuck your tummy in and prevent it from sagging down. Keep your back straight. Imagine yourself looking like a plank.
- Hold this position for as long as you can. Aim for 30 seconds at first and work your way up to 1 minute over the next few days.
- Get down on all fours with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
- Straighten your back, trunk, arms, and legs.
- Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor and keep your arms straight. Your core should be tight.
- Pause and then push yourself up to the starting position.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 15 repetitions each.
- Walking lunges
- Keeping your back straight and core tight, move your right leg forward and lower your body so that your back leg just touches the ground.
- Stand back up while pushing down through your front heel.
- Repeat the same movements with your left leg.
- Perform 5 sets of 15 lunges.
- Stand straight with your legs slightly wider than hip-width.
- Bend your legs while pushing your glutes back until they reach the height of your knees.
- Your knees should be in line with your toes and not caved in.
- Look straight ahead and keep your back straight.
- Maintaining your weight on your heels and squeezing through your glutes, push yourself back to the starting position.
- Perform 3-5 sets of 15 repetitions.
- Elbow planks
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McCall P. 7 Different Types of Strength and Their Benefits. American Council on Exercise. https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/5495/7-different-types-of-strength-and-their-benefits/
Mayo Clinic. Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/strength-training/art-20046670#
Mohr CR. Timing Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition. EatRight. https://www.eatright.org/fitness/exercise/exercise-nutrition/timing-your-pre-and-post-workout-nutrition